How to Click Stock Photos that Sell (The Definitive Guide)

Stock photography pays off your hard work for a more extended period than you expect because they keep reselling. This is probably the best part of it. I mean, is there anything better than receiving a cheque every month for some images you clicked for about four years ago?

However, just knowing how to sell stock photos is not enough. You also need to know how to shoot stock photos that sell.

In fact, there is a reason why only a FRACTION of a million images gets noticed by potential customers. 

What does it take to build a portfolio of “images that sell” and “resell”? Sweat not, for this article, is all about the most precise practices you need to employ as a stock photographer to produce marketable images. 

We did the homework for you and collected practical tips from some learned stock photographers who traded their 9 to 5 jobs for stock photography and never repented. 

And we know from the stock photos vs original photos comparative analysis, that marketers are not going to stop investing in stock images any time soon. The major reason is its affordability in the short-run.

This comprehensive guide comprises each step required to hit the target of getting maximum sales to your photos. 

Before we get started, we need to remind you of a fundamental fact here. 

The Learning Never Stops

As the tips in this post come from stock photographers’ own experiences and years of learning and experimenting, following them will surely lead you to improved sales. 

Employing these hacks, you will NEVER go wrong with the stock photography venture. But the process of learning won’t end there. As you go ahead, you will discover a new way every day to land more sales.   

The domain of exploring new ideas is always open. You will also need to invest your time like these successful photographers to find that “secret ingredient” that will up the game of your photo sales. 

also, not every platform will generate the revenue you want. You need to know the best stock photo sites where you won’t have to struggle much to get traffic to your work. 

Now, let’s dive into the pool of some tried and tested ideas that guarantee your photos’ sales.

It is Choosing The Right Niche That Will Drive Revenue

1. Decide On The Number of Niches

Once you have it clear in your mind about the niche that you will cover with your lens, everything else will fall in place. 

In stock photography, a steady stream of revenue comes when your content resonates with the prospective audience. But that definitely DOES NOT mean you remain stuck with a single niche. 

While a particular niche gives you a target audience to focus your energies on, it can provide a creative rut if you find other niches equally fascinating.  

For some, change and variety are what keeps their energies high. 

You can also feel creatively stagnated like Sandy Noto when shooting a single niche. Know that having multiple niches or none, all work fine AS LONG AS YOU KNOW YOUR CRAFT WELL. 

That’s all that matters. 

As Marta Raptis says:

“It’s great to narrow down what you desire to work with, but it is not necessary to only work on one thing at a time.”


Identify Your "True Calling."

how to decide on a stock photography niche

Instead of going with a trending topic, choose a niche that balances your passion, skills, and knowledge along with your revenue goals.

There is a lot of chance that your stock photos are not selling because your expertise lies in another niche.

“Food” might be a subject that gets your fancy, but you might totally suck as a still life photographer. Similarly, a lack of interest in a food-niche with a decent set of capturing skills will lead you to get life-less photos. The similar has been the case with Andrea Gingerich, the stock photographer who experimented in different photography areas until she uncovered her interest and skills domain.

A simple solution to this is to shoot everything at the start. Once you have a decently measurable bunch of stock photos on different niches, you will eventually find your voice. You will DISCOVER the niche that you like to document and have reasonable control over too.

Choose a Niche Which is Neither Too Broad Or Too Narrow

Putting it straight, you lose sales if your stock photo content is either for “EVERYONE” or for “NO ONE.” 

This happens if your niche is either TOO BROAD or TOO NARROW. 

Therefore, entail a well-defined niche. Having a sub-niche to your general niche gives you a purpose and keeps you motivated. It gives you a TARGET AUDIENCE; your photos will touch the pain points of. 

Bloggers, companies, and advertisers crave quality content and seek those portfolios that meet their specific requirements.  

Zoom out your focus onto what is in demand under your niche and dig narrower into it. But don’t go for a niche that is too narrow to ever get searched for. 

For instance, if you choose the event photography niche and cover different events through your lens, you will be speaking to a ubiquitous audience. 

A broad niche like this will not earn you a loyal customer base who will keep reverting to your stock photo portfolio for similar work. They will expect a different topic every time you upload. 

However, suppose you dig deeper into this niche and go for wedding photography. In that case, it will be a narrow niche, which is also overcrowded and offers a vast competition. 

The larger the competition, the more creatively challenged you to get. Work day in and day out to experiment with your craft to make your photos stand out from the crowd.


In this case, weddings during sunset or wedding departure could be a more precise niche. In both cases, think about executing the same emotions in an eye-catching yet utterly new way. 

A niche TOO NARROW will be a wedding during sunset with a pregnant or a tattooed bride. How many daily searches do you think will be done on this niche? Quite a few or none, right! Therefore, choose wisely!   

