Why nobody cares about your photography, unless it’s useful

I recently came across a video by Ted Forbes of The Art of Photography and it made me think about my own stock photography business.

One of the key takeaway paragraphs was:

“The world doesn’t need any more photographers. It doesn’t need anymore musicians, writers, filmmakers, artists or actors either. We have enough. Its over-saturated…BUT, the world’s survival is completely dependent on work that matters.”

I couldn’t agree with this statement more! Although he was referring to casual photographers, I believe that it can and should be extended to the business of stock photography.

Making only beautiful images shouldn’t be the end goal

Everybody loves beautiful images of sublime sunsets as well as capturing the magic of the moment, but if your goal is to only try to capture these types of images you may find yourself struggling as a stock photographer. If you just want to produce beautiful images then consider opportunities outside of Microstock, such as fine art photography and photography competitions.

Don’t get me wrong, some stock photography is beautiful. I’ve argued before that there’s a clear overlap between stock photography and fine art photography.

Kinderdijk windmills, Netherlands
A beautiful fine art image that may be used as a stock photo, minus the added grain

Look through the most successful portfolios

I recommend going through the portfolio of a few successful Microstock contributors, such as Africa Studios, you’ll likely encounter quite boring-looking images. Here’s an example of a quite boring shoot I did which should bring me some nice royalties.  

In general, what commercial stock images  usually all have in common is a variation of image which are: bright, vibrant, have plenty of copy space and communicate a clear message. These usually show up best in thumbnails when buyers are looking for an image. Here’s an example of the top results for the search hugely lucrative keyword “happy”…you see, all bright, vibrant images with plenty of copy space:


None of these above will likely win a photography competition, but some of the most popular images earn in excess of $20 RPI/YEAR. That amount isn’t so much, per individual image, but closely consider a large portfolio of in-demand images spread out at numerous Microstock agencies.  Click here to see a recent article on how much you’re likely to earn as a Microstock Photographer. 

Choose Practicality over Beauty

To be successful in this tough game, you really need to start putting yourself in the shoes of the buyer. This includes following trends and including images where people are somewhere within the frame.

To illustrate my point, compare these two images:

The one on the left is stunning but for stock purposes it’s almost useless since there’s few options for use to promote a product and/or service, but would make for a nice fine art print.

The image one on the right, however, is simple, has plenty of copy space and conveys a simple message about home ownership. It also has a funny pattern of a bigger house going to a smaller house, kinda like a family and the kids. This image isn’t on one of my top 5 best-sellers but certainly within my top 20.

My image was used to illustrate a blog about trying to buy a house with bad credit.

Ideally combine beauty and practicality for a winning formula

The key to getting downloads and potentially earning a living via Microstock is to be unique by combining beautiful imagery that buyers may find useful, which I think I did quite well in the following image, which I wrote about in this blog post:

Silhouette of a young couple kiss in front of Milan' s Gothic cathedral
Capturing beauty and practicability. This image could easily be used on the cover of a travel magazine to highlight Italy as a romantic place to visit

Which other types of images do buyers find useful?

Well, I wrote about following trends but there’s also much more I have to say about what buyers are looking for which would depend on exploiting your unique niche. If you want to learn more than purchase a copy of my book with the link below.

To purchase a copy of this book, click on this link!

Also take advantage of the new bundle offer with a friend and fellow stock photographer, Steve Heap:

Washington Monument towers above blossoms

Price: $15.98
Price: $10.99

Until next time!



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