10 Tips for New Microstock Photographers

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  1. Learn – Microstock images are about quality, quantity and being able to stand out from the crowd. Your images are on parade, competing with images from 10’s of thousands of other photographers, many of them have been doing this for years, they have learnt what the market wants and perfected their skills in producing for this market. Their images are already well positioned in many of the microstock sites search engines for ‘Popular’ images. If you are starting now, you have a lot of catching up to do. Don’t believe the advertising that some of the microstock agencies produce, projecting the message that you can easily make money with your camera, often the ads. showing people with point and shoot cameras. You don’t have to be a professional photographer or have the best equipment to submit to agencies, but as well as all the hobbyists you are also competing with professionals, and you probably won’t make a great deal unless you spend a lot of time learning the trade. Competition is fierce now, and many agencies have enough images and submissions for them to be very choosy in what they accept.
  2. People – Images with people sell well. Especially positive images with smiley, happy people. Buyers often use microstock images to help portray a message, often about their own business. Every business wants people to see them in a positive light and they need the right images to do so.
  3. Give it some punch – A few microstock sites prefer images to look as natural as possible, with very little post process work. However, most agencies prefer images which are punchier, images which are a little over-saturated and overexposed are considered to have more appeal. Images are used for advertising, magazine/web articles, brochures, email newsletters etc. and often buyers are looking for bright and colourful images to project positivity, so bear this in mind when shooting and during post process work.
  4. Be a Microstocker – Arty images tend not to be the most popular in microstock. This sometimes comes as a surprise to people entering this market, especially if they’re used to receiving flattering comments about their work. If you are taking photos for microstock, what must always be in the forefront of your mind is what can the image be used for, they’re mostly not being hung up on walls. If you are a talented photographer it doesn’t mean you will be a talented microstocker, I’ve seen many people curse microstock agencies (Example) because so many of their images are rejected. You have to learn and adapt to what the microstock market wants, it’s not going to change for you. If you’re not willing to learn or change your style, then recognise that microstock isn’t for you and find the market which is right for you. There are many other ways to sell your images other than microstock.
  5. Megapixels – For credit sales, larger images sell at higher prices. Large images, may not be as frequently downloaded as small images, but why miss out on the extra cash of bigger sales that result from higher resolution images. Buy as large a megapixel camera as your budget allows. The extra pixels will allow you to improve composition by cropping, with the image still being large enough to fall under extra large sales. Some people also regularly downsize their images as this helps to improve image quality. Also, get the most out of your camera by shooting with quality lenses. Quality standards on many of the microstock agencies have risen considerably over the years, so shooting with quality equipment can help. A top of the range DSLR doesn’t give you any automatic rights for having your images accepted by agencies though, your images still have to be considered as having high commercial value. It may be worth spending some time finding out if you actually fit the bill as a microstock photographer and you want to continue in the long term, before you spend serious cash on upgrading your equipment.
  6. Speed it upa. If you are an independent, use your time carefully. Use ftp software like filezilla to upload to all the agencies you are with rather than uploading on each site. Or try paid services where you upload your images to them, the images are then stored and you can distribute them whenever you want to a number of agencies, without having to re-upload. picWorkflow is a good one. b. Put the IPTC data in your jpegs, if you do this then you only have to write the title, description and keywords for an image once, as this information will be received on whatever site you send it to. c. Don’t spend too much time in photoshop trying to recover an incorrectly shot image, for example if an image is underexposed. Learn to get it right in your camera and use photoshop only to add something extra, not to salvage an image. d. Stock up on coffee, you’re going to need it.
  7. Enjoy yourself – This is a profession you should be enjoying, if you’re having fun, if you’re enjoying yourself  it should reflect in your work, you’ll be able to bring out the best in your models etc.
  8. Copycats – Stop looking at other peoples work and trying to emulate it. If you can’t create from your own ideas, what on earth are you doing here? Don’t try and create a portfolio which is identical to someone else’s. It’s much better to recognise that your place is in an office with a tie around your neck, than to be known as a person who’s only ability in a creative field is to copy other peoples work. Produce images which lead buyers to look at more of your port. and even get them coming back to you. The image at the top of this post is by Corepics, I’ve used their images twice before for blog posts, and I’m sure I’ll return to them again for more images in the future.
  9. Endurance – I refer a fair few people to microstock sites from this blog. The vast majority get less than 10 images online, I can only guess why they stop submitting. Maybe they think they won’t be able to make money, maybe too many of the images they submit are rejected, or their initial submission for acceptance was rejected. Whatever the reasons, the majority of people who try microstock don’t continue. Microstock is a test of endurance. You need to be extremely patient and persistent to succeed in this.
  10. Anti-social – This last point is subject to much debate. Don’t spend too much time promoting yourself  and your images on social media sites or blogging to promote your stuff. If you enjoy it then go ahead, but remember that the top agencies have massive traffic and they have far more of the right kind of traffic, they have tons of buyers. This is where you want to be seen. Your best advert is to produce and get as many images on these sites as possible. Consistently produce outstanding stuff and your images will rise to the top without sending a single tweet.
Read Also  When you Find your Stock Photos Online Where you don't Want them


The chances are you will be disappointed if you’re expecting a fast return in this industry. The most successful microstockers treat microstock as a business and they work full-time. If you are a hobbyist photographer, don’t expect cash to be rolling in. There are no ways to make a lot money in anything via the internet, which doesn’t require a lot of effort, if there are please use this blog’s contact form and provide me with as many details as possible 😉

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t bother, you can become a successful microstocker, just know what you’re in store for. There are many people who will tell you not to bother. Either they tried it and failed, they look at the lowest amounts you can receive from downloads and assume it’s impossible to earn anything decent, or they are with the anti-microstock establishment and believe the microstock concept degrades and devalues the business of producing and selling images. What they so often fail to acknowledge is that due to the massive competition that microstock created, in many ways microstock raised the bar, competition by its very nature pushes people further. Microstock has never been about networking and knowing the right people to become successful, all the photographers are on a level playing field and the best will rise to the top, and the best will earn the most money.

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