There is a moment in life of a beginner or a semiprofessional photographer then he thinks – “Omg, I really need F/50 1.2 lens for shooting portraits” or “I do need a solid tripod with reliable head if I want to produce night shots”. And then he sees the prices he fades away and says – “This hobby is too expensive for me, let me start collecting stamps instead”.

Not only passionate collecting stamps is even more expensive, but world also looses amazing shots and one looses satisfaction he could get from his hobby.

So, let me save the world with this article – cheer up – you can earn money with shooting nice shots ! Consider your expenses as investment and I will tell you how to get dividends.

Sell for less but many times

Yes, that is totally true thanks to microstocks. A microstock – or a photostock (sometimes called photobank) is a online service mainly addressed to designers and creativity people. The whole idea of microstock it to sell your images quite cheap (usually 0.3 – 5 dollars for 1 download). You may say – “What ?! Only 1 dollar ?! I have spent 3 hours laying on rocks to catch this moment! Never!” – but imagine your photo being sold 1000 times ?

That is the whole idea – sell for small money but many times. Designers are happy as they can save on design elements, you are happy as you earn money.

Where to start

First things first – although you don’t need to be a professional photographer to sell successfully your images, you still need to satisfy some requirements, quite achievable though:

  • Your image should have a business concept. This is crucial – designers are not looking for nice things, they are looking for business concepts. I had a great shot of fallen leaf o a bench – got several nice comments from fellow photographers – but it never had been sold as it lack strong idea. However close-up picture of red door of a regular british house is a top sold image in my portfolio – no art, just pure concept.
  • Your images should be crisp and clear. This means no shake in pictures, no unneeded object, no disturbing colors.
  • Image should be at least 4 megapixels (just multiply height in pixels and width). There are usually no limitations in file size, as only pixels matter.
  • Some stocks are very strict about noise or artifacts – check your image before uploading – upon it 1:1 and walk throught

You do not need to have professional equipment for this – more or less any SLR (Single Lens Reflection) camera will do. Pay closer attention to lens you get – those are even more important than camera body.

Registering account

As any other business segment, microstock business has its leaders and outsiders. But more and more start-up companies come, so do not think – all niches and photos are taken. There us always a start-up stock which will accept you green grass photo – even if other stocks say – we have too many of such images.

The oldest photostock, based in USA. Has the best index in downloads. Supports FTP upload. Has an initial examination of 10 photos – at least 7 of them should be accepted by reviewer. If not – you will be banned for 1 month. If examination images get accepted, they will appear in your portfolio. This stock sells newest images which makes you to keep uploading in order to keep a good income.
Shutterstock works mainly with subscription model – designers buy a subscription and can download X images per day – that makes then take every image they like – and increases total downloads number. As a seller you get 0.25 USD per each download – does not matter what size was donwloaded. You even will not know who downloaded it and how many views it has in total.
Shutterstock does not tolerate noise – use noise reduction like NeatImage for noise supressing.
When you become expeienced in photostock world, this stock will be your favorite one.

I would say this is another most important photostock in the world. Very high index of downloads – and keep in mind – downloads make you money!
Very strict about noises and artifacts. Unfortunately, has no FTP uploadn but has a nice web upload interface.
Istockphoto is oriented for per-sale model, it means buyers pay for each image they buy – price depends on the file size. Contributor get quite good money from each download – ranging 0.38 – 5 USD but download happen seldom (depends on the portfolio though).
Exam consists of submitting 3 photos, not passing exam will cause 3 day suspension until next try.
Istockphoto in contra does not like any noise reduction and is accepts images with some noise (to certain level).

Much younger but very aggressive microstock with good index of downloads. A nice place to start uploading your pictures. Has a good feedback and usually you get reply in one day. No examination needed. Has a FTP upload support.

A second “echelon” stock and quite a new player on the field. Mainly subscription sales (yes, 30 cents again), but has interesting feature for paying with SMSes, which is handy for buyers.

Processing photos

Well, the rule of the thumb is that you need to shoot in RAW. This will let you adjust exposure later (and this is priceless feature). Also it will avoid JPG being created by you camera processor, which by default applies some sharpening thus creating artifacts.
From RAW You can create TIFF (16 bit) and edit them in Photoshop – all cropping, retouching and other post-production should be done on this stage. The reason you need to use TIFF on this stage is that TIFF is loseless format. Editing JPG will cause it to loose some quality everytime you press Save.
When post-production is done, generate JPGs, assign meta data – keywords, title and copyright. Remember to review your image on 100% zoom rate. You are ready to upload !