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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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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A Photographers Intro

Getting Started in Stock Photography Selling photography and illustrations through stock image agencies is a great way to make money. Tens of thousands of amatuer and professional potographers around the world make a great side income this way. There are hundred of photographers that have made “microstock” their day job and earn enough to live by selling their images through multiple stock image agencies. Selling photography and illustrations through stock image agencies is a great way to make money. Tens of thousands of amatuer and professional potographers around the world make a great side income this way. There are hundred of photographers that have made “microstock” their day job and earn enough to live by selling their images through multiple stock image agencies. In this area you will find information to help you learn how to sell your images effective and earn the most money with the least amount of time.   Agency Lists View the agency review list for photographers looking to make money with selling their images. The statitics and reviews are geared toward people looking to sell, although the information might be interesting to designers as well. Photographer Articles Life would be much easier if every image was accepted and sold well at every agency, giving you enough cash to retire in a month. Unfortunately this doesn’t happen and certainly not in a day. These articles will help you make more money without finding yourself depressed from the constant changing environment of stock photography. Recommended Equipment (coming soon) The great thing about microstock photography is that it doesn’t require a studio to get started. Many people shoot with their “family camera” using their family as their models. However, as you try to compete with other photographers you will find that you need to invest into some better equipment. Find our recommendations and other users...

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Making Money with Referrals

One of the most overlooked methods of making mone with microstock agencies like Fotolia and 123RF is to take part in their referral programs. While it may sound easy at first, you need to understand a few things about why agencies offer refferal programs and which programs will really work out best in the end. Top Referral Programs In our first table I list some of the best microstock referral programs availible today. Each part of their program is important. A referral program needs to pay a good percentage for a long time in order to be effective. You don’t want to spend a great deal of time getting a great referral only lose out on the referral money after 3 months. Agency Percent /Terms Duration Cookie Fotolia 15% Designer / Buyer 10% Photographer / Seller 5 Years  15 Days   Fotolia is generally the most attractive referral program out there, a long 5 year period means that if you can get a few busy graphic designers under you, you can significantly increase your income for a long period. Shutterstock 20% Designer / Buyer 10% Seller Buyer : Only first sale Seller: Permanent 30 days   This would be my second pick for a top referral program, especially for photographers. On the buyer side, we don’t see many referrals, but when we get them, they are VERY NICE, generally $30-$40 per referral Dreamstime 10% Designer / Buyer 10% Photographer 3 years  30 days Dreamstime recently improved their referral program by going form 1 year to three years. This is greatly important for photographer referrals where it often takes longer to build a large portfolio. 123RF 15% Designer / Buyer 10% Photographer / Seller Buyer: 1 year Seller: 6 months  1 Year While the buyer referral program is very attractive, a 6 month photographer referral programs is not worth much. About the Photographers We have learned a lot in the last two years about referring photographers. In many ways it seems better than buyers, because photographers should be ongoing income where buyers can just stop buying after the first package. However, remember that it takes a photographer 1-2 years to get a good portfolio together (unless he/she has it already in place from other agencies). A photographer referral program for less than a year is not normally going to make you much money. Other Agencies There are many other agencies...

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The Feel Good Folder

… You have been shooting and uploaded stock photography for 8 months. While the sales are consistent across several microstock sites and the checks are coming in every month now, you still have yet to see where the hundreds of images you sell each month go. You think… someday I’ll be famous and then it happens… You are driving down the road, look up to that same old billboard for Leslie’s Lollypop Shop and … wait a minute…. That’s your son up there, licking a lollypop you bought from Wal-mart… Your first sighting and it is 11 feet by 40 feet wide. After wrecking your car into the nearest stationary object and pulling out your camera, which you never leave home without, and start shooting for memories sake… You call your wife (or husband, or aunt, or … well somebody) and say “hey, get over here”. Maybe you go into Leslie’s Lollypop Shop for the first time and buy something to celebrate. And then the truth hits you…. The funny thing is that they only paid $5 for that image and you made $2.50… If this has ever happened to you, then welcome to the MicroStock club. I have been through this and similar experiences several times and learned to worry about how much they paid, but to let the experience inspire me forward. After my first contact, I started what I call the Feel Good Folder. This is a folder of magazine snips, emails thanks, and web screenshots of places I have found my images. I am grateful that some agencies (like Dreamstime) give the buyer a chance to write a comment as they download the image. Sometimes they leave a URL, of a magazine name. I am inspired by the feel good folder for two reasons: 1)      I am actually a published photographer – Now I am not sure if some people would like that definition of published, but I have snapped-the-shutter for images used on book covers, in magazines and on countless websites. That is COOL! 2)      For every one that I see, I know that there are thousands which I don’t (and probably won’t) see. While many people gripe about the amount that I make per image sale, the truth is that people choose my images for their projects every day. Now I know that some are just group purchases that never made it past...

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