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Last year, my wife had the opportunity to join me at a stock photo workshop in Phoenix, Arizona. The workshop was a blast, but after four days in the city we were both eager to witness the beautiful natural scenery in the region. Our busy schedules left only two days for exploration and we made two simple goals: get some hiking in and come home with a handful of saleable stock images to offset our travel costs. To maximize my efficiency, I always try to research areas before I arrive. For me, this involves scouring the internet to get a sense of the landscape and shortlist possible locations that would provide captivating scenes for stock photos. I also look into how other stock photographers have already shot these areas. My goal is never to mimic them, in fact, it’s to make sure I come back with images that are as fresh and unique as possible. Since I wanted to hike, I went onto and typed in the search terms “Grand Canyon,” and “hiking.” I figured there would be thousands of top-notch hiking photos of the iconic park, but was shocked to see there were fewer than 80 model-released images. Furthermore, only a fraction of them actually showed the canyon itself — many were merely of hikers in the general region. This greatly surprised me given the park is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world and that hiking is a common activity for those who visit. You don’t need a Ph.D. in stock photography to know that this combination makes for a highly saleable concept! We didn’t have time to get to some prime spots or wait for the perfect light to come. However, we made the best of the situation and found ways to capture some simple images that conveyed the sense of hiking in the Grand Canyon, such as this one: Over a day and a half, we moved around to multiple locations along the Colorado River and found even more opportunities for stock photography, as well as time to merely sit and enjoy our surroundings. A year and two months later, my royalties from those two days have nearly doubled my wife’s airfare and all of the expenses (car, hotel, food) of our Arizona touring. This trip was a valuable lesson for me. Even in the age of stock photo agencies with millions of images, we shouldn’t assume that it’s all been done. Some subjects certainly are saturated with images, but there are countless niche themes and concepts that are still wide open with little competition.

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