The question we get asked more than almost any other here at 500px is a deceptively simple one: “What kinds of photos sell?” People want to take advantage of our marketplace to start making cash from their photography, but they don’t want to waste their time submitting work that doesn’t sell, so they ask us great questions like, “What do buyers actually want?” and “How do I capture photos that sell?” Simply Sellable is our attempt to answer these difficult questions weekly. Each week, one of our expert Content Editors picks their favorite photos that have sold recently, and explains exactly WHY they sold—what makes those photos “simply sellable.”

Authentic moments are hard to come by in photography. A photographer must relinquish some control in order to capture the exact moment they are looking for. Letting your subjects be themselves in a photo may not always work for a series of images, but to get a few of those moments in a real, beautiful, and even appealing way. To achieve this, just avoid these 5 common scenarios that could negatively impact the final outcome, courtesy of our content editor and fellow photographer Brian Wilson.

5 Things To Avoid If You Want To Photograph Authentic Moments

1. Looking at the camera. Get your subject to focus on the task they’ve been given. Or give them a spot to look at that is away from the camera. Try to get them looking more toward your light source to catch that unique moment.

Good example of what to do:

Family picking strawberries by Gabriela Tulian on

2. Big smiles. Real smiles are hard to get. Try asking your subject about themselves, or tell them a story to get the real reaction you’re looking for. Keep shooting until you feel you’ve captured that real moment of happiness.

Good example of what to do:

holiday background with a sparkler by Anton Belovodchenko on

3. Posing. It’s best to let your subject go about their business, and then engage them when the time is right. Use yourself as a mirror in an effort to motivate them to use the same body language as you. Be vocal with your direction, and try to keep an optimistic enthusiasm which helps keep your subject feeling confident and secure.

Good example of what to do:

Untitled by Maxim Kostenko on

4. Contrived circumstances. Photo buyers are looking for real moments—nothing too staged or unnatural. People having a good time on a restaurant patio, a family around a campfire, a couple grocery shopping together. Don’t be afraid to separate people, rearrange the participants in the scene, and get detail shots while your subjects are taking a break.

Good example of what to do:

Group of friends making barbecue in the nature. Eating and shari by Cristian Negroni on

5. Artificial Lighting. Using daylight, along with reflectors, and staying away from the camera flash is one of the best things you can do for a subject. Photographing at certain times of the day will give you the effect you’re looking for, and knowing your location and weather ahead of time can help to truly make an image a unique one. Focus on the soft light of early morning, or the warm light of a late afternoon. Whether you’re shooting indoors or outdoors, knowing how the light will be at the time of your shoot can heavily impact the final outcome.

Good example of what to do:

Friends by Janet Kwan on

Keeping these tips in mind when you’re trying to get a real, authentic moment might be a challenge, but that’s what’s so great about photography and capturing people. Taking a true lifestyle image can be tough. But remember, it’s a fun process that may result in the best rewards. Have fun shooting! If you have any more questions for me about my insights above, don’t hesitate to drop them in the comments below. And don’t forget to check back in for the next installment in the series!