Microstock Photography Equipment – What You Need To Get Started

You can make do with very little equipment for microstock photography, however if you have high quality software and camera equipment you will definitely have an advantage.

Basically all you need to get started in microstock photography is a camera, computer and an internet connection. Having a fancy DSLR is an advantage, as is a fast computer, high quality photo editing software and a speedy internet connection. At the same time however, you can make do with very little if you just was to try microstock photography out and see if it is for you.

Canon 1000D

Canon 1000D

Absolute Minimum Equipment
Camera: 4 MegaPixel Point and Shoot Camera
Computer: Most any will do
Editing Software: Any free software will do
Internet Connection: Any connection

Recommended Minimum Equipment
Camera: Entry level DSLR with kit lens, the Canon 1000D is a good cheap camera
Computer: Most any will do
Editing Software: Any free software will do
Internet Connection: High speed

Ideal Equipment
Camera: Professional DSLR or Consumer Model with kit or professional lens, the Canon 5d Mark II comes to mind
Editing Software: Adobe Photoshop Elements
Computer: reasonably new computer
Internet: High speed

Professional Equipment
Camera: Professional DSLR and professional lens
Editing Software: Adobe Photoshop CS3
Computer: Fast computer
Internet: High speed

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What Is Stock Photography

What is stock photography? What types of images do the stock agencies need, or perhaps more importantly, what types of images don’t they need?

What is stock photography

In short, stock photography is images that are ready to be used by someone who needs to illustrate an idea. When someone writes or magazine article, a blog post, an advertisment or wants to illustrate a presentation or pamphlet they need pictures to make it look good. Commissioning a photographer to capture images for these purposes can be way too expensive – which is where stock photography comes in. If a blogger needs a picture of a tomatoe to illustrate his post on growing tomatoes at home, he can simply log onto a stock photography agency website and purchase the image for $1.00. Being able to download a finished image and put it in use in a matter of seconds is much more effecient than the blogger having to take the image himself. With the arrival of the internet and the digital age the need for cheap digital imagry has exploded making it a profitable market for photographers.

So stock photography illustrates something. It can be an object, a situation, a location or a combination. A strong stock photograph has a conveys a simple idea that is easy to understand. If you can convey simple ideas using images, you will do well with stock photogrpahy.

What Sells

  • People – People pictures go out of date fast so new ones are always need. Additionally people pictures are in high demand. The nice thing about stock is that images are need for ALL types of uses. You don’t need to have a fashion model to pose for you. If you have a Grandma, Parent, Spouse, Kid that is comfortable in front of the camera – they can make a great model for stock. As the baby boomers begin to move into retirement – the need for ‘mature adult’ imagery is growing.
  • Food – If you can shoot / and make attractive looking food this is a great subject. If you have someone eating / or making the attractive food – better yet.
  • Concepts – If you can create a good concept you will have a winner. Concepts are generally a few objects / people mixed together to create meaning. A lock and a computer for example for a security concept. A dark looming hand taking a credit card for a fraud / theft concept etc..
  • Christmas – The biggest retail event of the year needs image. Enough said.

What Doesn’t Sell

  • Flowers – This one is actually on both sides of the fence because flowers DO sell actually very well. The problem is that so many people have taken pictures of flowers that it is tough to create something better. If you are just starting out with photography you will have a tough time creating betting flower shots than the pros who have been at it 20 years. Nonethelss if you have some stellar flower shots kicking around, give them a shot and try uploading them.
  • Nature – Nature is another touch one. It sells OK and sells over a long period of time (because it is never outdated) but the sales are low. If you are a avid landscape photographer there is room for you in microstock as well, just don’t expect big sales.
  • Your feet, your shadow, your computer, your pet … anything that you can see right now….. it’s been done before :) again… unless you have a TOTALLY original angle on the subject, you are best spending your time shooting other things.

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Microstock Quick Tip #2


One effective way to find where your stock images are being used is the TinEye website.

All you have to do is simply upload or link to an image on the internet and Tinagent will search it’s catalog of millions of images and show you the results of where they were found. Although the website / software is still currently in beta (May 2008) it has already catalogued millions of images and provides some very nice results. This will definatly be something to keep an eye on in the future.

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Microstock Keyword Tools

Keywording your images is grueling work.  Finding the best keywords and brainstorming for enough keywords can be tough.  Luckily there are a variety of tools to help microstock photographers find the words they need.

microstock keyword toolKeyword Research

There are a number of online keyword research tools which prove very helpful.  Here are a few of them.

Microstock Group Keyword Tool – This is a tool for researching keywords.  The tool searches the Shutterstock site looking for images similar to your own then provides you with a list of keywords from which to pick from.  The layout is designed for speed and efficiency with large easy to click buttons.  Javascript is highly used to keep page reloads to a minimum.  The tool can create a keyword list n a variety of languages and sort photos, vectors and illustrations separately.

Keyword Comparision Tool – MicrostockGroup also has a keyword comparison tool.  This is great if you want to compare too keyword lists and view the similar / different keywords.  The site is run heavily on Javacript again so you won’t need to reload the page to see the results.

Other keywording sites:

Try them all out and pick one you like.

Which one works best for you?


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Microstock How-To Intro

Microstock Photography is a fun revenue source for anyone interested in Photography. Microstock photography is profitable for both professional and amateur photographers. As you are free to upload as many or few images as you like, your amount of commitment is totally flexible. This makes microstock photography an ideal side income for photographers looking for a reliable investment, hobbyists who just want some extra cash for new photography gear, or stay at home moms who want some extra spending cash.

I hope you find this guide helpful. If you have any questions or if things are unclear please ask, I will try to answer quickly. You can reach me at mail@tylerolson.no

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