Getting started with microstock is not difficult, but it can seem overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. The following are 10 tips for becoming a microstock photographer.

  1. Good pictures sell.; bad ones don’t Most photographers can be better. Take time to improve your skills. Read books. Try new things. Think like a designer and decide what to shoot based on what a designer might want. Think in terms of a clear subject and concepts. Abstract pictures have a hard time selling.
  2. It’s a numbers game Assuming you can take sharp, well composed, clean pictures, the more pictures you have on a site, the more money you will make. Keep working at building your portfolio. You don’t have to do something every week, or even month, but keep at it as much as you can afford the time to do so. As you keep building your portfolio, you will make more and more money.
  3. Don’t let rejection stop you Just because one site turns down your picture does not mean another one will. Don’t take picture rejection personally. Find out why a picture was rejected, learn from it if it makes sense, and move on. Also, realize that a perfectly good picture will be rejected by one site and sell like crazy on another site. It is hard to tell what a site wants. If they say no to one of your pictures, think of it as a mismatch between you and them, not as a reflection of your skills. Also, remember that in some cases, it really will not make sense why a photo is not accepted. It will seem almost arbitrary. Don’t give up; keep at it; get better; and keep going.
  4. Upload to multiple sites Unless you are going the exclusive route, find several good sites and upload to all of them. It doesn’t require that much more work and will dramatically increase your sales for a minimal increase in work. It’s part of the numbers game. If you have a portfolio of 100 pictures, then posting on 5 sites effectively means you have a portfolio of 500 pictures. It is a great way to grow your portfolio easily. There is one catch, if a site really can’t sell your pictures, it is often not worth the effort, even the small amount of additional effort, to maintain a portfolio on that site. Do a bit of research and you will get a good idea of what sites are hot and which ones are not. As a starting point, see “Fab 5 Microstocks.” Most serious microstock photographers are on about 3 – 6 different sites.
  5. Use IPTC to add keywords, descriptions, and titles to your pictures By adding information about your picture through IPTC, the information stays with your picture, and when you upload your pictures, the stock photo site can automatically extract that information from the picture. This will save you countless hours of effort, especially as you upload to multiple sites. The IPTC tagging also makes for a convenient place to store photo descriptions and keywords. What better place to store information about a picture than inside the picture, and it is great that microstock sites can extract this information from your picture. If your photo editing software does not support IPTC tagging, it is worth considering getting a new one that does.
  6. Keywords are key Take the time to do the best job you can keywording your pictures. The keywords are how a potential buyer finds your pictures. The best keyword in the world will not make you a cent if you do not keyword it so the person that might want your picture can find it. It is not fun, but it is worth the effort. When keywording, look at synonyms you can use. One way to get ideas on keywords for your photo is to look at the keywords others have thought of for a similar topic pictures.
  7. Edit your photos Very few photos do not need some processing work after you take them. Take the time to learn a tool that will help you fine tune and really bring your photos to life. A good photo editing tool can be expensive, but might be worth the investment if it helps you sell more pictures. You can use a mid-level or basic tool and still get a lot of benefit. Also, take the time to learn the tool you use and understand what it can use.
  8. Continue to improve your skills as a photographer We can always learn more about taking great pictures, so take the time to learn and improve the quality of your pictures. Being a great photographer also takes a lot of practice, so get out and take some pictures. Read books. Study the works of others. Consider taking a photography course. An inexpensive way to learn is to join photography forums, contribute, post pictures, and learn from the feedback of others.
  9. Shoot your turfNot everyone can travel every week or month to exotic places, but you have access to things right around you that others do not, so look within your neighborhood, city, or where you spend your time and see what interesting things you can find to photograph. Some places have mountains, other places have oceans. Some places have tall buildings, other have farmlands. Some places have snow, other places have fog. Each area is unique and has its own special attributes. Take a look at your world and see what it has to offer you.
  10. Know your business Just like any business, you need to know your business. You need to know what others are doing. Keep current on what is happening in stock photography. Things change, new stock sites appear, some go away, some take off. You want to be aware of what is happening so you can be better prepared to make the right choices for yourself. Join forums, or at very least, occasionally browse through them and see what the hot topics are. It is great when people of similar interest can learn from each other. Go to the stock sites and see what is selling. Most sites list the top selling pictures or list the ones they are looking for. Visit these sites and learn what is wanted.
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