12 May 2008 Microstock Cliché

Certain photos are a right of passage into the microstock market. You know them. They pop up everywhere and everyone seems to have one or two in their portfolio. They are microstock cliché.

Most agencies already have too many of these subjects, so they often just reject all new submissions regardless of quality. Reviewers cringe at the understatement when they press the we-already-have-enough-similar-images button.

Some become cliché because you see them in use so often so you know there’s buyer demand. Others are just so easy to create that we microstock contributors can’t resist the easy portfolio padding.

Here’s some examples.

The Isolated Apple

The cliché of clichés, driven more by the ease of shooting than any evidence of buyer demand.

Isolated Apple Stock Photo - Andres Rodriguez Isolated Apple Stock Photo - Yuri Arcurs Isolated Apple Stock Photo - Douglas Freer Isolated Apple Stock Photo - Tyler Olson

An Isolated Laptop

It’s the obvious thing to start shooting after you’ve discovered that you can sell photos online.

Isolated Laptop Stock Photo - Andres Rodriguez Isolated Laptop Stock Photo - Yuri Arcurs Isolated Laptop Stock Photo - Douglas Freer Isolated Laptop Stock Photo - Yanik Chauvin

A Person with Laptop

Sales of the isolated laptop aren’t meeting expectations and a little research shows that people photos sell pretty well. Add people.

Laptop and Peopel Stock Photo - Andres Rodriguez Laptop and Peopel Stock Photo - Yuri Arcurs Laptop and Peopel Stock Photo - iofoto Laptop and Peopel Stock Photo - Kirsty Pargeter

Businessmen Shaking Hands

All you need are two right hands and two suits. Simple!

Shaking Hands Stock Photo - Andres Rodriguez Shaking Hands Stock Photo - Yuri Arcurs Shaking Hands Stock Photo - Yanik Chauvin Shaking Hands Stock Photo - David Franklin

Customer Service with a Smile

“This headset looks just like the ones they use in call centers, yes, yes it does.”

Customer Service Stock Photo - Andres Rodriguez Customer Service Stock Photo - Yuri Arcurs Customer Service Stock Photo - Jaimie Duplass Customer Service Stock Photo - Norman Pogson

Thumbs Up

It’s the internationally recognized gesture of all good things, the thumbs up.

Thumbs Up Stock Photo - Andres Rodriguez Thumbs Up Stock Photo - Jaimie Duplass Thumbs Up Stock Photo - Yuri Arcurs Thumbs Up Stock Photo - iofoto

Jumping Goldfish

Who would have thought you could demonstrate so many concepts with just a goldfish?

Goldfish Stock Photo - Lise Gagne Goldfish Stock Photo - Yuri Arcurs Goldfish Stock Photo - Amanda Rohde Goldfish Stock Photo - Mikael Damkier

Young Plant in Tender Hands

Nothing says “care” better than a delicate young plant in a small lump of dirt held tenderly in otherwise perfectly clean hands.

Plant in Hands Stock Photo - Andres Rodriguez Plant in Hands Stock Photo - Yuri Arcurs Plant in Hands Stock Photo - Tomasz Trojanowski Plant in Hands Stock Photo - Amanda Rohde

Who Shoots Microstock Cliché

Follow the links in the images above to see which contributors created the photos. You’ll see many of the top microstock contributors have shot most of these clichés. This could be interpreted in many different ways, including the fact that many of today’s most successful microstock contributors were early adopters, and that they are successful because they shoot what their research shows will sell well. One thing is certain: it is a beneficial learning experience to shoot cliché photos, particularly as there’s no shortage of comparisons.

Where to Go with a Cliché?

Cliché photos clearly have a lot of competition. Shooting a plain replica isn’t going to serve your earnings growth. Looking through the searches for these cliché images it’s apparent that there’s scope to expand on the concept. Shoot the same image in a different context, with a different setting or a different message. While the microstock market has created massive duplication, it has also created massive variety. For these cliché photos, it’s too late to win sales by being first-to-market. However, opportunities still exist through creating original variations of the themes.

What About You?

How many microstock clichés are in your portfolio? After seeing the caliber of contributors who’ve shot them, it might not be a bad idea to add some more. I plan to do so, but remembering to create a variation that will get passed the we-already-have-enough-similar-images button.

7 Comments
  • E
    Posted at 14:17h, 12 May Reply

    Funny post, Lee. It didn’t end up going where I expected.

  • Rasmus
    Posted at 16:15h, 12 May Reply

    I try to avoid the clichés, just to stand out a little. Most of these shots have already been done so well, that it seems redundant to try and do it better. And you have to do it better, if you’re gonna do it, otherwise you’ll be walking a fine line between shooting a cliché and ripping off another photographer.

    That said, I actually do have shots of people with laptops and a chick with a headset. But I have over 1000 files, so there’s bound to be some clichés from this list. But I refuse to do goldfish, apples and that close-up handshake. 😀 Great post, btw!

  • David
    Posted at 16:25h, 12 May Reply

    I like the post but don’t necessarily agree with it. There is a lot of cliche stock but there are degrees of cliche. The thumbs up is a great marketing tool as long as it is different. I recently purchased a thumbs up picture from iStockPhotography for an electronic billboard at a car dealership. This was used to advertise a weekend sale. The image was great because the models face has such emotion is drew you into the image. So take the cliche and ad a twist or make it better!

  • Pixels Away
    Posted at 01:36h, 13 May Reply

    Do You Shoot Microstock Cliché ?…

    Do I shoot microstock cliché? Of course, I am browsing through files of other photographers to see their bestsellers and to look for inspiration. However, it doesn’t seem that I directly copied any popular shots. I am sure that I don’t have a jumpin…

  • Ivan
    Posted at 09:46h, 13 May Reply

    It’s is quite obvious that market demands such a cliché photos, and those kind of photos are a good source of income for the photographers.
    But, I’m more then sure that if you try to play a bit with those clichés, you will end up with even better photos with even better sales.

  • Anonymous_photo
    Posted at 22:42h, 13 May Reply

    I have like six apples so far in my portfolio.

  • LFChavier
    Posted at 04:17h, 05 June Reply

    I have a good example of a cliché “with a twist”: instead of a jumping goldfish, I shot a jumping clownfish. 😀
    It’s my best seller so far…

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