Introduction to Microstock Photography

Introduction to Microstock PhotographyMany photographers don’t realise that they can make money from the photographs they take. A good photographer could have hundreds of dollars worth of pictures stored on memory cards, and not realise the potential profits to be had. Digital cameras and the internet have made shooting pictures for profit easier than ever before.


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Microstock picture libraries supply photographs to a wide range of companies and organisations. Rather than commission a photographer to produce a specific image or set of pictures, you can approach a microstock library and search for exiting photographs. This is a much cheaper way of sourcing pictures, and the range available is incredible. Microstock libraries need a constant supply of new images, and this is where the photographer can make money.

A good quality digital camera is the perfect tool for shooting microstock pictures. A digital SLR camera is ideal, but any camera capable of producing high resolution images will serve well. It’s important to get the basics right, so all images should be focussed and exposed correctly if you plan to sell them. As well as having good photographic skills, a microstock photographer needs to be organised and methodical. Pictures should be organised in folders, and filed in a system which means you can access them when you need them.

Once you become experienced in microstock photography, you may want to start shooting for specific markets. This is the path to big profits. At first, take a look through your memory cards and think about which pictures might be useful for organisations and companies. Shots of wildlife and flowers, landscape photographs, sunsets, beaches, castles and photographs of tourist attractions are all examples of pictures which might sell. The market for these would include magazines, calendars, advertising agencies and websites.

Check all photographs before submitting them to any microstock agency. If quality is poor or there is something which can’t be corrected, don’t submit them. Basic mistakes and flaws can be corrected in image-editing software. Software can be used to reduce digital noise, and to improve color saturation and white balance. Don’t make too many enhancements, and don’t rely on using effects to improve otherwise poor photographs.

If there are people or trademarks in photographs, you need legal permission before you can sell them on microstock sites. To keep things simple, it’s easier to avoid these in pictures when you are starting out. People can be included so long as they are in the distance or shot in ways where there faces don’t feature.

The process of uploading pictures to microstock libraries is very easy. The important thing is to list them in the correct category, and to select the best keywords so that people can find them. There may be a lot of competition for your images, so listing them effectively is very important. Look at each image and think what it represents. Select as many keywords as you can think of, and take a look around microstock sites to see how other people use keywords to promote their pictures. There are software tools which can help with keyword ideas, and these are great for ensuring the maximum sales of each picture.

Once you make your first sales, your understanding of how the microstock business works will improve. Build on what you learn, and you can soon be earning a great income from microstock photography.

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