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 a bit of cash on the side, or maybe even a substantial revenue stream, but they don’t want to waste their time submitting work that just won’t sell; so they ask us great questions like “what do buyers actually want?” and “what kinds of photos sell?”

Simply Sellable is our attempt to answer this impossible question… weekly.

Since the answer to this question changes week in and week out as trends, seasonality, and other factors continue to shift, we are answering the question 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 #8 features a creative conceptual paper airplane shot that works on many levels, analyzed for you today by 500px Content Editor and talented photographer Natta Summerky.

Midas Touch by Hardi Saputra on

Simply Sellable #8: Paper Airplanes and Michelangelo

by Natta Summerky

There are two themes that will always be commercially successful regardless of seasonal trends: lifestyle shots of people doing things they are comfortable and good at, and well-executed conceptual photography. So it’s no surprise that our recently licensed featured image by Hardi Saputri is performing well—it’s powerful, edgy, minimal, and implies a number of concepts while maintaining its charming simplicity.

The concept behind Hardi’s photo and a subtle fine art flare is really strong, making it usable in a variety of media: from financial editorials to online ads. And, of course, a new contemporary take on a well-known story forms a good bond between a story-teller (our photographer) and the audience. Transformation, or the golden touch, is the obvious message of the image; however, it can also be used to illustrate reaching for the impossible, or the transient nature of life.

The colors are soft, muted, and solid—in line with visual photo trends of 2016. The photo almost looks like a painting referencing Michelangelo’s masterpiece, and the chosen composition only reinforces this feeling. It is simple, has lots of copy space, and is almost zen-like, which is a necessary quality for really memorable images. All of these features make it a perfect canvas for advertising designers to work upon.

Are you inspired by this photo? Try going for your own artistic take of a well-known story or a painting! The limits are just your imagination, not the budget: Hardi only had to make several paper planes and keep the background simple to make sure the concept really comes through. There is also no need for studio lighting, since diffused natural window light is usually enough for all kinds of still life photography and has proven really popular in the last couple of years.

And that, my friends, is why this photo is ‘simply sellable.’ A powerful concept executed with refreshing simplicity. This photo works on multiple symbolic levels, while its minimalism allows ad designers to put it to an infinite number of creative uses.

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