How to Succeed in the Stock Photo Industry: 15 Simple & Effective Tips

Top photographers at Noun Project share their best advice on success in the stock photo industry

Photo by Denis Kuvaiev

From finding inspiration for shoots to practical business advice, check out these gems on how to start and succeed in stock from Denis Kuvaiev, Simone Hutsch, Avel Shah and Mudassir Ali.

Denis Kuvaiev

“Make your work enjoyable! If you choose a topic that you know well, you’ll work hard and this will bring you a lot of joy!”

Photo by Denis Kuvaiev

What’s the best piece of advice someone’s ever given you in regards to photography?

The best piece of advice that I’ve received in regards to photography was from one very experienced photographer: make 10,000 photos and the next one will be a masterpiece. And this is really the truth — when you work hard and create lots of photos, you will eventually have some real masterpieces!

Photo by Denis Kuvaiev

What top 3 business tips would you give to someone who is interested in working in stock?

  1. Work hard and don’t wait for the money to come in quickly from stock. The money will come when you have a lot of photos and also when you understand your content and photographic voice.
  2. Choose a topic that is close to you. If you are interested in sports, for example, focus on sports photography.
  3. Make your work enjoyable! If you choose a topic that you know well, you’ll work hard and this will bring you a lot of joy! Most people who earn money from their work is because they have a lot of fun at their job. Enjoy your work and everything will come!

Photo (L) by Denis Kuvaiev // Photo (R) by Denis Kuvaiev

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in photography?

In addition to my previous answers, I want to add one more important thing for people who are just starting out: you need to completely immerse yourself in the work of photography. A photographer, at every glance, already sees a frame of a photograph and is always on the lookout for a good subject. Always keep your camera with you and look for your masterpiece — and it will come sooner or later!

Denis Kuvaiev, currently based in Salamanca, Spain started his professional photography work in 2011 in Vancouver, Canada. Denis’ work features beautiful, cheerful photos of his daughter Maria who is a global ambassador for Down syndrome. Read more about Denis, Maria and inclusive photography here. View Denis’s work on Noun Project.


Avel Shah

“Don’t worry so much about having the latest gear. Work with what you have and upgrade when you can.”

Photo by Avel Shah

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in photography?

  1. Don’t worry so much about having the latest gear. Work with what you have and upgrade when you can.
  2. To improve your skills and signature, try shooting different styles, in varied lighting (at night, harsh sun, golden hour, flash, studio, etc.) and at different angles.
  3. Shoot as much as possible.
Photo by Avel Shah

What top 3 business tips would you give to someone who is interested in working in stock?

  1. Produce modern, diverse photography not traditional “stocky” images.
  2. Be prepared to wait for a return on your stock images. Generally, they won’t sell overnight so you need to be patient.
  3. Research trending topics, colours and themes that content buyers are looking for.

Photo (L) by Avel Shah // Photo (R) by Avel Shah

Photo by Avel Shah

What editing and/or workflow tips can you share?

Get into the habit of organizing your images and have a system that makes it easy to find images from a specific time. Using Capture One’s powerful editing software I’m easily able to edit and organize my work by month or project.

Avel Shah is a London based photographer and aspiring creative director with a passion for visual storytelling and capturing authentic moments. Read more about Avel and his process here. View Avel’s work on Noun Project.


Simone Hutsch

heysupersimi

“Make a plan of what to do and when. Having a structure I can follow makes me less stressed about timing and deadlines.”

Photo by Simone Hutsch

How do you decide on what content you’d like to shoot?

I often ride through the city on my bicycle and keep my eyes open, which keeps my creativity flowing. I come across lots of types of buildings and I try to imagine in what style I could edit them in photos. I ask myself: what have I not done yet? What could I do differently next time? Once I get stuck on an idea, I can’t stop thinking about it and I just have to do it.

In almost every case, I first decide on editing styles and potential buildings. It’s good to have a plan.

Photo (L) by Simone Hutsch // Photo (R) by Simone Hutsch

What editing and/or workflow tips can you share?

I guess this is very stereotypically German, but I like to be organized. I like to make a plan of what to do and when to do it. Having a structure makes me less stressed about timing and deadlines.

I always work consistently on my projects. I break big projects up into small chunks, taking a little step every day. This allows me to take a little pressure off of the scope. This also gives me the opportunity to look at my work the next day with fresh eyes. If I still like it the next morning, it’s good. This process also makes it easier to see what I can improve on.

Photo by Simone Hutsch

Lastly, I try to work when I’m most productive, which for me is in the very early mornings or late at night before bed. Find out how, when, and where you’re most productive and use that time to your advantage.

Photo (L) by Simone Hutsch // Photo (R) by Simone Hutsch

How do you practice and improve your skills as a photographer?

This goes back to the first question. I am constantly thinking about what I can do differently and improve. What would be a challenge? What am I scared of trying? I want to put myself in a position where I feel slightly uncomfortable, where my skills can manage 90% of the project and the remaining 10% would require learning something new.

Volume of work is also a factor in improving my skills. I’d rather go out there and produce something every day, every week, or every month. Set a goal on this but don’t think too much about if this is the best you can do. That mindset would hold me back from even starting. Thinking of producing something good and that I like keeps me motivated and fearless.

The whole process is about employing ‘trial and error’ as many times as possible. Each shoot will teach you something new, even if it’s a small lesson.

Simone Hutsch is a passionate graphic designer and self-taught architecture photographer from Berlin, Germany, currently living in London, UK. Read more about Simone and her process here. Discover Simone’s work on Noun Project.


Mudassir Ali

“Don’t chase the gear, chase the light.”

Photo (L) by Mudassir Ali // Photo (R) by Mudassir Ali

What’s the best piece of advice someone’s ever given you in regards to photography?

Don’t chase the gear, chase the light. With good lighting you can overcome all the shortcomings of any gear.

How do you decide on what to shoot?

I’ve been quite obsessed with aerial photography which means my options are already limited. I prioritise drone-friendly locations which happen to be the ocean where I live. If I am going to a new location, I try to find inspiration via Instagram to decide where to go.

What business tips would you give to someone who is interested in working in stock?

Post a variety of content and see what sells. This helps give you direction for later shoots.

What editing and/or workflow tips can you share?

Never delete your original RAW photos even if you don’t like them. You never know what editing trick you’ll later learn that could suddenly improve the photos you hadn’t chosen previously.

How do you practice and improve your skills as a photographer?

Be your best critic and have super high standards, even if your work is not up to the mark. I draw inspiration from movie shots actually. They’re well composed and well color graded.

Photo (L) by Mudassir Ali // Photo (R) by Mudassir Ali

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in photography?

Don’t get overwhelmed by seeing other photographers’ work. Most people are into this for so many years and some even for decades. Just take it one day at a time, try different things and don’t get too niche too soon. Let that happen organically.

Mudassir is an aerial landscape photographer by the weekend and a Web Frontend Engineer by the week at Canva. He is often found on the eastern beaches of Sydney, Australia. Check out Mudassir’s images on Noun Project and follow him on Instagram for more.


Interested in joining our community of photographers and contributing to Noun Project? Submit your photos and explore our guide to creating authentic, inclusive images.

Click here to download FREE photo shoot production document templates.

Plan your photo shoots out for the year with our free monthly photo shoot guide.

For more photography tips, check out our blog.

Sign up for our photo newsletter to make sure you never miss out on our photography content.

Suzanne Strong
Suzanne Strong

VP of Content & Creators at Noun Project and Photographer

Related Articles