How to make the subject in your stock photos stand out

In a recent post, Looking for stock photos? Here’s how to take your own, I listed the Four Basic Elements of Stock photography:

1 Background

2 People (Model/S)

3 Subject

4 Involvement

I covered Background in How to create the right stock photo background

I also covered people in How to put People in your Stock Photos

Now this where you will learn how to make the subject in your stock photos stand out.

There are 5 points that need to be considered and the first of these is:


So, you are shooting your own stock photos. What’s your style going to be?

As the marketing guru that you are, you may try to have two styles. One for the actual business you are marketing and the other photographically, i.e. your point of view, how you see the world.

Be careful on both of these, having two styles can be in conflict.

If you are a business owner that is looking to get your product or service out there, then choose that as your main style.

Otherwise the photographer in you may get in the way. Remember why you are doing this. Don’t lose sight of the fact that you are seeking to create a piece of art that is going to help your business. Not a piece of art for the sake of creation.

Of course, everyone’s style is different.

Let’s say we have 2 photographers taking pictures of China as a travel destination.

One takes pictures that tell stories of how people live in China. Their photos give information and understanding of the Chinese culture.

The other photographer chooses to make China look attractive and appealing to visitors and tourists alike.

How to make the subject in your stock photos stand out

At a small restaurant in the Flowers and Birds Market on Jingxing Street in Kunming capital of the Yunnan province of China.

As you can see each of these photographers has a different way of looking at the same subject. That’s their style


A concept is the idea or emotion that the photo represents. Your concept may be to depict how easy it is to use your service or even how to use your service. Or it may be how beautiful and attractive your product is. By product that can mean anything from a piece of jewellery to a travel destination.

Some common concepts can be:

Achievement, Teamwork, Competition, Values, Trust, Stability or Tradition plus many more.


The symbol is how the concept idea or emotion is portrayed. Painters and Sculpturers have been using symbols for centuries. Have a think about the best symbol to use to get across your message. In the China example above you could incorporate some of China’s main tourist attractions or monuments as a symbol. Or if you had a piece of Jewelry then how it looks on your model would be a possible symbol

How to make the subject in your stock photos stand out

Tiananmen Square – Gate of Heavenly Peace

Often symbols are less obvious. Like some of these:

Sports may mean business competition or pushing to the limit

Shaking hands may mean cooperation, partnership, trust or honour

A road may mean straight & narrow, mystery, adventure or even the unknown

How to make the subject in your stock photos stand out

Death Valley NP California, USA

Subject matter

For you the subject matter is pretty much what you are looking to sell. That’s right sell. If you don’t show the product or service that you want someone to buy then you’re wasting your time. Ever watched an ad and wondered what the hell that was about? Sometimes that’s a deliberate ploy by the marketing company to capture your curiosity. More often than not it doesn’t work that well. I go back to the old KISS principle. Keep It Simple Stupid! You have less than a second to get your point across. Don’t waste it on some abstract idea that no one understands.

Central theme

All these items come together to give you your theme and the theme as I said in the previous paragraph should be bloody obvious. But (always a but) there nothing wrong in conveying a them that can interpreted in several different ways. It shows that the photos is interesting and can hold the viewer just a little bit longer to take in the full extent of your marketing message.


So in conclusion it’s important to think about these factors in a stock photo:

1 Style

What’s your style?

2 Concept

What’s the idea or emotion you want portrayed

3 Symbol

Once you have decided on the concept what symbol are you going to use to portray it

4 Subject matter

What are you selling? Make sure it doesn’t get lost in the story.

5 Central theme

Make the theme interesting so it holds your viewer longer than the nano-second we all seem to give an image to reveal itself.


Thank you for reading this article. If you know anyone who would enjoy it or find this useful please share. They’ll thank you for it.

And now that you have got this far, keep scrolling down and subscribe to my newsletter where you will get info not found elsewhere. I’ll even give a guide for your trouble.

You can share your stock photos and ask questions in the comments below. Just be open to different opinions.



Categories: How to, Marketing and Photography, stockTags: , ,

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