What Kind of Photos Sell the Most?

When it comes to selling photos, candid shots are always more successful than posed ones. Learn what kind of photos sell best and how to get started with vector illustrations.

What Kind of Photos Sell the Most?

1. Introduction

As a photographer looking to monetize your work, understanding what kind of photos sell the most is crucial for success. Whether you're a stock photographer, freelance photographer, or selling prints, knowing the types of images that are in high demand can help you focus your efforts, build a marketable portfolio, and increase your earnings. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the most popular and profitable types of photos, providing insights and tips to help you create images that resonate with buyers and clients.

1.1. The importance of understanding market demand

Understanding market demand is essential for photographers who want to sell their work successfully. By identifying the types of images that are most sought-after by buyers, you can tailor your photography to meet their needs and preferences. This knowledge allows you to create a portfolio that showcases your skills and appeals to your target audience, increasing your chances of making sales and building a sustainable photography business.

1.2. Adapting to changing trends and preferences

It's important to note that the types of photos that sell the most can vary over time, influenced by changing trends, cultural shifts, and technological advancements. Staying informed about the latest trends and adapting your photography accordingly can help you stay competitive in the market. However, it's equally important to develop your unique style and vision, as this can set you apart from other photographers and attract clients who appreciate your distinct approach.

2. Lifestyle and People Photography

Lifestyle and people photography is one of the most popular and lucrative genres, with a wide range of applications in advertising, marketing, and editorial content.

2.1. Authentic and relatable images

Authentic and relatable lifestyle images that depict everyday moments, emotions, and interactions are in high demand. Buyers seek images that their target audience can connect with, showcasing diverse people engaging in activities such as cooking, working, exercising, or spending time with family and friends. Focus on capturing genuine expressions, natural poses, and candid moments that evoke a sense of realness and relatability.

2.2. Diversity and inclusivity

There is a growing demand for diverse and inclusive imagery that represents people of different ages, ethnicities, abilities, and body types. Buyers are increasingly looking for photos that reflect the diversity of their target audience and promote a sense of inclusivity. When creating lifestyle and people photography, strive to showcase a wide range of individuals and experiences, breaking away from stereotypes and traditional beauty standards.

2.3. Positive and aspirational themes

Lifestyle images that convey positive and aspirational themes, such as happiness, success, love, and adventure, are highly sought-after. Buyers often look for images that inspire and motivate their audience, showcasing people achieving their goals, overcoming challenges, or enjoying life to the fullest. When planning your lifestyle shoots, consider incorporating themes that evoke positive emotions and align with the values and aspirations of your target market.

3. Business and Technology Photography

In today's digital age, business and technology photography is in high demand, as companies seek images to showcase their products, services, and corporate culture.

3.1. Modern workplaces and collaborate environments

Photos that depict modern workplaces and collaborative environments are popular among businesses looking to promote a progressive and innovative image. Capture images of people working together in open-plan offices, using the latest technology, or engaging in creative brainstorming sessions. Aim to showcase a positive and productive work atmosphere that appeals to potential clients, investors, and employees.

3.2. Technology and digital devices

With the rapid advancement of technology, there is a constant need for images showcasing the latest digital devices, software, and applications. Photos of people using smartphones, laptops, tablets, and other tech gadgets in various settings, such as at home, in the office, or on the go, are highly sought-after. When capturing technology-related images, ensure that the devices featured are up-to-date and the usage scenarios are relevant and relatable to the target audience.

3.3. E-commerce and online business

The growth of e-commerce and online businesses has created a demand for images that represent the digital economy. Photos of people shopping online, managing virtual teams, or running online businesses from home are popular among companies in the e-commerce and digital marketing sectors. Focus on capturing the convenience, flexibility, and global reach of online businesses, highlighting the benefits and opportunities they offer.

4. Travel and Landscape Photography

Travel and landscape photography is a perennial favorite among buyers, as it appeals to people's desire to explore, escape, and connect with the beauty of the world.

