How to Take Successful Stock Photos

September 15, 2009 | Mark Goldstein | Photography Techniques | 21 Comments | |
How to Take Successful Stock Photos Image

Microstock is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. As businesses are actively looking for cost savings, the benefit of sourcing stock images from subscription-based image libraries is increasingly apparent. Equally, photographers are realising that this is a valuable source of additional income.

Shutterstock is the world's largest subscription-based online stock image library with over 7 million images in its collection, growing by over 70,000 images weekly.

The company attributes its growth and success to two important factors.

The first is Shutterstock's popular and innovative subscription plans, which encourages multiple downloads.

The other is its unique 'crowdsourcing' model, whereby photographers submit their work and are compensated each time a subscriber downloads their image.

How to Take Successful Stock Photos

Here are Shutterstock's top tips for budding stock photographers:

Taking Photos

1. The purpose of stock photography is to help sell or promote a product, service, or idea - it isn't enough to take a technically sound image. The image needs to sell itself.

2. Spend time browsing through other successful images in Shutterstock's collection to learn the characteristics of a good stock photo before submitting.

3. Avoid rushing out and capturing anything that looks interesting without considering the following elements: framing, focus, composition, noise, lighting, and keyword selection. Plan ahead; visualise the scene beforehand and take a couple of test shots.

4. Consider your subject and use the right equipment to create your image. Planning to shoot a detail of a flower? Use a dedicated macro lens for the best results. Since equipment can be expensive, think about what you like to take pictures of and try to purchase gear that will allow you to make the most of your creativity.

5. When creating images with models (whether hired for a shoot or family members) you must submit Model Releases. Model Releases protect you as the photographer as well as the agency representing your work.

6. Do not submit dark or muddy travel pictures or 'snapshots.' Photos with heavy shadows from the on-camera flash are generally not well-suited for stock. Learn to look at light and how it falls on your subject. If using the sun as your main light source, consider this: A landscape view will vary throughout the day according to the position of the sun in the sky. Try visiting your scene at different times of day to see how the light changes your perspective on the scene overall. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that shooting in the early morning or early evening is dramatically different than shooting at midday. Also, make sure your images have a clear topic and focus.

How to Take Successful Stock Photos

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21 Comments | Newest Oldest First | Post a Comment

#1 kathramirez

I am always longing to know how to shoot stock photos perfectly. Good thing I found your post here. It gives me valuable information I can surely use in my photography class. Thanks!

1:24 pm - Wednesday, September 16, 2009

#2 cyborg

how to capture pics of moving objects?please let me know.

3:14 pm - Wednesday, September 16, 2009

#3 Premium Finance

wow nice photo!! and nice tips for budding stock photographers

6:14 am - Thursday, September 17, 2009

#4 hagen

Basic “tablestakes”. Missing several critical points to making successful stock images:

simple theme/story message, simple yet captivating image, clear subject (actual or implied), capable of taking text/captions etc within the border of the image (clear negative space) and must speak to the observer not you so look critically at your image

cyborg: three types of motion for you to research: implied, blur and panning (credit to Harry Nowell - look up his stuff - great work).

4:30 pm - Thursday, September 17, 2009

#5 Martin Metcalf

I just saw the photo of the runner on a billboard at a Sports Psychology conference I was working in SLC.  Great article.  Thanks for the tips.  Now to get more “Stock” focus in my shooting. - MM

1:41 am - Friday, September 18, 2009

#6 cit journo

For an easy way to make money off your photos and videos, try checking out

Sign up is free and you can upload an unlimited amount of news-related photos and videos, which they will sell for you to media outlets around the world.

Comission is up to 75% of the sale price, which is amazing!

I read on the site that their partners with Agence Frence-press, which is the 3rd largest news agency in the world, so they’ve got considerable street credit.

If you’ve got any exclusive shots from breaking news stories, this is exactly the place you want to sell them for you. You can even download an iPhone app to upload images directly and immediately from the scene. Android app is on it’s way.

Check them out, sell your news photos and videos:

4:57 pm - Friday, September 18, 2009

#7 gadgets

Is it usually allowed to upload the same image to multiple stock sites? Or is she just upload different images to different sites?

2:00 pm - Thursday, November 5, 2009

#8 Mac

Nice clear explanation and tips. Thanks!

12:42 am - Saturday, December 12, 2009

#9 San

to Gadget

you can upload one image to many stock sites

2:28 pm - Tuesday, February 2, 2010

#10 blue

very helpful. thanks!

2:51 am - Thursday, February 25, 2010

#11 Stock Picks

These are just stunning stock picks! I don’t know if I could ever be that good on my own. That’s just pure talent.

7:32 pm - Thursday, April 29, 2010

#12 Alan Stockdale

I have always found that take a good look at your image and ask yourself does it tell a story if it does it will most likely sell.

2:09 pm - Thursday, April 12, 2012

#13 Royalty Free Stock Photos

your pics are very stunning awesome work dude

9:43 am - Monday, August 27, 2012

#14 Chris

Very nice images and great way to get stock images.

6:07 pm - Saturday, December 15, 2012

#15 Veer @ Sell Stock Photography

Hi Mark Sir,

I search for Google How to Take Successful Stock Photos and i see your site nice post for stock photo this is very informative for me.
you are right Use a dedicated macro lens for the best results.

6:22 pm - Sunday, July 21, 2013

#16 Dmitriy Aseev Stock Photo

Keep in mind that stock photography is much more than microstock…

5:17 pm - Wednesday, October 16, 2013

#17 MD Yusuf

Taking Photos number 6 it’s cool. Fall in love

6:49 am - Friday, January 24, 2014

#18 Josue

Very Nice Stock Picture.. I hope to get to that level soon!

9:24 pm - Thursday, October 9, 2014

#19 Jessica Lillis

Taking Successful Stock Photos is not easy task. This article is very informative as if anybody follow he/she can do better. Keep it up!

12:05 pm - Saturday, May 23, 2015

#21 Eric

Good useful tips. I’ll give them a try.

12:23 pm - Friday, September 25, 2015