03 Aug 2007 6 Ways to Increase your Microstock Earnings

Progress, Alex GumerovI have a written goal to reach $1,000 of microstock income per month by the end of this year. Since I set that goal, my earnings have not increased much at all. So it’s time to get into action. I put together a list of different things I’m going to do to increase my microstock earnings to achieve my goal. Naturally, I’m sharing them here.

1. Improve your Photography

Good photos sell often. Great photos sell all the time. If there are lots of photos of the same subjects competing with yours – and there almost always is – higher quality will translate into higher sales. Improving the quality of your photos is an obvious way to increase your microstock income.

The first task should be to improve your skills. Everything else comes and goes, but your skills are fundamental. Great photographers can take great shots with almost any camera. They understand the mechanics and can utilize the strengths of any equipment, lighting and subject.

There are many ways to improve your skills:

  • Have your photos reviewed and evaluated
  • Read photography blogs, forums and websites
  • Read photography books
  • Analyze the photos of other photographers
  • Take photography courses

In addition to working on your skills, work on your equipment. There is a lot of amazing photographic equipment that will increase the quality of your photos. Continuing to invest in equipment will improve your photos and subsequently your microstock earnings.

If your skills and equipment are both great, there are always other aspects to add to your photography. Hire talented assistants, get photographic mentors, hire studios and models. There are no limits.

2. Create More Photos

Microstock appeals to professionals and amateurs alike, so many people microstock as a sideline to their regular job or business. This is my situation, and I am fortunate enough to be able to choose how much time I commit to microstock. I can therefore easily increase my microstock earnings by simply committing more time to creating more photos.

However, there are other ways of increasing your photographic output without spending more time. If your microstock earnings (or indeed other resources) permit you money to hire people to assist you, why not increase your output by increasing your manpower? Yuri Arcurs has 12 assistants helping him with administration, organisation, shooting, repairing, keywording and uploading. This enables him to contribute 400 extremely high quality images to his portfolio every month.

Or maybe more photos isn’t what you need. Maybe you have a cupboard filled with years worth of great photos just sitting there earning nothing. Look to how you can increase the rate at which you contribute these photos through the use of IPTC data and tools such as ProStockMaster.

3. Refine your Keywords and Descriptions

Keywords and descriptions are crucial to having your photos found and purchased. If you’re not already doing so, I recommend you spend serious amounts of time auditing and refining your keywords and descriptions. Think about what terms people who want your photos will use in their search. Do searches at all agencies and see where your photos appear. Make the appropriate changes and test to see how your sales are affected. Be aware that at most microstock websites any changes to keywords or descriptions aren’t reflected in the search results immediately.

Do your research. There are lots of resources in microstock blogs and forums about solid techniques for improving your keywords and descriptions. Always keep your keywords accurate and fair or it may backfire.

4. Contribute to More Agencies

How many microstock agencies are you currently using? Are there more that you know about but are resisting registering? Or perhaps you’re exclusive with one agency in order to cut down on the labour. Consider which configuration of agencies will provide the highest earnings.

I only contributed to iStockphoto when I first started in microstock. It was three months before I realized I could earn lots more if I contributed to more agencies. Over the next six months I signed up with Shutterstock, Dreamstime and CanStockPhoto, and eventually Fotolia and BigStockPhoto. It wasn’t until a year later when I did some more research I realized there were agencies with higher earnings potential than some that I was using. Within a couple of months I signed up with StockXpert, LuckyOliver, 123rf and Crestock.

iStockphoto still earns the most, but now only accounts for 35% of my monthly earnings, and 43% of my all-time earnings.

5. Analyze your Portfolio

Look at which of your photos sell the best. Can you expand on the quantity of images you have of that subject or theme? Or do you have another potential subject you want to test? Your portfolio is a testing ground for you to discover your place in the microstock market. Test, analyze, react and repeat.

Don’t stop at your own portfolio. Look at the portfolios of other contributors. See how well their images are selling, and what elements work for them. Originality is always a good idea, but don’t hesitate to take inspiration from other photographers. You may like the subject of one photographer, the style of another and the technique of yet another. Create and idea of what you think will work for you, then test it out.

6. Use Referral Programs

Do you send email messages? You don’t need a website or blog to use referral links. Put them in your email signature or any other place where they will be seen. The referral programs are an easy way to increase your microstock earnings.

I suggest analyzing the various microstock referral programs to see which one suits you. Programs that favor contributors rather than buyers are more appropriate for me. I also prefer programs that offer me a commission for the sales of referred contributors rather than a one-time payment. This compounds your earnings giving you a much greater return long term.

What Else?

Do you have different things you do to increase your microstock earnings?

6 Comments
  • Andre
    Posted at 10:43h, 03 August Reply

    7. Don’t set goals to increase sales at the beginning of summer 😉

  • john
    Posted at 10:33h, 09 August Reply

    well said andre. hahaha.

    great list and something that i think is very important for everyone to take note of. have you learned anything new since posting this.

    i sometimes feel that people dont want to use other agencies bc they fear that it cannibalizes sales from their own sites. have you come accross that and what is your opinion on that?

  • Lee Torrens
    Posted at 14:00h, 09 August Reply

    Hey John,

    I’m always learning. The list could go on forever, so I included just the best.

    I imagine most buyers use only one agency, so there isn’t much cannibalization. If your photos are on site A but not on site B, then another photographer will be getting your sales at site B. There are enough photos in the microstock market now that buyers don’t need to go hopping from site to site to find the right photo – in the majority of situations at least.

    – Lee

  • Andrew Jacobs
    Posted at 04:19h, 20 March Reply

    Have you or readers had experience in using your stock to fill assignments on Pixish or others? Are there more assignment oriented sites like Pixish out there?

    Love your blog, btw.

  • Holgs
    Posted at 09:59h, 04 February Reply

    7. Get your photos online…

    I’m sure I’m not the only one with a huge backlog of photos on my hard drive not earning any money?

  • Michelle
    Posted at 22:25h, 11 April Reply

    I was very long exclusive with an agency. I have to admit that there is a lot of extra effort to upload at several agencies. But for many reasons I have decided to do so. Istock, Shutterstock, Indivstock, Fotolia, and of course CanStockPhoto dreamstime I supply current. ‘ve never regretted. Quite the contrary.

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