Photography that sells: how to make your imagery commercially attractive

If you’re looking to get an income from stock photography, it’s important to understand what sells. Shooting a great photograph is sometimes only part of the story – here are our tips for ensuring that your work is commercially attractive…

Take the perspective of a designer
Your photo has to be incorporated into the end client’s design and many images will be modified to some extent. Adaptability can therefore be an advantage.

  • Is there a natural space for copy, or for a title?
  • Is the finished product likely to be landscape or portrait orientation?
  • Is there contrast between subjects and backdrops, if the designer wanted to crop either out?
  • How easy would it be to change colours if a designer wanted to?

Stay up to date with trends
If you’re shooting for book covers, spend some time researching in bookshops to see what genres are currently popular. Look at wider industry trends for colours and design styles. Incorporate these trends into your work where you can, but put your own stamp on them.

We discuss trends regularly on our blog and social media, so stay tuned!

Ensure everything meets legal standards.
Make sure you’ve obtained permissions or signed releases for identifiable people and properties appearing in your imagery. Many larger companies have strict third-party permissions policies for anything they license, so it’s vital to have all the paperwork in place.

Provide detail in the keywords.
We’ll handle the core keywording for you, but make sure you’re adding the specifics – for example, one of the most frequent questions we get from clients is ‘where was this image taken?’

It’s also a good idea to avoid second-guessing what clients will be typing into the search box. Simple concepts and concise descriptive terms are much more effective than elaborate phrases.


Upload regularly
The more images you have with a library, the greater the chance of the right client finding them – it’s that simple. Many clients start with the newest imagery when running a search, so adding images frequently will ensure your work stays front and centre.

Know your market
Above all else, understand your market – research their likely requirements and shoot with that market in mind. As long as you’re doing that, your images will have the best possible chance of selling!