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Shooting Profitable Photos and Videos For Stock Sites

Selling stock media like photos and videos to stock sites can be a great way for photographers and videographers to earn passive income. With the rise of sites like Shutterstock, iStock, Adobe Stock, and Pond5, there is a huge demand for high-quality stock images and footage that buyers can license for commercial and personal use.

However, simply uploading your work to a stock site does not guarantee sales. To maximize your earnings, you need to shoot photos and videos purposefully with the end goal of licensing in mind. Follow these tips to produce profitable stock media content that will attract buyers and bring in consistent royalties.

Choosing Profitable Niches and Subjects

When shooting stock content, it’s important to focus on niches and subjects that have active demand. Rather than just shooting randomly, do research to identify top-selling verticals that align with your skills and interests.

Trending Topics and Events

Photos and videos related to current events, holidays, seasons, and cultural trends will attract buyers looking for timely content. For example, around major holidays like Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and Valentine’s Day, festive-themed media sees a spike in searches.

Stay on top of news and pop culture to capitalize on emerging trends. Viral meme formats and content related to popular movies/TV shows also offer opportunities. Use keyword tools to confirm rising searches.


Evergreen topics and subjects maintain steady demand year-round. Think essential business themes like teamwork, leadership, and technology. All-purpose lifestyle niches like food, health/fitness, nature, and family lifestyle also sell well over time. Identify universal needs for your niche.

Commercial Usage

Stock buyers are primarily looking for media to use in business, advertising, merchandising, and commercial design projects. Shoot concepts that brands can use, like productivity, diversity, sustainability, innovation, etc. Appealing to business needs will earn more.

Using Styles and Techniques That Sell

How you shoot your photos and videos will impact their commercial appeal. Understand what styles and techniques appeal to stock buyers:

Authentic Moments

Instead of posed models, capture candid lifestyle moments as they naturally happen. Emotional moments like laughter, affection, disappointment, and determination often sell better than forced poses.

Variety of Perspectives

Shoot your subject from multiple angles, viewpoints, and perspectives. This provides buyers with more options to work with. Mix full shots, medium shots, close ups, aerials, wide angles, macro, etc.

Leaving Room for Text

Leave space in your composition for text overlays. Horizontal orientation works best. Buyers want room to add headlines, captions, logos, etc without covering the main subject.

Selective Focus

Using selective/soft focus on the background directs attention to your main subject in the foreground. This isolates subjects nicely. Make sure foreground elements stay sharp.

Negative Space

Similarly, use negative space around your main subject. Don’t clutter the background. Negative space makes the subject stand out while also leaving room for graphics.

Authentic Diversity

Diverse groups and representations of all people will appeal to the widest range of commercial buyers looking for inclusive media. Avoid stereotypes.

Good Lighting

Proper lighting brings out vivid colors, pleasing skin tones, and appealing shading. Watch your directional lighting. Front lighting often looks best for lifestyle subjects.

Clear Focus

Keep everything in clear focus unless intentionally using selective focus. Buyers want crisp details and clarity. Avoid blurry or distorted shots. Use lower ISO if needed.

Proper Framing

Frame shots intentionally using compositional techniques like the rule of thirds. Subject positioning impacts aesthetics and commercial utility.

Optimizing Your Camera Settings

Dialing in the right camera settings will produce professional quality, commercial-grade shots:

Shoot RAW

RAW image files retain the most image data and give you more flexibility editing. JPEGs lose quality each time they get compressed. Send stock sites high-res RAWs.

Use Low ISO

Higher ISO introduces graininess and noise. For clean, crisp shots, use the lowest native ISO your camera allows in given lighting conditions. Tripods can help keep ISOs down.

Higher Shutter Speed

To freeze motion and avoid blurriness with moving subjects, set a higher shutter speed, like 1/200th sec or faster if needed. This captures sharper action.

Adjust Aperture

Use aperture to control depth of field. Lower the f-stop number for a shallow depth of field. Higher f-stops maintain sharp focus through a larger range of depth.

Enable Metadata

Metadata provides helpful info like date, time, camera settings, etc. Enable metadata attachments to your image files. Buyers may want this data.

Shoot in Manual Mode

Manual mode gives you full control over exposure. Auto modes can incorrectly expose images. Master your camera dials for consistent results.

Use Highest Resolution

If your camera has lower res options for burst shooting, go with the full highest resolution single shots. Pixel density matters for commercial use.

Editing Tips for Polish

Post-processing your media after shooting can significantly increase quality. Here are some editing tips:

Color Correction

Properly white balance images and correct any color casts or imbalances. Uniform color toning looks most professional.

Adjust Contrast

Boost contrast slightly to add punch if needed, but avoid going overboard. Subtle contrast tweaks enhance visual appeal.

