Before defining microstock photography, let’s start by defining stock photography. Stock photography is the photography of things that can be used for commercial design purposes. Book publishers, specialty publishers, magazines, advertising agencies, film makers, web designers, graphic artists, interior decor firms, corporate creative teams, and other groups utilize stock photography to fulfill their photograph needs. By using stock photography instead of hiring a photographer to perform on location shooting, designers can save valuable time and money. For example, it is a lot more cost effective to buy a stock photograph of Mt Everest, than to send a photographer there to take a picture for you.

Microstock or micropayment photography, as it is sometimes called, is a relatively new area of stock photography where photos sell at a very low price, usually a few dollars an image instead of a few hundred or thousand dollars as in traditional stock photography. This low price creates a large demand from designers that want low cost, affordable photos. The large demand creates a correspondingly large demand for photographers that are willing to sell their photos for small commissions. The large demand for photos also makes it a lot easier for a photographer to have his or her photos accepted by these sites. So, if you have a camera and can take a decent picture, you can sell your pictures on microstock photo sites.

Unlike the traditional stock photography sites, it is much easier for a non-professional photographer to get get started in microstock. Microstock sites is that they do not require you to:

  • Be a professional.
  • Do it full time.
  • Start with a huge portfolio of pictures.
  • Have an expensive professional camera.
  • Have your own photography Web site.
  • Manage the rights of your pictures.
  • Commit to a regular supply of new photographs.

Many traditional stock photography sites do require many if not all of the above.

The subjects of microstock photographs can be anything a person coming to the stock photography might want to buy. For example:

  • Landscapes
  • Travel photos
  • Business concepts
  • Isolated objects
  • and many more

What they do not want is just a candid shot of your family or pet.

One question that you might have is, if I am selling my pictures for so little (and making just a little on each sale), how is this going to be profitable for me? The answer is volume. In traditional stock photography, picture prices are high enough that as someone considers buying a picture, they think about it for a while and when they finally buy, they get the one they really need. With microstock, the prices are so low that designers can buy more pictures. In some situations, a designer might not have budget to add a traditional stock photo to an assignment, but can afford to add several microstock pictures. It is quite common for a picture on a microstock site to make more money in a year on that site than a similar photo on a traditional site. On the traditional site, you might get one sale in a year of that photo. On a microstock site, you could get hundreds of sales. Just because microstock sites pay “micro” amount for each picture does not mean your profits will be “micro”.

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