9 Stock Photo Categories that Make the Most Money

If you are new to the stock photography business, it may seem difficult to sell your images quickly. However, becoming a top seller, like everything else, takes time and patience. Spend some time researching the market and cultivating your skills, and you will also have a chance to make your name in this competitive industry. The question that you should ask yourself is, what are the top-selling stock image categories? Then, learn how to take those types of photos, and perfect your techniques.

Here are 9 stock photography niches that consistently make money. If you stick to any one of these best-selling categories or choose several, you can improve your chance of success.

1. Travel 

Travel photography is a great place to start your photography career because you can make money selling your best material on stock websites while having some fun. You can even make some passive income from freelance assignments too. Just remember that you must get a property release from any privately owned property. See your microstock site for the specific details regarding their policies.

Start by taking pictures of beautiful vacation spots or breathtaking views. Images of both indoor and outdoor views make excellent shots, especially if you can catch people in action. Any vacation destination is a wonderful opportunity for someone to purchase your photos and share your experience.  

2. Corporate

Corporate photography is an extremely popular subject. Many of the bestselling photographs in the leading stock banks are of corporate themes and images. Companies especially love “concept images”, which depict a particular theme. If you can show a stock market concept that tells clients how much money their stockbrokers can earn for them, then you will do a great job selling images.

  • Shoot executive portraits and other images in a regular corporate setting.

  • Rent an office or convert a spare room in your house to a photography studio that looks like it is an office. 

  • Hire models or ask your friends to be models for you. Make sure to get the model releases in both cases.

  • Use images that “show” ideas or concepts to illustrate business ideas and themes.

3. Education

In today’s marketplace, education is one of the most popular categories in the microstock industry. Student scores are lower than ever, and teachers and education partners are constantly preparing new material. In some cases, they are looking for images that illustrate their educational materials. In other cases, they need images to illustrate their educational services. In either case, they need you to provide the stock photos for their products.

4. Pets

The animal and pet industry is another popular industry. You have a huge opportunity to provide adorable photographs for your stock photography site. Your success relies on offering images that cannot be found on any other websites. Since individual tastes in pet photos vary, find just the right images that people will love. Once you find the most popular picks, replicate this process in different colors and with different seasons of the year.

5. Health and Fitness

Consider a situation where a client is looking for health and lifestyle images. You can take photos of several models lifting weights. Provide shots from a variety of angles as the models perform different exercises. You can even take photos of the weights by themselves. Client will have their own reasons for purchasing stock images, but they may also have other needs. For example, a client may be looking for an image for their monthly online magazine that features how-to articles to encourage customers to lift weights. But they may also consider buying other images for banner ads, magazine ads, flyers, and other promotional materials. When you provide multiple images and angles, your client has more opportunities to download similar items.

6. People

Businesses love to buy shots of people. As long as the people are showing emotions, the picture is up for grabs. Consumer magazines alone will buy images of grandmothers baking cookies, kids running through the sprinkler, and moms and dads cheering for the local soccer team. Try to catch action shots of people in real-life activities including. Show them images that speak to the heart, since everyone can relate to them.

Portraits are not big sellers, since they imply a person who is standing stiff and still. Rather, your customers prefer to see couples holding hands or a child crying over a scraped knee. Catch real-life scenarios that demonstrate people in the midst of living their lives. Consider a caring doctor tending to a sick patient or an exhausted construction worker leaning over a shovel on a hot day. These are images that will lead to repeat sales. Make sure to include people from all walks of life in your images as well. Everyone should be included in your images regardless of age, race, gender, or ability.  

Remember that you will need a model release for every person who can be recognized. I suggest being careful and getting signed paperwork even if you are unsure whether you need it. Stock sites will not accept anything without a signed model release. Keep a copy for your records.

7.  Food and Drink

It doesn’t matter how competitive the food photography niche is, it is still one of the bestselling categories in the business. Focus on elite customers, such as high-end food magazines and fancy recipe websites. These are great places to start building a successful portfolio for two reasons in particular.

  • You already have the supplies right in your own home. Start with fresh fruits and vegetables: bright red apples, juicy oranges, sweet red peppers, and any other fresh ingredients that you have on hand.
  • Take several pictures from a variety of innovative angles to give your portfolio more attention since advertisers want to spice up their ads with new photos. Also, add a variety of shots of the same subject to let your customer choose the best selection to fit into the available space.

Simply put, a picture of apples at a unique angle might sell much better than a picture that has already sold thousands of times on a stock photo site. Why? Because your client may want a unique image. In addition, the advertiser may have already purchased the other image, and they don’t want to use it again. They need something unique to spark their readers’ interest. Your job is to find out what stock images don’t have so you can provide a unique but similar photo. 

8. Technology

Technology is changing so fast and everyone wants to see the latest and greatest! Keep up with the trends so your customers can publish ads, stories, and blogs that are brand new. The latest computer and technology photos will keep your customers coming back for more, especially since they will need images constantly, and you can provide them.

Look for new trends: UPC codes, the latest photo, the newest laptop, etc. Even photos of keyboards, remote controls, and gaming devices make super shots. Just make sure you remove logos and any identifying marks. You MUST make sure that the product cannot be identified as a trademarked product or a copyrighted piece. Keep it as generic as possible.

9. Nature

Nature photography can be very lucrative for photographers who live in an area where not many competitors live. Someone who lives close to a national park can have a unique opportunity to photograph inside that specific park, leading to a beautiful portfolio that few others will achieve. Just make sure that you note that these are editorial images that are not for commercial resale. National parks are part of the Federal government in the United States, and the images can be used as editorial content, but they cannot be sold as commercial images. Don’t worry; you still usually get paid for the editorial images. Please note that if the park is located on private property, you will need to get a property release.

Certain landscapes can be much more lucrative than others. For example, if you live on a beach that is known for its surfing culture, you can feature some excellent surfing images. Colorado is known for its skiing resorts, and you could show off some beautiful wintery images that could be beyond comparison. Take advantage of your local environment, and if you are lucky enough to travel, take photographs that are beyond compare and capture something amazing.

Making the Money

Take advantage of current market trends and find the niches that work for you. Also, focus on high-resolution images that can be used in both print and digital media. Once you find the best-selling areas, you can make money quite effortlessly as a top-selling stock photographer. Just keep taking those pictures until you find the areas that work for you.

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