The mystery of what sells

Like many other contributors on this site, I have placed some of my images on other stock sites to get as much coverage as possible of the stock agency market. This inevitably means giving up Exclusivity on some sites, but that is something I'm prepared to do for the moment.

Spreading images over two or more sites gives us amateur photographers a fine opportunity to see what sells and what doesn't sell. What makes this process even more intriguing is the fact that, all too often, there are no clear answers.

You'll soon find that unless you've been lucky or skilled enough to take an exceptionally outstanding image, you are going to get some very mixed results about what sells and what doesn't. For instance, if you have 100 of your best images on three different sites, and leave them for, say, six months, then return to those sites, you'll get some idea of different tastes for different markets.

Of course, if you have 10 good images in your portfolio, those 10 are much more likely to be nearer the top than the bottom. But what I've found is that, all too often, an image that does outstandingly well for me on one site, does very averagely on the others, and vice versa.

To make this process even more complicated, images that I thought would do very well for me often don't earn me much, while 'snapshots' taken in just the right light, at just the right angle, of just the right subject, have sold phenomenally well. On one site my top earner is Canary Wharf in London, on another it is Tower Bridge in London, and on Dreamstime it is the Pyramids of Giza (see below).

Pyramids of Giza

All three images were 'snapshots', taken in the right light, at the right time, and of course international landmarks will always be popular to some extent.

On the other hand, the great irony is that images I have worked really hard to get, such as the Houses of Parliament reflected in the Thames at dusk (tripod, police intrusion etc), or traffic streaking past the Colosseum at night, have earned me nothing.

I guess there is a lesson in all this. Simply, it is keep taking as many photos as you can, wherever you can, because the more you take, the greater your chances of getting that one shot that becomes your bestseller. And, as I've discovered, sometimes the image that is really worth its weight in the gold was incredibly simple to take in the first place.

I'd like to hear any thoughts.

Photo credits: Davidgarry.
  • Davidgarry

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December 30, 2008

My goodness … a true a situation indeed …
Today I was just looking at which image of mine was the most popular, in relation to hits for views vs the most popular I.R.2 sales and there was a stark contrast in the results.

I also agree that in the cases where I have gone to greater lengths to get the shots they usually seem to yield little to no result.

As far as the exclusivity / non issue, I cant say, as I opted to go exclusive with DT from the outset, so I've no real option, right now but to stick it out with them exclusively. Anyway it seems that the trade off of keeping to one site rather than spreading over a range of places is that the revenues received from staying exclusive are tempting enough to stay exclusive. After all it's not like DT is not a "Nickel & Dime" Image Bank … what I mean to say is they do seem to be rather a steep competitor in the market place.

Best advice I can offer to date is: One should just always, and I mean ALWAYS have your camera at arms length from your side … You just never know when an interesting opportunity is going to present itself for you to capture.


April 24, 2008

Oh yes, the keywords! Well done, Teresa, that was one MAJOR oversight! One of the reasons I enjoy Dreamstime more than any other stock agency is that it specifies what the buyer was searching for when he/she bought the image in the first place. And that is priceless as it makes you realise what weight your keywords carry. If you keyword correctly and cleverly, but have a mediocre shot, you should outsell a photographer who has a very good shot but keywords badly!

Thanks for the comments all.


April 22, 2008

One answer is that images must 'read' well at the thumbnail size to even make it to a designer's first cut. What images are these? An image with simple lines, primary colors and uncomplicated composition is more apt to catch the eye than a darker, complex image at the small size of a thumbnail. Also remember the square rule: Shooting to a square format or cloning part of an image to expand the format from the 35mm aspect ratios to a square gives the image more 'real estate' on the search return page and thus is more catchy to the eye.


April 22, 2008

i agree, sometimes images that i think are not very good, get all the attention and visa versa!!


April 22, 2008

Different sites cater to different audiences of designers, so spreading out to learn what sells in general IS going to give you mixed answers simply because you are working with different audiences. "What sells" isn't just based on what the image is of, but how good a quality the image has, if it is common or unique, if it is designed in an unfinished manner allowing it to be used for more purposes, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, if it is KEYWORDED CORRECTLY! It does not matter how fantastic your image is, if the people who are looking for it cannot find it, well then it just won't sell.


April 22, 2008

F8, and be there?
but we can not change ourself just for sale! just for $!


April 22, 2008

Perhaps the true lesson is that simplicity sells? Maybe that is what photojournalist Weegee was trying to tell us when he said in response to a question about his technique - "F8, and be there!".