4.1. Iconic locations and landmarks

Photos of iconic locations and landmarks are always in demand, as they are instantly recognizable and evoke a sense of wanderlust. Capture stunning images of famous cities, natural wonders, and cultural heritage sites, showcasing their unique features and beauty. When photographing these locations, aim to create images that are both visually compelling and emotionally evocative, inspiring viewers to dream of their own travel adventures.

4.2. Local experiences and hidden gems

In addition to iconic locations, there is a growing interest in photos that showcase local experiences and hidden gems. Buyers are looking for images that offer a more authentic and immersive view of a destination, highlighting its culture, traditions, and off-the-beaten-path attractions. When traveling, take the time to explore beyond the tourist hotspots and capture the essence of a place through its people, food, architecture, and natural landscapes.

4.3. Sustainable and eco-friendly travel

With the rise of sustainable and eco-friendly travel, there is a demand for images that promote responsible tourism practices. Photos that showcase eco-lodges, green transportation, and low-impact activities, such as hiking, cycling, or volunteering, are popular among environmentally conscious buyers. When creating travel and landscape photography, consider highlighting the beauty of nature and the importance of preserving it for future generations.

5. Food and Culinary Photography

Food and culinary photography is a thriving genre, as people's fascination with food and cooking continues to grow, fueled by social media and the rise of food culture.

5.1. Appealing and appetizing images

The most successful food photos are those that make viewers want to reach out and taste the dish. Focus on creating appealing and appetizing images that showcase the colors, textures, and presentation of the food. Pay attention to lighting, styling, and composition to create mouth-watering shots that entice the viewer's senses and evoke a desire to experience the dish for themselves.

5.2. Healthy and natural ingredients

There is a growing demand for photos that feature healthy and natural ingredients, as people become more conscious of their food choices and the impact on their well-being. Capture images of fresh produce, whole grains, and plant-based meals that appeal to health-conscious consumers. Highlight the beauty and simplicity of natural ingredients, showcasing their vibrant colors and raw textures.

5.3. Food culture and experiences

Food photography that tells a story and captures the cultural context and experiences surrounding food is highly sought-after. Buyers look for images that showcase the social and emotional aspects of food, such as people cooking together, sharing meals, or enjoying traditional dishes. When creating food and culinary photography, aim to capture the human element and the role food plays in bringing people together and creating lasting memories.

6. Seasonal and Holiday Photography

Seasonal and holiday photography is a reliable source of income for photographers, as businesses and individuals seek images to celebrate and promote specific times of the year.

6.1. Traditional and cultural celebrations

Photos that capture the essence of traditional and cultural celebrations, such as Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, or Lunar New Year, are popular among buyers looking to create festive and inclusive content. Focus on capturing the unique customs, decorations, and atmospheres associated with each holiday, showcasing the joy and togetherness they inspire. When creating seasonal and holiday photography, be mindful of cultural sensitivities and strive to represent traditions accurately and respectfully.

6.2. Seasonal activities and landscapes

Images that depict seasonal activities and landscapes, such as summer beach vacations, autumn foliage, winter sports, or spring gardens, are in high demand. Buyers use these photos to promote seasonal products, services, and experiences, tapping into people's emotional connections to different times of the year. When capturing seasonal images, aim to evoke the feelings and memories associated with each season, creating a sense of nostalgia and anticipation in the viewer.

6.3. Holiday-themed still life and product photography

Still life and product photography with a holiday theme is a lucrative niche, as businesses seek images to promote their seasonal offerings. Photos of holiday-themed decorations, gift items, and food products are popular among retailers, e-commerce sites, and marketing agencies. When creating holiday-themed still life and product photography, pay attention to color schemes, lighting, and composition to create visually appealing and festive images that stand out in a crowded market.

7. Fine Art and Conceptual Photography

While fine art and conceptual photography may not be as commercialy mainstream as other genres, there is still a demand for unique and thought-provoking images among art collectors, galleries, and niche publications.

7.1. Original and creative concepts

Fine art and conceptual photography that explores original and creative concepts are sought-after by buyers looking for distinctive and challenging images. Focus on developing unique ideas and narratives that push the boundaries of traditional photography, using techniques such as abstraction, symbolism, or surrealism. When creating fine art and conceptual images, aim to evoke emotions, provoke thought, and encourage viewers to interpret the work in their own way.

