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Sunday, November 18, 2007

How To Make Money From Micro Stock Photography?

Stock photography agents are companies that represent photographers and sell their photographs "right of use" graphic artists, news papers and advertising companies. One of the evolving domains in stock photography is called "micro stock". A micro stock agency, as the name implies, is a stock agency that deals with low (micro) price - about a dollar - photographs. Usually the micro stock agencies will restrict the uses allowed for a photograph.

Filtering and Choosing Photographs

When you are choosing your portfolio, consider the following point:
Does your photograph has a value as an illustration or as a concept or idea that a customer can benefit from? For example, a photograph of a businessman in a suit climbing a mountain will sell better that a macro shot of a mosquito on a pinhead. A lady holding a disk in one hand and a handful of dollar notes on the other hand, will sell better the a photograph of a hippopotamus chasing a koala bear. This has nothing to do with the quality of the photographs. The micro stock agencies and their customers are looking for clear ideas and concepts that their clients can use.

Preparing the Photograph

Before uploading your photographs to a micro stock agency site, you need to make sure you comply with the following guide lines:

  • The picture should be uploaded in JPEG format with minimal compression (some sites allow for RAW image upload as well)
  • Most sites require that you upload your photographs in their original resolution. Do not resize the image.
  • The guys who verify the images you have submitted are very sensitive to noise and granularity. Try looking at your photo in a 100% magnification to verify you do not "suffer" from noise. If in doubt use tools to remove the noise such as Noise Ninja or Neat Image
  • The photograph must not have any copyright material or trade marks. This includes bottle labels, T-shirts with logo, or any other product that has a trademark. Remove those logos using Photoshop.
  • For any picture that contains persons that can be identified, you must enclose a Model Release Form - this form shows the consent of your object to be photographed. If you photographed yourself, include a Model Release Form signed by you. Here are shutterstock’s model release forms, and here are dreamstime's model release forms, there are also some generic Model Release Forms on the web.

Choosing Keywords

If you will not index your photographs with good keywords, you will never get good exposure on the micro stock site. You are competing against some 1,000,000 (yes that is more than one million) pictures and about 25,000 photographs added weekly. My suggestion is put allot of effort into the keyword that you use. If you have good pictures that customers can use, attaching good keywords will give you the best rating and maximum downloads. So, how do you select your keywords? The best way is to look at similar photographs uploaded by other users to get ideas. For the following picture of two wine bottles I used the following set of keywords:

Keywords use for this picture

alcohol, bar, Bordeaux, bottle, cater, celebrate, celebration, contain, cork, culinary, diagonal, dining, dinner, drunk, empty, ferment, fine, full, fun, glass, goblet, grape, isolated, juice, label, liquid, menu, pair, party, pinot, pub, restaurant, Riesling, romantic, two, vineyard, white, wine

Recommended Sites

There are many micro stock sites, some better. Since most contracts are not exclusive, I recommend using several micro stock agencies in parallel. Here are some recommended sites

Bigstockphoto - Yet another great site for photographers. They pay 50c or 1$ per image downloaded. And they allow to get paid after only 30$ has accumulated. They will approve photos in about three days. They allow FTP upload.

Fotolia - Fotolia is a rising star in the field of stock photography. They usually pay more then 50% of the commission to the photographer, and allow you to set your own price. They are one of the fastest to approve photographs. Another nice thing is the way you can get your money. They will allow you to make a paypal cashout once you've hit the 2 dollar mark.

Shutter Stock - This is the leading micro stock agency today. Shutterstock’s business model allows a customer to make a subscription and during the subscription period the customer can download 25 pictures a day. This model encourages downloads, and indeed you will get allot of downloads. The photographers earn 25c per download, and additional 5c if the customer also requested to burn the image on a CD. There are also broader uses licenses that the client can buy for additional payment. The site is very friendly. It has an FTP upload option and pictures are approved within a day or two.

Dreams Time - This is a less known site, but still very popular with the clients, and gets great sells. The basic price per image is 1$ (or 2$ for full resolution) out of which the photographer gets 50%.
The site is very friendly. It has an FTP upload option and pictures are usually approved within a three days. - 123rf is a relatively new agency which is doing well. They are still small, so if you are good standing out is easy. They pay 50% of each sale to the photographer - nice. Another nice feature is email notification once your images has been approved or rejected.

Lucky Oliver - Lucky Oliver has been around for some time now, but they still small enough so you can easily get noticed if you are good.
They have a very fresh design that is fun to use. They payment starts at 30% and get higher if you give Lucky Oliver exclusivity and stay around to get allot of downloads (those 30% translated to 0.3 to 6 Dollars depending on picture size)

Stockxpert - Stockxpert is another good micro stock agency. They have good FTP support, and they will approve your photos within days. 50% out of each download goes to the photographer.

iStockPhoto - Istock Photo is another big micro stock agency. They pay something between 20% to 40%, but the image is sold for 1-12 dollars so there is a chance of a nice payoff. Also as a photographer progresses, he/she gets more % out of every sale.

CanStockPhoto - They pay 50% for guest/member download and 0.25 USD for subscription download. They are a great agency, with a little cluttered design.

Feature Pics - A very nice agency - they let you set a price for your stock photos or set the percentage that you want to earn.

- photostockplus gives a great variety of products you can sell. They
will not only sell your photos, but put them on mugs, shirts and more.
photostockplus also provides great resources for event photographers

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