To maximize your success, you need to understand what buyers are looking for. We frequently talk to customers who ask for images with these qualities.

Images that show “authenticity”

Perfectly posed images of beautiful models are popular, but buyers tell us every day that they also want authenticity. Images need to be inspirational, professional, and of high quality, but people and activities should look natural, relaxed, and “real.”

szefei | A mother kissing her son

Images that show cultural diversity

We live in an increasingly global economy and shared culture. For years, buyers have been asking stock agencies for images that reflect how culturally diverse our world is in a way that feels honest and accurate.

Images that show local culture

Shutterstock serves a global audience. Does a business meeting in Hong Kong or Rio De Janeiro look exactly the same as one in London or Rome? Don’t copy “popular” images. Buyers want high-quality and authentic images of the world as seen through your eyes.

Mikadun | People covered in paint on Holi festival, Delhi, India

Distinct variations from the same shoot

Buyers often tell us things like this: “The shot was perfect – but we couldn’t use it because the person was serious, not smiling.” Or the image was horizontal, not vertical. By shooting distinct and unique variations of the same scene, you can give a buyer options while maximizing sales opportunities from a single shoot.

Thoughtful room for text

Your images need to have a clear center of interest, but have you thought about how text might be overlaid on the image? Think about a magazine cover, advertisement, or two-page spread. Where do photographers leave room for text? What techniques do they use – like shallow depth-of-field – to create a suitable space for text?

Sergiu Ungureanu | Swimming pool with beach chairs

Images that they can’t find anywhere else

We were recently approached by a potential customer who works for a government agency specializing in wastewater treatment. She was a regular buyer of images of sewer sludge. Who would imagine that? Popular themes such as nature, objects, business, and healthcare may seem obvious to beginners, but since those categories are saturated, finding images of unique subjects should also be a major part of your portfolio strategy. These images might not be the top sellers, but your unique, niche images are up against less competition, and will help you diversify your portfolio.

This article is an excerpt from the Shutterstock Contributor Success Guide. To download the complete guide in multiple languages, visit this page.

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Top image: Yen stream on the way to Huong pagoda in autumn, Hanoi, Vietnam by John Bill