How to Sell Photos Online on Microstock Websites
What are Royalty-Free Microstock Image Agencies?
A microstock agency is basically an online company which allows you to upload images to their photo gallery database. Images are displayed under a series of categories and can be searched for by users of the site by using keywords. You can then make money every time someone downloads your image. Microstock agencies source their photos predominantly over the Internet and from a wider range of photographers than the classical photographic agencies. The latter usually deal with professional photographers who must submit a portofolio in order to have their photographs considered for sale. Microstock agencies will accept from amateurs and generally pay between 20c and $10 per download.
How Does It Work?
Some of the Microstock agencies require you to study a tutorial on photography, and then take a simple online test, answering questions about material in the tutorial. Once you have done that, you may upload your photographs. On completion of the upload process you must provide details about each photograph. This is actually the most tedious part, as you have to name, categorize and provide keywords for each image. The problem is that if the photo is not accepted, all the work is done in vain. I think it would be better if sites accepted or rejected photographs first and if they are accepted, you would only then have to index them.
When someone downloads a photograph, you get paid a commission. A user can download various resolution versions of your image and the amount you earn varies appropriately. The images are royalty free (RF) which means that once a user pays for a download they can basically do what they like with the image within certain limits. They don't pay a royalty for each use of the image but cannot re-sell it for profit.
Uploading images to microstock agencies is just one more way of making money on the Internet. If you are lucky and can produce photos which the market wants, it could be a good source of pocket money!
Will Microstock Agencies Accept Any Old Image?
There are certain criteria which must be fulfilled when uploading a photograph. Images containing recognizable people must be accompanied by a model release which is a document signed by the person appearing in the photograph giving permission to publish the image.
Photographs should be properly exposed, subjects should be in sharp focus and the image needs to be free from camera shake and any JPG artifacts. These can occur due to the image compression process which occurs every time a JPG image is stored. The image processing package which you use to adjust contrast, color saturation, cropping and other touching up of photographs before uploading should be set to highest quality and lowest compression when saving images. Some of the agencies are somewhat fussy regarding this and will reject a photograph for all sorts of technical reasons such as bad exposure, JPG compression artifacts in the image and fuzziness due to bad focusing and camera shake. Uninteresting subjects and copyright issues due to company logos appearing in images is also a basis for rejection. Other agencies will basically accept any images as long as they are accompanied by model releases and don't contain obscene content.
Remember also that every time you save a JPG, it loses quality, so don't continually save after every edit. Alternatively you can set your camera to save images in uncompressed TIFF format and also edit photos as TIFFs before converting to JPG for upload. The downside is that the filesize of TIFF images can be much greater requiring greater storage space on your camera's flash memory and can take longer to download.
What Type of Images Should You Upload?
Again it depends on the agency, but don't bother uploading pretty pictures of flowers or your cat. They have plenty of those on their site and often will not accept these types of images. If you have something striking in this category though, it may be accepted. Photographs which sell well are often those which represent a concept and can be used commercially on websites, cards, news articles etc. Think for instance of the concepts of beauty, power, money, love, work and happiness and the sort of images you often see on birthday cards, magazine articles and websites accompanying the text. These are often sourced by designers as royalty free pictures from stock agencies for use on their website.
Conceptual and Editorial Images Have the Potential to Sell Well
Which are the Best Agencies to Upload To?
Other good sites to upload to are
Some websites allow you to upload photographs and then actually pay you for each view of your image, an example is RedGage.com. Don't expect to become rich quick. You normally get paid between 50c and $1 per 1000 views but if you upload lots of good quality popular photographs, the pennies will add up. This site also allows you to add links to anything on the Internet and create blogs. Both of these options will earn on a per view basis.
Edit: In the last few months I have discovered Deviantart.com and Photobox.com. Both these sites appear to accept any photos irrespective of quality. However, terms still apply to what you submit.
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© 2012 Eugene Brennan