Editor’s Note: The author is Head of Content for Adobe Stock
In the past few years, professional photographers have been pushed to adapt to a business and technological environment in total flux. Despite the many challenges brought on by the pandemic, social and political turmoil, and ongoing digital transformation, from what I’ve seen, photographers are more inspired than ever, and stock photography content demand is rising.
According to Adobe’s State of Creativity Survey, commercial photographers and artists are keeping up with this demand – 81% have been asked to develop more content in less time, with many developing as much photography as they did before the pandemic, and some were even more productive than past years.
But it’s not just a demand for volume of stock photography content that interests me: There has also been an increased demand for accurate and realistic diverse content across media and the stock industry, with 89% of creators showing interest in diverse and inclusive stock photography collections. I believe this need will only continue growing.
These stats provide some helpful direction if you are a photographer hoping to enter or expand your stock photography business. Read on for some of my top tips to help you thrive by selling stock photography content—no matter what changes lie ahead.
#1 Produce What’s in Demand
As the advertising market evolves, the most in-demand visuals and topics shift, too. To keep up with the rapidly changing media landscape, stock photographers should pay attention to both emerging and mainstream trends in media and culture and consider those when planning productions for stock.
To help creatives monitor industry trends, Adobe produces an annual report forecasting the most prominent trends for the coming year. Our Creative Trends 2021 forecast pinpointed foundational themes in visual culture, plus our own search and customer data, that have remained relevant all year long.
Even more important than staying on top of visual trends, stock image producers must understand seasonal and evergreen needs across top business sectors. You can make a strong bet that every winter, brands will be planning their spring campaigns…every summer and autumn, brands will start thinking about their holiday offers…every Mother’s Day will require some fresh imagery featuring families and flowers…and so on. How can you add something new to these reliable themes?
Additionally, as brands expand their focus to reach global audiences, and consumers become more informed and more vocal about the importance of diversity and inclusion in advertising and media, the need for accurate, culturally diverse imagery is growing. At Adobe Stock we’ve created the Advocates program, an initiative aimed at promoting and supporting the production of imagery created by and depicting traditionally underrepresented groups. Through the program, we’re showcasing stock content by global creators sharing a window into their lived experiences—and offering the type of accurate, diverse imagery that brands today are seeking.
As a former stock photographer myself, I’ve seen how an authentic narrative can sell stock content and creative projects. I’ve spent most of my stock career growing successful commercial collections, thanks to building strong communities of talented artists and using trends to inform content strategy. In a nutshell, producing what’s in demand means thinking about reliable, commercially viable themes that emerge again and again, while incorporating emerging trends, timely events, and a realistic vision of real people in the modern world.
#2 Pay Attention to Metadata
The highest-quality images won’t succeed in the stock industry unless they’re accompanied by the right metadata! It’s important for stock photographers (and all stock content creators) to learn and use the most relevant and in-demand keywords for quality search results in needed subjects.
Last year, we released a data report revealing insights from 149+ million U.S. visits and millions of asset uploads to Adobe Stock, and the end-of-year data report highlighted a growing demand for stock content reflecting social issues, revealing that on average creators are uploading 180% more content under related to social issues each month. Given the appetite for stock content like this, creators should not only think about how to reflect important topics in upcoming productions, but also think about how to accurately describe those concepts using image titles and keywords.
While the way image titles and keywords work may vary depending on which stock marketplace you use to sell your work, the best practices for metadata will be similar. On Adobe Stock, for example, you can add up to 50 keywords, but the first 10 keywords matter the most. Try to use them to describe the “who, what, when, and where” depicted in the image. The more accurate and descriptive they are, and the more relevant your image title, the better chance your content has of being found by buyers.
#3 Maximize Your Productions
If you want to create photos for stock, you’ll need to think hard about your return on investment. As you probably know all too well, putting together a high-quality photo shoot or video shoot can be challenging and expensive, involving models, sets and props, makeup artists and wardrobe, lighting, and more—all depending on the complexity of the shoot and the content you want to capture.
To increase your chances of success as a stock producer, do not waste a single minute or dollar of that effort. Maximize your productions by thinking through your shoot schedule and preparing your team in advance, visiting the location to scout it out beforehand if you can, perhaps creating a shot list and storyboard—anything to help you get the most out of your limited time on set.
Aim to shoot different types of photos and video clips for your stock collection at the same shoot, capitalizing on your investments. The more you can get out of each shoot, the better your stock ROI.
#4 Keep Expanding Your Skills
As you scale your stock photography business, you’ll benefit from expanding your skills. To build on the last tip about maximizing productions: many photographers are finding that they get a better ROI on a shoot if they can capture photos and videos at the same time. Why not capture both still and motion assets, since you’ve got the model, props, and setting?
This might not make sense for every photographer; it depends on your business, skill level, and interests. You’ll need to evaluate your current creative style and where there might be room for improvement or expansion, depending on your customer’s needs and goals. However, if you’re a professional photographer with any curiosity about video, I strongly encourage you to consider expanding your portfolio to take advantage of the growing demand for stock video clips across industries.
Photograph what you know, and let your passion and expertise be your selling proposition. By using the resources available to you, you might realize you have something others don’t – and sometimes all you need is just one small differentiation in your work and resources to set yourself apart from the crowd. And don’t forget to look beyond your own productions: staying aware of what your competitors are doing will help you come up with ideas and stay on top of what’s trending, and what you can offer that’s totally unique.
#5 Embrace Change
The stock photography industry has changed so much in the past couple of decades, sometimes I hardly recognize it. What has remained constant is the wealth of opportunity the industry holds for creatives who are driven to succeed.
Today, it’s more competitive than ever, and if you want to stand out as a stock creator, you must really focus on producing the type of content stock buyers want—and doing everything you can to optimize it for online search. The good news for photographers is that there’s such incredible demand for stock content, and it’s continuing to grow.
I can’t stress enough the urgent need that I’m seeing, across all major industries, for stock imagery that is accurate, contemporary, and diverse. As a stock content creator, you have an opportunity to have a real and significant impact on our global visual landscape by sharing your personal narrative and vision, allowing your lived experiences to inspire other creators and promote self-identification and empathy throughout the media. The biggest global brands often want the most personal stories and individual artists’ perspectives. People truly want to see themselves reflected in advertising—and sometimes the most important tip for stock photographers is, to keep it real.
Adobe 2021 Visual and Creative Trends Report: https://blog.adobe.com/en/publish/2021/01/12/adobe-stocks-2021-creative-trends-resilience-rising.html
Adobe Stock Advocates Program: https://pages.adobe.com/stock/en/advocates/