The main reason to SELL photos on microstock sites is the same as selling in general – to make money. If stock photography ends up being your full-time job, you can make microstock a significant portion of your income. If going pro is not your goal and you just want to earn a little extra money to pay for new equipment or to justify your purchases, this is fine. You can do microstock as much or as little as you want. You can do a little now and more later. The choice is always yours. With traditional stock cartography sites, this is not true. In many cases, you must be a profession and you must regularly contribute photos.
If you are just getting started in the photography business, microstock can be a great place to start. You can start making money quickly. This source of revenue can be invaluable as you develop the other areas of your photography business or, if you are planning on doing microstock exclusively, microstock will provide some revenue as you continue to build your portfolio. Getting started can be as simple as looking through all of the pictures you have taken and determining which ones can be sold as stock photos. After you do this, you prepare the pictures for submission, submit them to microstock sites, and start making money. It really isn’t much more complicated than this.
Microstock is a great way to build your skills. Although few people do microstock for this reason, the feedback you get from submitting your photos is a good learning experience. Also, as your photos sell, you can see which ones have the greatest appeal. Sales is a form of feedback on your pictures.
Microstock can be a step towards doing traditional stock. Traditional stock sites have stricter requirements for photographers. Some require a portfolio of over a thousand pictures. They might require you to have a Web site to market yourself. They can also require a commitment to regularly submit a certain volume of pictures. By starting with microstock, you can address many of the requirements of traditional sites at your own pace and be earning money and learning as you go. When you are ready to take the next step, the step will be a lot easier to take. Just a word of caution here. Many traditional sites will not allow you to be involved with microstock sites, so you might need to remove your photos from microstock sites before joining a traidtional site. Also, a picture that has sold on a microstock site cannot be sold as a rights managed photo on a traditional site and maybe should not be sold as a royalty free photo. If traditional stock photography sites are your goal, do a little research before getting into microstock.
Microstock is fun. Taking a picture that someone thinks is worth buying is very rewarding.
The other side of the microstock coin
Some professional photographers are quite upset that microstock sites sell photos for next to nothing (relative to the prices charged by traditional stock sites). They feel that these sites depreciate the value of photos. They also feel the quality of the work in the stock photo marketplace is being lowered because so many amateur photographers are selling their work.
Other photographers feel that microstock sites are a special opportunity. Prices are lower and the image quality might not be as high as what you might be able to get from a traditional stock photography site, but it also costs significantly less. These same people feel there is room for both groups. Those that need the high-end stuff or rights-managed photos will get it from the traditional stock photo sites. Those that are OK with lower-end photos are glad to have lower price options for what they need.
One note about picture quality between microstock and traditional stock sites. While it is true that microstock sites have fewer barriers to becoming a contributor; it is not always true that the images on traditional sites are better than those on macrostock (traditional in many cases but not all) sites. Some photographers that have started with microstock have moved to traditional sites and moved their photos with them. Others submit to both types of stock sites. Still others have come from traditional stock sites and now sell on microstock sites. The point is, you cannot over generalize and say that traditional stock site pictures are always better quality than those found on microstock sites. Numerous people have reported in the microstock forums that the reviewers in some on some of the microstock sites are more picky than the ones on a traditional stock site.