How to Impress Image Buyers in Stock Photography

How to Impress Image Buyers in Stock Photography

Stock photography has been a main or side income for many photographers throughout the years. Contrary to general belief, stock photography is not dead, but rather stronger than ever due to the rise of the digital media. Rapid movement in social media urges companies to create new content on daily or even hourly basis, and the need of new imagery is unavoidable. This is just one of the reasons why stock photography still matters.

To be fair, producing a regular income from stock imagery as a photographer is not as easy as it used to be. There are millions of photos added each year to image banks and with more photographers out there now than ever before, you may think that there is nothing left for you to shoot. Plus the low price per image system may not seem so appealing. On the other hand, stock has the potential to generate revenue for years, and you can literally make money while you sleep. Whether you’re a full-time professional or an amateur photographer, stock is something that can fit into your existing business model. That's why there are still thousands of successful stock photographers out there, both full time and hobbyists.

If you’re interested in dipping your toes in stock, here are some tips about attracting art buyers and earning from stock photography.

Quality Versus Quantity

The answer is simple: both. This may sound challenging, but the bigger and better your stock portfolio, the higher your chances of sales. Variety and consistency in uploading new content is the clearest path to regular income. When an image sells many times over, it gets even higher visibility in the search results, and when a buyer likes your style, they will keep coming back for similar photos.

young asian woman stock photo

Every Place, Product, and Scene May Be the Subject for Stock Photography

The buyers for stock content range from corporations to agencies, small businesses and freelance designers, and everyone in between. You can never guess what will sell in your gallery. That may be a simple plant shot, a building interior, or even a coffee cup photo. Everyday objects and scenes can make great materials for starters. Many stock photographers recommend shooting what you know or care about. When you’re shooting, try to get as many angles and variations as possible.

Sourdough bread stock image

Know Your Target Audience

Market research and thinking outside the box is helpful for getting the attention of your possible buyers. For example, postproduction companies need high-resolution background (or backplate images as they say) images for the 3D modeling and automotive placement. Therefore, capturing a scene in different variations, including different focal lengths and perspectives, may grab the attentions and lead them to your whole gallery. Most retouchers and postproduction companies are regular stock image buyers and seek the most suitable images for their compositions. So, creating variations by capturing the same subject in different light and angles are important.


Of course, gear matters for the quality of the images since stock images may even be used for large size prints. That doesn't mean that you need to own a medium-format camera. But it is better to use a modern, high-megapixel camera rather than an old low-megapixel camera. Keep in mind that stock images have the potential to sell year after year, and will appear in the search results next to the newest and highest quality images. To compete with that, you have to keep longevity in mind.

That doesn’t mean mobile photography is out of the question. Photos shot on mobile tend to be more in the moment and authentic, which is a look buyers often go for. Adobe Stock now offers an integration with the Photoshop Mix app on iOS so you can upload your photos directly after you finish editing on your mobile device.

stock imagery

Following the Trends

The trends in photography evolve rapidly, and that affects stock photography too. About 10 years ago, compositing was the major technique in advertising photography, and natural lifestyle images were being neglected mostly. Now the trends in advertising changed in a different way, and it is the era of lifestyle images due to their authentic look and mood. Be mindful of the changes in the industry so you can upload content that is most likely to sell.

Mother Laughing Stock Image

Keep It Timeless

If you are shooting specific objects such as electronic devices or fashion pieces, you need to consistently update your portfolio so stay current. There is good sales potential in the latest gadgets, but also keep in mind that timeless images will have the longest lifespan. For example, lifestyle images that feature interactions between people will always be relevant.

family with baby stock image


Keeping post-processing simple is better in many ways. Before processing your photos, think like a buyer. Allow space for further retouching or color grading to the end-client. Trademarks and logos are not permitted on stock, so be sure to edit those before you submit to an agency or your images will be rejected.

In conclusion, stock photography is living its new era with more opportunities and new content creators, and it serves image buyers better than ever. With on-going demands and new trends, the stock industry keeps growing with new photography, video, and illustration content. If you’re interested in licensing your content, you can sign up to be an Adobe Stock Contributor and reach millions of creative buyers.

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Stas Aleksandersson's picture

While it's true that every place, every product, every scene can be subject for stock photography, it's important to say that some places and all the products are subject to copyright and no respectable agency will approve images into their databank without a permission. Something to consider when shooting.
Also I'm surprised that cellphone photography is a thing in a stock world cause the stock agencies seem to be very picky about the technical quality of pictures...

why don't you guys disclose this as an advertorial posting? Disingenuous to the readers.

Burak Erzincanli's picture

Hi Kaitlyn, this post is a sponsored post and it is stated with tags down below

Simon Patterson's picture

Oh wow, you couldn't possibly have found a more obscure way to "inform" readers, could you? Right at the end, buried in the tags - that looks like a case of Fstoppers attempting "plausible deniability" and nothing more.

See a much better way to inform readers in Petapixel's recent article "10 of the Most Beautiful Photography Templates: What Sets Them Apart?". The words "Sponsored post" appears directly under the heading, then the name of the sponsor appears on its own under the first paragraph.

I just took a look at my most recent Getty statement. Let me just say the amount of work required to produce good stock and the rewards at the back and totally out of whack. I my opinion, as a long time stock shooter with several contracts, stock is no longer a via business model unless you are shooting in a third world country with very in expensive cost of living.

Sheila Smart's picture

I totally agree with Zave. Stock is "dead, buried and cremated" (to possibly misquote an ex-PM of Oz) and there is nothing we photographers can do about it. I quit all of my agencies as I was so tired of seeing my work demeaned by the likes of Alamy who license their contributors work for next to nothing. When Getty started to give away members' work to Google for nothing, that is when I quit. And I don't miss them one iota. I wouldn't touch micros with a barge pole and those photographers who still upload to them are responsible for the parlous state of the industry today. Buyers just will not pay a reasonable fee for images and it has become uneconomic for pros to continue to shoot themselves in the foot - 'scuse the pun! Even when I was with stock libraries I still made more selling to POD sites and even more pursuing those companies, organisations and governments (no names, no pack drill) who seemingly did not understand that images "found on Google" are still copyrighted and someone needs to be paid. End of rant!

Fstoppers has excellent articles but this is the worst. Did the author mention the pay was under $0.25 for all the hard work a photographer put in? Of course this is a sponsored post and the author has *respected* the readers and *informed* the readers with tags down below.

Burak Erzincanli's picture

Hey Albert, thanks for your comment; but this is what "micro stock" is, so you cannot expect to upload 100 images and earn good money of course; and 0.25 is the lowest pay per image, however if you have a good portfolio, you can license them for higher fees around $60 to $120 per image and you know the rest.