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.”

Brands and photo buyers look to lifestyle photographers to show us our everyday lives in unique, artful ways. These moments could be milestones like a birthday or graduation. They can be as simple as a warm cup of coffee in the early hours of the day. Because of the wide range of uses for lifestyle imagery, they are some of the top sellers in the 500px Marketplace. Our content editor and fellow photographer Alejandro Santiago shares some tips and insights for capturing these real moments, the kind that attracts photo buyers.

Lifestyle photography is about people experiencing real moments. Recent industry trends have moved away from photos that use speedlights and studio lighting because they tend to look artificial. Instead, our top-selling photographs use natural light to reveal moments that are full of warmth and humanity.

Why these lifestyle photos are successful:
1. They depict heartfelt, genuine moments.
2. Natural light is used to create a sense of warmth.
3. Some of the best lifestyle photographs capture the essence of the moment without relying on faces to tell the story.
4. Details are emphasized instead to tell a universal story.

What to avoid in your own lifestyle photography:
1. Flash photography.
2. Filters that feel unnatural and overly-saturated colors.
3. Insincere or exaggerated expressions.
4. Logos and branding as seen in vehicles, clothing, electronics, and products.

So put your flash down and step out into the sunshine. Instead of trying to capture a full scene, look for small details to tell your story.

old couple by Cristian Negroni on

In Cristian Negoroni’s photo, “Old Couple” the shallow depth of field draws our attention to the elderly couple’s hands embracing. We see their love through their physical touch—literally, a helping hand. The soft warm tones of this image emphasize the couple’s humanity. If this shot had been lit by a flash it would have completely altered the mood of the image.

Although the subjects are out of focus, they are still recognizable and require model releases to be licensed commercially. Luckily, we have you covered—download our 500px Model Release forms, or check out this article to find out more about our free 500px Releases app.

Summer fun by Emilia Ungur on

“Summer Fun” by Emilia Ungur perfectly illustrates a day at the beach, and omits all the specifics. All we are left with is an idyllic moment that could be about anyone and anywhere, making this a very attractive image to buyers. The post-processing is kept down to a minimum. The colors have been desaturated slightly to evoke the cool blue tones in the sky, which is very popular at the moment.

The shot is perfectly-composed to omit any recognizable features of the car which could lead to potential trademark issues. The composition of the photo lends itself to a variety of cropping options and copy space.

Trust me by Carlos M. Almagro on

“Trust Me” by Carlos M. Almagro is another photo that focuses on human connection, but this time, it’s between a child and a parent. The mother in this photo is leading her child. This image is about trust, as the title suggests, but it can be used to convey a wide range of themes, such as parenthood, childhood, love, fear, playfulness, teamwork, family, leadership, growing up, codependency, bonding and many more. Although the concept is not unique, the photographer’s use of natural lighting and close-cropping makes us feel like we are part of that moment.

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!