7.2. High-quality and limited edition prints

In the fine art photography market, high-quality and limited edition prints are more valuable and desirable than digital files. Buyers seek images that are carefully crafted, printed on archival-quality materials, and signed by the artist. When selling fine art prints, consider offering different sizes, framing options, and edition numbers to cater to various preferences and budgets. Building a reputation for producing high-quality, collectible prints can help you establish yourself in the fine art photography market.

7.3. Collaborations and commissioned work

Fine art and conceptual photographers can also find opportunities through collaborations and commissioned work with art institutions, brands, or individuals. These projects often involve creating images that align with a specific theme, event, or campaign, allowing photographers to apply their creative vision to a client's brief. When pursuing collaborations and commissioned work, focus on building relationships with potential partners, showcasing your unique style and approach, and demonstrating your ability to deliver compelling and relevant images.

8. Conclusion

8.1. Adapting to market demands while staying true to your vision

Understanding what kind of photos sell the most is essential for photographers looking to build a successful and sustainable business. By focusing on popular genres such as lifestyle, business, travel, food, and seasonal photography, you can create images that are in high demand and appeal to a wide range of buyers. However, it's equally important to develop your unique style and vision, as this can set you apart from other photographers and attract clients who appreciate your distinct approach.

8.2. Continuously improving your skills and staying updated with trends

To succeed in the competitive world of photography, it's crucial to continuously improve your skills and stay updated with the latest trends and technologies. Invest time in learning new techniques, experimenting with different styles, and seeking feedback from peers and clients. Attend workshops, conferences, and online courses to expand your knowledge and network with other professionals in the industry. By staying curious, adaptable, and committed to growth, you can create photos that not only sell but also reflect your unique creative voice.

8.3. Finding fulfillment and joy in the creative process

While understanding market demands is important for commercial success, it's equally essential to find fulfillment and joy in the creative process of photography. Pursue projects and subjects that inspire and challenge you, and don't be afraid to take risks and explore new ideas. Remember that your passion, enthusiasm, and personal connection to your work will shine through in your images, making them more compelling and authentic to buyers and viewers alike.

By combining an understanding of what photos sell the most with a commitment to your artistic vision and continuous growth, you can build a thriving photography business that not only generates income but also allows you to express your creativity and make a meaningful impact through your work.

9. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1: How can I research what types of photos are currently in high demand?

A1: There are several ways to research the types of photos that are currently in high demand:

Study stock photography websites and analyze the popular categories, search terms, and best-selling images.

Follow industry blogs, publications, and social media accounts to stay updated on the latest photography trends and buyer preferences.

Attend photography conferences, workshops, and trade shows to learn from industry experts and gain insights into market demands.

Engage with the photography community and seek feedback from peers, clients, and buyers on the types of images they are looking for.

Analyze the visual content used by businesses and brands in your target market to identify common themes and styles.

By regularly conducting market research, you can stay attuned to the evolving needs and preferences of buyers and adapt your photography accordingly.

Q2: Should I focus on a specific niche or try to cover multiple genres?

A2: The decision to focus on a specific niche or cover multiple genres depends on your goals, skills, and market opportunities. Specializing in a niche can help you build expertise, establish a strong brand identity, and attract clients who are looking for specific types of images. On the other hand, covering multiple genres can provide more diverse income streams and allow you to explore different creative avenues.

Consider your strengths, interests, and the demand for different types of photography in your target market. You may start by focusing on a primary niche while also experimenting with other genres to see what resonates with you and your audience. As you gain experience and insights, you can refine your focus or expand your offerings based on your success and market trends.

Q3: How important is post-processing in creating photos that sell?

A3: Post-processing plays a significant role in creating photos that sell, as it allows you to enhance the visual appeal, mood, and technical quality of your images. Buyers often look for images that are not only well-composed and captured but also professionally edited to meet their specific needs and standards.

Basic post-processing techniques, such as adjusting exposure, contrast, color, and sharpness, can help you create more polished and impactful images that stand out in a competitive market. Advanced editing skills, such as retouching, compositing, and color grading, can further elevate your images and make them more valuable to buyers in certain niches, such as commercial advertising or fine art photography.

