What makes a bestselling photo? An in-depth look

First published:
March 21, 2024
Updated:
March 26, 2024

What makes a bestselling photo? An in-depth look

First published:
March 21, 2024
Updated:
March 26, 2024

Want to know what makes a photo a bestseller? Are there any rules you should follow? Here, we find out by looking at five top-sellers from members of the Picfair Community...

How does a photo become a bestseller?

There's no simple answer to this question! Photography is highly subjective, and as the saying goes, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" - what you may love in an image, others might view it quite differently.

Nevertheless, there are some images out there that do sell more frequently or gain more traction within the industry or photography communities. And it's common for multiple buyers to purchase the same image several times and for different uses, especially with platforms like Picfair Stores, where photographers can sell their pictures unlimited times.

In this guide, we'll explore the characteristics of top-selling photos, and to do so, we’ve selected five images from the Picfair Community, each of which has had multiple purchases.

By examining these examples and our insights, you'll better understand what makes a photo sell well and how to apply these principles to your photography work.

Remember, creating an outstanding image is just the beginning. Effective marketing and promotion are essential for maximising sales, too. Look at our comprehensive collection of guides on selling photography for more valuable tips and strategies.

Now, let's analyse five best-selling images from Picfair photographers, shown in no particular order...

1 Jump! by Kilian Jornet Foundation

Sold 18+ times at the time of publication


Jump during the sunset in Romsdal mountains with the fjords and lakes in the background.

Photo by Kilian Jornet Foundation
Image Analysis:

What's special about the image?

First of all, the composition is spectacular. With the jumping person being the focal point of the image, it's immediately striking. And not to mention the epic sense of scale that's been captured. While there's many, many images about of mountain landscape out there, it's the unique element of the subject jumping that makes it so special.

What are some of the unique selling points?

The sense of scale, the light, the subject and the placement of it within the composition, the epic view, the feeling of being "on top of the world" when viewing the photo.

How has this image been used?

We've seen this picture licensed for both commercial and editorial use, and also many times for personal use and printed products.

2 Havana Sunbathers by Sarah Hardy

Sold 18+ times at the time of publication

Havana Sunbathers - Winner of Irish Times Travel Photographer of the Year award 2013.

Photo by Sarah Hardy
Image Analysis:

What's special about the image?

So many things! The chemistry between the two subjects is one of a kind, but also somewhat enigmatic too - you don't quite know what's going on or what they are talking about.

What are some of the unique selling points?

The fact that the image is in black and white also gives it a timeless aesthetic and makes it a popular choice for wall art - as black and white images can (sometimes) have a more universal appeal for hanging on a wall as they'll work in many different types of rooms.

How has this image been used?

We've seen this picture purchased many times for prints, and we can see why, too; it makes a fantastic addition to any wall!

3 Eau Rouge and Radillon by Jeff Carter

Sold 7+ times at the time of publication

Around the track at Spa Francorchamps, Liège, Belgium.

Photo by Jeff Carter
Image Analysis:

What's special about the image?

Racing is a popular passion for many people. The image has been taken from an unusual angle, highlighting the vivid colours and textures of the racetrack. This type of image requires creative thinking and effort. Not everyone can easily capture such an image from a racetrack like that!

What are some more unique selling points?

It's unusual framing, lighting composition and subject matter - the combination of it all makes it a brilliant shot for wall art. This photo gives off that must-loved "you can smell the tarmac", synonymous with being a racing enthusiast.

How has this image been used?

We've seen this one purchased many times for wall art, Giclée prints, framed prints and canvases!

4 Jupiter, Saturn and Venus align over Snowdon by Kat Lawman

Sold 6+ times at the time of publication

Watching Jupiter, Saturn and Venus align over Snowdon, as it pokes its head out from the clouds.

Photo by Kat Lawman
Image Analysis:

What's special about the image?

In a nutshell, it's spectacular on so many levels! You've got incredible lighting, an unusual mix of elements, and an epic sense of scale.

What are some of the unique selling points?

As mentioned above, this photo has many outstanding elements: a cloud inversion (a rare phenomenon highly sought after by outdoor enthusiasts) and planets aligned. The person in the frame is directly related to them, creating a fantastic leading line (where your eye gets guided through the scene to the planets above the mountains).

How has this image been used?

Among other uses, this image has been seen in articles and purchased for prints many times.

5 Watching you watching me by Garry Chisholm

Sold 9+ times at the time of publication

A chameleon staring straight down the lens.

Photo by Garry Chisholm
Image Analysis:

What's special about the image?

The detail, colour and sharpness of this picture are all spectacular, and the image has been captured at an optimum moment - where the chameleon is looking directly towards the camera; not an easy thing to capture!

What are some of the unique selling points?

This image is in portrait format, which opens up the image, particularly for mobile use, which is becoming increasingly prevalent across the industry. If you have some great vertical ratio images, it's worth making those available for sale.

How has this image been used?

We've seen this image licensed for both editorial and advertising use and wall art - it's a fab all-rounder that caters to many looks and tastes.

What links these images as 'bestsellers'?

When you look at these images closely and, as above, factor in several different elements and analyse them, you can see that there are indeed a couple of things that are prevalent in each image that could help them become a bestseller.

Take a look at these five points below:


1 Each image has something special about it

Whether that is a snap of a once-in-a-lifetime moment, an unusual, hard-to-reach angle, or an elusive subject - each image has something original about it. That makes it instantly more sellable.

2 The subject of each image is clear and attention grabbing

Each image has a clear subject, is quick to identify, and draws the viewer in. Some images are more complex than others regarding what's in the frame, but regardless, each image's subject is distinct and clear, and your eye gets drawn into the right place.

3 The subject of each image plays into a human emotion

Whether that's awe (Kilian and Kat's pictures), humour (chameleon, ladies in Havana), or passion (racetrack image) - when looking at each image, the viewer can find an emotional connection to it.


4 Each image has been photographed and edited well

The technical aspects behind each image are good. What we mean by this is that they've been photographed well; the images are sharp, not blurry, correctly focused and have a good balance with light and colour. Also, when it comes to editing (post-production), any edits that have been done to subtly enhance the image, rather than completely transform them or edit them to the point it detracts from the quality of the overall picture.

5 Each image has strong commercial appeal

What we mean by this is you can see each image used for different commercial (and editorial) uses. For example, the chameleon and night sky images would make fantastic images for ad campaigns (the chamaeleon is humorous, and the night sky is inspirational. The photos of the two smoking ladies and jumping climbers could also be featured on the cover of a book or in a double-page spread of a book or magazine.

Final thoughts and next steps

Bestselling images on Picfair

While there's no single recipe for success for a bestseller, analysing top-selling images does reveal some common threads.

As per our analysis, each photo possesses a unique quality, whether it's a rare moment, an unconventional perspective, or a subject that evokes strong emotions. Also, technical excellence, evident in sharpness, focus, and subtle editing, further enhances each image’s appeal. Ultimately, a combination of originality, emotional resonance, and technical skill sets these bestsellers apart.

I hope the above tips and insights equip you with the knowledge on how to bag that unbelievable, bestseller image! Remember, photography is a journey, and not every image is going to hit that sweet spot for being a top-seller, but having fun with, experimenting and most importantly, not giving up will help you on the path to success with your picture taking.

If you have yet to upload your best work to your Picfair Store, there's never been a better time to start. Upload here!

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