What is stock or microstock photography
Stock photography (also called microstock) generally refers to images that are uploaded to an agency, so they can be added to their photo library for others to purchase. The photographer makes a commission per sale, normally between 30 cents and five dollars, depending on the agency. At first this may not seem like a lot, however it's important to keep in mind that a single photograph could possible sell thousands of times over, making you a very neat profit.
Tips for selling stock photography
I recently submitted a couple photographs to a few different stock photography agencies, and this is what I've learned so far about selling images online.
- Submit your photographs to more than one stock agency. Photographs that are rejected by one agency, will be accepted by another. Stock agencies have different customer bases and will therefore accept different styles of photography. It doesn't take long to realize what each likes and doesn't like.
- There are many reasons for rejection. Just because an agency rejected your photograph, it doesn't mean it was a bad image. Most agencies will give an explanation for the rejection. For example, one reason I had was simply due to them having enough of that specific subject in their catalogue already. The same image was accepted by other agencies.
- Check your photographs in their full size for noise. Noise refers to grainy or pixilated area's found within some photo's. Any images that contain noise are usually rejected by stock agencies. The best way to stop noise from appearing within your photographs, is to set your digital SLR camera to the lowest ISO possible.
- If you are submitting insect or flower images, use their scientific name as well, when adding keywords to help increase sales.
- Crop photographs so there is some space for advertisers etc to add text if needed. Often publishers who purchase your images, will want to use them for posters or full page advertising. Therefore, they need space for words and quotes. I've found images with space, are more easily accepted by stock agencies and sell better than those cropped tightly.
- Don't upload too many photographs of the same theme, otherwise they may be rejected. For example, just because an acency has accepted one of your highrise buildings, it doesn't mean they want another seven from different angles.
- Most agencies have enough photographs of flowers and pets. It's always best to check out their list of 'wants' and 'don't wants'. Each agency will differ in the types of photo's they need and don't need.
- Ensure your photographs are shot and saved in the highest resolution possible. DSLR cameras now offer 6 - 10 megapixels. These are the types of images stock agencies are now looking for.
- The more photographs you submit, the more money you make. Those that submit 400 photographs, make more commissions than those who submit 50. If you intend on making a living from stock photography, then you should be treating it like a full time job.
Stock photography agencies
- Dreamstime - this one pays out one of the highest royalties of all microstock agencies. I've found on average I make $1 per image. This changes depending on the size of the image that is downloaded. For example, if a buyer downloads a small 800x600 pixels size, the photographer makes $0.74 cents. On the other hand, if they download an 8MP size, the photographer makes $2.96 for the sale. Photographers can also make an extra 10% profit if they choose to sell any images exclusively through Dreamstime.
Dreamstime accepts JPG images in 3MP (million pixels) size or larger. They currently pay royalties via bank check, Paypal or Moneybookers. So far, Dreamstime is a personal favorite. I have a high photo acceptance rate and better royalties per sale than any other stock agency.
- Shutterstock - the payout rate for Shutterstock is currently 25 cents per download. This is one of the lowest royalties, however they do have a huge following. Shutterstock is one of the largest and well known microstock agencies, which possibly means more sales per image. Many photographers will tell you that most of their stock photography profits come from Shutterstock.
They accept JPG images at 4MP (million pixels) size or larger. It could take a long time to be initially accepted by Shutterstock, as you firstly need to submit 10 of your best photo's. If 7 out of the 10 are accepted then you're in. If not, you need to wait a whole month before you try again.
- IStockphoto - I won't go into many details here as they already have a fantastic training manual with photo requirements, cropping and composition tips etc. All I can say is that IStockphoto is definitely one to try. Like Shutterstock, they are also a very popular microstock agency that has a lot of website traffic.
- BigStockPhoto - make 50 cents to $3 per download. There is a photographer test you need to pass first before being accepted into the program. However, you can do it as many times as needed.
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