What Sells in Microstock?

They say people photos sell the best. Specifically business people. But what if your portfolio is shy of, say, 30,000 people images? Do your people shots have much of a chance against the competition? What should you be concentrating your shooting time and efforts on? Landscapes, Travel, Studio?

According to the Microstock Insider blog there are three key features in all stock photos:

Three key features of all stock photos

A good stock photo can be broken down into three main components, all of which must be correct to make a high selling image.

1) Choice of Subject, be it an appropriate model or props, an object sat in a context that creates some kind of concept, something quite abstract that only really gains a meaning when used in a matching context.

2) Execution, how well you took the photo, or how you used your photographic skills to express a mood or concept. Atmospheric lighting, high or low key, choice of focal point to add emphasis.

3) Keywording and Description, your choice further emphasizes the meaning of your photo and allows it to be found by buyers. (e.g. a street sign with diverging arrows, represents choice or decision, but only gains that meaning when paired with a title).

Taking a look at my own portfolio which at this point has a diverse range of subjects, here is what has sold in the past month or so (tabulated best I could into the top categories):

Portrait Photography - 20

Tabletop Photography - 24

Landscapes - 6

Travel - 5

Fine Art - 4

From this very unscientific review, I'd say that if you ONLY like to shoot landscapes and travel images, well, you should expect low sales. Even if I added my travel and landscape sales together they wouldn't beat people or tabletop sales. Now added all together, the non-people shots have more sales than people shots - although I probably have a lot more non-people shots in my portfolio.

Has anyone else done a similar analysis of their sales?

Photo credits: Peanutroaster.

Your article must be written in English



Nice blog... and great shots....


Onime - good point.


nice blog. but don't forget about idea & creativity component :)


I do think there is a difference between what sells (in general) and what sells for the individual - based on competition and saturation of subjects.


Some good points there ... Thanks for sharing


Yes, I have that book. Thanks


Hi Ed, thanks for the blog. Do you know the book by Ellen Bough "Microstock Money Shots". She gives a complete analysis of microstock market and gives a very good lists of topics that sell on microstock. It is a few years old but I think the market essentially has not changed that much since it was published.


Results may vary. ;-)


great article! Very helpful for me...Its great to know what to spend my time and efforts on.


No doubt. And of course they don't need my newbie analysis.


I think that some contributors here on DT are specialising in travel images and are doing extremely well. Look at Bogdan or Steve Allen's portfolios for instance.


Of course one benefit of landscape is the chance at one of those nice P-EL sales for a calendar or poster.


Good post. If you are going to do landscapes and travel shots make sure there is a 'point' to the shot; an unusual view of a familiar landmark, a historic view taken from a novel direction, something unique that isn't already covered in the database etc.


Thank you for picking this good subject and providing information about your portfolio.
Like all amateurs I am also doing a lot of travel and landscape. Some of them sell well. I noticed it is important to catch something specific and characteristic to the area. Large vistas with all in it, something you would get from the designated lookout point won't do. As you say in (1).
My niche which is yet in theory since I have only a few of these but they sell and I like to do them, is people busy with their work, doing something, building, working in a vineyard, digging. These end up being editorials but even with this handicap they are successful.

Related image searches
Report 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.