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 the 500px 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.

Since the answer changes week in and week out as trends, seasonality, and other factors continue to shift, we are answering the questions regularly. Every week in fact. Each week one of our expert Content Editors picks one of their favorite photos that has sold recently, and explains exactly WHY it sold—what makes that photo “simply sellable.”

Simply Sellable #12 features a freezing cold outdoor portrait that illustrates the need to toe the line between commercial and authentic in order to create great work! 500px Content Editor Heather Balmain explains further below.


Simply Sellable #12: The Balance Between ‘Real’ and ‘Commercial’

by Heather Balmain

Every day we’re seeing more and more buyers ask for photos that reflect their customers in a realistic but aspirational way. They’re choosing photos of real people in their genuine surroundings over professional models in staged set-ups. But, and this is an important distinction, they still need photos that are commercially sound.

What Tai has done so well here is find the balance between “real” and “commercial”. Normally, we’d see this guy lifting weights in a gym, but CrossFit training is about strength, endurance, and pushing yourself to the limits, so taking the athlete out of the gym and into the snow is an unexpected but realistic portrayal of this style of training.

Technically speaking, the photo is still well exposed despite the less than ideal weather conditions. Shooting wide open at f/2.8 allows the background to fall off, keeping the focus entirely on the weightlifter. The composition also creates an abundance of copy space, which designers are always on the lookout for.

In addition, this image conveys an array of concepts, making it appealing to a diverse range of buyers. Keywords like strength, endurance, challenge, and determination accurately reflect the photograph, but more importantly, they are common themes that image buyers connect with.

And that, my friends, is why this photo is simply sellable. A photo that is equal parts real and commercial; a sellable shot that feel authentic and genuine; and a photo that conveys concepts buyers are looking to communicate.

If you have any further questions for Heather about the photo above, don’t hesitate to drop them in the comments below. And don’t forget to check back in next week for the next installment in the series!