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Microstock: A Basic Guide For New Contributors

New to stock photography? Interested in the Microstock business?

Here is some input that you might find useful. It comes from about 3 years of my experience in building a stock portfolio and placing it on about 10 stock sites.

What’s a Microstock Agency?

Microstock agency is where buyers can find good quality, commercially useable images with a royalty free license at much lower prices than traditional stock. On the other side of the relationship is the contributor; the artists and photographers who sell their works through the Microstock agencies.

Author/ photographer retains the copyright to their works as it is license for use that is sold, with fairly liberal terms and conditions of use, with certain restrictions.

Who might be the client or end-user?

These can be, for example, businesses, advertising agencies, publications, blog sites, designers, and so on. In short anybody who needs royalty-free, commercially useable images. Many stock agencies have wide geographic reach to clients in many countries.

What is Royalty-Free?

Royalty-free content allows the buyer to use an image with greater latitude than traditional/ rights-managed images. For a little more detailed explanation see link below:


Can you make money in  Microstock?

The top Microstock contributors are known to make high multiple digit incomes. They have creative content, good quality, and typically, lots of images, often many thousands of images on sale.

The Microstock world is fiercely competitive at this point. Returns per image are low therefore volume is critical. Quality and creativity of content is important. It’s not easy money because it takes time and effort to produce images, upload them to different stock sites, and to build up saleable volume in your portfolio.

If you decide to get into Microstock I would advise you to stay the course, be creative and be patient – results tend to come albeit slowly.

Update 08.2013 (One para)

Since the time of the original post significant changes have occurred that are likely to have raised the bar even higher, for new contributors to make reasonable earnings from microstock. Greater pressure on rates, revised commission structures and a highly competitive environment; these simply mean that many more numbers of saleable images are now needed in a portfolio than a few years ago. Personally I no longer believe it is worthwhile for a new contributor (in terms of time and effort now required) to seek meaningful business opportunity in microstock through stock agencies. It may be better to commit the same effort to other business models, such as RM, or to sell microstock content through independent means, rather than through microstock agencies.

What sells?

Creative content sells in every category and style of images.

People images are popular – with clear concepts and themes. These can be business or holiday, family or relationship, leisure or recreation, fashion and beauty – the best selling images in any category are usually the most innovative ones.

A good advise is to be creative when you shoot for stock – and think about how a designer might find an image useful.

Three important points to know

If you want to produce content for royalty-free stock be aware that:

  • Model Release is almost always needed for people shown in your photos.
  • Property Release may be needed for locations shown in your images.
  • Key wording images well is important – buyers usually find images through keywords.


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7 Responses to “Microstock: A Basic Guide For New Contributors”

  1. Mee November 16, 2012 at 8:33 am #

    Stacie Brinkley – Bobby-I love your new website. The pratoghophs of Jodie and JT’s wedding are absolutely beautiful. They really captured exactly what she wanted- candid shots taken with classic style. Oh, and that little boy peeking around the tree in your portraits he’s too cute:)

  2. sanjay November 17, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    Hi, thanks much for comments. Although am unsure who are referred as maybe nick names were used. With best wishes.


  1. ptrbes - March 4, 2014


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  2. deamjdqdsg - April 5, 2014


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