Why engage in microstock?

The main message of microstock sites is: “Why would you let your photos pick the dust on your harddisk? Put them out for sale and earn money.” When that would be the main reason for an amateur photographer to engage in microstock photography, disappointment will not be far away. Yes, you can earn some money with microstock. But the average wages per hour are extremely low and it takes ages to build a reasonable portfolio (and by reasonable I mean over 1000 pictures). And effort. An amateur photographer likes taking good photographs and expressing his/hers creativity in the images. Engaging in microstock means, however, extra work. Keywording the work is essential and especially in the beginning time consuming. Then you have to go through all kinds of review processes to get accepted by the stock agencies. And of course, upload the work can also take some time.

So my conclusion is: let money not drive the engagement with microstock (at least not in short or medium turn). But why then would one want to engage? Speaking for myself, with only three months experience with microstock, there is one reason that I really find appealing: the whole process of submitting images to microstock has raised the quality of my photowork. I think I had quite a bunch of nice images, but many did not turn to be good enough for microstock. Artifacts, wrong sharpening, this kind of things that you often don’t even see in first instance. The main trick of microstock reviewers, however, seems to be looking to your images with a 100% crop. That reveals artifacts..... But microstock also initiates a learning curve. Because I had kept all my original images as RAW-files, a simple review fo my library did the trick of upgrading the quality where needed.

So now I am building up a portfolio, now almost adding up to 200 pictures. Not much, but you have to start somewhere. I really enjoy my images being sold, and am constantly wondering how on earth they can be found within the huge digital mountain of millions of high quality photos (-:).


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Photo credits: Rob Van Esch.

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July 23, 2010


Honestly, shooting stock is not the same as shooting other photography. You have different interests in mind when shooting stock. Often a good stock image is also a good photograph (landscape, wildlife, portrait, macro etc.) but not always. Also keep in mind when a reviewer rejects a photo they will not give you personal feedback. They pick from a pre-set selection of "reasons", sending the one that most closely matches the actual reason. You will get something like: "Distorted pixels due to poor sensor performance, image was interpolated, poorly scanned, upsampled, oversharpened or JPG was not saved at the highest quality."
Well, which one is it? It's hard to learn when you get a canned response selected from a list of possible reasons. With over 50000 images waiting to be reviewed at any given time, personal feedback is impossible so don't expect to learn too much from rejection. If you are just an amateur looking to cash in on photos lying around, you shouldn't expect a windfall but if you do start chasing sales, you might find you will learn what designers want from images, read articles on good technique and then eventually, you won't be an amateur anymore.

July 22, 2010


Wow!.. well said.. I agree. :)

July 21, 2010


That is true! Why not to upload, learn & earn! :)

July 21, 2010


well said....I agree with you very much!!!!

July 21, 2010


It is an interesting question. I find that the submittal process can greatly improve your technical ability - but that doesn't necessarily translate into much better images for personal use. It can even be counterproductive if you start focusing on sharpness, CA and noise too much! I would say that I spend about 5-10 hours a month on stock (not counting stuff like reading blogs that I do anyway) - after about a year of uploading regularly (75/mo) that meant about $20/hour for my time. I think you need to decide if you want this to be a revenue stream or a learning experience. If the former than you need to be prepared to work at it regularly, and do some stuff that starts to feel like 'work'. Make sure you are having fun with it though! One valid point is that it was that much easier in 2008 to get started than it is now. Standards are higher and the database is millions of images bigger... Still, there is no question that the thrill of having an image selected among millions is a great feeling for a hobbyist.

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