20 Sep 2007 What Does it Take to Become a Microstock Contributor?
From all the polls and surveys it seems that the majority of microstock contributors are not established professional photographers. For those considering microstock as a potential way to earn some extra money, this post will give you an idea of what it takes to contribute to the microstock market and be happy with the amount you’re earning relative to your time and money investment.
Creating photos and preparing them for sale in the microstock market takes time. There are many required tasks. Some photos sell well, earning a good return on investment. Others never sell and the investment returns no financial gain.
If you’re time-poor, each non-selling photo will frustrate you and you’ll be less likely to enjoy, learn or earn. Be sure you have ample time to commit to the tasks, or if you’re lucky, someone to do it for you! Manage your expectations so you’re not frustrated too early. It takes time to build up a portfolio that generates consistent income.
While it’s possible to have shots from a point-and-shoot digital camera accepted, it’s getting more difficult as quality standards rise. A digital SLR (DSLR) camera is almost a minimum requirement.
If you don’t have one or the money to buy one, do your best to borrow. Many people have DSLR cameras now and many only use them on vacation.
If you’re ‘old school’ and use a film camera, make sure you’re very good with it. The additional costs of film and processing and the additional time to scan prints make it more difficult to achieve a positive return on your investment.
Photo Editing skills and software
No photos go straight from camera to market and sell well. Some adjustment is always required, whether its the color and white balance, or removing brands and imperfections. You’ll need photo editing software and to know how to use it.
The most common commercial tools are Adobe Photoshop and Apple Aperture / Lightroom. There are also many good open source alternatives.
Microstock is, by definition, an online market. The days of posting CDs are gone. You need Internet access.
While some microstock contributors cope with dial-up connections, they don’t report their experience as pleasant. If you have a choice, get a broadband Internet connection. Photos are at least 3 megabytes and if you’re contributing to multiple agencies you’ll spend hours uploading a single photo without fast broadband.
Rejection is part of microstock. Agencies want what they want, and reviewing is a process subject to the flaws of human being. Realize from day one that your test images will likely be rejected at least the first time – even for accomplished photographers.
Even after you’re accepted you’ll still find disturbingly odd inconsistencies in the review process. Some microstock agencies will reject photos that are your best sellers at other agencies. The rejection reasons will also seem odd, if given at all. The best thing you can do for yourself is to see rejection as part of the process and not make it mean anything it doesn’t mean about you, the agency or the inspector. Just keep shooting and learning.