A Tour of MicroStock

When first introduced to stock photography, most people approach the industry with a specific type of image in mind. Because I came to stock imagery from a billboard design angle (one of my previous adventures) I thought mostly of isolated object that I had used on a sign (a gas nozzle for a fuel station). Over the last ten years I have learned a lot more about stock photography and learned to keep a watchful eye as I look at magazines, signs, church bulletins and birthday invitations. Microstock images are everywhere! Some have the source clearly labeled, others don’t but soon you will start noticing them too. I have used some of my own images in this article as well as the work of others. All images used from others have been licensed from one of the agencies listed on this site (usually either Deposit Photos or Fotolia). If you are just starting out with stock photography and trying to decide if the style of images you shoot will work, here are a few ideas and tips to help you along your way: Landscapes Landscapes are one of the first categories to fill in with most stock photo agencies. Just try a search of mountain on and of the major stock photo sites and you’ll see what I mean. I you want to sell landscape, you need content that is unique and a style that separates you from the millions who have shoot the sunset before you and are already selling it. I find that the most successful landscape image require me to wake up really early and setup for the right lighting moment. Unlike other types of images, you often have to wait on the lighting rather than controlling it. Portraits Portraits sell very well on all the stock sites. If you are listing with one of the newer sites, these may be the only images selling well. The styles of portraits that sell best vary from site to site, so try several approaches. Business related images have always done well, but there are millions of the most common images. Woman Holding Cell phone is well covered, so you might have to get a little creative with both concept and pose. Model releases are always required for any images that clearly show faces or are otherwise identifiable. As a rule of thumb: always get the model release if...

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Dreamstime

Dreamstime

Dreamstime continues to be one of the best agencies availible for both photographers and designers. Their massive colleciton is approaching 10million images, but do to a progressive pricing of images, seem to still sell new images well. Dreamstime’s system of image pricing makes images with fewer downloads cheaper to designers. This means if you have old and successfull images, they can cost a lot more (even for blog sized images). New photographers can succeed at Dreamstime by shooting high quality photos to compete with their expensive older version. Most photographers report a good experience with the submission process at Dreamstime although it is a little more tedious than systems used at...

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Shutterstock

Shutterstock

  Agency Link – Seller: submit.Shutterstock.com – Buyer: www.Shutterstock.com Founded: July 02, 2003 Images: 25,000,000 Shutterstock is one of the first Microstock Image agecies. Unlike iStockphoto, they rely mainly on a subscription model where a customer pays a large amount, but downloads almost unlimited photos. Shutterstock continues to be one of the easiest agencies to submit images to. Photographers report that getting their initial portfolio approved can be difficult. However, the ongoing submission process is lightning fast and earning can come in quickly (especially at first when subscription owners grab your image for the fun of it). Give your vote and thoughts...

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Evaluating Agencies

Several times a month we get a request to add a new agency to our listings. While we welcome new comers to the business and to a growing playing field, we have seen over hundred of these sites come and go (well, most of them haven’t gone anywhere and that is really the problem, no cashflow). As a photographer looking to make money selling your images, you have a myriad of competing options driven by a group of competing forces in front of you. In this article we take a look at what I think are the driving forces of buyers to a particular agency (which in turn means success to the agency and maybe to you). Then we will look at the reasons that you may or may not want to list your images. Finally we will take a look at some methods to measure your success, and adjust your strategy. Making the Sell There are at least two types of buyers who are getting into microstock photographer. The first and most profitable is the “professional buyer”. This is a designer who is a regular consumer of images. While price is a good motivator for some of these, it is less important than speed and quality. If a client is paying $50.00/hr, than searching a small agency for an hour to save $3 is not really a good choice. The second type is the freebie-seeker-in-shocker: They started but searching Google Images, hoping to “grab” a photo for their website after finally seeing the perfect image; they spend the $1-3 to get one without a watermark. Why Sell With the Big Guys Many critics of the larger agencies like iStockPhoto and Shutterstock say that they are paying you so little for the amount they make (about 20% of the sale). However, when you speak to people who are actually making an income in microstock, they all seem to get over it quickly because they learn the price of marketing, infrastructure and support. Selling with the big agencies has the following advantages: 1.       Reliability – Submitting images can take many hours (on a portfolio of about 800 I have probably spent over 100 hours submitting to each agency). 2.       Marketing – Large agencies spend the money they make from your images to sell more images. That’s business. They will have booths and major events and advertisements in the major magazines....

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BigStockPhoto

Agency Link: BigStockPhoto.com Files: 13,000,000 Mother Company: Shutterstock BigStockPhoto is one of the often forgotten first microstock photography agencies. With a large database of image and a simple submission process you can extend your earnings quickly by submitting to their...

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