Top 6 Most Frustrating Non-Sellers

Have you ever taken a shot / clip that you thought to yourself, “wow” and knew immediately would be a strong-seller? I have many times and some do end up being strong sellers. However, the majority don’t!

In this post I’ll discuss such shots which I had great hopes at the time which never materialised. I’ll try to examine why and discuss strategies that may work in the subsequent “wow” shots to ensure success. I hope you’ll be able to participate with your own “non-sellers” in the comments section.

One small note: I’ll discuss images which are at least one-year old. If they haven’t sold a few times by then, chances are they’ve been dumped into the never-regions of search engines forever.

Non-Seller Number 6


What’s the story behind the image?

While wandering around Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I spotted this gorgeous, athletic afro-Brazilian woman (“Garota de Ipanema”) from afar and followed her a bit to see if I could get a good angle of her. I almost gave up as she strolled past me and the scene was busy so was difficult to get the right composition and focus. At the last minute the scene opened up and I spotted a man cat-calling her. A tighter crop later in post-processing and bang, that’s the shot.

Possible reasons why it hasn’t sold regularly?

I placed the Garota de Ipanema everywhere and RF and tagged it as accurately as I could. It has sold but only for a few subs here and there, unfortunately.

Perhaps it’s a weak argument: As you probably know, there’s a big “metoo” movement now against “sexual harassment” and whatnot (not that this is such (but who knows these days as we live in an Unbrutally Honest Politically Correcet world) and buyers may be reluctant to use this type of image.

The scene is also a bit messy but what can you do about an editorial? Perhaps in the future I can try to recreate this commercially but may prove tricky in a public place with so many people around…

Non-Seller Number 5

A painter at Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy

What’s the story behind the image?

Glorious summer day in Manarola, Cinque Terre and between a gelato and pasta, I was looking for an unique perspective of an otherwise saturated location. I hiked for a few minutes to obtain a better perspective and saw a dude making a water-paint of the town below, adding a beautiful foreground.

Possible reasons why it hasn’t sold regularly?

Probably was a mistake to send it to Robert Harding who immediately placed it as a Rights-Managed. It has sold but for very disappointing prices. I believe if I had placed it everywhere and RF it would have had moderate success.

Unfortunately it’s an editorial, thus diminishing it’s value. Perhaps this is also a factor.

Non-Seller Number 4

Vineyards at Barbaresco, Italy

What’s the story behind the image?

Shot this near the UNESCO World Heritage vineyards near Barbaresco, Italy during one of my cycling marathons in northern Italy. Just five minutes later it would have been too late…so I managed to setup the tripod just in time (these days I would have also done a clip).

It’s won 3rd place on a wine-photography competition.

Possible reasons why it hasn’t sold regularly?

This was the first image I uploaded to Robert Harding during my more naive days. Again, I believe I would have had much much much success if it had been placed at all agencies as RF. It’s premium but also generic enough for repeat sales.

Non-Seller Number 3


What’s the story behind the image?

Shot this at the Wailing (Western) Wall in Jerusalem. A serious sombre place for reflection and out of nowhere popped a kid with a clown mask holding candy. Instinct took over and shot it and thought about the scene later on. Turns out it was related to the carnival period.

Possible reasons why it hasn’t sold regularly?

I placed it on Alamy as Rights-Managed exclusive and has never sold. Perhaps it’s too “fine artsy” and difficult to place it in a news-piece or perhaps too risky. I don’t think there’s anything else I could have done. I didn’t want to spread it around because it may be used in a weird way to promote anti-antisemitism.

One of the memories of that iconic trip to Israel, I suppose. 

Non-Seller Number 2


What’s the story behind the image?

I attended an anti-corruption protest in Rio de Janeiro, 2016 just before the start of the Olympic Games. I captured a shot of a man dressed up as locked-up ex-president Lula with a mock cage around him. Cleverly, I framed one of the petrol / gas stations in the background belonging to Petrobras…which is relevant to the story since it’s where a huge corruption scandal was uncovered, eventually leading to the impeachment of Dilma (to make a long story short).

You may read more about it in my article entitled, “Brazil: Country of the Future?” over at Escapeartist.

Possible reasons why it hasn’t sold regularly?

I placed it as Rights-Managed Exclusive. This was before I was uploading regularly to Alamy Live News and eventually REX Features. Nevertheless, as a stock pic, it had non-breaking news value and potential for repeat-sales as the the corruption scandal was ongoing. In fact, it was only two years later that Lula was finally jailed.

I was silly to restrict it in such a way. It would have probably sold regularly as repeat sales on micros as an RF file. I may dig up some archives and try to find the native file for this and upload it anyway but perhaps I’m too late.

In addition, the way I captioned it and keyworded could have been better to describe the scene. Thus this diminished it’s value in the search engines.

Non-Seller Number 1

Boy stares in amazement at Arabic man wearing a thawb riding a camel on a beach, Dubai, UAE

What’s the story behind the image?

Captured in Jumeirah Beach in Dubai, UAE, props to me for successful capturing this moment after a sprint frame the boy underneath the camel’s legs, in low light. However, this effort has not been well-rewarded.

