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Fifteen of the Most Popular Stock Photos to Create

15 of the Most Popular Stock Photos to Create

Photographers around the world, rejoice. We’ve gathered a list of the most popular stock photos to shoot no matter where you are in the world. At Shutterstock, we are constantly researching and diving into trends to give you the best information possible so that you can create images that inspire our customers and tell stories.

From our Creative Trends to the monthly Shot List, use these guides to inspire you on what to create next that actually sells. In this article, we’re sharing some popular stock photos that always sell on our marketplace.

Images by

You can also use this list of popular stock photos to shoot when you go through your hard-drives, and upload archive content that’s popular on stock marketplaces. Or, if you’re a customer looking to use stock imagery to help tell your story, we encourage you to browse this list for ideas on what images to share.

Here’s a list of some of the most popular stock photo ideas that sell on Shutterstock.

Landscapes Images that Inspire Wanderlust

Images that celebrate our connection to nature and the natural elements around us are always popular on stock photo marketplaces. We have a growing lust for seeking connection to the great outdoors, escaping in solitude to the wilderness.

Fifteen of the Most Popular Stock Photos to Create — Landscape Images That Inspire Wanderlust
Landscape images connect us to the great outdoors. Image by onemu.

Now more than ever, people look to images of nature and travel for an escape. Consider evaluating your past travel experiences and upload images that inspire your own wanderlust.

As an additional element, images that depict climate change and environmentalism are also on the rise. Environmental imagery should both inspire wanderlust and inspire others to consider the human impact we have on Earth.

Fifteen of the Most Popular Stock Photos to Create — Landscape Images that Inspire Wanderlust
Finding solitude in the wilderness. Image by yanik88.

Discover more tips and tools for shooting stunning outdoor stock image here:

Modern Work Environments and Office Spaces

With more and more people working in alternative situations, we need imagery that supports a wide array of work environments. There are several trends to consider in this category of popular work and office images on stock. 

  • Working from Home: With people around the world working from home, we need imagery that supports this environment. This includes at-home office setups, zoom calls, connecting with colleagues virtually, and work-life-balance with work blending in with home life.
  • Co-working and coffee shops: Images of people working in alternative office spaces including co-working spaces and coffee shops are always searched for. Just remember to obtain a property release for any recognizable location.
  • Open offices and collaboration: The modern office has changed a lot since the cubicle was introduced. More and more spaces are open, offering the opportunity for more collaboration. Capture images of these stunning architectural spaces and the community open spaces support. 
The Most Popular Stock Photos - Working From Home Mom
The Most Popular Stock Photos - Working From Home with Dog
Images by Supamotion.

Find more information about capturing the modern workplace in stock photography here:

Candid moments of family and friends

Not everything needs to look cookie-cutter perfect. The reality is, life at home can be messy.

We’re searching for images of realistic moments between family and friends. Candid moments translate into imagery that looks and feels authentic like the viewer could be in that moment. These are incredibly useable for customers on Shutterstock searching for images to purchase, as they capture a truly honest depiction of life. The photographer should aim to blend into the scene, and let life unfold in front of their lens. 

Fifteen of the Most Popular Stock Photos to Create — Candid Moments of Family and Friends
Candid moments are the best moments to tell stories. Image by

Learn more about using family and friends as models here:

A representative world, with diversity and inclusion at the forefront

Diversity is so much more than inserting models of various ethnicities into an image. It’s about capturing who that person is, their traits, their culture, and the story behind them.

Truly representative images are authentic, real moments captured. Diversity and inclusion is much, much more than a “check-box” to mark off. Instead, it’s something that we automatically strive for when we plan any photoshoot. We need images that tell stories of inclusiveness and diversity. The following are some ideas on how to incorporate diversity and inclusion into your images.

Fifteen of the Most Popular Stock Photos to Create — Diversity and Inclusion at the Forefront
Diversity and inclusion is important for an accurate representation of the visual world. Image by Carlos David.
  • Demographic Diversity: Examples include gender, race, or sexual orientation.
  • Experiential Diversity: Examples include affinities, hobbies, and abilities.
  • Cognitive Diversity: Examples include how we approach problems and think about things.

For more ideas, check out these articles on capturing diversity in stock photography:

Top-down food images and videos

Food is communal. It’s international. It crosses cultural boundaries where most photography is limited. Food and recipe videos have exploded in recent years, and we’re seeing a rise in searches for both top-down food images and cooking videos. These images should highlight trends in food (including the rise of sourdough baking, thanks to quarantine). 

Fifteen of the Most Popular Stock Photos to Create — Top-down Images and Videos of Food
Top-down food videos and images are trending. What are you baking? Image by B.G. Photography.

Check out these food-related articles for ideas on food to shoot for stock:

Model-released travel images

We love seeing an authentic representation of local cultures through travel images. There is nothing more beautiful than powerful portraits of people in various cultures, geographical locations, and engaging in traditions around the world.

When you photograph these images, make sure to bring a model release or, at the least, grab their contact information so you can upload those images to stock. This allows customers to tell authentic travel stories featuring images of real people in diverse locations around the world. 

Fifteen of the Most Popular Stock Photos to Create — Mongolian Woman Portrait
Capture images that represent the culture of the places you travel to. Image by

Check out these articles for more information on capturing model-released travel images for stock:

Everyday moments with disabilities

Images of people with disabilities in everyday situations can be hard to find in stock collections. In most of what we see, images of people with disabilities are depicted in an “overcoming” sense of accomplishment, like people are in a constant battle to defeat the odds. With those images, people with disabilities are featured in superhero poses, and a “We can do it” attitude with no other emotions present.

