Looking from buyers side of the table

posted on 26th of may, 2009

Today I was thinking about stock photography buyers. Is this important? It must be, it affects sales. That leads to the point that at stock agency every contributor must think in advance.

My first bunch of images was mostly rejected. I wasn't thinking anything. It was more like impulse upload. I have some nice images here so lets see if I can succeed in stock photography. My mother likes them. And my wife likes them. But reviewers didn't. They thought that the quality was overall or bad instead of excellent. They also thought that they were not stock photos. And they were right.

I am web developer and designer. My work is to find good images for designs, depicting concept, or illustrate article. Then I figured out that I never use any of my images for this purpose.

Ok, maybe a few. Why would any other use them?

We are here for marketing. Someone sells and someone buys. We offer what they are looking for. And nobody asks us what to buy. They decide on which image they will spend their dollar. So we have a product to offer, we wrap them in keywords to make product visibility. And then we regret looking at all that view numbers and zeros in download column.

Why nobody download my images? Because they don't need them.
Next logical question is: But what do they need?

Ok, that is the point of thinking. After we learn the production techniques (one way or the other), after we understand colors, composition, shutter speed, angles and all other technical yada-yada we are ready for production. This answers HOW(?).

Now we need a market. We have Dreamstime, growing photo stock agency where sellers and buyers are getting together for their interest. This is market and this answers WHERE(?).

It is reasonable to understand that anyone can answer for himself the question WHY(?). If you don't have answer to that then why bother?

Now we get to an important thing: WHAT(?)

If you are in prison then you don't have many options in choosing subject. But outside you can capture whatever you want. So everyone has to narrow the choice to something that buyers are interested at. Like in any marketing, we can use the old business relations learning: When negotiate something you need to "sit on the other side of the table" to understand how your proposal looks and feels from there. Understanding of market needs is obviously important.

If I try to see stock images from other side I would say that buyers are in few categories (even they are mixed among them):


This people are mostly designers. They do bunch of creative stuff. They create websites, catalogs, brochures, posters etc. I understand them. They want good images which they can use for their everyday work. They also want easy manipulating images. Perfectly isolated objects are paradise for them. For many reasons they don't like our creative backgrounds. They want just an object, the best possible quality so even the magic wand will do the job for them. They recycle our work for their purposes in license limits. If you want to serve the designers give them clean solutions which will spare their time. Of course vectors applies to them to but that is not photo story. Whenever you shoot objects and things try to think as a designer. How much time you would like to spend cleaning image for unnecessary details. Designers like if we do that work and they are ready to pay for it. Don't overdo your photos and illustrations. Recyclers will appreciate this.


This category buyers don't like to do anything on images or they don't have sufficient technical knowledge to do that. They are bloggers, editors, writers, reporters. They need nice photo to follow their story and make impact on what they say. They search for situations, concepts, metaphors etc. This is wide area of opportunities, whether yo do studio or real life shots.

They need images that will fit exactly their idea. Since the stories are mostly connected to situation and human emotions only imagination is the limit. Think of terms like reach, community, poverty, cooperation, war, pity, fun, health, skill... everything that you learn from different stories. Is there any global situation currently going on? Swine flu, nuclear threat, recession? Can your photo or illustration connect to any story in any way? Pick your subject and do it well.

Art lovers

Those people respect, admire and worship art. They will not buy your collections but they look for unique creativity to make print on the wall. While art itself is high on value scale, it may not belong in stock photography if you want to make 2000 sells. Beauty is in the eye of beholder. This people have different values on creativity. You may try to sell artistic photo on some other place.


Since english is not my native language I didn't find better term for this category. They are not collectors of good photos of any kind but they need series of images to be used as a guideline. They are combination of designers and recyclers. They need series to depict their idea and mark different subjects they are dedicated to. Imagine simple web site. It would be nice to have series of images with, for example, the same nice woman, holding character "@" for "Contacts", holding wrench for "Our work", typing on laptop for "Log in" or maintain some shelves for "Portfolio". This is matter of concept with common guideline like the same person doing different things, or same job done by different persons. You got the point. Think about collection that have this sense and you may sell them all.

Business presenters

Whether they pick images by themselves or they have adviser or designer to do that for them, they decide the rules. They are clients of someone and there are many of them. They want to present their business, to show they are serious and in constant moving, growing... They want to be desirable, eligible and welcome to every potential partner. So they like graphs, tons of business meetings, people working on high tech facilities, intellectual superiority, efficiency... and they want this clean, without any distraction. Check which is ten best selling images on DT. Business asks for identification of their own goals, wishes and efforts. Yuri Arcurs's image of people on the beginning of this paragraph sells well. Business people doesn't see the flaws in artificial reflection neither they care. Reviewers don't care too. It is business.

I may think of some other appropriate category in the future but I'll write another blog about them. This is what I figured out so far.

Back to our goals. Having in mind what image you would buy in your life story, always try to think from other side of the table. The buyers decide if they need your image or not. If you have what they want make sure that your keywords, descriptions and titles are good. Always check your numbers. Many views and no sales means that your keywords are good and people want what you offer, you just haven't got enough good photo. On the other side, you may have bad keywords so people find your image by mistake and they bounce away.

Buyers are actually not interested at all if you and your mother like your image, they don't care if DT reviewers like your image, they have their own mind. So, keep it simple, think wide, let your photos fit to different categories.

I am so smart writing this but I haven't got any sale here. But my portfolio is still small. I believe in what I said and I will surely think in advance, try to improve all the time. Yes, I would like to buy some new gear too :)

Until next post - keep thinking, check on the light, and shoot away.

Comments (10)

Comment by Gmargittai on June 19, 2009

Really like your humor. It is a good approach to teaching.
Another aspect you did not mention might be to do something original. I mean checking if similar or better images do already exist in large quantities on DT then your chances of selling are lower.
On the other hand if your image is something unconventional it is more difficult to get it accepted.

Comment by Forestphotoart on May 29, 2009

That is by far the best advice for making sales.

If we can look at it from the buyers perspective then we would certainly be more likely to make a sale.

In other words put ourselves in someones else shoes...


Comment by Rejects on May 28, 2009

Thank you for use my picture. Interesting article)

Comment by Loppu on May 27, 2009


Comment by Amyemilia on May 27, 2009

I like your thoughtful approach. Thanks for a useful article, again.

Comment by Antoinettew on May 27, 2009

Again I read your article with great interest. Thanks!

Comment by Petroruth on May 27, 2009

This is a good blog thanks for taking the time.It is nice to glean a little knowledge from everybody's knowledge or advice.

Comment by Littledesire on May 27, 2009

You're so good in writing ;) I liked that blog. It was the first time I read it all :) no only diagonal :)

Comment by Wildmac on May 27, 2009

I look forward to your next article. I'm only new here myself, so I treat all good information like gold. Keep up the great work!

Comment by Keki on May 27, 2009

very very interesting article! looking forward to the next one :) good luck with your shooting :)

Comments (10)

This article has been read 1231 times. 10 readers have found this article useful.
Photo credits: Alexey Bogatyrev, Yuri_arcurs.

About me

I am not a pro, but I like digital photography. I still don't have any recognizable direction in photography, so I'm trying, experimenting and learning extensively... My real background is in design and interest in visual arts. Computer aided graphics, 3D modeling, comics etc. Some of this work may be also presented here. My collections: >>Vector illustration - vehicles and transportation >>Vector illustration - business and industy concepts >>llustration - 3D generated characters My latest blog article >>Commitment (Last count: 377 reads) My most read blog articles (3000+ r... [Read more]

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