The Secret of Microstock - It ain't so secret

For those just discovering the world of micro-stock photograph and turning your photographs into earnings, there is a steep learning curve. You have to learn how to step up your technical game taking pictures and developing them with software like Photoshop and/or Lightroom.

You have to learn how to develop your eye for the types of photographs micro-stock buyers are looking for and you have to have the determination to continually learn and improve while being patient enough to allow your portfolio to grow to significant size - and then the sales will come.

The good news is that the secrets of success are not all that secret. Hard work, creativity, imagination, investment in good quality tools and determination are required.

All the "secrets" of getting model releases, photograph ideas, technical issues are available within the forums of the Dreamstime and other stock agency web sites in the form of FAQs, message boards and most importantly in the portfolios of successful photographers.

Books like "Taking Stock" by Rob Sylan ( and others give an overview of the stock photography industry.

Blogs like Making Money With Your Camera ( share tips to microstock photographers.

The Dreamstime community is a valuable resource for any photographer starting and your fellow photographers are very supportive of each other but don't expect to take short cuts to success by being lazy and not putting in the work needed to learn this business from the free resources available. Don't ask things like "what photographs sell" or "what should I shoot" - look around the database and find out what sells and figure out what you like to shoot. If there is a motto around here it is "Keep shooting and keep uploading".

FYI - Wisconsinart had a great reality check blog a while back:

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January 14, 2012


Very well said, good info! I have Taking Stock as well, excellent resource for microstockers.

January 14, 2012


I guess the real big secret is that the mpre images yo have online, the mpore possible sales.

January 14, 2012


Hi Ed, yes, I totally agree. I have the "Taking Stock" too - I like it a lot because it is written in such a lovely way, really supportive, easy to understand. I gave it very good review on Amazon. Both books helped me a lot! But then my brain works like that - I need to read a lot before I plunge into new activity :-) It took me ages before I started uploading images on Dreamstime I was really scared of the rejections at first! I registered in March but didn't start uploading until summer!

January 14, 2012


Hi Ewapix, I have the Money Shots book also. Its another good one for beginners. It gives a good overview of strategy and comes from perspective of a non-photog. The Taking Stock have more technical detail including specific information about using Lightroom and comes from a contributing photographer. Its kind of telling that these books come out now when the hay day of microstock is over. The Taking Stock book kind of hypes up the "good old" days when a photo of a Christmas tree in a snowstorm could generate $13,000 and really bad photos would be accepted. Anyway these books are a great starting point for any microstock beginner.

January 14, 2012


Hi Ed, great blog - again :-) May I add one book to your collection: "Microstock Money Shots" by Ellen Boughn who is an expert on microstock (not a photographer). The author is not talking about technical aspects of taking images for stock but tries to answer this ever so popular question: "what photos sell"? It is a great book and explains a lot about the specific of this market. She talks about strategies for successful submissions, popular themes and gives a case study. I would very much recommend it to everybody who still feels puzzled byt the world of microstock.

January 14, 2012


Great post. The book "Taking Stock" is a great book and I really got a lot out of it. Best wishes to you, and keep working hard. :)

January 13, 2012


This is encouraging. I thought I would try to sell some of my photos in here but keep getting rejected. I am going to haunt this site and keep trying until I get it right. PS. The word " snapshot" really hurt.

January 12, 2012


Thankx for this blog.... really interesting.

January 10, 2012


Interesting blog. Thanks for sharing!

January 10, 2012


thanks for sharing, great images, keep up uploading!!!

January 10, 2012


Couldn't agree with you more. Great blog!!!

January 10, 2012


True enough - the secret is that there is no secret :) Just hard work for the most part...

January 10, 2012


Thanks for sharing!

January 10, 2012


You got that right

January 10, 2012


Great blog, thanks for sharing.

January 10, 2012


You are right! The “Hard work, creativity, imagination, investment in good quality tools and determination” are basic of Microstock.

January 10, 2012


Good advice.

January 10, 2012


keep uploading... that really is my motto and it works for me :)

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Photo credits: Peanutroaster.