However, it's important to find a balance between post-processing and maintaining the authenticity and natural feel of your images. Over-editing can sometimes make photos look artificial or generic, reducing their appeal to buyers who seek genuine and relatable content. Aim to use post-processing as a tool to enhance your creative vision and the inherent qualities of your images, rather than relying on it to fix fundamental issues or create overly manipulated effects.

Q4: How can I price my photos competitively while still earning a fair income?

A4: Pricing your photos competitively while still earning a fair income requires a balance of market research, self-assessment, and business strategy. Here are some tips to help you find the right pricing balance:

Research the prices of similar photos in your niche and market to get a sense of the competitive landscape and buyer expectations.

Consider your experience level, skills, and the uniqueness of your images when determining your pricing strategy.

Factor in your costs of production, including equipment, software, travel, and time invested in creating and editing your photos.

Offer various pricing tiers and licensing options to cater to different buyer needs and budgets, such as royalty-free, rights-managed, or exclusive licenses.

Regularly review and adjust your prices based on market trends, your growing expertise, and the demand for your specific style and niche.

Don't undervalue your work or engage in a race to the bottom on pricing, as this can undermine the perceived quality and professionalism of your photography.

Remember that pricing is an ongoing process that requires flexibility, experimentation, and confidence in the value you provide to buyers. As you build your reputation and portfolio, you can command higher prices and attract clients who appreciate and are willing to invest in your unique creative vision.

Q5: Should I exclusively shoot for stock photography or also offer custom photography services?

A5: The decision to exclusively shoot for stock photography or also offer custom photography services depends on your goals, skills, and market opportunities. Both approaches have their advantages and challenges, and many photographers choose to pursue a combination of the two to diversify their income streams and creative outlets.

Shooting exclusively for stock photography allows you to focus on creating a large and diverse portfolio of images that can be licensed multiple times to various buyers. This approach provides the potential for passive income and the freedom to shoot on your own schedule and creative terms. However, the stock photography market can be highly competitive, and the income can be unpredictable and dependent on factors beyond your control, such as market trends and buyer preferences.

Offering custom photography services, such as portrait sessions, event coverage, or commercial assignments, allows you to work directly with clients and create images tailored to their specific needs and vision. This approach can provide a more stable and predictable income stream, as well as opportunities to build long-term relationships with clients and expand your professional network. However, custom photography also requires more time and effort in client communication, project management, and post-production, and may involve less creative freedom compared to shooting for stock.

Ultimately, the best approach for you will depend on your personal and professional goals, as well as the opportunities available in your market. Many photographers find success in pursuing a hybrid model, where they allocate time and resources to both stock photography and custom photography services, leveraging the strengths and mitigating the challenges of each approach.

Q6: How can I ensure my photos stand out in a crowded market?

A6: To ensure your photos stand out in a crowded market, focus on developing a unique creative vision, mastering your technical skills, and staying attuned to the needs and preferences of your target audience. Here are some strategies to help your photos stand out:

Develop a distinctive style and aesthetic that reflects your personality and creative perspective, making your images instantly recognizable and memorable.

Continuously improve your technical skills, such as composition, lighting, and post-processing, to create images that are of the highest quality and professionalism.

Stay updated on the latest photography trends and technologies, but also be willing to experiment and innovate to create fresh and original content.

Focus on storytelling and emotional connection in your images, capturing authentic moments and narratives that resonate with viewers on a deeper level.

Pay attention to the details and subtleties that make your images unique, such as interesting angles, unconventional subjects, or unexpected juxtapositions.

Engage with your target audience and seek feedback on your work, using their insights to refine your approach and create images that meet their specific needs and preferences.

Collaborate with other creatives, such as models, stylists, or designers, to bring new perspectives and ideas to your photography and expand your professional network.

Remember that standing out in a crowded market is an ongoing process that requires dedication, experimentation, and a willingness to take risks and learn from both successes and failures. By staying true to your creative vision, continuously improving your skills, and adapting to the evolving needs of your audience, you can create photos that not only sell but also make a lasting impact and establish your unique voice in the industry.

