I got started in stock photography because I had a hard drive full of images that I wanted to figure out a way to make money off of. I spent weeks uploading my best images on my hard drive to my stock photography portfolio. I quickly figured out that the images I liked to shoot were not images that sold well as stock photography.
So I started to research what sells. I quickly found out that images with a group of business professionals interacting together sold better than a nature image of a gorgeous lake in the middle of the wilderness. An image of a grandmother interacting with her grandchildren sells better than a close-up of a flower.
To figure out what sells as stock photography, you have to start thinking like a designer that uses stock photos. Stock photos are used by designers in ads, corporate reports, on blogs, in online articles, to spice up presentations in business, educational, and other settings, etc. Once I started my research, I began to see stock photography everywhere! I would flip through magazines and would recognize images as belonging to a specific photographer.
I have sat down with a group of stock photographers and brainstormed what would be good to shoot. We agreed that anything related to the current news and world trends would be good, as those are things that editors, designers, bloggers, educators, etc. are talking about. You might consider topics like the mortgage crisis, spiraling debt, unemployment, politics and elections, healthcare, parenting, fate of social security, etc.
Pick one of these broad topics (i.e. healthcare). Regardless of your opinions of the current laws in place regarding healthcare and the role of our government in providing healthcare, you can capitalize on this topic by providing high quality images depicting various healthcare topics. Go to the library or bookstore and look at magazines that deal with the topic. Surf the web and look at blog sites that focus on the topic. Sit down and brainstorm images that you might see in a magazine ad or a blog site on healthcare. You will begin to see a theme of images that are popular. From your research and brainstorming, create your shoot list of images that don’t copy the existing work, but can leverage the popularity of the topic.
iStockphoto has a page where they feature the top selling images over the last week/month/3 months. From that page, you can see the images that are selling the best right now.
NEXT TIME: Sizing your Images for Stock Photography
See more images by Dave Crowther on his OMP Portfolio.