Popular on iStock

I am a regular contributor to the Getty Images iStock collection. This image is the one that has sold the most with 24 sales. This may not seem like a whole lot, but when you are in a pool of over 30 million images, this one got over 60 views resulting in the 24 sales, which to me is significant. So what makes a shot popular on iStock? Here’s what I’m looking for when I shoot for iStock.

First: Research, planning, and patience. I was planning a trip to Southern California for an airshow and some rail photography, and thought additional research might provide more photo opportunities. 

The Boeing 737 MAX had recently been grounded and was trending on Google. Many images showed a bunch of Southwest Airlines 737 MAX planes on the ground at an airport in Victorville, in California’s Mojave Desert. Makes sense, the desert is a popular place for aircraft storage because the dry conditions are less harmful to idle planes. Since Victorville was not too far from where I was going to shoot trains, I decided to place Victorville on my list of locations to explore.

Sure enough, when I arrived at the Victorville Airport, most if not all of Southwest’s grounded 737 MAX fleet was there. In my research, I realized that although there were dozens of images of these very planes, most were taken from above, either from the control tower or the air. There were a few others that were taken through chain link fences.  Ah, not my style. This is where I’ll segue to the next consideration.

Second: Consider iStock’s audience.You would not post your fine art portfolio on iStock. For the type of photo I’m discussing, you will want to think like an art director, blogger, or editor who needs an interesting or unique photo to help their article stand out. My best opportunity with these very newsworthy jets was to find a unique way to shoot them. If there’s one thing I am pretty good at it’s airport recon. So, after quite some time exploring nooks, crannies, going behind buildings, and pushing the limits of not arousing suspicion I came across the perfect location. It provided a shot over the perimeter fence and an angle I had not previously seen in my research. Best of all, it depicted a lot of planes parked in random fashion which added to the drama of a grounded fleet of airliners. I had my unique photo! Once again, research, planning and patience had paid off.

If you are an average photographer you’re not going to get rich shooting stock photos. However, it is a good way to possibly justify travel expenses, provide an outlet to showcase a different side of your work, and take you to some unique places to see unusual subjects. Another takeaway from my visit to Victorville is, “Have faith.” You may be looking at a subject that has been photographed a million times. But don’t give up. The next shot may be the best ever taken, and it may be yours. 


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