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8 Insider Secrets for Creating Photos That Sell

Creative Market March 31, 2021 · 8 min read
Selling photography online is both easy and tricky. It’s easy because the barrier to entry is so low, especially when compared to something like website themes. Just about anyone can take a photo and upload it to Creative Market. The tricky part though is actually making sales. Taking photos and taking great photos are two very different things. Further, even the ability to take fantastic photos doesn’t guarantee sales. For this, you need a little something extra. Today, we’ll take a look at some of our top photo sellers to see if we can learn some of their secrets.

1. This Is a Marketplace, Not an Art Gallery

Always remember that this is a digital marketplace, not an art gallery. This is the single most important piece of advice I can give you for selling photos online. The distinction is important. Selling your photography in a gallery is about aesthetics. It’s enough for a photo to be beautiful, that’s all someone needs to decide that they want to hang it on their wall. When you’re selling your photos in an online marketplace though, the story is a different one. Here, the customer tends to be someone else entirely. When you think about who it is that’s spending money every day to purchase photos online, the obvious answers are designers (or companies buying photos to give to their designers) and writers/bloggers looking to make their content more attractive. The typical end result for most of our photos isn’t a frame on someone’s wall (though that does certainly happen), it’s the header of an email newsletter, a banner on a website, the featured image at the top of a blog post, or even the background of someone’s app. This revelation sets up all the other tips in this article.

2. Choose Your Customer

Now, with the previous tip in mind, the way you approach selling photos should change dramatically. Rather than uploading a bunch of random photos that you think are pretty good, try this instead: choose a customer and target them with a product. We’ve already established some typical use cases for someone purchasing photography from Creative Market, but we can be a little more specific. For example, let’s imagine a hypothetical customer who needs an image to help show off a photography app or website that runs on both desktop and mobile devices. Between tech bloggers, app developers, and photographers, there is a potentially large audience who might be looking for this type of image. Now that we have the specific need and customer in mind, we can create the perfect image for them.
This image is ideally tailored to our customer. Given the proliferation of tech blogs and web apps, it’s a safe assumption that this type of photo has the potential to be fairly popular. We see this idea confirmed by the fact that many of our best-selling photos on Creative Market utilize a similar desktop theme.

3. Consider the Competition

I just gave you a pretty sweet tip about the types of images that sell well, but you’ll want to read on before you rush off and spend your day taking photos of MacBooks and iPhones. The rough reality is that we already have quite a few photos like this on Creative Market, making it more difficult for you to break into the category. Before you decide on the type of photos you’d like to sell on any marketplace, always run a search for the images you have in mind. If there are very few, or even none, that fit the specific niche you’re gunning for, go for it. However, if the site is already loaded with great competition, you’ll want to tread more carefully.

A Rose By Any Other Name

One prime example that comes to mind is flower photography. Everyone loves a good flower photo, right? Surely if you upload a bunch of really nice flower shots, you’ll be raking in the dough in no time. As a test, let’s run a search for flower on Creative Market.
This represents a teeny tiny fraction of the absolutely fantastic flower photos that we already have. I’m not saying that this will make it impossible for you to get your awesome flower shots noticed, but it will be more difficult than if you came up with something more unique. With every product that you upload, always ask yourself, “Why would someone buy my item instead of something from another seller?” If you have a clear answer that you believe lots of customers will agree with, upload away. If not, do your best to find that thing that will make your items special.

4. Leave Room for Copy

Earlier, I mentioned that a likely assumption that we can make about the types of people who purchase digital photos online is that a good portion of them are designing something. This may sound obvious and maybe even useless at first, but if you really consider the implications, it should have drastic effects on how you take photos. One of the most important revelations is that designers nearly always need room for copy. They have a message to get across and they’re looking for images to support that message without getting in the way. To see this tactic masterfully executed, look no further than this photo pack from Madebyvadim.
This great product includes sixteen photos that are specifically structured to have an empty space for the purchaser to place headline copy. It’s so convenient that I used this product to create the header image on this very post! You don’t have to look far to find lots of talented photographers on Creative Market leaving room for headlines and other copy. Consider the following images to see how this tip is implemented in all sorts of interesting ways.

5. Set The Stage

Some photographers take the concept of leaving room for copy one step further by creating photos of different types of products that are primed and ready for brands to drop their own resources into. If you’re a web app or e-commerce site looking for images of people using your product, you can either set up an expensive custom photo shoot or buy a super affordable photo set that contains images of people using laptops and phones with blank screens, then simply drop your screenshots in.

6. Create a Very Specific Mood or Theme

Speaking of product mockups, keep in mind that this idea goes way beyond laptops and phones. All types of people have a use for attractive ways to show off their creative work, whether it be websites they created or logos they designed. One interesting way to stand out from the crowd with this tactic is to shoot for an extremely specific mood or feel. We’ve seen above that lots of people have success with the modern office/coffee shop vibe, but what if you went in the complete opposite direction?
“1940s Industrial Mockups” is a great example of a shop owner aiming for a very specific theme. Products like this prove that old world images can be just as popular, or even more popular, than new world tech. What designer wouldn’t want to boost the impact of his/her retro logo portfolio with these attractive mockups?

7. Own a Niche

One surefire way to make sure your photos get noticed is to dedicate yourself to owning a specific niche. Find something that no one else is doing well or thoroughly and invest some quality time into flooding that search with your products. On Creative Market, shop owner Grafvision has executed this tactic masterfully in the food category. Try running a search for something like “pizza” and you’ll find the results are filled with his uploads.
This stacks the odds dramatically in his favor. If someone buys some pizza photo from Creative Market today, the chances are extremely high that Grafvision will be the seller who pockets the cash.

8. Work Hard on Your Metadata

My last bit advice for creating photos that sell is to do your due diligence when uploading the files. Even if you follow all of the advice above and create the most gorgeous, unique, and desirable photos anyone has ever seen, it’s all one big waste of time if you don’t take the time to properly fill out your metadata. The primary way for people to find your photos in the long term is through search. Titles, tags, and descriptions are all indexed to make our search results as good as they can be. If you’re lazy when you get to this step, the result will be that no one finds, and consequently no one buys, your photos. For some good metadata inspiration, look around at existing photos on the site. Check out this great shot of Hallstatt from Arzt Win Studio. hallstat As you can see, the tags are not only literal, such as the name of the location and objects in the photo, but conceptual: travel, love, heritage. It’s often the case that a designer or writer is looking to convey a complex concept, not simply show a photo of a location. By making sure your photos are tagged with closely related concepts, you dramatically boost your odds of a sale.

Share Your Secrets to Success

Following the tips above will set you on a path towards being a remarkably successful photographer on Creative Market, but there’s a lot more to learn. Help us out and leave a comment with your best tips for creating photos that sell.
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