Top 3 Tips for Stock Photography

By Lane Erickson

“When I have a camera in my hand, I know no fear.” – Alfred Eisenstaedt

What makes a great stock shot? Do some types of images sell better than others? What kind of camera do I need to begin doing stock photography? Do I need any special lenses or other professional equipment to do stock photography? How much money can a person make in stock photography?

These are the typical questions I am asked when people find out that I do stock photography. Usually these questions come from other photographers who’ve heard about stock photography but have never done it. 

I’ve been a photographer now for over 30 years and I’ve done stock photography for nearly 20. I don’t do it for a living. I got into it simply as a way of challenging myself with my own photography. The fact that I earn any money out of my photography at all is a bonus that allows me to get new equipment when I want. 

Stock photography isn’t for everyone. It’s not easy, but if you have ever wondered about it, this article might help you. Here are my top 3 tips on succeeding at stock photography with several of my own stock images I’ve pulled from Shutterstock. 

1. Use the Equipment You Have

The first tip is to use the photography equipment you already have. 

If you’ve read my blog at all you know that I firmly believe that you do not need a professional camera or expensive lenses to create great images. If you are a great photographer with a professional camera, you will also be a great photographer with any other type of camera. It’s the skill that makes you great . . . not the tool. 

Some photographers I’ve talked to tell me that they don’t do stock photography because they don’t believe they have good enough equipment to do it. They are completely shocked and surprised to learn that I’ve sold hundreds (maybe even thousands) of stock photos that have come from various point and shoot cameras. Here are 2 images that sell well as stock photos. The first was taken with a Canon G10 point and shoot. 

The second was created with the Fuji X100s fixed lens camera. While these are both good quality cameras, neither is a “pro” camera. 

Some of these images have even been used throughout the world as billboards, book covers, and in advertising campaigns in major magazines. (The Nature’s Path advertisement was created with an old 5mp point and shoot Nikon.)

The point is, just use the equipment that you have. Most modern cameras, even point and shoot cameras are high enough quality to produce fantastic stock images. 

2. Create the Kinds of Photos That You Enjoy

Tip #2 is to create the type of images you enjoy making. Personally, I love to explore with a camera. This means that I generally enjoy all kinds of photography. Sometimes its indoors, but mostly I like to get out and explore.  This means I create lots of nature images. 

But it’s not about just nature for me. I also enjoy taking pictures of people while they are playing sports or are involved in other activities. 

Sometimes I like to get away from people and just walk around with a camera in my hands to see what it is I can see. I find when I do this, I often come across fantastic images in the most surprising places. 

Often, I even find great light and image potential in my own home, or in the homes of family. 

The lesson here is that I’ve found that I can succeed at stock photography when I create the kinds of photos that I enjoy creating. I’ve also learned that I don’t like to limit myself to just one area of photography. When it comes to stock photography, some people do specialize and are very successful at it. 

3. Keep it Simple

The third tip is that no matter what kind of photos you like to create, when you are doing stock photography then you really need to keep your images as simple as possible. 

Simple images sell! 

Your simple image could be of a rolled-up newspaper on a white background. 

Or it could be a tear rolling down a person’s cheek. 

Or could be a rain storm in a forest. 

Whatever it is, work at simplifying your image to make it more powerful. If you don’t know how to do this on your own, then I highly recommend that you read my article about a simple formula for awesome photography

Conclusion

Many people make a lucrative living through stock photography. Other photographers, like me, dabble in stock photography enough to make a little money and have fun in the process. If you are interested in stock photography, then follow these three tips to help you be successful. 

Based on my own experience, I’m convinced that if you learn to use the equipment you already have, to create the kinds photos you enjoy creating, and if you keep your images simple, you will succeed. These tips work for me, and I’m confident they will work for you too. 

If you are interested in seeing more of my stock or fine art images, you can find my portfolios on Shutterstock or at Fine Art America.

Thanks for reading, and please leave your comments. I welcome your thoughts, suggestions and even your critiques.

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