Commercial photography is everywhere in our lives. Every time you drive down the highway with its rows of billboards, leaf through the glossy pages of a magazine, or visit a website with banner advertisments, you’re seeing commercial stock photography.
Years ago, when I first began to think about making money with stock photography, I realized that I could take the kind of images a company might buy and use to promote themselves.
After all, there were so many things I could photograph in and around my hometown that architects, restaurants, contractors, gardening centers, and the like might find suitable for their businesses.
And I loved discovering that I didn’t have to travel far to get started—that could come later.
As I became more experienced with commercial stock photography, I learned of one very important concept that helps photos sell: copy space.
Copy space is an area of an image that is less busy—meaning an advertiser can add text without obscuring critical parts of the photograph. And choosing a stock photo becomes more manageable when the photographer has copy space in mind from the get-go.
Natural backgrounds can be excellent for images with copy space. Think sea, sky, grass, or sand. The vastness of sky overhead is a particular muse for me. I often think about religion, hope, and new beginnings when looking at images of the sky. I can easily picture a buyer using the below image for advertiements related to spirituality, mental health, or fresh starts—to name a few.
Patterned backgrounds can be another great source of inspiration. Brick or stone walls can offer symmetry as well as repeating patterns of vertical or horizontal lines to make stock photos interesting, while being plain enough to allow for copy space.
Whenever I’m out walking around the neighborhood, I look for backgrounds like this one. Brickwork not only shows the craftsmanship of a builder, but it can also drum up business for repair contractors. An image like this one can signify breaking down barriers, showing others that you can be vulnerable. So, more than one type of industry could find it useful in promoting what they offer their customers. Vertical (or “portrait”) images like this can also be useful in the print industry for magazine covers and the like.
Another approach is to think of conceptual themes. Many of the natural subjects I mentioned earlier can also be useful here. Conceptually interesting subjects include sunrise, sunset, mountain summits, and of course classic blue skies with puffy clouds.
When I took this image, I was thinking of all the people who could use it. Because it’s conceptual, it could mean many things to many people. I often feel hopeful watching the sunrise; there’s this promise of a new day peeking up over the horizon. Runners might study the man making his way down the beach with the sun right beside him, thinking of their own athlete’s journey. Resorts could also use this image to lure vacationers to their pristine beaches.
When commercial photographers press that shutter button, we think of the big picture and how our photographs might fit into that context. Will it be used in a digital or print ad? Will it land us the cover of a magazine, where titles and subtitles can be off to the side of our vertical image? What about a book, record, or CD cover?
It’s essential to offer a wide range of photo compositions, too. Take the same theme from different angles, making sure there’s plenty of room for advertisers to use.
Some buyers who need great photos with plenty of copy space include:
- Travel agents
- Pharmaceutical companies
- Health & wellness firms
- Motivational speakers
These are only a few of the places that need our commercial images. I’m sure, with a little thought, you can come up with many others.
Here’s the thing: there’s a need for exceptional images taken with buyers in mind. Stock photography sites clamor for photographs that will fill the demand. Why not be one of the artists they look to?
When it’s safe to wander outside again, I hope that you will attempt to take some of the same. Who knows, maybe you already have some sitting on your hard drive. Have fun with your camera, think like a commercial photographer, and you just might make some money as well!