Stock Photography: The oddest things sell

I never for one minute considered the possibility that a missed delivery note left by my postman one day could sell for $145. However that is exactly what happened and has led me to gain an interesting insight into what sells best through stock agencies such as Alamy.

A missed delivery slip left by my postman sells for $145

I have thousands of images with Alamy and this collection grows year on year. Slowly the income I draw from this gets gradually better. Let me warn you though that this isn’t my main income and may never be but recently, I am starting to re-consider this rather negative attitude.

If I can sell mundane images of things such as Delivery notes, HTML on computer screens, boring signs in Slough and Croydon for fairly decent sums of money, what if I were to go all out and shoot lots of old crap? Would I be raking it in? Would I be laughing all the way to the bank?

I have two kinds of image in my burgeoning library, really nice ones (that you may so choose to hang on your wall) and mundane ones that are purely illustrative, such as road signs. The lovely travel shots that I particularly enjoy seeking out and shooting are set to sell as “Rights Managed” and the latter as “Royalty Free”. I have no idea if this is the right thing to do but after discussion with many a fellow photographer over the years, appears to be the “best way of going about it”. We all know what the differences are between RM and RF sales models but seldom understand them, to the point where we harness their potential fully to increase sales. It is all about balance and taking a chance, “You’ll never know until you have tried”.

2010 is going to be about experimenting with this concept, shooting a good mix of RM travel shots as I hope to do some of that this year versus any old stuff such as the pedestrian crossing sign below that I took in Italy purely because I want to see if I can make something out of road signs!!! Yes you may think I am barking mad and indeed in many ways I am. However I hope some of you are in agreement with me. I will be charting the progress of this idea through the blog in coming months.

Hmm a road sign, very exciting (not!) I know but it may sell for stock usage proving that you really can make money for old rope!

On a final note, I think that the image market is changing to the point that Royalty Free and microstock sales models are gathering momentum. Many photographers are naturally concerned that this will ultimately be the death of Rights Managed sales and diminished earnings as a result. I am not so sure as I feel it will create a bigger gap between the markets and their purpose will be far more defined which will in turn actually do Rights Managed a favour? Only time will tell but I am willing to try selling images through both methods because I have a gut feeling, I will sell more in the long run. You can never work against the market, as if you do, you only end up losing out. Buyers dictate to the world in which we live nowadays and we have to adjust to meet those demands. This is most certainly the case of the Photography business and many others besides, consequently it all boils down to being competitive.

5 thoughts on “Stock Photography: The oddest things sell

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    1. Hi David – I can recall you saying something a little while back about editorial photography versus the more fine-art style of shot. I really do feel that many people overlook the opportunities to make more sales in favour of what appeals to them rather than the marketplace. We all fall into this trap, I sure do!


  1. Hi Nick

    As a fellow Alamy photographer I’ve noticed similar things. I suppose that somewhere there’s a market for anything if the technnical standard is high enough and of course Alamy edits only technical quality while ignoring subject matter. I also contribute to more conventional agencies such as Footprint where there is an editing process. This is also problematical as I have little idea what is acceptable or not. The fact is that there are are lots of good photographers who can take beatiful shots but many of the most mundane subjects are in short supply. My attitude is a bit like this: I love photography and want to always be a better, a greater photographer but I realise that lots of people buying stock may have little interest in great photography and just concentrate on the subject matter. Stock is hard these days – so all the best



    1. Thanks John. I also supply images to UPPA (part of and used to shoot for Filmmagic who became part of Getty – Hence I used to shoot for them, as Getty really are too big for their own good….. now that may fire off some interesting discussion!!


  2. Hi Nick,

    Good post. I agree it is interesting and often surprising what sells on Alamy. I’m sure most stock photographers are often bewildered that what they consider their best shots never sell while mundane images do well. If you can imagine a possible use for an image then it stands a chance of making a sale!



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