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 #6 features a fun snowball fight scene that, while shot with commercial purposes in mind, manages to come off as extremely genuine. 500px Content Editor Janet Kwan dives deeper in the paragraphs below:

Caucasian couple having snowball fight by Gable Denims on

Simply Sellable #6: Snowball Fight

by Janet Kwan

Now that winter is here and in full force, why not take advantage of it by using what’s outside and turning it into great images for licensing?

There are a lot of strong concepts conveyed in this image: connection, friends, family, togetherness, fun, winter, leisure, energy… the list goes on. Beyond that, it’s incredibly relatable: a snowball fight is completely familiar to those who live in places with snow and, at the same time, it’s a common depiction of what winter is like to those who don’t live in snowy climates.

But the key to this highly licensable photo is that, while it was intentionally shot with commercial usage in mind, all the elements that make up the image are convincing—from the imperfect snowball to the genuine expressions.

The photographer captured a spontaneous moment which, combined with the natural body language of the models, strengthens overall believability. Genuine interaction is key when re-creating “moments” and whenever possible you should allow models to engage with one another naturally, while giving enough direction to keep the energy flowing and avoid any awkwardness.

You can absolutely create an image like this without a big budget, professional models, or an expensive wardrobe. Notice that these subjects aren’t dressed in high end clothing or styled with perfect hair and makeup. In fact, shooting without any visible logos is encouraged because it’ll save you from having to edit them out in post-processing. So grab your friends and family and see what moments you can capture.

Tip: Shoot different combinations of people (i.e. siblings, best friends, parents, grandparents, couples, and a whole family with multiple generations!)

From the technical standpoint, the natural light and generic location isn’t identifiable to a specific city or country so the image can be used to represent different places, shooting backlit creates a nice glow around the subjects and prevents harsh light on their faces, and the snow acts a reflector to bounce light back.

The two people are placed in the outer thirds of the frame, but not strictly following the rule of thirds, creating energy and movement. Their height difference makes the image even more dynamic.

How could this image be used commercially? Here are just a few examples:

  • Travel agencies who want to attract tourists to vacation hot spots for winter getaways
  • Companies that provide a convenient service (ie. mobile apps, online banking) that would free up people’s time to do the things they enjoy
  • Lifestyle brands that want to target a specific demographic
  • Articles or blog posts could use this image to illustrate winter activities or how to make time to enjoy the outdoors

Hopefully, these tips will help you get outside to get over the winter blues!

Tip: Using relevant keywords are crucial to help buyers find your images! These keywords are just a few that are commonly searched: fun, connection, togetherness, family, friends, laughing, emotion, enjoyment, couple, leisure activity, pastime, playing, recreation, relationship, relative, snowball fight, spare time, sunshine, togetherness, warm, winter, weekend activities.

And that is why this photo is ‘simply sellable.’ The scene feels spontaneous and genuine, the concept a universal symbol for winter and fun, and the execution on-point. There are a lot of reasons why a brand might want to license this image.

If you have any more 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!