Microstock Photography Dos and Don’ts
Microstock photographs are low-priced and royalty-free. And you can earn a few dollars more by selling your pictures to many stock photo sites online. Many of you might not be professionals, but that shouldn’t mean you don’t have pictures that are sellable. Here are a few dos and don’ts, so you can make the most of the pictures you’ve already taken or are planning to take.
Go back to where it started
By this, I mean stepping back in time and going through all the pictures you’ve taken from the time you took up photography, including those you took with your point and shoot camera. You never know what pictures might find the stock photography website owner’s fancy. But that may be thousands of pictures you have to sift through. So dedicate just 10 minutes of your time every day just before you wind up your work or start your day. And here is where using Lightroom and Picasa helps. Mark pictures that are good and you are good to go. After that, it becomes easier to locate them later. Once you make this your routine, all the newer pictures must be saved in the same manner, so you don’t have to deal with future backlog.
Keywords are everything
Okay, you have your dirty dozen pictures and now want your claim to fame. But wait. Just uploading them on the stock photography sites like istockphoto.com, shutterstock.com and dreamstime.com is not it. You have to key in the keywords and slot the pictures in the relevant categories. That takes some time. But the time is worth it, if you feel your photograph has a market of its own. But only if it does. Otherwise, don’t waste your time or the websites. If you are short of words to describe your picture, there’s online help in the form of keyword search tools like Picniche.com  and Arcurs.com .
Avoid soft focus
Stock photo agencies abhor soft focus photos where the subject is look painterly and not real. It might work great for an abstract photography exhibition, but not here. Microstock photography demands picture postcard images which are clear as fresh rainfall and don’t camouflage the subject.
No photo manipulation please
Don’t go too far with Photoshop filters. They could eventually ruin potentially good shots.
Don’t upload too many
Stock photo agencies work in a strange way. They give importance to the last images you submitted. So the best way to ensure they look at all your images is to load fewer but better images every time. This way, you open a wider window for approval.
Grainy images also called ‘noise’, trademarked firms, landmarks and people need to be out of your pictures unless you have a ‘model or property release’ form signed by the models in question. These forms are available at all microstock sites. However, you can submit a photo of say, the Eiffel Tower as its copyright has now run out, but its lighting design is copyrighted, so you cannot submit a night time photo of it. To remove trademarks and people, you could use Photoshop , Gimp , IrfanView . For noise, you could use Noise Ninja  and Topaz Adjust .
Do I qualify?
Anybody with a camera that is at least 5 mega pixels is good to go. Why? Because you might have done things that are unique. You might have gone to places that are not touristy and therefore not many might know of it. Or you might be good at taking a certain kind of pictures that most others don’t. So there is a market for everybody.
Register yourself with as many stock photo agencies as possible. The more markets, the better earnings for you. And you never know which small site might fetch you more revenue than the bigger ones. Some sites include: shutterstock.com , dreamstime.com , istockphoto.com , fotolia.com , 123rf.com , bigstockphoto.com  and crestock.com , among others.
Now that you are convinced and sign up with microstock sites, you have two ways to upload: web browser or through ftp (istockphoto doesn’t allow ftp, but all others do). FTP is best because you don’t have to worry about large files and their download times. The computer will do its work. Filezilla  is the best free option.
The moment you upload, you won’t start earning. You need to be consistent, disciplined and go about it in a meticulous fashion. I know of people who did this for a year and are today earning 300-500$ a month through PayPal. It all depends on the quality and quantity of your pictures. And the best way to find out is to try out many agencies and not be depressed if the first agency rejects your photographs.
Deal with the downside
Microstock, no doubt, fetches some money. But it can kill the artistic part in a photographer. After joining a few microstock sites, you might soon realize that you are clicking only commercial things and no longer interested in clicking landscapes, birds and portraits. So if you want to take up photography as an art, microstock is not the place. If it is just another business, go for it. There are many other ways to earn with your own-type of photography, if you are ready to wait until it all happens.
For more practical tips on stock photography by the same author, click here .
~Zahid H Javali