This image was shortlisted in the 2017 Travel Photography of the Year Image competition where I was shortlisted. They asked me to write about the background to the image:

“The random encounters between different cultures continuously fascinates me. Captured in Dubai, UAE, a boy interacts with an Arab man wearing a thawb, sitting on a traditional Bedouin blanket.

Camels have traditionally been a key part of UAE’s rich cultural heritage, providing both transport and food in Nomadic times. During a time when Dubai is modernising at lightning speed, it is interesting to see a dramatic link to its past.

The setting is full of possibility, with the composition conveying both a respect for the past but also hope & curiosity for the future. The creature dwarfs the boy, yet he appears safe and protected within a frame, perhaps a reference to a ‘shrinking world’.

Conceptually, the image engages us on an emotional level and invites the viewer to question many things, such as how this encounter will affect the boy’s perception and outlook growing up in modern Dubai?”

Fun trip, nevertheless, and happy that RH promoted my Dubai Trip on their blog.

Possible reasons why it hasn’t sold regularly?

No idea. It’s a great shot. The only thing I can think of is that it’s an editorial because the boy is clearly identifiable, thus diminishing it’s value to promote travel-related products and/or services, but shouldn’t make a huge difference.

I don’t regret placing it exclusive on a premium agency. I don’t think it belongs in micros.

Bonus: Non-Seller Number 1 – Footage

I’m more patient with clips that don’t sell because I know they take much longer and when they do sell, earnings can be much more interesting than images, especially if in 4K. Nevertheless, I’m quite disappointed that the vast majority of my clips from my Iberian adventures a year ago have failed to sell, including my favourite, captured in Seville:

Link to clip here

Not sure what I would have done differently…perhaps a hyperlapse? The still from the same angle has also never sold. Frustrating.

Update: New blog post on surprisingly best sellers (alternative view)

See here!

Are you also frustrated with your favourite shots?

If so, please comment below with a link to the image/clip. Also include why you think it’s special about it and what you could have done better and how you hope to improve for next time.

Would appreciate if you could help me out!

Throughout my blog, as you can appreciate, I’ve given quite a bit of my time to help you make sense of this complicated stock industry and focus on making money. I’ve also given away earnings info on some of my best-sellers which will directly lead to those images reducing their value (how much is impossible to say but suffice to say that copycat thieves may be lurking).

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About Alex

I’m an eccentric guy on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images & footage. I’ve devoted six years to making it as a travel photographer / videographer and freelance writer (however, had recently go back into full-time office work to make ends meet!). I hope to inspire others by showing an unique insight into a fascinating business model.

I’m proud to have written a book about my adventures which includes tips on making it as a stock travel photographer – Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography



  1. I used to get those fairly often, but I finally learned at some point in the last 13 years that, no matter what I think, there is no one image that’s going to put me over the top. I think there’s just too much competition. The best I can hope for is to come back with a few steady performers and evergreen images.

    What’s more surprising to me are the images I just kept in because, why not, and they became best sellers. Early days, I shot an image of a tile floor to test the light in a situation and left it in my stock uploads. For years, it was in my top 10 best sellers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You probably have to create another post as well, the one that says “Never thought this would sell”, lol
    Sometimes I really struggle what sells and why.


  3. Alex, yeah that is frustrating to see such nice work never sell. Those are all excellent images and I must say you certainly do a lot of traveling. I have a ton of video clips that I like that have never sold either, so I know how you feel. It is especially frustrating when you do a search for a particular subject and you know that your image(s) are better than the ones that bubble up to the top of the results. Even accounting for our biases that we always think our stuff is better than the next guy’s, sometime we are right and our images are better than the next guy’s. I have a number of shots like that where I know my clips of ________ are much better than the ones that customers see first. That is what is so frustrating to me that my clips will never sell because the search engine won’t give them a chance.

    But even then, I have to ask myself, should part of the blame be put on me? Have I done the best job with the metadata that I can? I suggest someone take a look at the metadata of the images that come up in a search ahead of your images. Can your metadata me improved? I have successfully been able to go in and edit the metadata of clips that didn’t sell and turn them into sellers. Once again, proving to me that good metadata is more important that the images themselves.


  4. Great stuff, Alex. Those are really good photographs and I generally agree with you about not leaving them exclusive or on the higher priced sites. However, although I think they are great captures, with humor, great composition etc. I do wonder about the “use cases”. Take the one in Rio – it is funny, would get a smile, but where would it be used? Not as part of a piece about visiting Rio – who wants to be whistled at on the promenade and maybe it is a bit threatening to a female visitor. As an illustration about changing values – possibly, although the message is not so clear as to be an obvious illustration. Similarly with the child in the clown mask – really funny and it would get lots of likes on Instagram, but where would someone use it?
    So I think you are maybe mixing up a great photo that you can feel proud to have captured, and one that has multiple uses and hence will sell often.

    But food for thought on my own images as well!


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment Steve. I think you’re spot on. There’s always the POD market as a backup for those images, I suppose!

      Next post will be interesting…the opposite – top 6 surprising regular sellers and why!


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