A Good Stock Image is an Incomplete One...

A pioneer in the stock business once said, "A good stock photo is an incomplete photo".
That doesn't make sense, does it? Shouldn't a great stock photo simply be a great photo? Sometimes, yes. But think about one of the reasons stock photos sell and the unfinished business of some stock photos make sense.
Look at these images:
Red Velvet Theater courtains
Clown 2
Image on the left seems to be waiting for something to happen. Wouldn't it be a better photo of a stage where there was a play going on or a band or a singer performing? Not withstanding the need for model releases that are almost impossible to come by for such events, the empty stage is a great subject for several reasons one of which is as a foundation for multiple creative uses in PhotoShop as in the image on the right.
The empty stage is a showcase for any product. The user can place their product or message against the background. And being center stage is where all advertisers want to be.
The image is graphically simple and so captures the eye at the thumbnail size. The colors are saturated and the curtains luxurious.
The scale of the stage and curtains is miniature so that the product will be in proportion to the environment. Imagine a bottle of shampoo on the stage. The image also lends itself to conceptual keywords like "anticipation", "star power", "opening night" and any words associated with product launches. Additional uses might be for invitations, announcements and other uses as background for text. And because the image is not product specific it has many, many opportunities for use across many types of products and services.
The second image is a beautiful use of various elements to create a photo that has terrific impact and that would be impossible to catch as an image straight out of the camera. It's easy to see how many different scenarios are possible.
Compare the theater images to the ones below. These images have some possible uses in addition to advertising spa treatments and vacation destinations: they could be used for a financial institution encouraging its users to save for a vacation or to indicate peace of mind in financial areas. But unlike the theater image, these two are more limited in kinds of industries and messages.
Woman by Pool
Looking down on a woman having a hot stones treatment
The theater image is a stage for almost any product or message. A winner! And relax...the spa and pool shots are too.
I have created a collection called " Theater Curtains" to showcase more terrific examples of those images. And will revisit a broader range of "incomplete" images later.

Photo credits: Billyfoto, Karen Struthers, Alex Bramwell.

Your article must be written in English



Did you post this one before? This looks a bit familiar to me... uhm.
Yes this is a comment to a post that came from long ago. I'm so pleased that people are going back to the old blogs and reading them either for the first time or again. But one of these days I will probably repeat myself as sometimes I wonder what in the world is left to write about! But then something occurs to me and off we go.


Did you post this one before? This looks a bit familiar to me... uhm.


There isn't a general rule of thumb...just negative space somewhere in the image large enough to hold a headline or short tag line.


Thank you for the informative article. I am completely new to stock photography and would appreciate some information on how much area to leave for type space. For example, if I take a photo of an apple against a pure white background, and it is 3000 x 3000 pixels cropped to the edges of the apple, how much should I increase the canvas size to allow for the type. (how much negative space should I leave around the apple). Is there a general rule of thumb for this? Thanks.


I'll reiterate the 'don't crop' sentiment - forget your artistic sensibilities, make your image usable to the greatest audience - let the user crop as they need. I’ve had to overlook so many otherwise promising images because the photographer has cropped the image too heavily. And variations - produce variations - again I’ll see an image I like, but the facial expression, for example, isn’t right - variations, variations, variations boys and girls!


coppyspace is a big deal when buying so it is almost a must when shooting


Amen! I was just about to set up my own blog and write about this. Please let me do the cropping. Sure an image looks cool when cropped BUT sometimes - no actually 99% of the time I need the full shadow or that edge of the plate or what ever the subject might be.
I just downloaded an image to use on page, image taken in portrait orientation BUT the photo aspect ratio does not fit the aspect ratio of a letter sized page. Had the photographer just given me more of the background it would have worked. Now again I have to spend time in Photoshop creating the missing part of the image, which could easily have been in there.

Best regards


Yes!Leave some room for type elements!


Thanx for the tip...I certainly will keep these things in mind when taking photos and submitting them.


Great article! Thanks for the information!



I found that successful photographer is not only take good pictures but they take pictures those sell.
Thanks for a very good article


Very nice advice. When I plan my photos I always think of them as a finished ad, and maybe thats the reason some of them doesn't sell they way I'm expecting (and someones really does).
Very interesting, I will take your advice when planning new photos and illustrations. Thanks!


Great this article! Very interesting and usefull to see our images in a new way... Thanks!


Just remember that the client often wants to 'finish' the image themselves and so often leave negative space for type etc.


I use both completed and unfinished photos for my artwork. Sometimes it is a really big help to have those "finished" specific ones when a client is requesting a specific photo.


Great article. Sometimes it's hard to fight the urge to "complete" the photo by having it contain "everything." Simple suggestion/insight... but oh so spot-on. Thanks!


Very very interesting. Thanks!



I'm not very good at composing pictures but I am creative in a different way. For example, I took a very plain Jane photograph here
and took it to CorelDraw with a logo and created the following picture
to use in a question & answer document about a new service that I offer.

I had looked in lots of places on the Internet before I found Dreamstime, which has the best selection of "incomplete" stock photos.


yes something is wrong with the images...checking on it. Thanks for the head's up.


There must be something wrong with those pictures in this blog. Is somebody hacked this? There are strange td tags also...


Am I missing something ? The images I see do not correspond to the article at all... I see legos, a electrical tower and a design... no spas !! ;O) But, thank you for the advices; it is something I try to keep in mind when shooting... this and text space...


very very nice blog title, useful, thanks for sharing


Very useful, thanks a lot!




Thanks for the advice. I'm just starting and this is something that makes a lot of sense but I never thought of. I will start looking at my pictures differently now.


YES, YES, YES! I've been doing graphic design for nearly 15 years and I have to say you are absolutely correct. Sometimes less is more. Leave some room for type elements! Thank you photographers and Illustrators, your talents are very appreciated!


I'm quite interested in shooting stock-oriented picture. Advices like this one are welcomed:)


yes, exactly

many times you find too much on the picture

creatives dont need it.


Hi, thanks..is a real good advice..do you think that this could be usefull also for illustration?..I think so..


Good advice, as a newbie I can use all the help I can get. :)

Related image searches
Incomplete related image searches
To provide you with additional information about how we collect and use your personal data, we've recently updated our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. Please review these pages now, as they apply to your continued use of our website.