Want to sell fewer images? Want your work to look like everyone else’s? Here are some subjects that might help. I typically see these from dabblers or newcomers to the microstock scene, and people who fail to realize that stock photography is commercial photography. Meaning that the photos are used to market and sell other things.
I’ve put together a top 10 list of subjects to avoid uploading. At least if you want your portfolio to stand out and be original. With any of these it should go without saying that if you do it right, as in different from 90% of the photos that are already out there, you might still produce an awesome top-selling shot. I am suggesting, however, that trying something different might be the better way to go.
Though I call this list a top 10, the subjects are not listed in any particular order.
1. Bugs on Flowers
Congratulations on your macro lens. At least I hope you used a macro lens, so you could get somewhat close. Bugs on flowers is my personal pet peeve subject. Sure, flowers are pretty and bugs are interesting creatures, but as a photo it just doesn’t do it for me. Most of the time, it comes out looking like you were just practicing and like the gazillion existing images just like it.
There’s nothing like watching a beautiful sunset. In real life. In a photo, it has to be all kinds of spectacular – or risk looking like a badly lit snapshot. And let’s face it, the magic of watching a sunset just doesn’t translate well into pictures. It’s one of those you-had-to-be-there things. Also, there’s often tons of noise in these shots, because of all the gradients and dark areas.
3. Brick Walls
Yawn. This has got to be the most photographed texture out there. It’s bricks. There’s symmetry. We get it. Move on.
4. Seagulls, Ducks and Swans
Birds that swim are easy targets. They sit relatively still, they’re abundant and, well, that’s pretty much it. Many people like to take pictures of these feathery swimmers. That’s also the reason your photo has to be radically different to work. The harsh light and murky water is not going to help you. For the record, seagulls hovering in the air is just as bad.
5. Vacation Photos
So you went to Greece this summer, huh? Good for you, but please keep the Santorini photos to yourself. I’ve seen that blue dome from every possible angle, and I’ve never even been to Greece. If you’re looking at a landmark or tourist attraction from where all the other tourists are looking too, don’t think that the snapshots you took will sell well. After all, every other tourist has the exact same shots!
6. Tree Branches
Here’s one I just don’t get. What compels people to point their lens towards a random branch and click? And then think that some leaves will make a great stock photo. Again, it’s about originality. There are trees everywhere, which means that anyone can point a camera at one and press the button. Why should they pay money for your snapshot?
I consider Graffiti an art form like any other. That said, taking pictures of it and uploading them as stock doesn’t make a lot of sense. First of all, it’s not very photogenic. Secondly, you’re just riding the coat tails of whomever made the original – and if they did so legally, you might have copyright issues too.
Laptops, desktop keyboards, mice. How about getting out of the office for a while? Have you even bothered searching for similar images before shooting your own? If so, how are yours different? There are only so many angles you can shoot these things from, and they’ve all been covered. And covered. And covered some more.
Occasionally, I’ll see abstracts that blow my mind or are just really well done. In most cases however, abstract starts sounding a lot like “Hey, I took a random photo while playing with my camera, and now I want to charge money for it.” Never mind that it’s all out of focus or a disjointed mess of colors. Well, I do mind. The Dude minds, man.
Like to shoot sexy people? Get you going, does it? I’m not here to judge you, but I will tell you this: you might want to read through the license agreement and/or model release of your preferred microstock agency. I bet there is something in there about how the photos can’t be used for porn-like things. Even if your images are classy and make the model look gorgeous, it’s just not good stock imagery.
If I have offended you with this list, it’s probably because I just listed off a bunch of photos from your portfolio. Sorry about that. I didn’t write it to offend anyone in particular. I wrote it to make you think about what you upload. It’s not like I haven’t uploaded any of these myself. We all make mistakes, what matters is whether we learn from them or not.
Photo credit, I’m ashamed to admit: Me.