Give your images the best chance of commercial success with these top tips

Beginner

1 Be authentic


One of the most common things we hear from image buyers is that they want images to feel real. If the image includes people or are depicting a situation, it is better that they look natural rather than posed or staged.

This image by Picfair photographer Julian Claxton is a brilliant example.

School children in rural Uganda during morning prayer
Beautifully authentic - "School children in rural Uganda during morning prayer"

2 Make your photos unique


Images that they’ve never seen before. For example, there will always be a demand for images that represent common themes - but if you can represent it in a unique way, it will be much more attractive to prospective buyers.

We bet you've never seen anything like this - by Adam Batterbee - before!

Bike riding in Ravenna, Italy
A unique take on the theme of romance - "Bike riding in Ravenna"

3 Take photos that celebrate diversity


Images that accurately display our culturally diverse world are in high demand. Pictures of worldwide events, multi-cultural landscape and diversity in any form is a big sell!

Below is a gorgeous example by Gazi Alam.

Pride in Malmö, Sweden
"Pride in Malmö, Sweden"


4
Leave space for text


Often, a designer will need to overlay some text or graphics on your image for their project. Consider this when framing your shots - leave enough clean space for copy and additional design elements. It could help your images sell more!

Here's a good example by Nico Smit.

Desert landscape from Namibia with copyspace
This beautiful landscape from Namibia has ample space to add copy over the image

5 Use the rule of thirds


This is one of the golden rules of photography - use it to produce more aesthetically pleasing, balanced images.

Imagine every image is dissected into a 3x3 grid. Important compositional elements should not be centred but placed along the vertical or horizontal lines or their intersections. Most camera models have a feature which will overlay a 3x3 grid on your viewfinder to assist.

See how John Sirlin has aligned the subjects with the lines of the 3x3 grid to create the beautifully framed image below.

Image of a storm with the rule of thirds grid overlay
This incredible extreme weather shot from Roswell, New Mexico has been beautifully composed with the 'rule of thirds' in mind
Further reading

Whilst we love the 'rule of thirds' and always recommend you take at least one of your shots with this in mind. There will also be times when you should break the rules too...

Read on about why you should break the rules in composition.


6
Avoid camera shake to take crisp photos


Images need to be crisp and focused to maximise their commercial value.

Hold the camera steady, or if you can, when shooting landscapes or still life shots - ideally use a tripod. If you don’t have a tripod, try resting your camera on a stable object like a table, fence or bollard.

The girl in David Murray's photo below has the right idea!

Girl taking a picture on a flat surface
Use a tripod or flat surface to rest your camera when taking your shot

7 Think about the background


The background can be the difference between an average shot and a fantastic shot.

Make sure it contrasts enough with your subject, that it is not too busy or noisy, and that is aesthetically pleasing to complement the composition as a whole.

See how the blue background in Jevgeni Proshin's photo below compliments the colours of the foreground?

Lemons in a bowl on a wooden blue background
The prominent blue background against the yellow, white and green makes this shot by Jevgeni Proshin really stand out from the crowd

8 Make your visions a reality with manual settings


Shooting on auto is a good way to start when first making images and getting to grips with composition, but learning how to use your camera’s manual settings will you ultimate creative control over your image.

We highly recommend dedicating a couple of hours to sit and fully read your camera’s instructions or manual - you’ll be surprised at the variety of things you can do with manual settings!

Per
Take time to learn your camera's manual settings. Image from Dominic Hodge.

9 And finally, don't over-edit!


It's usually a good idea to eliminate any noise or dust that may have found its way onto your image, or sharpen your images and adjust any colour casts... but don't edit or filter them too much!

Image buyers like to have the ability to edit the image themselves, as often they may need to in order to fit with their design specifications.

The same goes for cropping. The less you cut out, the more an editor or designer has to play with.

Comparison of an image showing subtle edits and overediting
It may be tempting to apply lots of post-production adjustments to your images - but too much can be detrimental to the quality of your original shot and make it unusable. Image from Philip Mowbray