Composing Photos That Sell

Articles, Photo Techniques, Photography, Writing and Photography

Where do I want to sell my pictures?

Always a sensible question to ask yourself when taking a photograph. Composing photos that sell is not always easy. Photographic Composition covers the basics but this article looks at composing for specific uses and markets.

Let’s start the right way up

I have sold a lot of pictures for use on covers. Book covers are generally vertical. How often do you see people trying to photograph the bride and groom at a wedding holding the camera horizontally? Most people are taller than they are wide. Mobile phones work just as well horizontally as vertically so why do people shoot video vertically? The last time I looked my TV and this computer screen were both horizontal. But then I am old fashioned. Many people are now used to viewing images, including videos, on a phone screen which is habitually held upright.

Composing to sell book cover photos

If the subject will fit shoot horizontal and vertical variations of your images and maximise your chances of a sale.

Copy Space

Many years ago, when the only things that were digital were your fingers or your watch, I won a photographic magazine’s cover girl competition. Not me personally you understand – one of my photographs. At the prize giving the editor commented ‘Your picture won because you were the only one who left space for the title.’

One of my favourite tips is that the best aid to photographic composition you have are your feet. Where possible get closer. Frame your subject as tightly as possible. But what happens if your picture buyer wants to add a title or some copy to the image? Try and take another shot with a clear background that gives them this option. Read more on Copy Space.

composing photos that sell - leaving copy space


Change your viewpoint by crouching down or getting up higher. Millions of photos are taken from about five feet eight inches (1.75 m) above the ground because that’s the average persons eye line. Walk around you subject and look for different angles. Can you make it look larger or smaller, more dramatic, or just place it against a cleaner background by changing your viewpoint?

Remove junk

Your pictures should be about the subject not the surrounding clutter which will distract the viewer unless that clutter is part of the subject. Photoshop is a great tool for taking out junk that you just cannot get rid of but a well composed picture with an uncluttered background is much easier to edit.

A quote from a photographer featured in a video on boudoir photography (remember videos – those book sized tapes you put in a player that chewed them up) amused me when I heard it. He said,

‘I am policing the viewfinder to look for distractions in the background’

An odd way to put it but ‘policing my viewfinder’ has proved to be good advice.

Change you viewpoint for better coposition
DHC Chipmunk

Thinking about end uses for your images, even if it is only as illustrations for your blog, will make them much easier to use. A nicely composed image that fits the format of the medium it is published in will grab the viewers attention. Does it work? Just a few of my Published Photographs

More on photo techniques

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