I’ve seen this kind of thread a few times in various forums. Newbie photographer (or maybe just new to submitting for stock) submits images to a leading microstock agency. The images are rejected. The person blames the site. The original poster of this thread ends by saying “This place is a joke! Goodbye!” Submitting images to microstock agencies can really bring you back down to earth, I’ve even read about ‘professionals’ entering the industry, struggling and giving up.
Sometimes I hear the words ‘microstock has revolutionised the stock industry’. It’s not microstock, it’s the advent of the digital camera. No more messing around with film rolls and darkrooms. Now I can take a photo and send it anywhere in the world in minutes and so can you and so can everyone else. However, sending them to microstock agencies and getting them accepted is a different matter. With image submissions continuing to increase at pace, agencies can afford to be more picky about what they accept. I actually fear that the microstock agencies will one day have a list of blacklisted cameras, like the more traditional stock agencies often do. Istockphoto are possibly already in that realm. I like telling people that I have a 6 megapixel camera still with its kit lens, getting looked down on and then saying that my photos have been downloaded thousands of times, well ok, over a thousand times (including macrostock sales). Unless of course the person who I’m talking to works for iStock, in which case he or she would continue to smile with a dismissive look.
Lets make this clear. Becoming successful at microstock photography and for that matter any type of photography, IS NOT EASY, but is achievable for anybody who is willing to persevere. What one regards as success though, will vary quite differently from person to person. Microstock photography is not a get rich quick scheme (if you know of any let me know) and for the vast majority of contributors it is and probably will always be, a source of additional income, not your source of income. You are not going to make money with images you have sitting on your hardrive, unless those images were specifically shot with the market in mind. Not these days anyway. If you’re reading this on your way to work or in your office, turn up on time, say yes to your boss and get on with your colleagues, because you need your job and the chances are that this is no escape route. Yes there are those who take to microstock like a duck to water, you remember those kids at school who were always good at everything? Yes, I hated them too 😉 . But you still need an awful lot of images online and an even greater amount of downloads to make a living from microstock. Now I am talking thousands and more like tens of thousands of downloads. This requires a lot of time (the day job, the spouse, the kids usually consume that), the technical know-how, knowing what the market wants, knowing how to produce what it wants and being able to produce it differently to everyone else, that is if you really want to get good returns for your images. I know what you’re thinking, it’s been a while since you’ve made some coffee for your colleagues, oh and you haven’t complimented your boss’s ties in a while too.
For most, entering the microstock industry puts you on a sharp learning curve. My first batch of 23 images sent to Dreamstime was rejected too. My reaction? Well lets just say that my Indonesian girlfriend at the time, learnt quite a few English expletives on that day. A few months later when I calmed down, I tried it again and when I have time I keep submitting to Dreamstime and a few others and I’m able to see progress. Learning what images to submit and how the agencies want to see the images is paramount. I find images a little over exposed and a little over saturated works wonders, exactly how I don’t like to see my images, but I’m not the one who is reviewing or buying them. Reviewers seem to love cows, maybe they have never seen them before. If I’m going through a bad patch and getting lots of rejections, I send them a few cows. However, apart from putting a smile on the reviewer’s face, in reality it’s pretty pointless as my cow shots never sell. I’ll have to make sure I look at the top selling livestock images before I go out shooting cows again. 😮
Having images rejected is of course annoying, but our images aren’t rejected for fun. Successful Sites like Dreamstime have already proved themselves. Often contributors have yet to (myself included). I still get my share of rejections. Currently my acceptance ratio on Dreamstime is just 40% and this is an improved figure, also I got accepted at Shutterstock on the 6th time of applying, but now it’s my biggest earner.
Most microstock sites try to allow a contributor community to exist, usually in the form of forums or blogs. These are of course monitored and censored, sometimes to the point where you can only find praise. If you really want to express yourself (within reason), head over to MSG, however be aware, the agencies are watching this too.
Naturally, microstock agencies don’t see their sites as a joke, they see themselves as a business and if we want to succeed, that’s how we should see them too.