Understanding the Stock Industry and What Buyers Are Looking For

Get yourself a cup of your favorite beverage and settle down in your reading chair because this is going to be a long but informative blog. We're going to go in depth of what Buyers are looking for, understanding the stock industry, and how you can compete in a dynamic and changing environment.


What kind of images are Buyers looking for? The short answer is this: EVERYTHING. Travel images, business, parenting, industry, technology, you name it, Buyers have a need. However, it's not that simple. Images are used for web sites, presentations, advertising, printed material and more.

Buyers want images that will target a specific audience. Buyers want images that will grab your eye and hold it there. Buyers want images that will make you click through on their web site and down into the details of whatever the topic is. Buyers want images that will GET YOUR ATTENTION. So whatever the topic or subject, an image that is well executed and will instantly convey a particular concept, those are the kinds of images that will get sales.

Sunrise, Sunset Love, Romance, Birds

The vast majority of images are purchased for commercial purposes. Most beginners take pictures of generic architecture, flowers, landscapes, pets, and other common snapshots. If they have friends or family who is willing to model, the photographs are generally of people trying to look sexy.

That's the fundamental key for knowing what Buyers want. Generic snapshots have little or no chance of selling. Virtually any subject you can think of will have Buyers and the stronger the concept the better.

The concept also needs to be well executed. You can browse through the database and find many images that are amateurish in their execution. Everyone has to start at the beginning and there is a learning curve but if you want to succeed in the stock industry then you will need to learn how to use your camera, photo editing software, and/or your graphics design applications.

You can speed up your learning by joining a photography club where you can see what others are doing and get tips from critiques. There are online tutorials and classes for learning your software of choice. Local community colleges and even universities offer continuing education classes for photography and editing software. You're not going to become a high end photographer or digital artist overnight but it's not that hard to create professional grade images if you have the passion to learn.

Elephant Sunrise Sunset Peaceful Landscape


Understanding the industry itself goes beyond knowing what Buyers are looking for. The fundamental premise of the industry is this: Sell an image online for a low price because the image will sell multiple times which allows the Contributor to earn an overall income from the image.

Nothing has changed in that regard, but you have thousands of new photographers jumping into the industry each month and millions of new images being uploaded every month too. On top of that, many amateurs will offer their images for free because they believe giving images away will give them more exposure. The truth is Buyers don't care who you are, they're not going to purchase your images because you gave others away for nothing. There are an extreme number of amateurs out there who are thrilled when one of their images is used even if they receive mo payment. And on top of that, there is a growing community who believe all content should be free and they are relinquishing all rights to their images.

There are professional image factories that upload tens of thousands of images every year and the quality of their images are top notch.

The point of this is you need to realize what a waste of time it is to upload a handful of images each month of your pets from your cell phone camera. There are thousands of new photographers coming in each month who submit low end snapshots so the sheer volume of these images make it virtually impossible for similar images to earn any kind of income. Snapshots earned good money in the beginning when the stock industry moved onto the internet but no more.

On the other end of the spectrum the high end professionals are creating quality images and in huge quantities.

Contributors are being squeezed on both ends. You need to understand how the market is being flooded with images that are easy to do and even with professional grade concepts. no one is saying you should stop taking pictures of your pet cat but it's not worth the time uploading them unless you managed to capture a unique moment. Cats make funny faces but it is very rare when that happens and even rarer if you can capture it in an image. That is but one example of the difference between a snapshot and a strong concept.

When it comes to competing against the high end professionals, one thing that works to your advantage is they generally create images that contain groups of people and may have been shot in specific locations. Most photographers working on their own generally don't have the resources to hire models or rent venues to shoot in. The professional image factories take sales away from the lone photographer but they generally focus on images that most can't do anyway. It's not that hard to photograph ten business people in a conference room but if you don't have the means to hire ten models and rent an office space, it's an image you never would be able to do anyway. You can't lose sales from something you were never able to create to begin with.

And this is a good place to move to the next topic: HOW CAN YOU COMPETE IN TODAYS STOCK INDUSTRY?

I'm going to tell you things here that many of you aren't going to want to hear. If you want to make it in the current state of the online stock industry then you're going to have to compete. Being able to compete means being better than the next guy and no one wants to hear they don't have what it takes to compete.

To start, you need to have the PASSION to be a photographer. People who LOVE photography will save up the money to buy a decent camera and this is regardless of whether they will or will not earn money from their photography. If you enjoy taking pictures then you will buy a good camera just so you can take good pictures.

