A Numbers Game – What Does It Really Mean?

If you are new to stock photography business, you have probably heard that stock photography is “a numbers game”. What does it really mean? How you can make your stock photography portfolio a success, and how can you fail keeping in mind the quantity.

Pile of metalic figures numbers

Uploading lots of images

Stock photography is “a numbers game”. And numbers – that means lots of images, right? So, you set a goal to upload 20 or 50 or 100 images per month, or maybe per day, and start to upload everything you can to finally have some sales.

You create a beautiful table top setting, which looks really cool. You find just the right lighting for the scene, which brings out the nice texture of your cake and reveals nice colors, setting exactly the mood you like. And then you start taking pictures. You select different angles, rotate your camera for landscape and portrait view. You get nice shots, nearly a hundred of them, select the best 25 captures, and hit upload.

Apple cake with cream, jam and forest berries

Or you see a beautiful sunset, such an amazing play of flaming colors on the darkening sky, and you just click and click your camera, because the scene is so beautiful you can’t take your eyes off it. And then you get home, and you just can’t select the most beautiful photos out of your images because they are all so wonderful. And you decide to upload all of them, so designers can themselves make their selections.

Is this approach really such a good idea?

Sunset and mountain silhouette

Quality not quantity

Stock photography is a numbers game – that’s true. The more images you have online the more exposure you have, and the more chances you have that designers will notice your images. But is it only a question of quantity? Let’s hear what one designer says. “Speaking from the designer’s point of view, I do not care about the quantity of files in someone’s portfolio. It's just a matter of quality, not quantity! A large portfolio does not automatically mean that the large portfolio contains just high quality files. Often the best files are in the smaller portfolios. The reason, I think, is that high quality photographers are often more selective and they do not just upload every shot they have on their hard drive just counting on a possible sale in the future. They want to set up a portfolio that represents their work.”

Modern TV screens panel

Disadvantages of similarity

Designers are looking for quality. And they might decide that maybe you are not a high quality photographer when you have pages and pages of similar poses or beach views in your portfolio. They decide quickly by browsing a couple of pages of your portfolio to see whether you have images according to their taste, what your favorite subjects are, and whether they will like your style. Portfolios with too many similar images might be boring to browse. One photographer said that if you have a portfolio with one hundred images depicting ten settings of similar photos, you can conclude that you have a portfolio of ten images. You have only ten different subjects or concepts in your portfolio and it doesn’t give you better chances in the numbers game.

Woman sleeping in front of computer

Series can be of quality as well

A good variety of quality images on a photographer’s latest uploads page makes a huge impact. Does that mean you should never have shot the series in the first place? Not necessarily. “I can't tell you how many times I've found a great image BUT”, explains another designer, “if only she were looking the other way, or if only the angle was slightly lowered, or if only he had his hand up above his head rather than shoulder height. In other words, variation on a theme can be very helpful to a buyer.”

Stock photography is a numbers game

To have high quality series in your portfolio, you need to upload images that are a little different. Actually it’s better to think about variety while you are shooting. Changing a camera angle a little, or stepping right or left a little, doesn’t help much. What can you do? Add different props to your setting, shoot from a totally different angle, don’t just circle around the setting, but bow down, or raise your camera high above to get different shots, have your models pose differently, change lighting, change background. It all helps to have more creative selection. While postprocessing, use different editing methods to get different moods, or crop your images differently. After uploading, use titles, descriptions, and keywords that are a little bit (or even totally) different, but still relevant, in order to make your images appear on different search results. Now you are in a real numbers game.

Food photography photo studio teamwork art blog

All example photos in this blog are of photographers who have made great selection from their images and have managed to balance repetitions with creativity.

Vegan protein source.

Vegan protein source.

Vegan protein source.

Healthy vegan food assortment.

Healthy vegan food assortment.

Photo credits: Emotionart, Genadijs Stirans, Igor Golubov, Kaspars Grinvalds, Nadianb, Michal Bednarek, Yorozu Kitamura.

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Jonkio4

thanks for sharing, very informative :)

Aurelielemoigne

Thank you, it's very interesting.

Maigi

Thank you for your comments, guys. Angelaostafichuk, you are absolutely right about keywords. Sometimes I see so wonderful images with good selling potential, but unfortunately photographer haven't valued his work enough to keyword them properly. And that's really sad - those good images don't end up in search results pages.

Angelaostafichuk

Yes, quality for sure is a big key along with great keywording.Creativity and of course the drive to keep going is also very important.

Patrick57

Good advice, thank you Maigi :)

Tarage

I like what you said here. Meaningful variation, not randomness + quantity, is what brings value.

Chimeandsense

Well thought out blog, always the best quality verses quantity. We do it in life so why not in stock photography

Oleggudzenko

Good and logical advice :)

Ctmphotog

Good advice!

Maigi

Thanks, guys. Glad you like it.

Phopic

Very inspiring

Teyakp

Thanks for sharing. Nicely said... :)

Onime

nice blog. you're right .. i have a lot of pictures, but my sales are decreasing lately.

Onime

nice blog.

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