Q7: How can I use social media to promote my photography and attract potential buyers?

A7: Social media is a powerful tool for promoting your photography and attracting potential buyers, as it allows you to showcase your work, engage with your audience, and build your brand. Here are some tips for using social media effectively:

Choose the platforms that are most relevant to your target audience and photography niche, such as Instagram for visual storytelling, LinkedIn for professional networking, or Twitter for news and industry updates.

Develop a consistent brand identity across your social media profiles, including your profile picture, bio, and visual aesthetic, to create a cohesive and memorable presence.

Post regularly and strategically, sharing a mix of your best work, behind-the-scenes glimpses, and educational or inspirational content that provides value to your followers.

Use relevant hashtags, geotags, and keywords to make your posts more discoverable to potential buyers and followers who are searching for specific types of photography.

Engage with your audience by responding to comments, messages, and feedback, and actively participating in relevant conversations and communities on social media.

Collaborate with other photographers, influencers, or brands to cross-promote your work, reach new audiences, and build your credibility and network in the industry.

Use social media advertising tools, such as Instagram Ads or Facebook Ads, to target specific demographics, interests, or behaviors and promote your photography to potential buyers.

Monitor your social media analytics to track your performance, identify your most popular content and engagement patterns, and refine your strategy based on data-driven insights.

Remember that building a strong and effective social media presence takes time, effort, and consistency. By staying authentic, providing value, and actively engaging with your audience, you can use social media to showcase your photography, attract potential buyers, and establish yourself as a credible and sought-after professional in your niche.

Q8: What are some common mistakes to avoid when trying to sell my photos?

A8: When trying to sell your photos, there are several common mistakes to avoid in order to increase your chances of success and maintain your professionalism and reputation in the industry. Here are some key mistakes to watch out for:

Not understanding the market demand or buyer preferences, and creating photos that are irrelevant, outdated, or oversaturated in the market.

Neglecting the technical quality and post-processing of your images, and submitting photos that are poorly composed, lit, or edited.

Failing to properly keyword, categorize, and describe your photos, making them difficult for buyers to discover or understand.

Overpricing or underpricing your photos, either alienating potential buyers or undervaluing your work and contributing to unsustainable market practices.

Not protecting your intellectual property rights, and failing to watermark, register, or track the usage of your photos to prevent unauthorized use or infringement.

Relying solely on one platform or market to sell your photos, and not diversifying your income streams or exploring alternative opportunities.

Not regularly updating and curating your portfolio, and letting your online presence become stagnant, outdated, or inconsistent with your current style and quality of work.

Ignoring the importance of networking, marketing, and customer service, and failing to build relationships with potential buyers, collaborators, or industry professionals.

By being aware of these common mistakes and taking proactive steps to avoid them, you can position yourself for success in selling your photos and building a sustainable and rewarding photography business. Remember that selling photos is a continuous learning process, and by staying open to feedback, adapting to changes in the market, and consistently putting your best work forward, you can overcome challenges and achieve your goals as a professional photographer.


When it comes to selling photos, candid shots are always more successful than posed ones. People want to see something that looks real and honest. Taking a look at the top contributors on Shutterstock reveals an interesting pattern. With a few exceptions, the majority of the most successful collaborators are selling generic images of people or events, or vector artworks.

Artists such as antishock, Rvector, Aha-Soft and Toluk are among the top 10 Shutterstock contributors and specialize in custom vector illustrations. Each artist has their own unique style, but their work can be broadly divided into two main categories. The most popular searches usually involve nature, animals, Christmas or cars. There are some exceptions such as great backgrounds, but these searches will always be in demand.

Photos of specific seasons at the right time (for example, summer photos during spring and summer) sell well, but pictures of nature and seasons in general are very popular all year round. Other popular photo categories include animals, celebrities and vector art. For vector illustrations, customers often require original vector files so they can customize it to fit their needs. If you're just starting out with vector illustrations, don't forget to check out our guide to working with vector graphics in Photoshop.

Kristopher Donofrio
Kristopher Donofrio

Hardcore bacon ninja. Social media lover. Incurable analyst. Hipster-friendly music guru. Avid internet practitioner. Beer practitioner.