If you enjoy woodworking then you go buy a table saw. If you enjoy music then you go buy an instrument. And so on.

The problem with photography is everyone has a camera, either with a point-and-shoot or by using their cell phone camera. Everyone has a camera and many fancy themselves to be a photographer just because they like taking pictures. If you could play the guitar on your cell phone most people would fancy themselves a guitar player.

Whatever you have a passion for, it's only natural for you to get out and obtain the proper tools and equipment so you can practice your hobby and learn and grow. Yes, there are some excellent cell phone cameras out there now but they are no where close to what you can do with the proper equipment. If you're a nature photographer then try photographing an animal 100 yards away with your cell phone.

The same goes for digital artists. They will purchase the software they need along with graphic tablets, scanners, and anything else they might need.

If you want to compete in the current market then you will need to also purchase photo editing software. You're not going to go far if all you do is use Lightroom for brightness, contrast, and color. Software such as Photoshop allows you to compete with the high end professionals once you learn the software and can start manipulating images. Don't have a studio? Photograph a model, remove the background, and then drop them into another scene. That may be a bit advanced for someone starting out but photo editing software gives you many options for altering an image into a well executed concept.

Young Girl, Unicorn, Nature, Hope, Love, Peace

Photo editing software also allows you to stand out from the rest of the amateurs. You need to make the effort to stand out from the rest. Remember, tens of thousands of new Contributors are coming in and millions of new images are being uploaded every month. If you're going to upload 50 images for the month then you better stand out from the rest.

Lastly, when it comes to the competition, your greatest tool is your imagination. If you can come up with original ideas or remake old ideas with a fresh twist, then you will go farther than the rest. Again, this is where photo editing software comes in handy because you can mix photography with digital art and create concepts that no one else can duplicate. Using your imagination means you can even take pictures of simple things that no one else ever thought of doing. There are many topics yet undiscovered because people sometimes overthink the industry also.

Graduating from your point-and-shoot or cell phone camera and learning photo editing software may be a daunting task at the start, but it goes back to having the PASSION. You will purchase what you need regardless and take the time to learn because it's fun for you to do. It's imperative that you invest in your passion if you want to compete in the current market.

So there you have it. It's really quite simple when it comes to Buyers, they want well executed concepts. Virtually any subject is sought after, but whatever the image, it has to grab your eye and visually attract the people the Buyer is targeting. That image needs to make a person want to click into a web site, pick up a brochure, or even make you stop to read an advertisement on the side of a bus.

We can write volumes as to what Buyers are looking for and why, but it's a moot point if you can't deliver.

For whatever reason, most Contributors just can't figure that out. They continue to upload pictures of flowers, benches in the park, and their sleeping cat. Most Contributors like to take snapshots but they don't want to learn photography. They don't invest in the equipment and software. An amateur will never make the effort to improve.

The online stock industry is getting tougher and tougher at an alarming rate. Realizing how and why it's changing can help you stay ahead of the curve. Lastly, you need to find ways to compete. If you make the effort you can start creating images that no one else can do and greatly reduce your competition by virtue of your imagination and photo editing skills.

But one last thing. If you like to take pictures of flowers or whatever, then don't stop doing that. Photography and digital art still has to be fun for you. Just remember to differentiate between what you like to do and reserving time for earning money from your photography or digital art.

Vintage Surreal Scientist, Science, Robot Technology

Photo credits: Wisconsinart.

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July 31, 2018


Excellent and honest article with some good advice.

July 15, 2018


Great article!!

July 10, 2018


Enlightening article for newcomers ,give me a new understanding and thinking about this industry.Thank you!

July 03, 2018


Wonderful post, and thank you for saying things many people don't want to hear!

July 03, 2018


Wow, great article. I totally agree that the photography is becoming highly competitive. I however believe that if people have some niche that they focus on and become 'specialists' in that niche, then there is something for everyone. The only problem is that most people want to be junk of all trades when it comes to photography.

June 27, 2018


You are the number1....thanks for sharing

June 20, 2018


Very useful article. Thanks!

June 20, 2018


How true, how true! Thanks for sharing and for your effort!

June 19, 2018


Thanks for sharing, very interesting how this market has change in the last few years.

June 19, 2018


Good article, very informative thanks.

June 19, 2018


Many thanks for taking the time to write this post, very useful information, and quite a lot I can learn from it.

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