Want to learn more about the art of stock photography? These 25 established photographers offer newcomers their best advice on everything from uncovering new trends to staying inspired.
In 2017, we interviewed more than 250 Shutterstock/Offset contributors about the ins and outs of stock photography. These artists came from all backgrounds, including lifestyle, portrait, food, wildlife, interiors, documentary, and fine art, and their experiences shed light on new trends within the industry. They gave us their best tricks for shooting at night, shooting underwater, shooting in the wild, and even shooting on the red carpet.
As we entered 2018, we asked 25 established photographers to give some advice to emerging photographers. What, we wondered, do they wish someone had told them when they were just getting started? Their responses ranged from technical rules to business tips, all catered specifically to stock. Some discussed the importance of researching and understanding the market, while others put an emphasis on truly enjoying what you do. Read on for some inspiration. And if you haven’t already, download the Shutterstock Contributor Success Guide in your language for reference before your next shoot.
1. “Some areas sell better than others, but ultimately, quality always sells.”
Autumn Sky Photography
Image by Autumn Sky Photography. Gear: Canon EOS 6D full-frame SLR, Canon 24-105L lens, Tripod. Settings: Focal length 45mm; exposure 24 sec; f22; ISO 160.
Choose your niche or area of expertise. This should be the thing you are most familiar with, whether it’s landscapes, flowers, macro, people, etc. Some areas sell better than others, but ultimately, quality always sells. The important part is that you feel you are an expert on the subject.
Learn how to supply metadata. This is extremely important and far more difficult than it might appear. I’m a landscape photographer, so in the beginning, I’d name all the mountains in a photo. Wrong! Customers are searching for words like “landscape,” “snowcapped mountains,” etc. Most often, it’s generics instead of specifics. Use the awesome Shutterstock Tools that allow you to see what search terms customers used to lead them to some of the images you sold. Examine the keywords others have used in the “Most Popular” tab. Once again, this is often not natural, and it does not come overnight.
Finally, have fun! Like everything else in life, if you enjoy what you are doing, you will be successful.
2. “Although I travel as often as I can, a lot of my best-selling images were shot within an hour of my house.”
Image by Johnny Adolphson. Gear: Canon 6D camera, Canon 16-35mm f2.8 lens. Settings: Focal length 24mm; exposure 1/60 sec; f9; ISO 640.
Take a closer look at what is near your home. Although I travel as often as I can, a lot of my bestselling images were shot within an hour of my house. Stock photography keeps me searching for shots all day long, and I find myself looking for places and compositions that I might not see otherwise.
3. “The most important thing is to truly love what you do and to prepare yourself for some long-distance running.”
tomertu (Tomer Turjeman)
Image by tomertu (Tomer Turjeman). Gear: Canon EOS 80D camera, Sigma Art 24-105mm lens. Settings: Focal length 50mm; exposure 1/15 sec; f5.6; ISO 100.
The most important thing is to truly love what you do and to prepare yourself for some long-distance running. Another tip is to think like a graphic designer in order to understand what each image will be used for.