Who are your customers as a stock photographer? If you know in advance what your prospective customers expect, you can save yourself a lot of unnecessary work and earn more!
One of the secrets to sell stock photos regularly
When you start stock photography, one of the very important questions you need to clarify is to whom, to what target audience, and for what purpose you want to sell your photos. If you choose the right target group, there is a good chance you can have a regular income.
Basic thing, yet many start just the other way around: take photos of what your customers are looking for. If you only photograph what you like, chances are you’re expecting a substantial income in vain.
On most stock photography sites, you won’t find direct help on what to shoot. Dreamstime provides a sales number alongside each photo, Adobe Stock tries to help with a curated list of their best-seller photographers, and Alamy provides a detailed table of customer search data.
I can definitely say that without knowing the needs of the customers, it is not possible to make considerable income from stock photography. Experienced photographers, even with a small portfolio (2-3,000 images), are able to outperform the less conscious ones that have tens of thousands of images.
How can you most easily assess customer demand?
The easiest way is to read the forum of your agency where you are sure to find a topic called "Images sold in May" or similar. Since each stock agency targets more or less a different market, it is very important that you do not draw a general conclusion from the posts on only one forum, but - if you have uploaded images to multiple agencies - read the others as well.
Some people upload the same portfolio to 5-10 stock photo agencies and earn relatively well, but every photographer’s experience is that the same image sells well here, but hardly there. This is due to the already mentioned difference in the target audiences. On Dreamstime, vector images sell very well, while on Adobe Stock, you can reach high numbers with studio photos with models (businessmen, working in office etc.). On Alamy, editorial images with natural activity of everyday people are the best. And so on…
Other ways to find your target audience
Each stock photography site provides photographers with different information that can help them find good topics. If you delve into the website and forum of the given agency, it will soon be clear for you what help they provide in this regard, after all, it is also in their interest to license as many photos as possible.
There are more effective and less usable ways, too.
Dreamstime sends an email each month about the previous month’s most searched keywords, which isn’t very helpful, given that seasonal searches are no longer necessarily valid for the following month. Not to mention that they list pretty general keywords.
Alamy’s Measures feature is a great solution with lots of useful information. The company’s What should I shoot? page provides a long list of special topics customers are looking for. If you take photos based on the specific requests there, you will almost certainly have a sale (my own experience!).
Shutterstock provide the keywords entered by the buyer based on which they found your image. This is not a very effective method, but since Shutterstock sell practically everything and everywhere, good results can be achieved in any topic. Here, the saturation of the given topic is more important. If you search for keywords in your topic, you will find that there are only 10 or 10 million photos already on the page. If that number is in the million level, don't even try to compete. If it is under a few hundreds, start uploading!
The latter method can and should be used on any stock photo site. If you find a subject/niche that only you photograph (or there are very few competitors), you are sure to have good results. Just don’t talk about it on the forums, because if a lot of people start shooting that very niche, your sales will drop significantly.
Take photos for your customers!
We can say that your job with stock photography is pre-fulfilling future orders. Although there are unexpected demands, but you can even plan most of your sales. Take photos of rare subjects, take photos of your surroundings, read the forums of your stock agencies, never take photos of oversaturated niches!
Be conscious when taking stock photos!