Increase Clarity

A minor bump in clarity can make details and edges pop while keeping images looking natural. Don’t over-sharpen.

Reduce Noise

Eliminate graininess and speckling using noise reduction tools. This cleans up shots. But don’t lose sharpness.

Selective Brightness

Use selective brightness adjustments to make key subjects and elements stand out from backgrounds. Draw attention.

Crop for Composition

Cropping tightens up composition and removes unneeded elements from the edges of the frame.

Straighten Lines

Fix any crooked horizons or architecture lines using transform tools. Keep vertical and horizontal lines straight.

Producing Different Photo Types

Let’s explore some of the most in-demand kinds of stock photos you can focus on producing:

Lifestyle Photos

Authentic lifestyle photos showing people in everyday home, work, and social contexts perform well. Capture diverse people in modern environments. Avoid staging. Shoot events and activities as they happen. Show real emotions and connections. Use natural light and flattering angles. Productivity, family, relationships, sports, holidays, leisure, and more all sell.

Business/Office Photos

There is high demand for photos inside modern offices showing professionals collaborating, working on computers, attending meetings, networking, giving presentations, and displaying leadership. Tasteful office environments and diverse professionals appeal widely. Avoid old-school business tropes. Capture entrepreneurs, small teams, creative spaces, professional development, technology, and global business.

Nature Photos

Beautiful high-resolution nature photos are always needed for commercial projects, websites, printed materials, etc. Scenic landscapes, forests, beaches, oceans, sunrises/sunsets, and wildlife attract buyers. Time your shoots for ideal lighting like golden hour. Use wide angle and aerial perspectives to showcase grand vistas. Up-close macro shots of things like flowers also captivate.

Food Photos

Vibrant, clean-looking photos focused just on prepared food are in demand, as well as restaurant scenes. Pay attention to plating, framing, and lighting food in an appealing way. Convey freshness and quality. Shoot a variety of cuisines. Remember to style beverages attractively too.

Travel Photos

Photos highlighting popular travel destinations, landmarks, and local culture perform well. Capture famous sites along with hidden gems and unique angles on known places. Show public spaces, street scenes, architecture, geographic landscapes, and more. Authentic cultural moments and local people connect with buyers.

Object/Product Photos

Simple yet stylish photos presenting commercial products, decor items, electronic devices, accessories, office supplies, household goods, retail merchandise, etc. are sought after. Shoot on white/solid backgrounds or creatively contextualized. Style them cleanly with good lighting.

Effective Practices for Shooting Video

Besides still photos, stock video footage also brings in substantial royalties. Professional quality b-roll style video presenting a diverse range of niches has excellent commercial appeal for all sorts of projects.

Stabilize Your Shots

Use camera stabilizers like gimbals and Steadicams for smooth tracking, tilting, panning, and following motion. Eliminate shakiness. Record longer static takes at multiple angles.

Capture Variety

Feature different compositions, angles, movements, perspectives, and shot sizes in each clip. Shoot the subject from all around. Record related interactions. Capture additional detail shots.

Mind the Lighting

Position subjects for ideal front, side, or backlighting. Ensure consistent even exposure throughout takes. Boost ISO if needed to properly expose darker scenes.

Adjust Focus

Rack focus smoothly between foreground and background elements on the same take. Or keep single subjects in steady crisp focus. Use auto-tracking focus modes if available.

Control Speed

Use slower recording frame rates for beautiful b-roll establishing shots and fast speeds for intentional slow motion when enhancing movement. Mix it up.

Record Longer Clips

Capture longer 10-30 second stable video clips at each angle rather than short snippets. This allows for greater editing flexibility in post.

Get Good Audio

Use external mics for clean, clear audio if capturing talking or sounds. Otherwise capture natural ambient audio. Avoid distracting noise.

Show Interactivity

Demonstrate people naturally interacting with environments and other people. Action and movement generally sells better than static establishing shots alone.

Top-Selling Video Niche Examples

Consider producing stock video clips focused on these consistently high-earning niches:

People Working

Professionals collaborating in modern office environments, attending meetings, using tech, making presentations. Capture a range of ages, genders and ethnicities interacting. Authentic candid moments feel most natural.

Lifestyle Moments

Real-life daily activities and interactions like parenting, enjoying hobbies, practicing sports, spending time together, working out, laughing, cooking, etc. Feature diverse candid subjects that buyers can relate to.


Iconic wide city skyline shots at golden hour, tracking videos of downtowns, modern building exteriors, aerial city grids, landmarks, urban street scenes, public spaces.

Nature Videos

Slow panning landscape vistas, animals moving through environments, weather events unfolding, waves crashing, trees blowing in wind, clouds passing, flowers blossoming. Use gimbals for stability.

