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4 reasons why your stock photos aren't selling

Updated: Aug 2, 2021

You’ve signed up to become a stock photography contributor, uploaded your content on microstock sites, filled in all the data and sent it off to the universe. You wait to make your first sale, but it doesn’t come. Or it does, but it dribbles in at a rate that’s not even worth talking about. So why aren’t your photos selling? And how can you increase your microstock sales?

Reasons why your stock photographs aren't selling on microstock sites

There are a number of reasons why your stock photos may not be selling on sites like Shutterstock, Dreamstime, Wirestock or Depositphotos. Here are 4 key reasons::

  1. Your subject is already well represented. Before spending hours uploading images to stock photography websites, do a search of that website and see what they’ve already got. For example, you might have taken a beautiful photo of a bunch of bananas, but a quick search on Shutterstock and you’ll find there are more than 1.2 MILLION images featuring bananas on there already. So how would anyone find your photo and why would they pick yours over all the others? Even if you narrow your search to sliced banana bread, you’re still competing with more than 27 000 other photographs. So, your subjects need to be unique, and well tagged. Which brings me to my next point.

  2. Your headings and titles aren’t optimised for SEO. This sounds complex, but it’s really not. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation - in other words, the words you use and the data you enter help a computer understand what your photograph is about. Computers can’t “read” images yet, at least not very well. So unless you tell the system exactly what your image is of, it has no idea. Titles, descriptions and keywords are critical, if you don’t put time into doing them properly, you won’t make any sales.

  3. Spelling and grammar. I saw a photographer ask this question in a stock photography forum recently, he was wondering why his portfolio of stock images weren’t selling. I had a look at his portfolio and it was obvious straight away. He was a great photographer. His images were beautiful. But he’d misspelt most of the key words. For example, he had an entire collection of perfectly styled coffee images but he had spelt the word “coffe”. Over and over again. No one is going to find and buy your images if your spelling and grammar is off, because even the computer won’t know what your photo is about. If English isn’t your first language and yet you’re uploading in English, get an English speaker to proof your work for you. At very least, run your titles and descriptions through a spell checker. Or, make life even easier for yourself and upload them through Wirestock, which will do all the descriptions and keywords for you.

  4. They’re not good enough. If you’ve ruled out all of the above explanations, your photos just might not be any good. If someone’s looking for an image of a person working from home in slippers, and you have the exact image they’re looking for but it’s under or over exposed, or the person looks a bit awkward, or the colours are a bit off, they’re probably still not going to buy your image. Your best bet might be to jump on youtube, watch some more learning tutorials and keep practicing your skills before trying again.

Hopefully that helps to answer the question of why your stock photographs might not be selling. Interested in signing up as a contributor to a new stock photography site? My referral links are here:





Wirestock is a site where you upload your photos to one site and they do all the keywords and descriptions for you then submit them to 7 different stock selling sites on your behalf.

Have you got more to add that might help people understand why their stock photos aren’t selling on microstock websites? Comment below, all insight is helpful!

Keep reading:

What is stock photography?

What is Stocksy looking for in a photographer?

Discovering Wirestock - the site that does all the keywording and descriptions for you: a review

Shutterstock contributor review

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