If you're an aspiring Instagram or social media influencer, it can be hard to break through all of the noise. There are hundreds of thousands of other people trying to make their mark in the influencer realm, and some of them might even be in your niche. One way to get success (while also fostering valuable working relationships with brands) is to also sell your photos commercially.
As it turns out, you can sell your photos to companies and organizations around the globe fairly easily. Many of the companies in this market might even be ones you'd hope to work with one day.
You're probably setting up diverse photo shoots and meeting with friends to create content for sites like Instagram, but only using one or two images per shoot. If you're working hard on creating your visual content, so why not take the next step?
There are some guidelines to keep in mind to ensure a quick entrance into the world of commercial photography. Here's how you can leverage your creativity and publish the content you've put your heart and soul into. Let's go!
Take a human-first approach
Scopio submission by @alyshiaturchyn
The majority of brands want to put an authentic face on their communication, which means photos of people — or ones that include a human element like hands in the frame — will sell much, much faster than a landscape or still-life. If you're an influencer, you probably already know this, too. Photos of people are more relatable when it comes to business (unless you're hawking, say, professional cameras). And anything lifestyle always calls for images featuring people in the frame.
For maximum reach, try to include some sort of human component in each of your captures. Or if you're more used to shooting without people in your frame try out a photo shoot with people as your next project. You might just surprise yourself.
Don't skimp on quality
Scopio submission by @happynomadsouls. View it in our library.
Brands do a lot with the photos they purchase, like scaling them up for posters, fitting them into preexisting campaigns or applying filters and changes that fit their aesthetic. Your photos are their canvas. And the bigger the photo, the more they can do with it creatively. This means that your photos should be at least 4 megapixels for maximum sales. 10 megapixels and above is always best, though.
Luckily, many of the smartphone cameras influencers use are advanced enough to take photos at this size. DSLRs are also a no-brainer when it comes to photo quality, as they can capture super high-resolution photos.
Here are a few common cameras or camera brands that consistently produce high-quality photos:
- GoPro models, including the HERO
- iPhone 6 or newer
- Sony Alpha models
- Samsung Galaxy Note 8
- Fujifilm X‑T10 models
If you don't have a camera capable of taking high-quality images but would like to grow as an influencer, we'd highly recommend saving up for one! It's an investment that could open many, many doors.
Keep edits to a minimum
Scopio submission by @tenillejanae
This is tricky territory. We know how much you might love apps like Facetune, but brands do prefer to purchase more natural images off of you before editing to their standards. Show that beautiful skin off!
Filters and heavy editing might make your IG feed cohesive — but brands and organizations have their own color schemes and design elements they like to use. Including those elements on your photos might stifle your creative opportunities.
When you're submitting photos commercially, try to upload the unfiltered and mostly unedited version of your photos. A few hacks are fine in terms of simple lighting and contrast, though (as long as they make the photo better objectively, rather than subjectively).
Make sure you have model releases
Scopio submission by @ahmedelsadre
Selling photos commercially requires a model release, or an agreement signed by each person in the photos. This includes you if you're also in the photos (and if you're an influencer, chances are good that you are).
A model release is a consent form allowing you, the photo creator, to sell photos of individuals. You will need to send a separate model release document to each person in your photos. As a rule of thumb, it's best to send one model release document over per shoot. Check the guidelines of who you are submitting to just to be sure, though.
Remove brand names, logos and watermarks
Scopio submission by @alvarokrodriguez. View it in our library.
Logos and advertisements really are everywhere, and a seasoned commercial photographer knows this. That's because when you're selling photos commercially for brands to use, you'll need to remove all copyrighted logos and brand names. This also goes for watermarks, or the opaque marks many photographers put on photos to protect them from being stolen.
If you kept the logos on, you couldn't sell them commercially. People sell photos commercially because it often yields a drastically higher payout than a non-commercial photo sale would.
If you're a fashion or lifestyle influencer, you're probably groaning right now. Logos are probably the focus of your images, right?
Luckily enough, there are more than a few simple and fast ways to remove pesky logos and brand names from your photos.
Here's a list of apps you can use:
- Snapseed (iOS)
- Aviary (Android)
- TouchRetouch (Android)
You can read about how to use them on this handy blog post. If removing brand names or logos with editing tools isn't an option for you, try to schedule photoshoots without visible logos in the future so that you can submit them. It might be fun to do something a bit more minimal!
Tip: Even some buildings are exempt from commercial photography. You can find an exhaustive list of those here. The more you know, right?
Own the "look"
Scopio submission by @kelseysjetlag
More and more companies today favor photos that go beyond the cheesy stock photo aesthetic. If you're not sure what we mean, think forced smiles, sterile outfits and lighting, and situations where something seems... off. To put it bluntly, cheesy stock images put viewers off because of their lack of authenticity.
Aim for candids and more natural photos instead to make more sales. Bonus points if your photos have really interesting subject matter.
Brands also tend to prefer photos with a lot of negative space, or the "blank" area around the subjects or objects in your photographs. This is because they can place logos, text and other design elements in this space without creating distractions.
Every brand is different, though. And although famous makeup brands might be looking for hues of millennial pink or yellow in their commercial photos, a famous design group could be looking for something incredibly minimal.
Either way, make sure your photos are laid out beautifully and that you put attention into the framing and composition. Ask yourself this: How does your subject interact with the background? Are the other elements in the image detracting from my subject or what I'm trying to convey?
If you're looking to sell to a specific brand, take a look at their owned media. What kind of photos do they use on their website and social feeds? Try to emulate their aesthetic while also giving your images a personal twist.
Know your payment methods
Scopio submission by @_aliceng
So, you've submitted your photos. They were chosen and sold. Now comes the good stuff: You get published and paid!
But wait — are you set up to be paid yet? Rather than scrambling around trying to find a platform, be familiar with the most common ones, and make sure you've signed up on the payment service provided on the platform you used. It also helps to have a PayPal, Venmo or another money-transfer account handy.
Submit your real-life photos: https://scop.io/submit
At Scopio, our goal is to change the way we view and use photos — starting from the ones everyday people create. We share photos that we source from social media with brands across the globe who are trying to humanize and diversify their communications. Want more Instagram tips? Follow us on @scop.io. If you'd like to get more eyes on your work and want a chance to be published, simply submit your original photos.