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Five Tips for Taking Better Stock Photos

Selling stock photos is a great way to earn extra income from your photography hobby. However, with a bit of practice and some tips from the pros, you can elevate your stock photos to the next level and get your pictures and images featured in advertising, web, and print.

taking better stock photos

1. Maximize Your Camera’s Capabilities
Set the camera’s resolution to the highest setting your camera will allow. Higher resolutions allow you to take pictures with finer detail and more vibrant colors. It also makes your photos more usable by designers and producers who need your photos to look great in digital formats and HD. High resolution photos are easier to edit and crop. If your camera’s resolution are limited, consider upgrading to a new camera. High resolution photos take up more disk space, so get a nice sized memory card, and possibly an external hard drive to store your shots.

2. Compose Your Shots With The End User In Mind
Snapping photos haphazardly might give you a nice bump in quantity, but quality is what sells when it comes to stock photography. Keep your end user in mind when dreaming up shots. Think of how your photo might be used. Consider the angle that’s not only interesting to the eye, but pleasing and usable from a print or advertising perspective. Often times, you’ll need lots of negative space for copy.

Use classical photography techniques to frame your shot. Use the rule of thirds to space out primary interest and focal points. Imagine your final image split into even thirds, and your primary subjects should sit on those lines. Try to avoid splitting the image in half with horizons, solid lines, and people. Keep your backgrounds simple and clutter-free so that the audience can focus on your subject matter. But remember, every situation is different, and sometimes a great photo will break these rules of thumb.

3. Get Close
Unless it’s a scenic shot, fill the entire frame with your subject. Photos taken from a distance look amateurish and cluttered. Simplicity is better in stock photography, especially because end-users want the photos they purchase to portray a single theme or subject. Put on that high powered zoom lens, and get as close as possible. You can use high resolution settings if you don’t have a zoom lens, as you can always crop a bit later. And remember, focus, focus, focus. No one wants a blurry photo.

4. Don’t add borders or Instagram-like effects.
Just don’t. Make your photos look clean and clear. Let the designers and producers affect the photo later if they want. Frames and cartoonifying a shot makes your photo look cheap, and niche, limiting its usability.

5. Be Stingy With the Flash
Take photos in outdoor, natural lighting first. Using flash in poorly lit locations can cause ugly reflections and other undesirable shadows, not to mention red eyes and pale faces. You can avoid using a flash with a slower shutter speed (just be sure to keep it steady), or with a higher ISO speed. That doesn’t mean never use a flash. Flash is great for eliminating shadows, especially in bright light situations that leave shadows in unsightly places (like under eyes, or in corners).

Check out this great video on taking better photos — and remember, practice makes perfect!