Food Preparation

Cooking processes like chopping ingredients, mixing batter, kneading dough, pouring sauces, sprinkling spices, grilling, plating dishes. Capture appetizing close-ups.

Product Videos

Demo videos clearly showing products in action like devices being used, make-up/paint swatches applied, 3D maneuvers of cars/technology, jewelry displays, app prototypes.

Optimizing Titles, Keywords, and Descriptions

To maximize discoverability on stock sites, put effort into your metadata and captions:

Clarify File Names

Name your files something descriptive related to the specific contents like “diverse professionals in office meeting.jpg” rather than just numbers.

Hook With Titles

Your title should make it instantly clear what the media depicts while using relevant keywords. Ex. “Multi-ethnic business team collaborating on project in modern conference room”

Expand Descriptions

Write longer 2-3 sentences expanding on the title to offer more context, describe the mood, mention additional related keywords, and detail visible elements.

Research Keyword Demand

Use keyword research tools to identify words and phrases buyers are searching for related to your media niche. Work top keywords naturally into your titles and descriptions. Don’t overstuff.

Emphasize Licensing Rights

Clearly state that your media is 100% copyright-free for commercial use to attract business buyers looking for licensing rights. List genres and projects it can be used for.

List Technical Specs

For photos note important specs like resolution, aspect ratio, file type. For video, include resolution, frame rate, file format. This informs potential buyers.

Top Places to Sell Your Media

Once you’ve built up a strong portfolio, here are some of the best stock sites to upload your photos and videos to:


One of the largest royalty-free stock media sites with millions of video clips, images, illustrations, and music tracks. Great visibility and sales potential.

Adobe Stock

Adobe’s stock library fully integrated into Creative Cloud apps. Media receives exposure to massive pool of creative professionals.


Major marketplace focused just on selling stock video footage. Especially strong demand for b-roll style clips across verticals.


Getty Images’ stock division focused on contemporary media. Buyers can purchase rights-managed licences in addition to standard royalty-free.


Freemium model monetizes users who download free samples. Plus expanded global reach selling to customers in 200+ countries.


High payout rates on niche stock like historical, tabloid, vintage. Large collection of over 200 million photos, vectors, videos.


Curated collection of “high-res royalty free stock photos you’ll love.” Specializes in well done lifestyle photography. Invite-only contributors.

Canva Photos New massive library with over 5 million images. Specifically caters to use within the popular Canva design tool.

Mixkit by Envato

Free HD videos and stock photos if you just want to build exposure and get early practice. Great for beginners starting out.

Helpful Habits For Ongoing Success

Cultivating the following habits will lead to a thriving stock media business that earns passive income over time:

Shoot Daily

Make a point to shoot quality photos or videos regularly. Consistently build your portfolio. Set weekly/monthly content goals to stay on track.

Diversify Your Media

Vary locations, concepts, models, perspectives so you appeal to the widest range of buyer needs. Don’t get stuck in a narrow niche.

Stay Organized

Develop a smart naming system, folder structure, rating process, and metadata strategy to keep your entire library searchable and easy to access.

Process Quickly

Edit and upload new media soon after capturing to maximize momentum. Don’t let a backlog of unprocessed work build up.

Monitor Trends

Stay tapped into current events, meme trends, brand campaigns, stock keyword tools. Identify rising demands you can capitalize on.

Promote New Uploads

Let existing buyers know about fresh uploads via site alerts and your social accounts. Keep delivering the type of media they license from you.

Read Download Reports

Study your sales reports and see what types of media successfully license for you most often. Produce more of what sells.

Don’t Saturate Genres

If certain topics become oversaturated with low-quality media, move on to related genres where there is less competition.

Find Your Style

Define an identifiable style, mood, or aesthetic that makes your work stand out. But still offer some versatility.

Provide Value

Go above and beyond to make buyers’ search experience easy and deliver media that exceeds expectations. Provide premium value that drives repeat purchases.


By focusing on trending and evergreen niches, capturing authentic perspectives, employing pro techniques, properly editing, and sticking to an effective workflow, you can build up a stock photo and video portfolio that earns lucrative licensing royalties.

Do diligent keyword research, optimize your metadata, and stay tapped into demand trends. Upload consistently high-value media to leading stock sites. Market your new work. Analyze your sales metrics. Continue expanding and improving your library over time to maximize earnings.

Patience and persistence pay off. With enough quality media for sale, steady passive income from stock sales can develop into a viable income stream. Use these tips and practices outlined here as a blueprint to start earning with your own photography and videography today.


By Dani Davis

Dani Davis is the pen name of the writer of this blog with more 15 years of constant experience in Content marketing and informatics product, e-commerce niche.

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