They also like "conventional" colours.
A lot of the reason for this is that many of them, iStockphoto being the obvious example, were set up by graphic designers for graphic designers. On the whole, they are looking for clean, "straightforward" images that they can then use in their "creations".
There is also the notion that most images sold are "upbeat" "positive" etc. I do sell some images that show the "darker" side of life, but on the whole its images that show the world and its people as happy, confident and above all "clean"!! Business and lifestyle images have to show, young, attractive, enthusiastic people, who like nothing better than rushing to their desk, or to school or caring for their equally young, attractive, clean families. Even the oldies have to look "young" if you know what I mean.
There is very little opportunity for reality to impinge on this dreamy idyllic lifestyle, where the sun is always shining and everybody is happy and smiling, all the time. Think toothpaste commercials and you'll get the idea. Consequently I used to call these images "teeth shots" because everybody has pristine white molars. This spills over into everything else. I've said before that I sell a lot of interior property shots, and I make sure that they are "clean" too. I clone out anything that ressembles the reality of how we all live. Its "show homes" full of "show people". Think Stepford Wives and you are in the ball park.
OK, this probably sounds very cynical. But think how people react to advertising. If they open a travel brochure and see beautiful lit landscapes with dramatic thunderous skies, they may not have a photographers perspective on that, but think Oh-Oh, the weather looks a bit "iffy" there.
If people are contemplating looking for a new home, do they want to see that "lived in" look, or a clean, bright environment.
And that is the bottom line. In some way shape or form, these pictures are mostly used to advertise something, to promote something or to sell something.
However, other non-microstock libraries, have opportunities for different kinds of images. There are opportunities for editorial and yes, even social documentary images to find a market. But this isn't with Shutterstock etc. They do have them, but I've had emails from them saying, just clone out a trademark, remove this and that and you have a much more saleable image.
I did say in a previous post that Stock Photography doesn't have much to do with art, and in fact I would describe it as much more of a craft or a skill. But then thats nothing new. Most commercial, fashion, portrait, wedding or advertising photographers are trying to present the client or product they are photographing in the best possible light most of the time. Annie Leibovitz used to shoot grainy B/W for Rolling Stone Magazine, she now shoots high-gloss fantasy images for Vanity Fair, with a substantial increase in her fees.
So do these Microstock libraries want perfection on a budget? Well of course they do. They want wonderful images that leap off the screen and they make no concessions concerning the limitations most of us work under. Before you send out an image, have you thought to yourself "I can't get it any better"? Do you think to yourself "Wow thats a great picture"? Then reduce it to the size of a website thumbnail and ask yourself, "Does it still look impressive"? "Would I want to click on it and see the larger version" If the answer to any of these questions is NO then you need to address that.
It used to be that Stock Libraries were populated with "extras" "not quite made it" "also-rans" and similar types of shots. I myself was guilty of that 20 years ago when I started this. But not anymore. Never was the phrase "Give it your best shot" more appropriate."