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The trick to making money with your photography is knowing what sells and where to sell it. With stock photography, you don’t have to worry about the where. Stock agencies take care of that part for you. But it definitely helps to know about photos that sell.

When we look back over the past few years, we see that a lot of what sells is the same from year to year. Popular colors and clothing trends might change, but in general, photo buyers need the same core themes they’ve always needed. This is great for you as a photographer, because while there are lots of photos out there that fit those themes, buyers don’t want to use the same photos over and over. They constantly need fresh, NEW photos. Here are five of the most saleable themes we saw this year:

Seasonal – “Christmas” is the second most searched-for word — ever — by buyers on stock site But that’s not the only holiday or seasonal theme that sells. Easter, Valentine’s Day, New Year’s, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Halloween… all big commercial holidays are good stock photography themes. And more generic season-specific photos sell well, too. Think snow on trees, falling leaves, summer at a cabin by a lake, or spring flowers in bloom.

This simple Christmas-themed photo has made more than 6,000 sales on a stock site.

Business – How many websites have you seen with a photo of a “customer service” person wearing a microphone headset, smiling like it’s the best job in the world? Those are likely stock photos with models. Companies need business-themed photos for their websites and marketing material. You don’t need a studio and a model to take business-themed photos. Instead, try taking photos of your neighbor, daughter, or friend in his or her suit (women and ethnicities are a plus), or people shaking hands, signing papers, working in a conference room, etc.

With business-themed photos, go for clean/light/bright backgrounds. This one has sold over 9,600 times!

Real People – Stock photographers know that people photos sell. Thus, stock sites are filled with photos of beautiful models pretending to be working, shopping, or laughing with their fake boyfriends. Yet buyers are crying out for more authentic, “real” people in the photos they buy. Try to capture real people doing real activities, from cooking to dining to working to laughing… just make sure you put them in generic, logo-free clothing first.

Concepts – How do you say “communication” without showing a person talking? How do you say “success” without showing one person handing money to another? Conceptual images convey an idea in a simple, easily-recognizable way, using metaphor or symbols. Designers and photo buyers love them.

Here’s one for “communication” or “technology.” You can create concept shots with objects, like the photo above, and shoot them on a tabletop set-up in your home. Or, you can portray themes and ideas outdoors with people, too, like this one below, which could mean “vision,” “foresight,” “imagination,” and so on:

Food and Beverage – Hotels, travel publications, restaurants, cruise ships, city guides, cookbooks, grocery stores… food and beverage photos are big. Think about and look for current food trends, like eating locally, organic foods, the Paleo diet, gluten-free… even cupcakes are trendy right now.

This cute little cupcake has sold over 300 times. One of my favorite things about shooting and selling stock photos is the great variety in saleable subject matter. You can take a saleable theme and run with it… make it yours. And the more you do it… the better you get… and the more you sell.

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