selling microstock images on shutterstock

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What is microstock?

Sell images online and earn money

microstock: buying and selling images

© Ssogras -

In microstock photography photos, illustrations and vector images are sold online. Actually it is not the image that is sold but a licence is sold that allows buyers to use your image. The photographer, designer or illustrator remains the legal owner and images can be sold many times. Sale prices are quite low, ranging from 0,3 to 10 dollars for a royalty free image. But because these pictures can be sold many times, it is possible to get a reasonable or even high income out of them.

For photographers and designers

Microstock agencies give the opportunity to amateur and professional photographers to earn money and some even build a whole career by selling photographs that otherwise wouldn’t bring them any income. In traditional stock photography sales prices are much higher than in microstock, but it is very difficult to get accepted as a contributor. Microstock on the other hand is accessible to nearly everybody who owns a decent digital camera. Quality standards are still quite high, but with some basic knowledge and equipment it is possible for nearly everybody to upload images and earn some extra money.

Not only photographs are sold on microstock sites but also illustrations, 3D, vector images footage and audio. Vectors and especially 3D images are in high demand and digital art sells very well on these sites. Many graphic artists make more money in microstock than most photographers. Icons, buttons and realistic 3D renders are very often used in blogs and web design.

New and traditional image market

growing internet market

With the rise of the Internet a whole new online photography market has opened. The demand for high quality images at low prices gets bigger every year. More and more people are building their own websites or are writing blogs. The Internet is a visual medium and images play a very important role in it. Most of those people would love to buy your images, but their budget is quite low. Microstock agencies give them the perfect solution, high quality pictures at low prices. Traditional stock is far to expensive for this new group of costumers.

Quite some traditional stock buyers have made the shift to buying microstock images. Magazines, newspapers, ad agencies, graphic artists, marketing firms, PR firms and designers who used to buy regular stock are buying microstock these days. Image prices are much lower, quality is high and only when they need exclusive or very specific images they will buy regular stock or hire a professional photographer.

Upload for free and earn money

Uploading images to microstock is free, but a percentage of the sales price goes to the agencies. Microstock agencies will only pay you a part of the whole sales price of an image, depending on the agency they even take as much as 40 to 80% for non exclusive images.

Images can be uploaded to multiple sites or the photographer can choose to become exclusive for a single agency. Not all images or photographers are accepted, for most agencies contributors have to go through an acceptance procedure. They have to pass a small entry exam concerning their photography skills and a number of test images have to be submitted. Once accepted as a contributor, you can start to submit images. Every image will undergo an inspection for technical quality, artistic and commercial value. Depending on the agency, you can request a payment once your account has reached 50 or 100$.