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Take Stock: Roundtable Feature & Film Stock Photo w/Paul Sanders & Co

- 7 years ago

Paul Sanders is a freelance photographer, Fujifilm X-Photographer and former Picture Editor for The Times newspaper. In this prestigious position, he oversaw the entire visual look & feel of the newspaper, as it transitioned from a broadsheet to the compact format that we now know. He was also instrumental in developing the way images were delivered digitally to subscribers. Paul took part in a recent roundtable event, where Adobe brought together some of the UK’s leading creatives to explore how stock photography is playing an increasingly important role in the creative world

To kick off, some top tips for selling your photography on stock photography sites

We live in an image-led society where brands are crying out for visual content to help tell stories, shape opinion and sell their products. For the creatives tasked with producing this content, often with tight budgets and even tighter delivery schedules, many depend on stock image banks for these assets, helping save them time and make their lives easier and more flexible.

As photographers, we’re all guilty of having tonnes of unused images in our archives, so why not put them to good use and consider selling them on stock photography websites? You can sell an image of virtually anything as long as there is a market for it and it is of a certain quality and size.

For anyone tempted by the prospect of generating a new revenue stream by contributing to these sites, here are some tips for getting started.

Play to Your Strengths

Stock websites pride themselves on providing high-quality content on a technical and creative level. So if you’re looking to get started in the stock market, focus on what you’re good at and invest more time in making sure your work is of the highest standard. It will ultimately help you stand out from the crowd.

Stay one step ahead of your competition

Having your finger on the pulse and staying on top of visual trends, will give you a better flavour of the type of imagery that brands are looking for. Not only this, but acknowledging seasonal changes and uploading content ahead of time, (and your competition) generally about six to eight weeks in advance, will ensure that your content is current and more likely to be licensed on your choice or choices of platform.

Intellectual Property [IP]

Remember, your images must be your own and shouldn’t infringe the rights of anyone else’s work. If your work depicts any recognisable copyrighted item, you’ll need to sign a release from an authorised signatory of the rights owner. To make sure you have everything covered.

Find your own niche

There is an enormous amount of competition in the stock photography world and your work will need to stand out in order to gain the all-important sales that you’re after. Consider your unique style & subject matter. It’s something that you may already be doing in your field of photography. You might discover that there is a niche out there that holds no competition but is in high demand. Consider broadening your stock portfolio to include these types of images, you never know what may attract buyers.


Taking compelling images is only half the job when it comes to selling stock photos. The other half involves indexing. Your work will be going into a database along with millions of others, so to ensure your images come up in searches, you need to get the basics right.


I generally adopt the ‘KYSS’ principle; Keep Your Subject Short. ‘Lady on the Computer Holding a Cup of Coffee in One Hand with a Phone in the Other’ may be a bit too much. Narrow it down and keep it short and sweet.

Location, Location, Location

Many people want to search for images based on their geographical location. It’s a good idea to include any information specific to a country, either about the subject or the location of where the subject was taken.

A Note on Keywords

Be selective with your keywords as most stock sites have a maximum number that you’re allowed to enter. Never enter more than twenty and make sure your spelling is spot-on. Always think about what keywords best describe your photo and arrange the keywords in order of importance. The first few keywords should be about visible aspects of the images, followed by less important keywords.

Less is more

With stock photography, simplicity is the real key. Try not to clutter your image with distractions, focus on the subject you’re trying to sell. This is what will ultimately attract buyers.

Use social media

Using social media can definitely help to promote your work. Advertising agencies and creative firms will, more and more, be on the lookout for images that match what they are looking for, so don’t be shy about posting low-res versions of your photos on your social channels to increase visibility and to promote your style.


People will often need high-resolution versions of your pictures, so it’s important that you take your photos at the largest resolution possible. Upload that version to the stock site you’re working with to ensure the best scope for buyers

Work together

The agency you’re signed up to is there to help promote your work. If you are accepted to sell your work on their site, try and build a relationship with them. Ask them if they have any current picture requirements or if they are seeking photos from a specific location with a specific subject. It never hurts to run your ideas past them, as they know what buyers will be looking for at any given time.

Quality over quantity

Sharing your entire photography portfolio won’t necessarily guarantee you more sales. Try instead, focusing on quality over quantity. The more time you spend on perfecting your photos, the higher chance you will have of attracting buyers. As a contributor, you are in control of the quality of the images you sell, so don’t be afraid of winnowing photos that don’t represent your greatest work. Less can really be more.

Watch the roundtable discussion event below:

If you’re considering being a stock contributor, take a look at the Adobe Stock Contributor Portal site out. And. Good Luck!

About the author

Read Take Stock: Roundtable Feature & Film Stock Photo w/Paul Sanders & Co

Simon Skinner

Co-founder // Editor

Having spent many years working in various pockets of the music industry, and always with a camera in hand, Simon has worked with organisations such as Warner/Chappell, Food Records and ultimately, co-founding the innovative independent record label, Izumi Records before moving fully into the world of publishing in 2007. Amongst numerous other projects in the last decade, he has been responsible for a number of specialist photo trade magazines and journals for the filmmaking and photography communities, along with a coffee table book entitled, "Great Britons of Photography' which he produced with Peter Dench and Leica. Now heading up PhotoBite, Simon and the team have set themselves a task of delivering informative and inspirational content for photographers of all levels, from the beginner, shooting with smartphones, to the seasoned photographer and filmmaker.