5 evergreen tips for microstock contributors

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Microstock websites have been around for a while now. From Shutterstock to Dreamstine, Fotolia to iStock (which is run by Getty Images), there is no shortage to options out there (with new services popping up all the time). There are photographers who make an incredible living off of microstocks. However, whether you’re looking to make a passive income or eventually turn it into something full time, I have pointers and advice you need to follow. These services have become far more competitive in recent years with the continued improvements of camera picture quality. So here’s what you need to know to get the most out of your microstock portfolio.

Look At What’s Selling

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One of the best points of advice I can give is look at what’s selling before you start uploading anything. Most of the photographs are graphics that sell go to small businesses wanting a professional look. They want quality stock photographs. Some newspaper outlets might pull from microstock websites, but for the most part, what you’re taking pictures of goes to a small business. So keep that in mind.

Don’t Limit Yourself To One Service

When you sign up for a particular microstock service many will tell you that if you offer a photograph exclusively through the site you can make more money. Some might pay you three or four times that amount of money for exclusivity. It does sound pretty good, but when getting started don’t limit yourself.

The thing is you don’t know how your photographs will perform on the particular service. You might find nature photographs do better on Dreamstime while your stock business images work better on CanStockPhoto. The first several months need to be viewed as a learning curve. So initially don’t make any images exclusive. Once you identify what sells and what doesn’t you can then make certain pictures exclusive to specific microstock websites.

Edit, Edit, Edit

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You can almost never just take a photograph and upload it to a microstock service. You need to edit it and clean it up. There are a number of editing titles to consider, including Adobe Lightroom, CaptureOne Pro, DxO PhotoLab, RawTherapee, and others. Make sure you have a pleasing composition, but also remove any grain that might appear on the image. And don’t even waste your time on blurry or out of focus images. Every microstock service provider has a different approval process, and most won’t be approved if there is any kind of resolution, blurring, or grain problem. In fact, you might find most of your photographs are initially rejected.

It is frustrating to have images rejected, but most services will toss in a small note to the rejected file. Take note of the rejection reason and keep this in mind in the future. You can also use it to update the current photo and try to submit again.

Monitor Your Analytics

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It’s easy to sit and watch how much money you have coming in, and while sales are nice, you need to monitor your analytics. Do you have a picture that is bringing in a ton of views but isn’t selling? You need to find out why. Use the keywords you tagged the image with (you’ll create a description, a title, and image tags when uploading the picture) and perform a photo search on the site. Look over the images that are selling as compared to yours. Is there a lighting difference? Perhaps it has a more vibrant color palette. Take notice of what is selling and what isn’t, then make the necessary adjustments.

Keep Uploading

I’ve seen far too many excellent photographers upload a few dozen images and then quit microstock websites. They don’t want to take the time to upload more images with zero reward in return. Yes, it does take some time to upload images, from the tagging and descriptions to the images that are rejected. However, you need to keep uploading. The more quality images you upload the better you’ll do on the microstock services.

Think of it like a blog. A single blog post isn’t going to do all that well. In fact, it might not have any views. However, a blog with 100 posts will do far better. People will find the new posts and eventually read the earlier ones. The same is true with your photographs. People can search photos based on the uploader. And when they view one image by you the website will show off others. So the more images you upload the more exposure you’ll receive.

Stay With It

These are just a handful of the tips and tricks you need to keep in mind when using microstock websites. I want you to know it is very much a learning process and it might take you months, if not a few years, to fully grasp what works for you and what brings in the most money. Make sure to stay on top of your analytical data and spend time editing your photographs. As long as you do this, I assure you more visitors will come to your photographs, which means an increase in revenue. Just stick with it.