Stock Photo Agency Websites to upload to – Microstock
I will start with microstock because that is where I am recommending any newbie’s start. If you are sure your work will sell at the larger agencies then by all means start there but microstock will give you excellent training and a good idea of what to expect without “hurting” too much when you get rejections (and you will get rejections).
Beware! Don’t just upload your images to every microstock website offering the earth! You need to be aware of how much work is involved and whether it is worth your effort and time. Once you have a batch of images ready to go, do some research.
I will let you know of the big 5 and also some others that are worth considering. Bear in mind that I have been following this for years and have seen some ugly things.
For example, I saw a couple of new sites hit the scene a few years ago and waited before doing anything. They offered great deals for photographers and buyer and all seemed well.
Tentatively I uploaded just 5 images to each to test the water, they had a lot to compete with and I wasn’t about to start to make huge efforts only to see them fail.
I am glad I waited. Both websites hit the dirt and folded taking my images with them (as well as what little earnings I had).
Take heed and start with the big players, the ones that have been around and made it this far and through some hard times by adjusting, morphing and adapting to different economic climates.
Here are the big 5 stock agencies
Before you upload or even sign up with them, join their forums and read. Check out what is selling well, see the comments from current photographers (good and bad) but just take it with a pinch of salt. What you read online doesn’t always reflect the actual skills, experience and even age of the photographer.
Still my favourite microstock website for a number of reasons.
- The payouts are great and always on time
- Excellent and helpful community
- Good business model
- Give pay rises every year (normally)
- Best earning site for many photographer
- Accept video footage and vectors too
- Payouts once a month by cheque or PayPal
- Upload via FTP, Browser Plug-in or HTTP (direct)
- Automated EXIF/IPTC data retrieval
One of the original websites and still one of the best. You need to upload your 10 best images to be accepted and make sure you are. If less than 7 make it through their qualification process, you will not get in and will have to wait 3 months before resubmitting.
It is worth posting your initial batch in the Shutterstock forums or indeed here first and asking for advice. I am always happy to help members with their submissions.
The upload process is very simple and straightforward…probably one of the main reasons that the site is so popular and reviews are generally quite fast and fair!
In the video below, I show you the upload process for Shutterstock where I upload 10 images to their site. I then upload the same 10 photos to other stock agencies to give you an idea of what gets accepted and what gets rejected and why.
These are the 10 photos (click for a larger view)…
Well, the next morning after uploading the images in the video above, Shutterstock had reviewed all the images. After a break of 2 and a half years from uploading, I had 6 accepted and 4 rejected.
You can see the reasons for the rejections below, 2 of which were my own fault for not including the proper details for adding editorial captions, the other two were due to poor lighting? I’d have thought it was obvious that an image depicting bad weather and flooding (see image 4 below) wouldn’t have particularly good lighting…
Oh well, 6 out of 10 isn’t bad so I guess I should start uploading the thousands that I have lying around on my hard drives from the past 6-8 years…
My experience over the past four years with Shutterstock has been excellent. Their support is good, everything works well and sales have been pretty consistent. If you are serious about staying current and ahead of the game, I would recommend a continuous uploading of images and try to participate in the forums.
Once your images are accepted, they appear on your homepage as “latest uploads” and this is how they will appear to prospective designers and buyers. Make the image good so that the thumbnail is appealing and deserving of their “click” though.
Whether it is a coincidence or not, people sales sometimes increase when they join in some of the discussions where images are posted.
Edit one day after uploading: Well, even after shooting stock for 10 years, and with Shutterstock having millions of images online, it only took a day for one of the above images to be sold at Shutterstock…
That MUST be inspirational enough for you to get cracking at this? Before this sold I had already spent most of the morning going through all my “ready to process and upload” images…there are THOUSANDS!
IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not take part in the “show me” threads or any post that asks which are your best sellers here or anywhere on the internet. I cringed when I first saw this a few years ago and now those people that couldn’t help showing off are now complaining that their best earners have been copied to death! Protect your work…
Another one of my favourites and fast becoming a “best seller”.
Payouts at Fotolia just seem to be getting more and more as the site matures. They have a subscription based model as well as single downloads meaning that your payouts can range from around 30c per download up to a few Dollars depending on the size of the downloaded image.
They also allow extended license sales for which you can set your own price from between $10-$150 with the commission varying depending on your “ranking”*. I currently rank as a Gold Member meaning I get 36%.
*Ranking – Ranking was introduced to all members in order to encourage higher quality of work. The more downloads you get, the higher your ranking. The higher your ranking, the higher your commission. Quite a fair and motivational system, but it requires hard work to move up.
