Want Success? Start with the Concept.

posted on 29th of march, 2010

Not all stock photos were shot for stock. That's probably not a secret to anyone (and if it was - then it isn't anymore). It's becoming increasingly more difficult to deliver successful content. That's probably not a secret to anyone either... at least not to those who take their involvement in microstock seriously. So, what do you do? Or better said - what should you do?

Concept. Concept. Concept. Did I say that the concept is crucial? No, I only said concept. ;) So here it goes - the concept if your image(s) is crucial to its success. Very crucial.

If you had the exposure to all images which come in through the pending line as we, the editors have, you'd be surprised to see how many of them are just random shots taken on holidays, snapshots from family moments, etc. etc. Few of them have some potential and they make it through the review. Even fewer of them end up really selling well.

I'd say that it's one of the most common mistakes among beginners (and among some more experienced contributors). The shutter is released and only then is an idea prescribed to the image. You saw a nice looking scene and thought "Oh, why wouldn't this sell?" As I already wrote a while ago, you should be asking yourself a different question. Now, one more question to ask yourself before uploading - "Why would someone buy this image?"

Enough about the problem. Let's look at a possible solution. Aside from planning your shots well, make sure that you start with the concept. There's nothing less likely to sell than a pointless image. The opposite is also true - there's nothing more likely to sell than an image with a clearly outlined (alright, and well executed!) concept.

So, next time whether you're shooting a family scene, a landscape or a plain composition of still life - do your homework well and clarify your concept. Is the family going to be happy or sad, in the park or at home, cooking together or watching TV? Is the landscape going to be enchantingly romantic or portraying the power of a storm? Is your still life composition going to show something unique and make a point, or is it going to be yet another apple on white background?

No doubt, you can get lucky with a shoot if you don't even consider a clear concept. However, should you begin by thinking of what message you want to express or communicate, your creativity will be unleashed as to how you can achieve this. You won't be limited to "What can I do with this subject that will sell?" but free in thinking "There's so many ways of expressing love among people! I'm going to start with the hug." In other words, you won't be limited by what a subject can offer, but by the potential of your concept. And there's many many and different subjects that can communicate the same concept. Here's how variety comes to your portfolio!

Lastly, make a list of concepts you believe have potential for commercial use and see how many of them are already well represented on the site. Don't merely repeat the good old water-bottle-with-a-fresh-apple-healthy-life image. Go for something new and unique. If you really want to do a classic shot - make sure that your execution is flawless and new. Buyers love that.

Right, but what do I do if I can't come up with sell-able concepts... Hmmm... There's a tip for that too, but you'll have to click here to find it out (pay attention to the brief text in bold, right next to the dates).

Now share what you think about all this...

Comments (26)

