6 Easy Tips to Take Your Stock Photos from Good to Great

Follow these six simple do's and don'ts from Noun Project photo curators to create stock photos that sell.

Whether you’re a photographer who is new to creating stock photography or a seasoned professional, follow these 6 easy tips to set you up for success in getting your photos accepted to stock photography sites.

1.Highlight your subject

Make sure the subject of your photo is clearly visible and easily recognizable. The subject should stand out from the background and have no distracting elements in the photo. Images with clean backgrounds are very sought after by customers of stock photography.

DO: Clearly show your subject

DO: Make sure your subject stands out from the background

DON’T: include distracting elements in the photo

DON’T: place your subject where they aren’t clearly visible

2. Consider the composition

Make sure that all lines are straight in your photos. Proper orientation of lines such as door frames, edges of furniture, art work, etc. can make or break a good stock photo.

In nature and landscape images, it’s very important that the horizon is not crooked. This is a very simple and easy fix to bring your stock photos from good to great.

DO: ensure that all lines in your photos are straight

DO: make sure that your horizons are straight

DON’T: have crooked lines

DON’T: have crooked horizons

3. Utilize the rule of thirds

The rule of thirds means placing the most important part of your photo in the left, right, top or bottom 1/3 of an image and leaving the other 2/3 of the composition more open. This creates interest and balance and often leaves room for copy space, which is highly sought after for customers who purchase stock photos.

DO: place your subject in 1/3 of the image

DO: Don’t place your subject in the middle of the photo

DON’T: align the horizon with either the upper or lower third of the grid

DON’T: place the horizon in the middle of the photo

4. Use natural color in editing

Photos should be properly exposed, color corrected, and without extreme filters and edits. This is especially important with stock photos as customers prefer natural looking tones.

DO: place your subject in 1/3 of the image

DO: properly expose your subject

DON’T: use extreme color editing

DON’T: over or underexpose your photos

5. Ensure styling is clean

Images of objects or food without people should be appealing and not messy or cluttered. Many users of stock photography need space for text or copy. Clean styling is one of the most important traits in stock photos, especially for social media posts.

DO: photograph food that looks appealing

DO: photograph flat lays with a clean setting

DON’T: photograph food that looks messy

DON’T: photograph flat lays with too many elements

6. Be on the lookout for branding

Make sure images do not have visible references to brands through text, logos or products as these are generally proprietary. Remove logos with photo editing software for optimal stock success.

DO: shoot images that don’t have branding or logos

DO: remove any logos that would be visible in the image

DON’T: shoot items or objects with visible brands

DON’T: show logos or proprietary products


“Do” photos, top to bottom by Anna Fotyma, Flamingo Images, Suzanne Strong, Johnathan Conlon, Paulo Sousa, Carol M. Highsmith, Suzanne Strong, Jacob Lund Photography, Yes Photographers, Tide & Tree, Stefy Gutovska & Flamingo Images


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Suzanne Strong
Suzanne Strong

Creative Director for Photos at Noun Project and Photographer

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