Ranking levels are based on downloads as follows so the quicker you get in, the quicker you move up:
- Less than 100 – White
- Between 100 and 1000 – Bronze
- Between 1000 and 10000 – Silver
- Between 10000 and 25000 – Gold
- Between 25000 and 100000 – Emerald
- Between 100000 and 250000 – Sapphire
- Between 250000 and 1000000 – Rubis
- Above 1000000 – Diamond
There is currently one Sapphire and one Rubis Member at Fotolia…over 250,000 image sales!
As a Gold Member and as an example, one of my popular images earns a minimum of .60c for the smallest download and $3.60 for the largest and around $50 for a large file with extended license. Once you have a large library of popular images, these earnings can really add up.
- Fotolia don’t currently offer a buyout license but they do allow you to go “Exclusive”!
- Do not accept editorial images
- They have a decent community with an active forum although I don’t use it much.
- Payouts are whenever you wish as long as your balance is over 50 credits ($50).
- You must complete their relatively simple online training before you can join
- Upload directly, via flash or FTP
- Sell footage also
- Automated EXIF/IPTC data retrieval
Great company and well worth joining so do it today! Fotolia.
Update: Within two days, all the images had been reviewed (remember I only uploaded 9 of the 10 as Fotolia do not accept editorial images) and 8 of the 9 were accepted. The only one rejected was the flooded restaurant due to copyright on the unique building…happy!
A few days later and I made my first sale from that batch:
So it just goes to show that even with the amount of images online right now, you can still make sales if you upload consistently and regularly.
Another great site which has been good to me since the beginning. Regular sales and regular, timely payouts make this one of the big 5.
- Great interface for buyers and photographers
- Swift and timely payouts
- Simple to use “management area” where you can modify your images and account
- Good, active forum with helpful members
- No footage as yet
- Sell Vectors
- Sell the rights for your images ($350 recommended although you can set the price)
- Simple upload via “drag and drop” Java
- Automated EXIF/IPTC data retrieval
Again, Dreamstime reward photographers for popular images by increasing the price (and therefore the payout) as each image gets more downloads.
My most popular images are at level 5 and receive $5.60 for the largest commissioned single download. The same file on a subscription basis will receive just .35c.
Another great thing about Dreamstime is that they have partnerships with various agencies which help to sell your images. Obviously you get less commission but it is commission that you wouldn’t have received otherwise. You have the option to opt out of this scheme too so don’t worry if it is not for you!
Here are some quick basic figures regarding (non exclusive) earnings and the amount of downloads that image needs:
- Level 1 (0-4 downloads) – Extra small size – .50c, Maximum size – $3.00
- Level 2 (5-19 downloads) – Extra small size – $1.50c, Maximum size – $4.00
- Level 3 (20-49 downloads) – Extra small size – $2.50c, Maximum size – $5.00
- Level 4 (50-99 downloads) – Extra small size – $3.50c, Maximum size – $6.00
- Level 5 (100 downloads +) – Extra small size – $4.50c, Maximum size – $7.00
- Additional Format (vector/RAW) double the royalties for the largest size available for download
- Subscription any $0.35 per image
- Unlimited Seats any $12.5
- Increase Maximum Copies any $25
- Web Usage any $25
- Print Usage any $25
- Sell the rights any 50%
- Exclusive photographers receive $0.20 bonus per approved submission.
So again, once you have some experience and downloads the earnings can really add up!
Update: Almost immediately, Dreamstime accepted one image:
…and then around 11 days later, the following were accepted:
With just the one image, the restaurant again, being rejected for copyright issues:
Good to know all agencies are “singing from the same songsheet” : )
Deposit Photos were a relative newcomer to the microstock business but have done pretty well. They integrated with a simple and efficient uploading process and sales, for me anyway, have been pretty consistent.
I also uploaded the 10 images to Deposit Photos and all but one were accepted THE SAME DAY AS I UPLOADED THEM! The one rejected image was the editorial shot as, again, I forgot to add the relevant editorial text…durr. My bad.
As you can see, they have literally just gone online (so no sales yet : )
I would recommend adding Deposit Photos to your “stable” of stock agencies and upload all your images there too.
Fast becoming a tough nut to crack and have always had the most difficult interface. People complain of slow uploads and high refusal rates for images.
However, iStock still remain the most popular and biggest of the microstock sites, especially so since they were bought out by Getty Images!
One of the biggest earners for many people but not me. I stopped uploading there when it became so difficult but I am gradually getting my portfolio uploaded. I only have 138 images currently uploaded but still receive a $100 payout now and again.
Try not to be put off by this as it is just me having so much to do where my time is better spent. For most people, once you are in and have your portfolio growing, you should do well as long as your images meet their high standards. More about quality issues later.
