For anyone wanting to earn money from their photography these days, the opportunities are endless. There are so many picture agencies to choose from not to mention easy to build websites that you can use to sell your prints. But with this also comes great competition. Not only are photographers now competing with other photographers but also anyone with a smart phone can now take pictures and sell them online. But fear not, here are 6 tips to help you capture photos that sell.
Decide What Is It For?
The first thing that you need to do is decide what the photos are actually for. By this I mean, are you planning to sell it to magazines and newspapers as a stock image? Or are you planning to sell it as a print that someone can put on their wall?
The reason that this is important is that there is obviously a difference between the photos that end up on people’s walls as prints and those that end up in magazines. Clearly there are some photos that cover both but when you have been in this business long enough you begin to see a pattern emerging between photos that become prints and those that sell as stock images.
Once you have an idea of how you plan to sell the image, you can begin to frame it accordingly when taking the shot. For example for a stock photo you might want to put your point of interest on the left or right of the image to leave room for headlines or copy whereas as a print you might want to put it bang in the middle.
One of the best ways to maximise your photo’s sales potential is to ensure you cover multiple compositions. For example taking a photo of a famous landmark, you can cover versions with the landmark on the left of the frame, the right of the frame, in the middle, camera tilted up leaving more room in the sky and camera tilted low for more foreground. You then need cover a few versions of the same scene in vertical format which can be used as single pages or front covers.
Some compositions may not work in every possible angle because, for example, there is building work on one side of the frame or you cut off vital elements when vertical. The key is to try and ensure that the photo has the best possible chance to sell. The last thing you would want is for someone to want the photo for use as a cover but you didn’t take a vertical version.
Use The Highest Resolution Possible
It can be tempting to take photos at lower quality levels such as low res JPEGs. After all they take up a lot less space, are faster to transfer and edit as well. But if you want to sell your photos for use especially for print, then low res isn’t really an option. You might get away with it on the off occasion if the image will be used very small, but at bigger sizes it will be blurred. In fact most picture agencies will not even accept low res JPEGs.
If you can you should always take photos in RAW format. This will allow you maximum edit capabilities as well ensuring you can save your images at the highest resolution possible. You can always then save a second version of the files as low res JPEGs for personal use.
Vibrancy, Contrast and Striking
Once you have enough images for sale, you will usually begin to notice that the images that tend to sell well are vibrant and striking with good contrast. Even if they are monochrome they will usually have one or a combination of these. The way you capture the photo will give you these elements which you can then boost in post-production so make you sure you keep your eyes open and be aware of the light that is available. For example, the golden hour will give you a beautiful warm glow and long shadows, but an overcast and cloudy day will leave you with a flat and uninteresting image.
Once you have taken the image and it is in post-production, boost your colours, vibrancy, saturation and contrast as much as you need to so that the image jumps out but be careful not to overdo it to the point where the image looks fake.
Take one look at a magazine stand and you will notice that the majority of the travel magazines feature beautiful blue skies or water on sunny days. The reason for this is that most people’s travel/holiday aspirations are to go somewhere tranquil with great weather so they would be more inclined to buy a magazine with this sort of imagery on it. I was actually told this by the founder of a popular British travel magazine some time ago. Let’s be honest no one wants to go on holiday into a storm, so as much as stormy and dramatic moody skies might look good, you will probably find that those images sell less regularly. Therefore plan your trips with the weather in mind.
Make It Perfect
If you want to really make a decent return on your photos, then you need to try to make each and every single one on sale perfect. That means photographing in the best light, composing the shot carefully, thinking about the subject (is it interesting? Does it tell a story?) and then executing it perfectly with good focusing and depth of field. This does mean that often you may have to keep going back to a location before you can capture the perfect photo. Once you have done all of that you should enhance it to the very best that it can be in post-production.
It really is an amazing feeling when you see your sales report and see that you have sold images. The fact that people have paid for your photo will fill you with a great sense of pride but it is getting harder than ever to sell photos because of the sheer volume of what is out there. With the right approach and good photos you can still make money from selling your photos.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. No usage without permission.