Our Top 10 Best-Selling Stock Photos Part 1

In this part 1 article, we go over our top 10 best-selling stock photos on Shutterstock and Adobe Stock. We also conclude what sells in stock photography.

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What sells in stock photography? A question often asked by stock photographers. In this part 1 article, we show our top 10 best-selling stock photos on Shutterstock and Adobe Stock.

Shoot Editorial Stock Photos?

We have over 40,000 stock photos between us two. Based on our experience, about 20% of our stock photos produce over 80% of our income.

We shoot both editorial and commercial images and they equally sell well. Before, we used to think that commercial stock photos were superior to editorial. But, this is not true. So, definitely give editorial stock photos a chance to become your best sellers too.

Top 10 Best Sellers Stock Photos on Shutterstock

Let’s start with my best sellers on Shutterstock. Here are the top 10 images.

Our top 10 best selling stock photos by downloads and sales on Shutterstock answering question what sells in Stock Photography

Of course, the longer a photo has been up for sale, the more earning potential it has.

1. Simple Clean Concepts

What is interesting is that most of these images depict a simple object or concept. For instance, “help wanted” and “for rent” photos sell well across all platforms. Whenever someone writes about high rents or employment problems, they license these photos.

Orleans and Bourbon street sign in New Orleans city, Louisiana, USA

Next is this older stock photo I uploaded back in 2015. For this reason alone it is my top performer since it has been for sale for so long. As you see, it is a very simple concept of New Orleans’ famous Bourbon and Orleans streets. People often write about New Orleans and its festivals. This is when this photo comes handy.

2. Beautiful Landscape Stock Photos

Kyoto Garden at Holland Park, London UK, featuring traditional zen Japanese garden with bamboo trees and waterfall

Also, I have these two photos of a Japanese garden in London. They have been selling well too.

I also have a video of this exact scene that is also my best selling stock video.

Simple yet beautiful nature scenes of a particular culture are always in demand. Interestingly, most buyers searched for the keywords “waterfall”, “garden” and “landscape”. The keyword, Japanese, did not show up that often.

3. Editorial Stock Photos Sell

Wall Street stock exchange charging metal bull in NYC Manhattan lower financial district downtown in New York City

The next photo is of the famous bull statue in New York City. This is an editorial image.

There are tons of images like that and yet my image continues selling when news about the stock market break.

4. Differentiated Animal Stock Photos

Sad, calico cat sitting, looking through small front door window on porch, waiting on hardwood carpet floor for owners, left behind abandoned

Next is this photo of a cat looking out of the window by the door. The photo does not have the best composition. You can see that there is a mess going on in the background on the left side. And yet, it is a great concept photo of a sad cat left alone, waiting for her owner.

Many pet-focused websites write articles about health problems pets experience. This stock photo has proven to be my best seller in this category.

5. Sold Hundreds of Times to Become Best Sellers

As you can see, many of these photos got licensed many hundred times to become best-sellers. This is generally true about stock photography. There are of course a few outliers here and there.

Aspen, Colorado small town in rocky mountains with field farm covered in snow after winter in autumn and trees orange yellow foliage

For instance, I captured this winter scene in Aspen, Colorado after the first snow. Someone bought a one-time expensive license, perhaps to print wall art.

Also, interior photos sell well on Shutterstock. There are many of them in my top 20 or 30 stock photos.

Top 10 Best-Selling Stock Photos on Adobe Stock

Let’s move on to Adobe Stock, which shows my best sellers by the number of downloads.

Our top 10 best selling stock photos by downloads and sales on Adobe Stock answering question what sells in Stock Photography

Again, we see that many best-selling photos, especially commercial photos, coincide with Shutterstock.

1. Stock Photos of Interiors

Empty bedroom entrance in new modern luxury apartment home with many large windows, bright light and carpet

As you can see, photos of interiors are my best sellers on Adobe Stock. This photo of an empty room with an open door sold countless times. Same goes for the closeup of a gas stove in a modern apartment.

2. Illustrative Editorial on Adobe Stock

Best selling illustrative editorial stock photos on Adobe Stock for the article on what sells in stock photography?

Note that before 2019, Adobe Stock accepted only commercial photos. But this changed in 2019.

Now, you can upload illustrative editorial photos too. Illustrative editorial photos are distinct from standard editorial.

There are several illustrative editorial photos that became best-sellers on Adobe. For instance, food trucks and a wide angle photo of Times Square in New York sell very well.

Concluding Remarks

So what kind of conclusion can we draw from the analysis of my best-selling stock photos? First, conceptual photos of even mundane subjects sell very well. There are countless cat photos. But, there are fewer cat images showing sadness, health problems or depression.

Photos of interiors sell well too. Also, simple landscape photos, especially picturesque gardens, have their own niche. Lastly, do not discard editorial images, especially illustrative editorial on Adobe Stock. They can become your best sellers too.

Should You Copy Other Stock Photographers?

And the final question is should you copy me and go and take similar photos? Maybe, maybe not. Each photographer has his or her own style.

You will notice that we do not have many people and lifestyle photos among our best-sellers. This is because my spouse and I only take photos of each other. Perhaps, this is something we should think about and expand on. Lifestyle photos sell very well, as you may know.

Stock Photography is a Numbers Game

But, what is true is that you must upload photos in large numbers depicting a wide range of subjects. Stock photography is a numbers game and it is hard to predict which stock photo will become a best-seller.

How to sell photos online to make money.  Best sites to sell stock photos, stock photography for beginners tips and tricks

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Check out our articles series on how to succeed in stock photography and make your workflow fast and efficient.

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