Stock photography has always been an excellent side-revenue opportunity for photographers, especially for beginners. But as with everything, the dynamic of this photography business has significantly changed with time. What would have made you lead in the space ten years ago could drown your chances completely today.
However, the stock photo market is still very much lively and as profitable as ever. To benefit from it as a photographer, you need to know the keys of the offer and the demand for stock photos today.
And that’s precisely what we’re telling you today. This article will give you a full understanding of the stock photography industry in 2019 and how to tackle it in your favour.
Let’s get started!
Visual Trends – Instagram Inspiration
In stock photography, as in many other commercial fields, offer follows demand. So the very first step to making money from your photos is to know what type of images are the current best-sellers and most sought after right now.
Essentially, the current visual market for commercial stock photography is the complete opposite of what it was until a decade ago.
Long gone are the days where stock imagery was a synonym of cheesy, unnatural, awkward poses and concepts dominated by Caucasian models on white backgrounds. Good riddance!
The aesthetic that dominates the market today is the result of the Instagram phenomenon. For a detailed overview on this market trend and where to buy (and sell) Instagram-like photos online, read this guide on the best stock photos for Instagram!
Over a decade ago, mobile phones with built-in cameras and social media platforms turned everyone into casual photojournalists documenting their daily lives. But the landing of Instagram, the top image-focused, mobile-first social network, revolutionised the space and made every smartphone user into an amateur photog living their best life and sharing their most beautiful moments.
As a result, the photographic style people crave to see today is one that emulates the most popular Instagram photos: authentic, natural, portraying real people in real situations, in shots that appear spontaneous and effortless. And stock photo agencies make sure to deliver exactly this.
2019’s Stock Photography Money Shots
If you want more details and inspiration to create potential stock photo best-sellers, do check out this in-depth report on Photography Trends 2019 from industry experts Amos Struck and Ivanna Attié from Stock Photo Secrets, that compiles the latest visual trends from renowned stock photo agencies with beautiful sample photos.
There’s a wide range of trends to explore, meaning you won’t be short of choice of subjects that fit into your personal style and niche, and this is the key to unlocking earnings in stock photo agencies. You gotta be trendy, but you gotta be you.
Some quick tips that you can apply regardless of what topic you focus, to increase your sales opportunities:
Shoot for Diversity – As we mentioned earlier, for a very long time stock photography was ruled by Caucasian models and classic stereotypes. As the new Instagram-inspired style is also a reflection of the current, global society with strong, inclusive views, stock images are every day adding more cultural, ethnic, gender and lifestyle representations from all over the world. However, the problem of diversity (or the lack thereof) in stock photography is far from remedied, as this article explains. So your best shot at making your photos bankable at stock photo agencies is to include multiculturalism and social diversity in your concepts.
Tomorrow’s Tech – It’s not news for you that technology is all around us today, a constant presence in every step of our days. But what’s more, technology development moves at lightspeed, and what’s the top of the line today can be obsolete in a couple of years.
This affects stock photos significantly. For one, pictures including tech devices and people interacting with them are always in high demand. But equally important, tech-themed images have a much shorter shelf life –you know, unless it’s a retro concept, nobody will buy a picture of a guy using a dumb phone or even a mid2000s desktop computer. If your shots include the latest gadgets of today or even better the next big thing in the tech world, they’ll be a lot more desirable. However, you must consider they may not report earnings for years and years.
Market Standards & The Rule of Three in Stock Photography
Another critical point to go over if you’re planning on trying stock photography is how to produce the kind of images that will get approved into the big stock photo agencies that concentrate most of the buyers, and that will get chosen by the latter. The answer is in a combination of three factors you must pay close attention:
- Technical: Stock photo agencies are no-nonsense when it comes to professional quality standards. They want photos in high resolution with perfect lighting, sharp focus and no noise whatsoever. While some of these rules can bend a little for the sake of art, the overall technical aspect must be flawless.
- Artistic: Photography is first and foremost a form of art. While the old school stock photo market was overly commercial and neglected the artsy side considerably, today’s trends put your creativity and unique perspective at the core. So don’t be afraid to spill your visual artistry all over your shots.
- Commercial: All in all, the primary market for stock photos are people looking to use them for commercial purposes: web design, marketing, advertising, social media, you know. For this reason, agencies evaluate images for their market value, and thus you must keep an eye on this aspect too. From a relevant concept to a niche topic, from composition to editing, everything in your pictures must aim at commercial usage.
If you achieve to harmoniously mix technical excellence with a personal artistic take and strong commercial appeal, you will hit the stock photo trifecta, and you’ll have higher chances of putting your images to make some bucks.
Leap Upon the Potential of Mobile Shots
As Smartphone cameras become more and more capable of rival DSLR in producing professional-like photos and given our entire world is now mobile-first or at least mobile-friendly, it’s not shocking that stock photo agencies are every day welcoming more and more images shot in mobile.
What’s more, most of the top companies in the industry have their own dedicated mobile apps both for customers and for contributing photographers, some of them even enabling mobile upload as well as portfolio management.
In recent years, several mobile photo communities and stock photo banks have focused on monetising mobile-shot imagery as stock, and it’s a trend that doesn’t seem to slow down.
If you have a phone capable of shooting in high-res and the skills to produce commercially valuable pictures using just your mobile, this is an exciting opportunity. You can explore the viability of your style in the market and have some fun creating photos on the go while earning some money from the files sitting on your device’s camera roll.
The Buyer Side of Stock Photography for You
Being a photographer or visual artist, you can benefit from both ends of the stock photo business. There are several instances where buying stock images can make sense for you and you could do it at a little cost in online stock photo agencies.
Some examples of cases where stock photos could save you time and hassle:
Blogging – If you run a photography blog, you likely share your own images, but if you’re starting out and you don’t sit on a large personal archive of photos, or if you don’t want to share them editorially, you can simply use stock images to illustrate and embellish your posts.
Client work – If you’re a visual artist or graphic designer, there are many situations where stock photos can make your commissioned work faster and easier. Mixing stock photos (carefully edited for a personalised feel) with custom shots is one of the most common ways to deliver finished designs/projects quicker and maximise profit.
Stock imagery can be a useful ally in your photography and visuals related endeavours, and you can rest assured it’s legal and equally important that the artists behind the shots are adequately paid for their work. Best of all, it’s very cost-effective at less than $20 per image and even as little as $0.25 the file when buying in bulk.
Bonus Tip: All the deets you learned on trends and valuable aspects of stock photography still apply when you’re buying images. Make sure to use authentic, trendy Instagram-styled pictures in high res and with flawless technical quality to get the best results in your final visuals.
Make Modern Stock Photography Work in your Favour
Knowing the specifics of the stock photo business in our days, you have a powerful tool to make it work in your benefit.
Be it to sell your images online and make extra earnings or buying stock images to use in your projects and maximise your profits, or both, if you’re armed with the insider tips on the market and visual trends you are bound to squeeze the value out of it and make the best for your business.
So go ahead and get started!