john lund



Photographer John Lund flips his wig in this humorous self portrait and stock photo.
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To sell stock photos you must first have an idea, then execute it properly.

The Images below are a few examples of conceptual stock images that the author has created.

  Picture of flying elephant

picture of road leading off into the distance-future       

Picture of man pushing a boulder up hill
Picture of a lighthouse in a storm
Picture of a business man 0ut-on-a-limb picture of todler trying to open a childproof pill bottle

To sell stock photos you must first create the images. This article explains how to develop an idea and how to implement it for a profitable image.

To sell stock photos you must first create them. Here is how by an expert.

Focus on stock that sells

To succeed at selling stock you need three things: Ideas, execution, and distribution. We will save getting distribution channels for another time, but in the following I will outline my step by step approach to coming up with ideas, determining if they are appropriate for my stock efforts, for and insuring that I get the ideas done and off to the distributors.

I have a set of criteria for stock images that helps me to focus on images that have the best chance of earning me money. First, the simpler the image is the better. A quick read beats a complex one almost every time. Plus, now that images are chosen on the internet you have to catch a buyer’s interest with a thumbnail. Secondly, the less expensive the image is to produce the better. A few of my successful stock images: a coffee cup with lipstick on it, a sink full of dirty dishes, a monitor tossed in a garbage can. If I can shoot an image in an hour with virtually no expenses…that equals pure profit. Third, I like timeless images…a rooster at sunrise, a gang of Harley Riders, Stampeding long horn cattle…these are images that will never be dated and will therefore always send me at least some profit.

I also have a couple of tests I can use on a stock image idea. Can you put a headline to it? If you can, then you probably have a winner. Will the image stop someone seeing it? Sometimes I can’t figure out what the heck someone would use an image for…but experience tells me that if the image can grab a viewer’s attention…then art directors will find a way to use it.

One additional thought…if you’ve made it…send it in. Several times I have debated with myself whether or not to send an image in…and when I finally thought, what the heck I’ll send it in…the image more often than not has turned out very successful. In one case the image ended up being used by the agency for the cover of its Catalog…in another case the image was used by an agency for the cover of a CD it was sending out. One image that I debated sending in actually had a $17,000.00 sale the first month I sent it in!


Finding Ideas for Stock Images

Ideas are all around us. I find my ideas in magazines, newspapers, the internet…in life around me…even on the radio. I was driving in heavy traffic one day when the traffic reporter used the term bottleneck…and it popped into my head to create an overhead view of several roads merging into one lane…a bottleneck. That image has earned me thousands of dollars now. It is a conceptual image that can be used to illustrate themes about communication, the internet, bandwidth and so forth. The essential component for coming up with ideas…is intention. If I set the intention to come up with ideas then I can almost always use any situation or stimulus as raw material to come up with stock ideas.

Your creativity is a muscle, so use it. I find that the more I practice at coming up with ideas the easier it gets. Several times I have interrupted my “practice” of coming up with stock ideas to pursue other projects. Each time I have found that it takes a while for me to get back up to speed. I have to admit that sometimes I feel like I have run out of ideas…but if I set that intention…in an hour, a day…sometimes two and I am back on track.

Keep a master list…forever.

When I get an idea I write it down. I have lists all over the place. I also keep a master list. Whether the ideas are good or bad…I write them down. Some ideas seem great as they pop into my head…but later seem pretty lame…and then yet even later they seem great again. So I keep a master list…and when I create one of those ideas I mark it…but still leave it on the list. The list can serve to prompt additional ideas and variations of ideas…it is an invaluable creative tool for success in selling your stock images.


Ideas are great…but with out execution and distribution ideas aren’t worth much…and you certainly won’t sell stock images! So how do I execute? I sit down and mentally go through the process of creating the image. This is a crucial step and done diligently it provides me with a list of the materials and steps that I will need to take. I write these steps and materials down. Then I take each step that I will need to do and put it down on my calendar … from finding models and locations to what work I will need to do in Photoshop. If I miss a deadline I simply give that particular task a new deadline. And I keep at it until it all gets done.

I also have a policy that if I am not on a shoot I spend my morning either creating images (I use Photoshop for creating almost all of my conceptual stock images), or for getting images out to my various agencies. I save all my administrative duties for the afternoons. Since implementing that policy my productivity has soared. The “administrative “ duties never end…so if I try and get them out of the way first there never seems to be time to do the really important work…making images and getting them into the distribution channels.