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 #13 features not only the most adorable and endearing image of a red fox basking in the snow, but also raw emotion that is not always easy to capture when your subject isn’t a human being! In fact, this particular photo is also one of the most shared in our social media channels over the last couple of years. Why is this image such a hit among buyers and photography fans alike? 500px Content Editor Janet Weldon explains further below.

Simply Sellable #13: Why Do Animal Pictures Sell?

by Janet Weldon

“Do animal pictures sell?” Recently, a photographer who loves to shoot wildlife asked me this question. This made me curious to see what animal imagery does well in the Marketplace, and why it would be attractive to buyers. When licensing for a commercial market, wildlife pictures sell for mainly one reason: Emotion.

A recent seller on the Marketplace is Winter Wonderland by Pim Leijen. The viewer is immediately drawn to the perception of a smiling fox, and the look of contentment on its face. The fox’s thick fur and warm colors create a striking contrast to the swirling cold, snow and whiteness of the winter storm.

Buyers are looking for imagery they can use to convey humor, fear, drama, inspiration, happiness, sadness, and togetherness. Pictures of animals are a great way to do this. Some of the most successful ad campaigns have used the anthropomorphism of animals to create brand recognition and loyalty. People identify with animals, because we relate them to certain characteristics and stereotypes: the Intelligent Owl, the Quiet Mouse, the Loyal Dog, the Curious Cat.

Remember to include these characteristics when you are keywording your images. A buyer may need the type of species and location information, but it’s more likely they will be searching for more than a straightforward, technical description. Keywords should be relevant to the image, but try to also expand on the basics. Think about what a buyer may be looking for in an image when it comes to expression, emotion, attitude, and concepts.

The other important consideration when shooting wildlife is that it is technically sound. It’s not enough to capture a special moment. Your focus and intended sharpness should be spot-on when you take that shot. A slightly out-of-focus fox shot might not sell, when you compare it to an image that is tack sharp. If you want to concentrate on wildlife photography, you may want to upgrade your lenses and other gear.

And that explains is why this photo is simply sellable. The concept of anthropomorphism combined with raw emotion from a non-human subject, and enhancing your techniques are what many buyers are looking to convey with the images they buy and license.

If you have any further questions for Janet 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!