Why my photographs aren’t selling?

There could be many reasons why we are here. I can assure you many are here because they desire to sell their photographs and make some extra cash.

Having joined with that good intention, the reality on the ground is not what you initially envisaged. Sales are low. Not only low, they are frustrating. And you may be thinking what’s going on?

I can bet you, you are not alone.

One fact we all agree and which we need to remind ourselves is that Dreamstime LLC does not buy images. It’s a marketplace. They only provide a platform where sellers and buyers meet. So my inability to sell cannot be placed on their door step for they provide a level playing ground.

Laptop Computer Man with Image Gallery

Having said that, there are still a good number of contributors that still sell. And they sell well - every day.

In a market that is saturated with content, what do I need to do to get my fair share?

The need for content has never diminished. If anything, it is growing. While old contents that had initially been offered for sale are there, there will surely be a need for new contents. New contents because of new terminologies or new concepts or better still, a better way to represent the old concepts with latest and sophisticated gadgets and software.



Even though some will argue that there is no difference in the quality of images between a $150 camera and a $5000 camera, you will agree with me that if you want some special job done, you need to invest in extra specialized glasses.

For example, if you want to go “hunting” for fighter jet bombers, your cheap camera with kit lens will be limited.

Supersonic jet aircraft

Or if your desire is to “expose” the tiny little worlds, you sure need a macro lens to do the magic.

Extreme magnification - Jumping spider portrait

Post Processing

The opinion here is diverse. Some photographers are enthusiasts of “SOOC – Straight Out Of Camera”, but the idea is what can I do to edge out another contributor with a similar content?

Before and after sun damage

I think a quote from Ansel Adams buttresses the need for post processing – “Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships”.

African American Fashion Beauty Girl


The keyword is the key to the door of your sales room. A “perfect” keyword could guarantee you a front roll seat, which makes it easier for your image to be seen. However, the same keywording does not work the same way for all agencies. Find out how it works here.


What kinds of images sell?

Practically, all kinds of images can sell in stock. But some are best sellers, while some just sit there and gather “e-dust”. For example, a poorly composed image could still sell. At least a blogger or an author who wants to write on image composition can purchase that poorly composed image to show how not to compose an image. That may be all the sales it could get.

Secondly, stock images similar to the ones that can be gotten legitimately free from sites providing free images (free public domain) may not sell. Why would someone spend their hard earned money on such images when they can get them free, few clicks away?



In stock photography, “the more the merrier”. But this does not mean uploading a bazillion of similar images of the same concept for the sake of shooting up the number in your portfolio, but careful selection of the best shots. Which also means checking every image at 100% zoom.

Media Television Screen with Image Gallery


No single image can fetch you the kind of money you want over night. Even if you are fortunate to have a Sell the rights (SR-EL, SR-EL 1, SR-EL 3), the value gets higher with time, when the image has accumulated some sales.

Time is money

“One more thing”

Before you upload think of yourself as a buyer. Ask yourself who would want to buy this image and why?

Photo credits: Andreart, Brett Critchley, Bjørn Hovdal, Colicaranica, Razvan Cornel Constantin, Fırat Akarsel, Haywiremedia, Nelson Ikheafe, Welfaaron.

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Hello everyone, in my portfolio, 76 pictures are active but there is no sale yet.


@Perstock. You just summarised the whole blog in one sentence.


You're so right! Two simple questions: Who will pay for this image and how does he find it?


950 image online and no sale, I forgot something ??


Very good advice. Tersely presented but with much to chew on.


Great blog. Thanks for sharing. :)


My photos are not for sale...:(


thanks for sharing :)


Great article!


You’re sure doing it right. Your download per image says it. I enjoyed reading your blog.


Thank you so much, this help me understand better.


Thank you all for reading.

@Patcondron. Dreamstime is a great community with vast resources. I think a good place to start is this.


More about keywording please. You say "find out how it works here" but there is no link. I'm never sure if key words have to be arranged in order of importance. Lightroom adds them alphabetically and Adobe stock asks you to rearrange them in order of importance, but does that matter at all the agencies? I just started doing stock and sales are indeed slow and on Dreamstime nonexistent.


Great article and especially the ending comment to think about asking the "who" and "why" questions before clicking upload.


I agree Nelson... Slow sales lately.


Nice article thanks for writing it. Sales have diminished in the past three years. I started here in 2007.


Nice article, thanks. I 'm just getting started in selling stock photos and I find that sells are better on some sites that other. Good advice to check keywording and how it differs for each site,


Interesting blog Nelson, great images too!!

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