Stock photography is one of the more common methods of monetizing your photography skills in addition to the other popular avenues which include: sharing the knowledge or teaching (i.e., blogs, articles, ebooks, books, classes, and so on), buying/selling equipment, freelance photography (such as weddings or significant events), and printing. When a photographer shoots first, without specific instructions from a consumer, and sells later, the photos are called ’stock.’ Stock photography is a term that refers to photographs which are licensed for specific public or commercial uses. It is a cost-effective method for the consumers of stock to obtain quality photos and images without the costs of hiring a professional photographer. Stock images are presented in searchable online databases and can be purchased and delivered through various stock (sometimes calledmicrostockormacrostock) agencies.
The difference betweenmicrostock vs.macrostock agencies
Macrostock agencies are the traditional stock agencies supplied by professional photographers and usually sell a stock image for a hundred dollars or more. Microstock agencies are supplied by both amateur and professional photographers and sell stock for a lot less, ranging from about $ 0.15 to several dollars per image. Your images can sell over and over again on both macrostock and microstock websites.
Microstock agencies use Royalty Free licenses. However, the macrostock market supports both Royalty Free and Rights Managed license models. Once an image is sold with a Royalty Free license it cannot be sold with a Rights Managed license. Thus, a photographer should not list any images as Rights Managed if the same image is listed Royalty Free anywhere else.
Quality of stock images
Both macrostock and microstock agencies will inspect all submitted digital images. Some agencies will require you to submit a portfolio of photographs before allowing you to join their website as a contributor. There are a plethora of reasons for which an image can be rejected and each agency may exercise different quality control standards; sometimes, the same picture which is accepted by one agency may be rejected by another, so quality control standards differ from agency to agency.
How can you increase the odds that your photograph is accepted? Here's a basic list of things you can do:
1. Use proper equipment:
a. Use a higher-end digital camera (for example, use an SLR camera as opposed to a point and shoot or your iPhone) with a resolution 6 MB or more.
b. Your choice of lens is also important, the higher quality lens and those with vibration reduction capability deliver sharper images at a larger range of apertures.
c. Use a tripod to reduce vibration
d. Use proper lighting to capture images at the lowest possible ISO setting.
2. Use proper camera settings:
a. In what format should you save your images? JPEG or RAW. The quick answer is: it depends on your workflow. My recommendation is to shoot in RAW format to allow for maximum control in post-processing (exposure, white balance, lens correction, etc.) However, if your SLR is the latest high end model and is capable of producing excellent JPEGs then you may decide to shoot directly in JPEG and save disk space and time in converting your images to JPEG (some agencies only accept JPEG images.) But if you work solely with JPEGs a word of caution: before working on a JPEG image, you should first re-save as TIFF or another non-lossy format, say PSD, otherwise if you re-save a JPEG in JPEG format, you end up with compression artifacts.
b. Use low ISO settings to keep image noise at a minimum.
c. Turn off all in-camera sharpening.
3. In post-processing, ensure your images are:
a. Correctly orientated and aligned (if necessary, rotate the image so that it’s “the right way up”.)
b. Free from dust spots (dust contamination on the sensor.) Review each section and use cloning tools such as those supplied with Adobe Photoshop to correct any sports or blemishes.
c. Not sharpened during raw conversion.
d. Not excessively manipulated.
e. Not up-sized.
f. Not excessively cropped (after cropping, check your file size and ensure minimum submission size is still met.)
4. Perform your own quality control on your image:
a. You should inspect your image at 100% zoom with image editing software such as Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop. 100% means that one monitor screen pixel is displaying one image pixel.
b. If the image is larger than your monitor, start in the lower left-hand corner of the image and work your way around clockwise. d. Watch for issues common rejection reasons and eliminate them, including: chromatic aberrations problems (fringing and moiré), banding/compression artifacts problems, trademarks.
c. This is how an agency will examine your images.
Microstock agencies use Royalty Free licenses. However, the macrostock market supports both Royalty Free and Rights Managed license models. Once an image is sold with a Royalty Free license it cannot be sold with a Rights Managed license. Thus, a photographer should not list any images as Rights Managed if the same image is listed Royalty Free anywhere else. Who buys stock photography? Stock images are bought by ad agencies and designers and are usually used in websites, magazines, brochures, booklets, business cards, billboards, book covers, t-shirts, and so on. Here's a list of stock photography agencies which I currently use: 1. Dreamstime
Dreamstime is an established agency with steady traffic and good sales. You receive a 50% commission on each sale. This agency does not require any test photos to be accepted as a photographer so you can start uploading immediately. However, every image is strictly reviewed and only the highest quality images are accepted.
Fotolia is a quickly growing international company with a large customer base all over the world. Commissions are less than on Dreamstime but are supposed to increase as you rise in the sales rankings. Personally, I find that this agency has the toughest criteria for accepting photographs, and quite often an image that has been accepted elsewhere is denied by fotolia ("Your photograph did not meet our desired level of aesthetic quality.") Of course, the reverse may also be true but it happens less often.
Bigstock is an international agency that sells images via a credit-based system. It is smaller and relatively quiet, compared to the market leaders, but it is certainly stronger than most of the newer agencies. In 2009, Bigstock was purchased by Shutterstock, a subscription-based microstock company.
CanStockPhoto is a Canadian microstock agency created by a university student. While this agency does not have a lot of sales it has an painless uploading process and a quick review period. 5. Alamy
Alamy is a privately owned stock photography agency launched in 1999 having its headquarters in U.K. Alamy currently has 35 million images online, with approximately 450,000 new images added every month.