In the ‘Making Money with your Photography’ course that I teach at Betterphoto, I encourage students to think outside the box and to shoot pictures that represent concepts. Stock photo agencies, especially, look for photographers who can do this. The competition to get into a stock agency is significant now, and even when you get accepted, the in-house competition between your images and those of other shooters is also an important factor to consider.
The question is, of course, how do you come up with ideas that will be competitive and that will sell, and sell often. The best way I know is to do research: study the advertisements in many, many magazines, analyze television commercials, and follow photographic trends in the industry that are relevant to your kind of photography – fashion, food, automotive, sports, and so on. Keep a file of tear sheets that provide you with great ideas and then use those visuals for your own inspiration to produce saleable photos.
The photo below evolved in the way I am suggesting. I saw a cute idea in a food magazine where food was arranged in a unique design, and I thought how interesting it would be to use fruits and vegetables to make people. With my wife’s help, we made this face and then I sent it off via email to my photo editor at my stock agency. She accepted it into their files on the spot.