Posted by Poteau on August 01, 2010
Very useful information. Thanks I do appreciate it!
Posted by Pinkerpie on April 22, 2010
Quite useful information. I have had what I thought were good images rejected for a number of reasons. Being New to Dreamstime it is good to learn early on. Thanks
Posted by Vishakha27 on April 18, 2010
good blog...
in begining i had many rejection due to lack of concept.
but now acceptance ration is likely more....well m still trying to make it better.
Posted by Almaterra on April 14, 2010
Thanks for your informations, Petar
Posted by Petarneychev on April 06, 2010
Very good tips, Bramble100! Thanks for sharing them. :)
Posted by Bramble100 on April 06, 2010
A lesson I learned, and now starting to practise, is thinking in keywords. I try to see the image before making it, and not afterwards wondering what will the picture be good for.
Another interesting practise when abroad: imagine you're assigned to "sell" the place, to make a catalogue for it. What kind of images would you take? These frames are more likely to be stock-type than average tourist snap-shots.
Posted by Tatvashunya on April 02, 2010
Hi, this articles is very useful. thank you!
Posted by Rosedarc on March 30, 2010
Good analogy with the food, and you can tell which photographers pay a lot of attention to details and prepare well by looking at their portfolio. Always interesting to look at the featured photographer to get reminded of that. I will keep your good advice in mind.
Posted by Petarneychev on March 30, 2010
Cristalloid, if you want to shoot green field and fruits on white concepts, then yes - will be hard. However, there's a ton of categories which have good demand but only a few good images. At some point I thought Dreamstime couldn't get any new shots of almost anything... back in 2006-2007. Then the site just crossed the 1million images mark. Recently we crossed the 8million images mark. It just takes serious thinking outside the box and paying attention to details. Avoid shooting what everyone else is. Pay attention to the image world around you (online, on TV, on paper) and draw inspiration from it. Unless life starts repeating, I don't think we'll be having problems with lack of new content.
Posted by Cristalloid on March 30, 2010
as I think for now, it is getting harder and harder to create a concept that is REALLY new AND in a quality that is better than that of other concepts found here on DT and in the zillions of pictures in the other image data banks worldwide... that's the dilemma of (micro) stock photography... another problem is: mentioned you have a state of the art concept approved by DT, how can it be found by a potential customer?? there are soooooo many well done images on most topics... it is like searching for a needle in a haystack... the best keywording doesn't really matter... it depends mostly on luck... for my own images I everyday wonder why and how they were found by buyers and why just my images was bought and not one of the (in my opinion) much better images of other contributers.... but: I am happy for every buyer who decided to hunt for my pictures :)
Posted by Jeniicorv8 on March 30, 2010
Thank you, Petar, that was very well put and I couldn’t agree more. Of course coming from an amateur this might not mean much, but I can say this with confidence because in my very own portfolio the most profitable (as opposed to most viewed) images were concept photos. I have a few of them and most have at least one sale and two are already in Level 2, which is very encouraging.
Posted by Petarneychev on March 30, 2010
@Rosedarc - yes, you're describing the way it goes for most people in the beginning. But it doesn't always have to be like this. My point is that even new users, if they take the selling of images seriously, can change their workflow to allow for all of this (concepts, preparation, etc.). The truth is, however, that this is the hard way. It takes a lot more preparation, a lot more thinking, a LOT more immersing into the world of commercial and creative conceptual photography. And to be honest, most folks today expect "fastfood" timing and the taste of a high-class restaurant. It just doesn't work this way. Good food requires time.
Bottom line - invest, invest, invest, invest - both time and resources into your future production. It will pay off.
Posted by Davidwatmough on March 30, 2010
I agree 100%. I made a big mistake to start with submitting too many rejects and getting down to a 30% acceptance rate and what a hard job it then is to claw one's way back towards 60% [ I am currently at 58% ]. Members new to microstock should be aware of this and get an experienced member to offer an opinion prior to submission. The images which sell and the statistics gradually lead one to concentration on concept.
As time goes by getting novel ideas gets more difficult but when an image 'works' it is very rewarding. David.
Posted by Oseland on March 30, 2010
Thanks for the great advice!
Posted by Maigi on March 30, 2010
Great article! Thanks!
Posted by Littlemacproductions on March 30, 2010
Very well said!
Posted by Wildmac on March 30, 2010
Thank you for another excellent blog. I've also been rereading your old blogs ;)
Posted by Justmeyo on March 29, 2010
Great article!I always think at a concept before a shot,i planning my photos and i ask myself why a buyer buy an image.
Posted by Rosedarc on March 29, 2010
What you're saying is completely true, concept is crucial to the image's success.
I guess that when you start on this "stock journey", you're opportunistic - hence the release of the shutter followed by the idea. That way you hope to build a portfolio and get some exposure, hopefully not compromising too much the quality by carefully selecting the photos on the computer prior to submitting them. As your portfolio gets bigger and sales start happening (at this stage a photo getting up to Level 2 is a major win!) then you can focus more and more on concepts and try to deliver top quality that will bring you hopefully top sellers. It's a complex game, finding the ideas, translating them into images, delivering the technical quality...
Thanks for delivering sell-able concepts in our hands, it's up to us to continue trying producing good images for those concepts, even after the winners have been announced.
Posted by Davulcu on March 29, 2010
Really nice blog. After a few months I learned to ask the same question. "Why would someone buy this image ? "

Second I write the ideas before I shoot. However, it is not easy to get what you think everytime. I think this is the breaking point and needs time to be e bit more experienced.
Posted by Fultonsphoto on March 29, 2010
Great blog, worth investigating the concepts idea, thanks.
Posted by smartview27 on March 29, 2010
Great blog!
Posted by Mariaam on March 29, 2010
Very useful article! Thanks very much!
Posted by Kittycat on March 29, 2010
Thank you for all your advise.
Posted by Visceralimage on March 29, 2010
Great advice, thanks for all the reminders
Posted by Mani33 on March 29, 2010
I back you up saying concept concept concept! Thanks for the guides :)

Comments (26)

This article has been read 4121 times. 20 readers have found this article useful.
Photo credits: Peto Zvonar.

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