How to Think like a Stock Photographer

Photographer Camera and  Gear

To make loads of stock photo sales and get that dream life we’re all reaching for, we need to start thinking like stock photographers every time we shoot. I’ll tell you what I mean in a minute. But first, here’s what got me thinking about this… Last month, I got my first “enhanced download” on Shutterstock, which means that I made $28 and beat my $20 per week goal with just one download. Woo-hoo! Here’s the shot. It also happens to be my best-seller, with 130 downloads and counting:

This week, I noticed that ALL of my best-sellers are photos that I took with the specific intention to sell them as stock. Here are my most downloaded shots, following the tulip shot above. When I took each of these, I was trying to think like a stock photographer, with the words of Shelly Perry, Andrea Gingerich, Kevin Lohka, Lise Gagne, and other successful stock photographers running through my head:

So what were those words?

  • Clean
  • Useful
  • Copy space (room for text)

Every time I shoot a photo for stock, I lift my camera to my eye and look through the viewfinder from left to right and top to bottom, thinking:

  • How can I make this a clean composition, free from clutter and distractions that might take away from the subject?
  • Is this subject useful to a designer? And if so, how might it be used? How can I best compose this shot to make a designer’s job easy?
  • Where can I leave some copy space, while still maintaining the subject and composition of the shot?

I tried this at our recent Photo Expedition in Bali and came away with a few shots I’ll submit to stock agencies:

Pick up your camera and try it this weekend.