Cover Topics That Are Easy to Write But Difficult To Illustrate

Give your creative insights a jerk to develop topics that are an everyday talk on the web but very challenging to shoot. Such matters offer a vast market with near to no competition.

One such topic is “inheritance.” 

There is a big market of law firms and law blogs waiting for content to be created on such a critical subject, but we hardly find any. Look at the stock image below portraying inheritance.

Concept Of Inheritance

3. Photos That Look Genuine Sell More

According to the International photographer, Mark DeLong, it is the authenticity of a stock photo that makes it stand out and empowers it to outperform the competition.

It is not always possible to take a spontaneous shot of a topic you have picturized in your mind. Genuineness in every field appeals to the target audience. 

Make sure you try different settings through angles or props until the finished photo projects a feel of the “realness.” 

This is directly linked to the connection the audience instantly develops to an image if it gives them the “genuine-photo” vibes rather than a “staged-photo” vibes. A blog, commercial website, advertisement all make good money when they evoke emotion to their audiences. 

It is the visual assets that impact their projects’ overall authenticity; hence their eyes look for realistic images.

Take a look at these two stock images below, both portraying “cluttered wires.” Look HOW and WHY the first one keeps the authenticity intact while the other somehow fails to do so.

Cluttered Wires Photo Which seems Spontaneous And Real
A Staged Photo Of Cluttered Wires

4. Click Photos on Trending Subjects

The originality of ideas can make you a trendsetter. Still, the importance of following an existing trend in stock photography can’t be denied.

Carry out a thorough research on web and top stock websites about the current talk of the town. 

As the trends change, keep evolving and tweaking your work for the better.

Use relevant keywords to get your images to stay in the top results of the “trend searches.”

For instance, the “ongoing Coronavirus pandemic” holds a high chance of landing sales to your stock photos.

Covid-19 trend topic

However, an extremely informative piece of advice by the co-founder of iStock, Brad Ralph, is worth mentioning.

“This is because certain variables alter the certainty of an image being sold. For example, does the photographer specialize in niche images or shoot generic cliché, popular topics? A photographer that produces and uploads multitudes of generic business photos that get well-placed in search could get 50 downloads a week or more. Still, they might all be small web-resolution images. A highly skilled and creative artist may only produce 10 exquisite conceptual stock images a month. Still, one print resolution sale could yield equal or better financial wins.”

This suggests that stock photography has all the opportunities of making money open for every type of stock photographer, as long as they know their craft well.

5. A Meaningful and Raw Image is Preferred by Buyers

The viewers convert into buyers when your photo maintains its rawness, both conceptually and aesthetically. 

Add meaning to your work so that it evokes emotions into the viewers. 

Remember, your image’s aesthetic impression is momentary, says the famous wildlife stock photographer, Guy Tal. Far before the technical strokes, it will be the message to make them want to keep the image with them.

Avoid over-processing photos as much as possible. Edit the image only until it looks decently polished. Rest, leave the manipulative control in the hands of the end-consumers.

6. Originality is Never Overrated in Stock Photography

You will never be out of sales while you have a creatively unique and compelling stock photos’ portfolio. 

That “WOW FACTOR” in your image will automatically drive traffic towards your image no matter how common or overused topics you have chosen to shoot.

Get inspiration from Andrew S. Gibson. He is ready to go that extra mile to ask the senior authorities to grant him permission shooting backstage in a stage dance performance. This will add to his gallery an asset of unique images that others fail at capturing. 

7. People Look For Updated Content

If you had stock images that once performed exceptionally well and are now not giving any sales, its context has gotten outdated.

For instance, you clicked a girl holding an old iPhone (which was the latest version back then when you uploaded it) under the technical niche. 

That image roared high in the stock photo market, but now it is not getting noticed at all. Most probably, the mobile is too old, and the image will make their website look outdated. Or the clothing fashion has evolved since then, so the idea is no more relevant.

Old iPhone Photo With a Girl

In that case, recreate that image with a modern feel in it.  

Take a look at the revamped version of the above image.

Update iPhone photo that sells more

8. Your Vision Makes a Photo Sellable Not the Equipment

Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to using cameras and lenses for stock photography.

However, most photographers, including Gavin Gough, a famous travel stock photographer, consider any shooting tool good enough. As long as the photographer has the right perspective, set of skills, and creative insight, the sales game is high.

He emphasizes:

“I’ve seen art created with the simplest, cheapest tools that have touched my heart. I’ve seen mundane and forgettable work made with equipment costing many tens of thousands of dollars.”

In fact, you can even make money selling hand poses. All you need is the right skills and talent. 

Final Thoughts:

And that was our breakdown of the most practical methods to click photos that get most downloads from the pros of the field!

It is the most important to keep your expectations in check. Stock photography demands for a long-term dedication and consistency. Meet these two requirements and you will find this space as an overly rewarding one.