How to make your photo and video content stand out amongst the competition

The micro-stock photography and video market may be competitive, but with focus and the right strategy, you can take your submissions to the next level.

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I previously discussed getting started in stock photography and all it entails. Now, more than a year later, I want to take a look at the micro-stock photography (and video) market. The highly saturated market (no pun intended) is filled with various assets ripe for licensing, but as a content creator, you must figure out a way to make your assets stand out from the competition.

Here are a few tips to consider as you pursue monetizing your work within in the stock photography and video world.

What to shoot?

You've uploaded a bunch of your favorite photos to the stock services, but they're not selling. What are you uploading? Sunsets? Sunrises? Cup of coffee? All of these examples could be used a stock image, but everyone uploads these types of shots. The key is finding a way to creatively shoot the above-mentioned shots or just don't bother.

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Think along the lines of marketing and the potential message your shots can tell. My photo of coffee in a mug (Figure A) is not one of my favorite captures, but it has been downloaded quite regularly. As I examined the composition, I decided on placing the coffee off center in the frame and shot a little more from above. By doing so, I'm able to leave space in the image for the licensee to add marketing text or other graphics to the right of the frame as they tell their story.

The colors aren't overly saturated, which also allows the licensee to further punch up the color vibrancy or saturation at their discretion. As I said, it's not my favorite image, but as I sat and had my breakfast at a local Colombian restaurant, I noticed the simplicity of the item at hand, the table texture, and decided to snap a few photos.

Figure A

Image: Ant Pruitt

You can shoot beautiful sunrise and sunsets, but be mindful that everyone shoots these. Come up with a way to stand out. Enhance the image with a few Photoshop effects such as light rays. In some instances, changing the color scheme of your sunset or sunrise could be beneficial. There's a market for individuals looking to license fantasy scenes for their creative projects or marketing. Be creative with your upload.

Real people, real life

While at Adobe Max this year, I sat in on a discussion with Mat Hayward as he discussed creating sellable content for stock licensing. His point of the discussion? Shoot real people in real life scenarios. With regards to the top sales on Adobe Stock, the assets licensed the most are those of real people in real life situations. Why? Because the story of the image truly stands out. Shooting a scene with a chef standing in a kitchen is bland on the story side. Shooting an image with a chef salting some prime meat becomes more of a story. There's action. There's "real life" showing.

Hayward shared a tip during his Adobe Max discussion. He mentioned that during a dinner party-themed photo shoot, he had models go through the motions of prepping food--chopping produce, organizing place settings, and pouring drinks, for example. But while this activity happened, he allowed the models to be themselves. They conversed with one another during the setup, discussing their favorite foods and so forth. During these times, Hayward actively grabbed photos of the models. It was a scene that simulated real life, but the simulation didn't feel forced for the models. The energy came through in the final photos.

Don't discount shooting animals. Hayward's shot, for example, is pretty popular, beautiful, and photogenic. Take advantage of snapping photos of your pets, if you can. Candid pet photos are great as long as you have a story behind them. If it's a snapshot you're working with, try to make sure your editing includes an interesting color scheme to attract viewers.

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Shoot video, too

Stock photography agencies tend to accept graphic and video submissions, as well. Ideally, video footage needs to run at least ten seconds long and just like photo submissions, should not contain intellectual property or logos. Think of your day-to-day mode of operation and how to record these moments of your day. Or, hire a few friends or models to help re-enact the scene. Again, the act of preparing food or cooking is popular. Scenes with your pets being pets are cute and fun to use, as well.

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I shoot a lot of street and landscape photography, so my natural instinct is to record scenes in nature. When shooting your scene consider the different angles you shoot to present your story. You'll be surprised at how each angle will give a different perspective or emotion to the viewer and potentially lead to more licensing. And of course, when using friends or models to recreate the scene, be sure to have a signed model release prior to submitting your footage.

Just go shoot

Now it's up to you to get your work created and published. The micro-stock photography market is super competitive. There's real money that can be made as supplemental income or full-time work, but it will require a serious effort on your behalf as the content creator. When you have a moment to shoot, just shoot. You'll be surprised at how everyday life will present great opportunities to tell a story and how you'll be able to convert these shots into a new revenue stream.

Are you shooting stock photography or video? Tag me on Twitter or Instagram with some of your favorite submissions. I look forward to seeing your work.

Image: Ant Pruitt

See also

Image: alexandr_1958, Getty Images/iStockphoto