As a non exclusive contributor, you will earn 20% of any sales which are, on average:
- X Small 428 × 280px 5.9″ × 3.9″ @ 72 dpi 183.85KB – 1 Credit
- Small 856 × 561px 11.9″ × 7.8″ @ 72 dpi 60 3.86 KB – 3 Credit
- Medium1711 × 1122px 5.7″ × 3.7″ @ 300 dpi 1.90 MB – 6 Credit
- Large2897 × 1900px 9.7″ × 6.3″ @ 300 dpi 4.53 MB – 12 Credit
- 1 Credit = $1
So on the face of it, it seems the payouts are way less than the other three above and for me, they are. However, as I said, I cannot fully compare this site with the others until I have my full portfolio there and maturing.
- Upload via FTP, direct online or using their (somewhat complicated but free) software
- Accept video footage, audio and vectors
- Training course to complete before acceptance
- Restrictive weekly upload limits
- Fast payouts via PayPal/MoneyBookers/Payoneer or Check (Cheque) if over $100 earned
- Exclusivity available
Please note that the following video was originally made in 2009. I have edited it in parts to update things but there still may be a couple of things I have missed with regards to the upload process at iStock…thanks.
Now, that is the top 4 as I see it and position for the number 5 slot keeps changing in my opinion. In the early days, Big Stock Photo held that title but since then a couple of others have come along to steal the title namely:
StockXpert (now bought by iStock and no longer trading as StockXpert)
Now, I am not going to go into tremendous detail here as all three of these are very similar to what you have seen already. I personally get similar results from all three with StockXpert (now owned by iStock) being the best earner followed by Big Stock Photo and then 123RF.
All three websites have been around a while and as far as I can see, they should be around for a while. They have great business models and are continually looking to improve.
You should have a fairly good understanding of how these microstock website agencies work now so I would suggest you start with the previous 4 and then implement your work to these 3 afterwards…of course you can do it when you like but that is my advice.
Disclaimer: (Yes, I’d best put one in). All of this information is based on my own personal experience over the past 4 years with these agencies. You may have substantially better or worse experiences with sales depending on the quality and quantity of your work. These guidelines are just that…guidelines.
Traditional Stock Agency – Alamy
I am only going to include one traditional agency here as it is the one that most people have a good chance of getting into and really the only one I know much about.
Alamy, for me, has the best success rate and acceptance ratio of all the agencies I have submitted to. I have only had 6 images rejected out of 1685 submitted…not bad!
In the early days and before microstock was “born”, I was getting regular sales at Alamy but for the past couple of years these have declined somewhat.
I still get one or two a month and when you realise each image can be sold for between $99 and $450 (with 60% commission), you will see why it is still worth uploading here.
You can choose to sell your standard images as Royalty Free and keep your special images as Licensed or Rights Managed. If you have images without model releases but which are newsworthy, or may be in the future, you can upload them as Licensed (Editorial).
A couple of years ago, the admin side of uploading to Alamy changed and I now have around 1,500 images that need to be updated thanks to their most recent upgrade. These images simply need a little more information in order for them to be found which may also account for the drop in sales…I am about 2 years behind with this!
So what is the criteria for uploading images at Alamy?
Anything and everything. They have such a wide user base with partners selling your images all over the world that it is difficult to really know what sells. They don’t have a huge forum like the microstock sites and the people that use them generally tend not to disclose their secrets.
The database of images is fixed when you view it and no sales figures are given so it is hard to distinguish the best sellers from anything else. Keywording and correct descriptions is essential at Alamy which we will discuss later so for now, why not have a quick look around their website to familiarise yourself with it and then upload once you feel confident.
You must submit 4 of your best images for their quality control. Once these have been accepted, you may upload as many as you wish…make them count! Images must be JPEGs and upsized to 17mb uncompressed. However, they used to ask for a minimum of 48mb and I would suggest you stick to this if possible to get more sales.
With Alamy, once you are in and submitting:
- You get 60% of each sale;
- You sign a non-exclusive contract with a 45 day notice period;
- You retain all copyright and editorial control of your images;
- You can sell through our distributors;
- You get a dedicated help line for photographers;
- Your images will be for sale on one of the fastest websites in the industry.
Due to the slight decline of traditional stock lately, I would suggest, if you want to, that you upload to microstock first and decide which and how many you want to upload to Alamy later. Once you see an almost instant return on your investment with microstock, it is all the motivation you need to get cracking.
Update: Two days after uploading the same 10 images to Alamy, all 10 were accepted…
…happy days : )
So those are the agencies and there are a few, do you go exclusive or non exclusive?
Next Page – Exclusive or Non Exclusive?