What type of images sell? What do customers want?
& Other Thoughts
In a recent reply to my blog post “Dare To Be Different” (http://wp.me/p1iYnC-5y) a photographer asked the following questions:
“BRUCE, I love the shots, but when I show my “dare to be different” shots to my audience of friends, they seem to prefer the tried and true “basic” images. For example, I have this wonderful red hawk photo that I cropped to show off its head. When I showed it to a group of friends, they all wanted to see the body too. Another example: A flower with the stamen off-center (aligned with the rule of thirds), my friends wanted to see the flower smack dab in the middle of the frame. “
“I found it fascinating that photographers like images with that more artsy quality, but people who might buy the photo want to see basic crops, full subjects, and middle alignment. Anyone else experience this disconnect?”*
My longer reply for this blog post:
I would have to see your images to make a more informed personal comment. However, I think intuitively people respond to a great image, because on an emotional level it speaks to them and connects to them personally. They might not be able to explain why in a way the so-called “art critics” would, but they know when they like an image.
I believe record shots, images without strong subjects, busy images with clutter, images that show too much, images that don’t have artistry and superior composition, and just plain poorly technically executed images, in the long run will not consistently sell.
Generally, when you cropped an animal, bird, or person, you need to avoid cropping just a little so to avoid a subject that looks funny or strange without the rest of the body part. If you crop bold, then, the viewer assumes that the photographer wanted to show the subject in this way. Then, it wasn’t a mistake, or sloppy technique by the photographer.
Also, there is a glut in wildlife portraits on the market nowadays; the new marketable trend is to shoot wildlife with wide-angle lenses, and show the animal in its habitat and with a grand scenic background. Wildlife portraits need to be stunning. Wildlife images need to show note worthy behavior, a rare species or less documented one helps too. Specializing, becoming a provider of certain imagery that few have is also more marketable. Story telling is a premium, a must, essential for high level commercial success.
In regards to composition, center placed subjects can work; a round flower with the petals flowing outward like spokes of a wheel as an example. Although, generally off placed subjects, with rule of third principal, often are stronger and more dynamic. But there are no hard or fast rules regarding composition, photography isn’t an exact science; there is lots of subjectivity. What one person may like another won’t. This aspect of photography is what makes it so interesting. Everyone sees the world a little bit differently; visually it would be very tiring if this weren’t so.
Content matters. Content and its visual arrangement is style. I believe that establishing a style is important. The goal should be mastering the craft and art of photography so your vision is discernible; your images recognizable. Yet, an artist is never satisfied: always growing and learning—improving.
From the visual impact of image, the viewer can recognize the artist, the best photographers work is recognizable; Ansel Adams, David Muench, Elliot Porter come to mind—there are many, many more of course. From recognition comes success, although, I always thought that anyone who bought one of my images, no matter how big or small, took a little of me, my soul, and my heart with them along with my image.
As nature photographer, I take pictures that please me, satisfying myself. If someone else likes the image great, if they want to buy it, all the better. The point is I don’t take pictures to please an audience. If I become a better photographer, improve my skill, clearly establish my style, have a pure vision, then I’ll be successful! First and most importantly to myself, secondly, and in a humble grateful way, others will recognize the merit of my work. Maybe, this is overly idealistic, but it’s what I believe…
All the best following your passion, hopefully this message helps and inspires you.
Here is a shot I have been trying to get for years, California quail chicks lined up at the edge of my ranch pond in soft diffused lighting I like so much. Very pictorial, with the help of some post-processing, showing some implied behavior and that cute factor that always endears us humans to babies.
This image exemplifies my photographic style of getting in close, and a vision of showing nature and wildlife in an extraordinary manner–letting nature’s beauty shine, and its spirit show.
*Question Quoted from Ilene Hoffman, LinkedIn Adobe Lightroom group member, her blog is at http://ilenesmachine.net
3 thoughts on “What type of images sell? What do customers want?”
Another post reply to a LinkedIn poster:
As previously stated in this post, customers are fickle! There is no telling what they are going to buy…sometimes price trumps quality. Predicting what they’ll buy is an “iffy” proposition, even if persuasive modern marketing techniques are applied. However, I wouldn’t recommend selling street photography to a nature and wildlife customers, so within reason you need to match and sell to the right audience.
That’s why I believe you need to satisfy yourself first, follow your passion, and heart. Take images that please you; satisfy your vision. Eventually, quality will show, and sales will come. More than that, if you have passion, and even love, as I do for nature and wildlife photography, you’ll inspire others, and make the connections that will lead to success.
I think that the Mono Lake image with the single Tufa tower you are referring to is the one taken at sunset in 1994. Funny thing, this Tufa is about 50 yards into the lake now, and you can’t even see the base anymore, only the top half is showing now. The lake was at a very low level back in 1994, and it’s come up a lot since then. The lake has changed, and is always different. That’s what so great about nature, every moment is unique!
Keep up the effort, strive to be your best, and always follow your dreams. Sooner or later those fickle customers will start buying.
Bruce, well said. May I add that what sells depends on the buyer? In my experience, the most sellable images are ones that trigger a strong or instant emotional response in a large number of viewers.
Thanks Valerie, I agree. This is what I added on another LinkedIn group posting:
What I would add is that photography is an evocative art, like most or all art. Feelings and emotions of the viewer, how the image tugs at the purse strings of the heart; impact, power, and beauty, make an image a winner and ultimately saleable. It’s subjective, but a great image that draws one back and back to view it, haunting in its sense and feel, that’s what sells.
If a customer love tigers, and that what they are looking for, they are not going to buy a landscape. If they see several tiger images, I bet a dollar they will buy the one that evokes the most feeling and is the better image. It is hard to overcome a customer’s preconception, but good work, strong subjects, images that have mood, melody, rhythm, tell a story, and a shrike a deep accord within the human consciousness, reach and touch the customer’s feelings, will ultimately want them to have that image on their wall–where again and again their hearts can be stirred with each longing gaze.