kayaking stock photo taken with a cell phone

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For the next couple of weeks we’re answering some of the most frequently asked questions about stock photography.

If you missed last week’s question, about submitting the same photo to multiple stock sites, you can catch the answer here.

Next up is a question I get a LOT…

Question #2: “Can I use my phone or tablet to take photos for stock?”

Answer: It depends on a couple of things…

#1: Quality. If you have an older phone, the images might not be a high enough resolution to sell as stock. (Check the requirements for your particular agency.)

The cameras in mobile devices continue to get better and better, so if you have a newer phone/tablet from the past year or two, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

#2: Subject. For the most part, agencies only want mobile phone or tablet photos that LOOK and FEEL like social media photos. Images that are fun, exciting, colorful, and capture life as it happens.

What they’re not looking for is pretty landscape photos that happen to be taken with your phone. Those are better left to your bigger camera.

Right now, photo buyers are specifically looking for images that seem like they could be from someone’s social media feed – that is, photos that someone would post to Facebook or Instagram.

If you want to try using a mobile device to take photos for stock, here are the types of photos that will likely sell the best:

Authentic. Photos with an “in the moment” feeling. Avoid photos that look staged or contrived.

Examples of mobile stock photos

Imperfect. Don’t worry if things aren’t perfect. Lens flare, tilted horizons, and harsh light are not necessarily deal breakers the way they used to be. It’s more about the energy or emotion the photo communicates. The viewer should feel something when they see your image, and sometimes imperfections add to the impact of the image.

Stock photos taken with a phone

Immersive point of view. Shots where the viewer has the sense they are in the midst of the action or participating in the activity are great sellers.

Stock photos taken with a phone 

Filters and processing. It’s usually recommended to use a light hand when processing images for stock. However, with mobile photography, you can push things further. Don’t be afraid to get creative with that “Instagram Filter” look if it supports the mood of your shot.

Here’s what Fotolia (now AdobeStock) says about mobile phone photos:

“Fotolia’s Instant Collection is an image library dedicated to creativity and spontaneity. Find one of a kind mobile pictures for those unique moments that run the whole spectrum of emotions. Real life pictures, capturing life as it unfolds.”

Mobile photography really does free you up to play and experiment with the camera that’s most likely always with you. So get out there and have some fun taking a different type of stock photo with your phone… but when it comes to traditional landscape photography, get out the big camera.

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