Pictures that sell 7

Lee Frost gives tips on how to make money out of your photography and shares some success stories.

Posted 02/Nov/2001 - 12:00AM

Whether you're shooting for a picture library, taking pictures to market yourself, or both, the art of successful stock photography lies in producing images that will sell not once, but time and time again, to a variety of different markets. Equally important is that you cover as wide a range of subjects as possible, instead of concentrating on just one or two, because the more diverse your work is, the greater the chance you will have of making regular sales.

Our freelance editor, Lee Frost, has made a career out of shooting stock, and never misses the opportunity to bag a saleable shot. Whilst this often takes him to far-flung parts of the world, he also produces thousands of saleable images quite literally in his own back garden or on his kitchen windowsill, using simple equipment and accessible techniques.

To give you an idea of how lucrative this can be, and how ordinary shots of everyday subjects can be as saleable as breathtaking landscapes or exotic travel shots, Lee will be posting a regularly-updated selection of his stock photographs with the story behind them and, more importantly, how much money they have made and the type of markets they have sold to. If this doesn't inspire you to pick up a camera and start shooting for stock, nothing will!

Toyota MR2
I used to own Toyota MR2 sportscar, and being such a bright colour it made a great subject for the occasional technique or stock shot. I photographed it in the landscape, using its bright red colour as a focal point, in an old farmyard surrounded by muted colours, with my wife driving it so I could get action shots and so on. I never put a great deal of effort into these pictures - they were a bit of fun, taken on the spur of the moment. However, that hasn't stopped them selling and over a period of four or five years they have generated several hundred pounds through picture library sales.
For the main shot I wanted to capture a strong feeling of power, speed and drama without the make or model or car being identifiable, so I crouched down by the side of a narrow country lane and as the car passed-by at close range I took panned shots at slow shutter speed.
The car in the landscape was a grab shot really, taken in the Honister Pass in the Lake District as I walked back to my car.

Equipment: Nikon F90x SLR, 28mm lens, Fuji Velvia
Number of sales: 10
Countries sold: UK, USA, Germany, France, Australia
Uses: Photographic and in-house magazine, single-sheet mailer. Most uses unknown.
Total sales to date: £565



Pound Coins
This photograph is one of dozens of financial still-life pictures I've taken over the last few years. It's not a subject that I find particularly inspiring, but it can be a good stock seller so when I have the time and inclination I will produce a few more new images. I use a macro lens for all of them to get in nice and close and light the coins and banknotes with either windowlight, a reading lamp or a slide projector, often using filters to colour the projector's light source and produce creative effects. It's all fairly straightforward stuff, but I rarely receive a sales statement these days that doesn't show at least one sale from a currency shot - even if it's just for a few quid.
These are great shots to take one a wet afternoon when you can't find anything better to fill your day.

Equipment: Nikon F90x, 105mm macro lens, Fuji Velvia and Sensia 100
Number of sales: 9
Countries sold: UK, USA, Canada, Germany
Uses: Magazine inside, newspaper editorial, corporate AV/CD/video, CD cover, mailer
Total sales to date: £525



This pastoral scene was captured on a summer's morning near Tavistock, on the western fringes of Dartmoor. I was in the area taking pictures for a book and while driving along a country lane I spotted the scene, pulled into a lay-by, and photographed it.
Agricultural landscapes and pastoral scenes like this can be good sellers, so I always make an effort to shoot them when I'm on location and the weather's good - bright sunshine, blue sky and the lush green fields make a great combination.
This shot was featured in Money Spinners some months ago, but I decided to repeat it just to give an update on sales - it has recently been chosen by Sainsbury's supermarket chain for use as food packing, earning me another tidy sum from a picture that has already grossed about £500.

Equipment: Art 617 panoramic rollfilm (6x17cm) camera with 90mm lens, polariser, Fujichrome Velvia
Number of sales: 1 (most recent sale)
Countries sold: UK
Uses: Food packing
Total sales to date: £345 on most recent sale (£845 total)



Like most parents, I can't resist the urge to take pictures my kids, but being a professional stock photographer I have to produce something more than just snapshots because I'm well aware how lucrative good pictures of kids can be.
On this occasion I had set-up a temporary studio in a spare room at home and managed to persuade my son to pose for the camera. After only a few minutes he lost interest - like most two-year-olds do - and, completely unprovoked, pulled this funny face which I instinctively captured.
Combined with his lovely big eyes and cute face the unusual expression could have many uses. Imagine it being used to sell pensions, investments, or anything else that tends to cause confusion.
I've yet to see any big sales, but smaller fees are trickling in now and it looks set to be a good seller over the next few years.

Equipment: Pentax 67, 165mm lens, single studio flash unit with softbox at 45° to camera, Ilford XP2 Plus
Number of sales: 4
Where sold: UK, Italy, USA
Used for: Magazine illustration, mailer and report
Total sales to date: £548



I photographed this retired fisherman in the Scottish port of Tarbert. My companions and I struck-up a conversation with him while we were wandering around the harbour and after a while I politely asked if I could take his picture. He agreed, so while he continued to chat and laugh I fired away, exposing two rolls of film in about ten minutes.
The subject's expression, the soft light of a bright overcast day, the tight composition and the simple, uncluttered background all contribute to this shot's success, and as well as selling several times to photographic magazines it has also appeared in a book and travel brochure.

Equipment: Olympus OM4-Ti, 85mm lens, Fujichrome RDP100
Number of sales: 11
Countries sold: UK, France, USA
Uses: To illustrate photographic technique in books and magazines, book illustration and brochure
Total sales to date: £380


Philip Carr09/Mar/2012 - 8:34PM
What agency do you use for sales?

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