Four Elements of Stock Photos That Sell

I have a photographer friend who couldn’t get out of the habit of snapping pictures of anything and everything on her photo excursions — then, after all the work was done, trying to figure out which (if any) of her photos would sell. She finally placed a label on the back of her camera that read: “Is it marketable?”

In two weeks she broke her habit, and that label has long since been removed. How about you? Are you taking marketable stock photos?

Your best teachers are the markets themselves: magazines, textbooks, Web sites, books, posters, and so on. Let these markets show you what they want. Analyze their image content and style.

You’ll find they consistently feature images with four primary elements:

1. Background is uncluttered.

2. Reasonably close up.

3. Bold in design, poster-like.

4. When people are in the pictures, which is 90 percent of the time, they are shown involved in meaningful activities or dialogue.

Give yourself a quick course in how to take marketable pictures by selecting a published stock photo, and then going out and taking (within reason) the same photo. If it’s a summer picture, and today it’s November, you will need to compensate, of course.

You will be rewarded with new insight into lighting, composition, and the handling of models by replicating a successful photo. You will also notice consistencies in these pictures. For example, are they usually close-up or medium shots?

Use such observations as a blueprint in developing your own illustrative style. But don’t forget that, once mastered, the rules are made to be broken.

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