AustralianLight - Landscape Photography AustralianLight - Landscape Photography

AustralianLight - Landscape Photography is my new site with my good mate Bernie. If you have found my blog posts useful over the years, then how about giving us a hand to promote AustralianLight.

We are doing everything we can to get our australian landscape photography out there and guess what..... it's bloody hard work!! So please visit the gallery and if you like what see, share it with your friends.

Thanks, we really do appreciate your help. - Russell

Saturday, 28 March 2009

So you want to sell stock images online?

So you want to sell stock images online do you?

First I must ask you.... "Wouldn't you rather join the circus and jump through flaming hoops?"

At least that way the gratification is instant when the audience applauds (especially if your pants catch fire, as audiences just can't get enough of someone's flaming backside, just watch any "home video" show and you will see). With photography stock however, getting feedback, views and most importantly sales, requires patience and a LOT of hard work.

To be honest, joining online stock agencies is a lot like joining the circus. There are still hoops that you have to jump though everyday (especially on your first upload), some of your performances will be better than others, sometimes the audience will go home unimpressed (unless you do the flaming pants thing! me, they will LOVE it!) and there are many other circus' out there all competing for the same audience... and like stock, some days you will wonder if it's all worth the effort.

So what do I know about online stock & microstock agencies? Honestly.... Bugger all!

But I am learning quick. My background in stock was always supplying images direct to the end user, or graphic artist, as I shot commercially and had contact within the industry. But these days I am retired from commercial shooting and my industry contacts have long dried up, as they too have mostly retired or moved on to new ventures.

So now I have an ever increasing library of images here and I am doing nothing with them.... sure I get the pleasure out of shooting them, but if they are going to do nothing but live in a box, what's the real point?

Enter "online stock" & "microstock". Firstly, whats the difference? Well both are online stock agencies who sell images via the web, but "microstock" sell them for bugger all ....As low $1 bugger all! BUT, they hopefully sell many times over and this makes up for the small sale price.

Regular online stock agencies still charge much higher rates and volume is not the objective here, as quality and service are of great importance.

I read a comment from someone on a blog (or in a forum... I forget where actually) where this person was a member at Alamy (online stock agency) and six sales, just six, netted him USD1250. To gain a similar result from his microstock agency would have required some 1000-1250 sales. (there is a sliding scale on microstock sales that is dependent on image size purchased, so exact number is impossible to determine)

So where do we put our images, regular stock or microstock? Both perhaps?

There will be many out there who feel that microstock has bastardised the industry. There will be many who feel that regular stock agencies have had their day and that microstock is the way of the future (if not the present). So with that in mind, I will leave it up to you to decide what is right for you.

Personally, I think microstock has bastardised the industry, BUT, I also think it's a runaway train that can't be stopped. So if I don't want to be left behind I better jump on that train and see where it takes me.

Luckily for me I have a hard working wife, so it's not really about the money (although she would love me to share the load), or the industry for that matter, it's simply about getting my images out of the box so that they can be seen. Perhaps the artist in me is now coming out and it's about sharing my vision of the world... cough, cough ...yeah right!

What do I know about microstock that I didn't know a few days ago?

Quite a bit actually. Here are a 10 pointers that I hope will help you if you choose to jump on that train....

1: Research the agency.

Read forums, learn from other people's experience, find what agencies they like and why, find out which agencies pay the best and make the most sales. Don't waste your time on the duds, as it's hard enough submitting to the others.

To help you get started here are what I have found to be the most popular...,, & Another interesting one is's a newbie, but I like their interface and they are a young bunch of kids with fresh ideas. They are still small at the moment, but I think they may be a force in the future. Plus they list their dog as part of their team.... I like that. ;-)

2: Generic images sell best and are accepted readily.

Try and provide images that are sooooooo generic, that they can be used in a whole manner of ways. This will mean more sales... simple.

3: Remove ALL reference in your images to logos or trademarks.

It doesn't matter how small, they WILL see them when inspecting your images and your image WILL be rejected 100% of the time.

4: Inspect your images at 100% and CLEAN them.

Again.... expect to be rejected if your image contains dust bunnies or goobers.

5: Don't over filter your images.

Agencies like them natural, so no heavy noise reduction, no paint effects etc.

6: Keep noise to a minimum.

It's a fact of life, digital images contain noise. Too much and your images will be rejected. (remember #5 above) This is a touchy one with some agencies and don't be surprised if an image is rejected for noise and upon resubmission, it get's rejected for noise reduction. Go figure??

I think many of the IQ experts that these agencies employ, must have grown up in the digital era, as even most "noisy" files these days, are soooooo much cleaner than film scans and all that film grain. How on earth did we cope back then with film? How did we produce all those great looking images in magazines and posters? Arrggghhh!

....Oops! Sorry. I think I just slipped into my "old man cranky pants" then for a sec.

7: Keyword,Keyword,Keyword,

Study other images that get top billing in the stock searches and look at their keywords. Keywording is an art in itself and vital to success in online stock searches. (I am still crap at it, but will learn)

8: Submit HEAPS!

Don't think that you are gunna upload 3 or 4 images and sit back on Easy Street. I have been to Easy Street (just for a look while driving one day) and it's not a place that you want to go.... sure they all sit back and do nothing, but the cheques roll in from the Government and not from satisfied image customers.

Set yourself a goal of at least 50-100 images to start. You don't have to upload all these from the get go, but if you really want to test the waters, you need to jump right in rather than do the girlie "toe" thing.

9: Revise & update.

Keep improving those keywords as your skill increases. Keywords are the secret to successful views and with views come sales. Not only your keywords but your images as well. Some of the agencies provide a feature that allows an image to be updated to a new version. So as your Photoshop or RAW conversion skills increase, redo your images and make them even better.

10: Keep track of your images.

Create a database of your images and input things like title and keywords directly into the image EXIF data. If you are submitting to a number of agencies, you will get very sick on manually inputting the data and automagic reads from your images are sooooo much nicer.

If you can't do this, create a simple spreadsheet and list your title and keywords against each image. This way you will at least be able to cut & paste them into the uploads as required.... it's still a lot easier than pulling them out of your head and it will keep things uniform from agency to agency.

A good record will also help prevent double submissions. As your library grows, it will be harder and harder to remember what images you have submitted to where. Visiting each library before uploading, just to see if the image is already there is a huge waste of time, so it's best to know beforehand.

Well there are my first 10 pointers for you. I say "first 10" as I am sure there will be many more to come. I am a newbie to this and will admit that at this stage I am not far past just dipping my "girlie toe" in the waters. ;-)

If you have microstock experience that you would like to share, please comment below as I would much rather learn from your experience, than from my mistakes.



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