Microstock for you?
Are you thinking to submit images to some microstock agencies and to sell your photos online? Microstock lures photographers in with the promise of easy money, but the amount of money you can make depends highly on your approach. Microstock is open for anyone with a decent camera, and with minimal work everybody can start a portfolio. However there is a big difference between having a few pictures up for sale and going professional.
Before you start uploading images you should consider whether microstock is the right path for you to follow. You probably love taking pictures and are enjoying a wonderful hobby with your photography. You have to be careful not to lose this joy by becoming obsessed with producing images to earn some money. Microstock is not about artistic photography; the most successful stock images have a certain clean commercial style. Artistic images can sell on microstock but they will never generate as much downloads as the more commercial images.
If done well microstock can be a joy and in the mean time you can earn some extra cash with it. In the long run you may even build up a portfolio that generates a part-time income. Only the lucky and hard working few could even become a full-time microstocker. It really takes a lot of hard work, time and dedication to get your whole income out of microstock.
Microstock makes selling images online more accessible for amateur and professional photographers or designers. Depending on your approach towards photography or design there can be several reasons to get involved into selling pictures or illustrations.
You could be just like me. I started uploading some images just because I was curious. I wanted to see how it would work out. I was taking pictures anyway and they were just sitting on my hard desk doing nothing. First sales came soon and I continued to upload. It was actually very nice to see them sold. As more and more sales came in I got more and more hooked. I was just having fun and I still do, it actually became a small addiction. Your reasons to start with microstock may be different than mine. Microstock can give fun, a small extra income and in the long run even a whole income if you’re dedicated and lucky.
For the hobby photographer who wants to do something extra with his images
Not all microstock contributors are earning a lot of money with their images. Many of them don’t care; they are not into microstock to earn a lot of money. They just want to enjoy their photography and microstock is for them a way to share their images. They shoot pictures they want to shoot without considering their stock suitability.
Microstock also has an educational factor, where you get a lot of feedback through rejections and forums. It is also a nice way to improve your photography skills. Your images get evaluated through approval process and the sales give an extra sense of approval and appreciation. The money you earn is just a nice side effect. You have the freedom to shoot whatever you want and invest a much time you want.
For the amateur who wants to earn some extra money
You don’t need to be a professional photographer to submit your images to microstock and earn some extra money. If you are enjoying photography and want to sell some of your images and earn back your equipment, you might quite easily succeed. Maybe your images are not really focused on microstock, but that doesn’t really have to be a problem. In microstock all kinds of images can be sold, although some image styles and topics are more suitable for stock. Maybe you can adapt your images a little bit towards microstock and keep on taking the kind if pictures you love to take. For example if you enjoy taking images of landscapes, you can ad people into it and sell them as travel images.
Microstock is perfect for those who want a small extra income of a couple of 100$ a month. This can easily bee achieved with a moderate port of 300 to 500 images.
For the amateur wanting to earn his income out of microstock
For those who want to get a full earning out of microstock; don’t quit your regular job! It will take quite some time to build a high quality portfolio you can live of. Microstock is about clean commercial high quality images. Although they sometimes are accepted, artistic images are less suited for microstock. This might not be a problem if you enter microstock just to have fun and in the meanwhile earn a little extra money. If you on the other hand want to earn a big part or all of your income out of microstock this might be a problem.
If you are planning to become a professional microstock photographer you will need patience, persistence, dedication, creativity, motivation, and a backup income before you can live of your stock portfolio. Treat it like a real business, working long days with low income to start with. Produce high in demand images in high quantity and quality. There are not that many full-time professional microstockers. It takes a lot of dedication and hard work to become a pro. Decide what your level of commitment will be, because that’s how far you will go. Don’t expect to earn a full time earning out of microstock within the first two or three years from signing up.
Most microstockers make some extra income out of it and only the most dedicated contributors can make a living out of microstock alone. Before committing to work as hard as that takes, try it out for a while and see if it fits you. Producing professional quality stock images is not easy when you start with it. Progress at your own pace, experiment and find your style.
The professional photographer looking for an additional income
If you’re a professional photographer with a huge quantity of unused photos, it might be interesting to upload these images as microstock. You might have the images available, but you will have to do quite some extra work before you can upload them. Most images will need some post processing to meet the microstock quality standards (no noise, no dust spots, no purple fringe…). Another task you will have to do is to keyword your images. When you have hundreds or thousands of images to process it can be quite time consuming.
It also might be difficult for a professional photographer to start selling at microstock prices. Professionals normally get paid a lot more for the images they produce. If the extra time and low prices are not an issue, microstock could help you generate an extra income.
Don’t lose your passion
Not all types of photographs do well on microstock. If you really want to earn money you probably will have to adapt your photography towards microstock. Chances are that you will lose interest in photography. Don’t lose your passion! The artistic images you are making might not be suited for microstock. There are artistic photographers who make it in microstock, but they are the exception. Maybe, just maybe you might become one of these exceptions but chances are quite slim.
Don’t put your expectation to high. Do it for fun. At start try to shoot a wide variety of subjects or styles and find the ones you really love. Anything done for fortune or fame will not be as satisfying as what is done for the love of it.
At Flickr or other photo sites your images may be overloaded with positive reactions while the same images might be rejected for microstock. You have to be able to deal with these rejections in a positive way and learn from them. It often happens that starting contributors get frustrated when their images get rejected.
Microstock images have to meet certain quality criteria as well as a commercial value; they require a certain stock suitability. Some of these quality criteria can get a little ridiculous. You may have had the luck to take an image of Bigfoot or a real UFO, but if your image contains noise, dust spots or a purple fringe this unique image will be rejected for microstock. That is just part of microstock, the images you submit have to be technically good. In regular stock it is different, there the images are judged on their aesthetic value (imperfections like noise or dust spots were cleaned up by the agencies). In microstock however the images are more judged on their commercial and technical quality (the image has to be cleaned up before submission). The last could also be a trap for professional photographers that want to start with microstock.
In microstock your images will be sold at very low prices. You may earn 30cents to a couple of dollars for a download. Can you cope with the fact that your images are sold at these low prices while you have put a lot of energy and effort in it? You may even ask yourself why people even bother to submit their images to microstock. But apparently the system works for a lot of people. Some of them even make their whole or a big part of their income out of these low priced sales.
Prices may be low but through these agencies you are able to reach a buyers public you otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach. You shouldn’t focus on individual sales; try to look at the bigger picture. Images on multiple sites generating multiple sales year after year. If you can’t cope with these micro earnings then microstock is not for you. Despite the low prices microstock can be lucrative for people who do it well.
More than just taking images
If you want to submit your images to microstock you will have to prepare your images before you upload them. The workflow is a lot more than just taking some pictures and uploading them to the microstock agencies. It takes quite some time and effort to prepare your images for submission. They have to be cleaned up in post processing and you have to add keywords, titles and descriptions.
The better your post processing and keywording skills the more likely your images will get accepted and will generate sales. Submitting images to several agencies also takes time and effort. If you want to become successful in microstock you need to be dedicated. Submitting a few images is easy but when you want to upload images in larger volumes you will have to spend a lot more time working at your computer desk.