When I choose images to upload to my stock portfolio on iStockphoto, I do my best to not upload images that are too similar. Sometimes (in the eyes of the inspector) I do, and those images don’t go through … but my philosophy is that if I can see something significantly different in the image then I will upload it. My guess is that if a designer likes the look of an image (the model, setting, subject, lighting, etc.) but are looking for a composition or element in an image then it’s always better to include as many variations as possible.

The two images above are an instance where I made my own judgment call and was wrong. In March 2008, almost two full years ago, I uploaded the image on the left. I had assumed that the other image, the one on the right, was too similar to the one on the left because the only difference was that the boy is in focus on the first image, so I figured that would be more “sellable”. I also assumed that one of the images would have been rejected for being “too similar”, and so I picked the one that I like the best.

Fast-forward 1.5 years to September 2009 when I received and email from a designer who absolutely loved the image on the left but wondered if I had the same shot with the baby chick in focus. After going through my old files I was able to assure him that yes, I did, and I even edited it and uploaded it to iStock for him to download. If he had not emailed me then it’s possible that he would have moved on to find a different image that maybe wasn’t exactly the one he wanted but worked for his design, and I would have lost a sale.

Because I shoot stock and don’t work with art directors or designers who have a precise idea in mind for how they want the image to look then it’s up to me to think of what potential buyers might want. I do my best to shoot from as many angles as possible and also include/exclude things in the images to give as several options to the buyers. So my question to all the designers out there who use photographs in their designs is … how much variety do you want to see? Do you want several variations to choose from, or would you prefer that the photographer only selects their favorites (which might mean only a handful of photos from each shoot)?

Please feel free to leave your comments below … gaining insight from people who actually search for and use images on websites like iStockphoto.com is very valuable information and usually ends up helping out both the photographers and the designers. IMO win-win scenarios are always the best outcomes. :)