Category Archives: How To

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 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:

  • FindPhotoKeywords
  • Arcurs keywording
  • Dusegard Tool

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

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Editing Your Photos

Editing your photos for stock can be as simple or complicated as you want to make it. Many people submit photos directly from their point and shoot camera, however you will see best results in both acceptance ratings and sales if you edit your photos.

Free Editing Software

Picassa: A nice simple program from google for editing and organize photos.
Gimp : Probably the best free editing software. It is a bit complicated to used if you are new, but worth trying out if you are determined and can’t spare the $$ for an adobe product.

Cheap Editing Software

Adobe Photoshop Elements: A great program that is very close to it’s big brother Adobe Photoshop CS3. This is the software I would recomment if you are not going to pay the big bucks for CS3. It will get you used to the photoshop layout and provides tons of editing options. If you learn to use this program you will be well on your way.
Pixelmator: I can’t say I have tried it but it looks like a nice program for the mac.

Professional Editing Software

Adobe Photoshop CS3: Only one serious choice here really. Learn to use it and the power will be in your finger tips Smile.

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Keywording Your Images

Keywording can be a tricky job for beginners. It is tough to come up with effective keywords and important to embed them in your IPTC file information tosaveyourself a lot of time in the future.

Getting the keywords

Take this image for example:

Rock Climbing A simple way to make sure you don’t forget any keywords is to answer the questions who, what, where, why, and when.

who: rock climber, woman, female, girl, person,

What: rock climbing, sport,extreme

Where: cliff

Why:activity, sport, fun, hobby,

When: summer

Then you may also want to consider some concept keywords such as: risk, danger, dangerous, fear

Embeding the Keywords in the IPTC Information

To save yourself a lot of work in the future, you should imbed your keywords, as well as the title and description in the IPTC information. To do this you can probably use your favorite editing program. The most popular editing software such as iPhoto, Lightroom, Aperature, Adobe Bridge, and Photoshop all of resources to do this. If you are just starting out and don’t have access to any of these programs, another option is Microsoft PhotoInfo. It is free and works very well.

Here is a video tutorial on editing your keywords with photoshop from thesupe87

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Uploading Your Photos

How it’s done

Uploading of the photos is done in a variety of ways. When just starting out, it is simplest to upload your images with the online upload tool provided at the stock sties. However if you have a large number of images to upload the quickest method is using an FTP program. An ftp program transfers files from your computer onto the stock photography website’s server.

To upload your photos you will fist have to create an account at the various microstock websites. I suggest submitting to one or two websites at first to try things out and then later sign up with additional sites.

Which Sites to Choose

The earnings potential at the various stock sites varies significantly. There are currently 6 microstock websites which provide a decent return for your photos, an additional 2 or 3 sites that have OK earnings and a large number of microstock sites which provide very little to no sales.

dreamstimeTwo good sites to start with, are Dreamstime and Fotolia. They have reasonably simple upload procedures, have good sales and are don’t require test images to be sent in. These two sites are good for getting your feet wet and producing good sales in the long term.

ShutterstockOnce you have a few photos prepared, Shutterstock is the place to apply. Shutterstock is the top producing site according to the members of microstockgroup and well worth your time. Uploading to shutterstock is a simple procedure making the time invested in the site very little. Shutterstock requires a test submission of 10 photos so be prepared to show your best. If you don’t pass the initial submission you will have to wait 1 month to reapply

The remaining top selling stock sites are Istockphoto, and 123RF, and Veer

Istockphoto was the first microstock site in the industry and provides great sales for you photos. Istockphoto is owned stock agency giant Getty Images.

Veer (owned by Corbis) and 123RF (owned by Inmagine) both being back by large companies have proven themselves to be stable earners in the recent years.

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Quick Guide to Selling Images Online

Where to submit your images

There are hundreds of microstock sites with new ones appearing every day. Only a hand full of these sites actually give you any sales. There are 6 major sites that produce good income (Often referred to as the ‘Big 6′) and ~10 more sites that have lesser earnings and may or may not be worth your time uploading your images to. Other sites are simply not worth the effort of uploading. I have arranged the sites from most to least profitable according to the polls at

The Big 6 agencies are:


The remaining agencies are:








I would suggest signing up with the Big 6 and see how you like it. Once you have all your images online with these agencies you can consider if you want to add more agencies to represent your work of if you would rather use that time to create more photos.

For more information on getting started with microstock photography be sure to get out the entire How-To section.

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