27 Aug 2007 4 Golden Rules of Contributing Microstock

Ten Commandments, James SteidlFrom everything I’ve experienced and read about microstock, four things have emerged above all else as golden rules for successfully selling photos in the microstock market.

Shoot for Quality over Quantity

Microstock is a classic 80/20 rule market. 20% of the photos earn 80% of the sales. The same is true within an individual portfolio. A handful of my photos are superstars relative to the others. Repeating the success of these images is more lucrative than just building the size of your portfolio.

In this context, quality extends past the technical aspects to also include the commercial appeal of the photo.

Create an Efficient Workflow

The process of getting your photos from your camera to the microstock websites takes you away from learning, practising and shooting. Do everything you can to get this process fast and efficient. Organize your photos with a commercial application such as Adobe Bridge or Apple Aperture. Use IPTC data so you don’t need to repeat it on every microstock website. Use automated uploading such as FTP or ProStockMaster.

Take Rejection

Don’t make rejections mean anything. If your photo is good and commercially appealing it will be accepted at the majority of agencies. Don’t focus on the one image that was rejected by one agency. Even the best photographers are occasionally rejected. Manage your expectations by keeping the agency acceptance rates in the back of your mind. Learn what you can from the rejection reasons and move on.

Keyword Thoughtfully

Use care. You don’t need a massive list of keywords, but you do need to choose the ones you use carefully. Agencies use keywords with different limits and priorities. Make sure you understand the differences and choose your keywords appropriately.

Dreamstime’s Ellen Boughn has an excellent series of articles on keywording: The Do Nots of Successful Keywords; The I Hate to Keyword Guide to Keywording (part II); Keywords that Work (Part III).

  • Jan Will
    Posted at 14:21h, 27 August Reply

    Lee, great post today. If you want to be successful especially rule number 1 is important. I can so relate to this. I tried both quality and quantity. Not only that you will make more money/hour by spending more time/image to produce quality, you also are much more satisfied with your results.

  • john
    Posted at 15:39h, 27 August Reply

    yeah i agree with jan and your number 1 rule. take your few shots that are selling the most and stick to those concepts. its a great “tell” for what the market wants. microstock sites should tell the members what keywords and concepts are selling or being searched for.

    I wrote something small up on keywording as well. You could write for days about the importance and best way to go about it, but I hit on a few key points. I think one of the major differences that people fail to think about is the keyword difference in the same language for example bw american english and british english. words have different meanings and usages so its important to understand that your audience isnt always from down your street and using the same words you are.


    Also Lee check this out. its a cool potential photoshop app. i’m not sure if you have seen it.


    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 20:15h, 27 August Reply

      Hi John, the top selling shots that all agencies proudly display is the “tell” for what’s being searched. Shutterstock also provide a top100 keywords page which tells you straight up.

      The photoshop app is amazing! If it can truly do that without creating noise or distortion it’ll change the photo editing world!

  • Flemishdreams
    Posted at 18:06h, 28 August Reply

    Yes, I have that 20/80 or even 10/90 rule too. Only, would you get that income on the 20 if you didn’t have those 80? Those 80 can attract attention to your portfolio, show that you can do also something else than that fab foodshot. Maybe one of those 80 paved the road to those 20 that actually sold.

    And there is another thing. For me, photography is big fun, and not work. I love taking nature shots even if I know they won’t sell as well as that odd isolated food shot. My nature shots sell OK at SS, like 80-100$ per month without the EL’s. That’s fine for me but won’t make me rich. At least some people found what they are looking for, and they are willing to pay for it.

    As to IPTC and workflow, all too true. I wrote my own script to tag, on http://www.flemishdreams.com/tag/ and no, it’s not spamming coz there are no ads on it, it’s free, and it only costs me bandwidth. I just wrote it to optimize my workflow, doing spellcheck, duplicates, templates, and ordering all-in-1 by mouse clicks. I tried PS but my script is just faster, because it also gives output for several types of tag separators. Lost too much time on re-tagging for comma, semicolon, space and/or newline separated tags on the different sites.

  • Flemishdreams
    Posted at 18:30h, 28 August Reply

    I agree about the rejections. I don’t even care. SS accepts almost 100%, and if another one thinks it’s not commercial stock, well, it’s their choice. The worst site workflow-wise is iStock. No FTP, 1 by 1 HTML upload, and their heavy ill-programmed Java-uploader just blocks my poor PC. Whatever, I just stopped uploading there.

  • Peter
    Posted at 15:56h, 29 August Reply

    I started a blog about “How much I made with Stock Photography”
    Check it out.

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