Instead, we’re looking for moments of people with disabilities engaged in everyday activities. It’s important to recognize and create imagery that highlights people in authentic moments. For more tips, check out this article on creating images that accurately represent disabilities for stock marketplaces.

Images by Natalia Lebedinskaia.

For even more on representing disabilities and chronic conditions of all kinds, look here:

Color as the focus

When bold colors are at the forefront of a creative image, it produces an array of emotions for the viewer. Color plays a strong role in our visual marketing world, and its power is unmatched.

For photographs, having powerful and trending colors in your images is a great way to get your image noticed. Every year, we release a trend report on the top colors that are trending around the world. Here are Shutterstock’s 2020 Color Trends. Use this data to create images that are trending and being searched for as popular stock photos on stock.

Fifteen of the Most Popular Stock Photos to Create — Trending Color as the Focus
Bold colors create powerful imagery. Image by Wonderful Nature.

Learn more about using Shutterstock’s 2020 color trends in images here:

Naturally-edited images

It’s as the saying goes, less is more. For photography, over-edited images and inserting fake elements to your images limit their use for customers. There’s nothing worse than finding an image you love on a stock marketplace, only to see an intrusive filter on top of the image that the customer can’t remove.

Instead, keep your edits as simple as possible to keep them useable for customers.

Fifteen of the Most Popular Stock Photos to Create — Naturally-Edited Images
Capture natural beauty with minimal editing. Image by puhhha.

Check out these tips for more ideas on how to edit your images for stock:

All ages welcome (and represented)

Images submitted to stock should represent people of all facets of life, and represent communities of all ages. These images should represent an accurate and empowered depiction of people in various stages of life.

This means creating images that show both seniors living independently and seniors who are living in assisted care homes. It means depicting families of various ages and living circumstances. There is no one kind of mother, no one kind of friend, no one kind of family. Create images that showcase the diversity of ages in all stages of life.

Fifteen of the Most Popular Stock Photos to Create — All Ages Welcome and Represented
Represent all ages in your images. Image by Focus and Blur.

Find more tips on capturing authentic imagery of every stage of life here:

Powerful portrait imagery 

Portrait images are always popular on stock, especially when they represent trending communities, occupations, and lifestyles. An example of this is during the coronavirus crisis, where we saw a rise in searches for powerful portraiture of nurses and first responders battling the crisis on the frontlines. Other ideas that relate to this include grocery store workers and delivery personnel. Consider creating portraits of people that tell the uniqueness of their individual story.

Fifteen of the Most Popular Stock Photos to Create — Powerful Portrait Imagery
Powerful portrait imagery helps tell powerful stories. Image by theskaman306.

Discover more about powerful portraiture here:

Aerial photography

Aerial photography continues to rise and trend, offering a glimpse at the world from a totally different perspective. For aerial photographs on stock, these are fantastic for customers to use as background images or images for their websites. If you have access to a drone (or even a helicopter, if you’re so lucky), you have a unique opportunity to get a completely different shot than your peers.

Ideas for aerial photographs include landscape images that show climate change (forest fires, change in pollution), empty streets, and even unique images of people from a different perspective.

Fifteen of the Most Popular Stock Photos to Create — Aerial Photography Empty Streets
Aerial photography offers a new perspective to old places. Image by Matt Gush.

Find more tips and techniques for shooting awesome aerial images in these articles:

Property-released images of architecture and homes

If you have access to properties, buildings, churches, and homes that you can shoot, this gives you a unique opportunity to capture incredible images for stock. The only caveat? You need to make sure you can get a property release signed.

A property release allows you to sell the image on stock, which can be a great way to earn money on stock marketplaces. An example of this is capturing a unique image of a church or an architecturally-inspiring home.

Fifteen of the Most Popular Stock Photos to Create — Property-Released Images of Architecture and Homes
Powerful imagery of unique architectural wonders. Image by Andrei Nekrassov.

For more tips on getting property releases for your images, check out these articles:

Macro images of texture and closeups

Capturing unique macro images using either a macro or tilt-lens is a great way to capture special details of the objects and subjects that inspire you. Customers on stock use these popular stock photos as backgrounds or to put text overtop. They are also great on websites, especially for restaurants and small businesses. An example of this could be a closeup of a coffee bean, the texture of a leaf, or the details of a flower.

Fifteen of the Most Popular Stock Photos to Create — Macro Images of Texture and Closeups
Macro shots are great detail shots for websites and marketing materials. Image by pernsanitfoto.

Find more about photographing details and texture in macro images here:

Collections of images that tell a full story

Rather than upload one image, consider uploading a set of images into a collection to tell the full story of that shoot. This allows customers on stock to purchase multiple images out of a single shoot, telling a more cohesive story on their marketing channels. Collections of images should include various perspectives including vertical and horizontal orientation, plus closeups and wide shots with more white space for text. 

Images by hedgehog94.

Get more insight on building a successful stock photo portfolio with these pro tips:

Top image by Everst.

We hope these fifteen top popular stock photo ideas help inspire your next photo shoot. We can’t wait to see what you create next on Shutterstock. Not a contributor yet? Click here to sign up and start submitting your images today.

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