Starting in January of 2019, I (Michael) have been submitting photographs to Shutterstock (and soon other pages + video) for the purpose of building a passive income source. Although still ambitious, there has been a steep learning curve within the stock photography world and at the time of writing this (3/7/19) even three months later I still feel overwhelmed by how involved the process is. My goal here is to lift the veil of complexity so that you also can hit the pavement running when submitting work for stock usage.
Time is without a doubt the biggest deterrent in Microstock photography! When I say hours, I mean hours – it’s a full time job in and of itself! From what I have experienced, one full day of shooing in the field (5-8 hours) means one full day at the computer editing, tagging, archiving, and converting RAW files to JPEGs. It’s been rewarding to see money come in, but it’s slow. And I mean REALLY slow! Don’t quit your day job tomorrow and expect to make a living on stock media.
Work flow is incredibly important. Taking quality photos in the field is incredibly important. With stock photography – you want to protect you time because there are countless time traps! If you don’t take quality photos in the field, it’s adding time to the post editing process. Do you have 250 images from an amazing shoot at the zoo where every scene is a little over exposed or underexposed? Not sharp enough? Well, when you move all your photos from your SD or flash card, which takes time, you then have to cull through the photos to figure out which ones are salvageable – time. After figuring out which ones are salvageable, you then have to fix them – time. After fixing them, they need tagged and converted into a usable file format for which ever stock agency you’re contributing to – time. Which brings up another valuable time saver! Tag you photos inside your photo software! When I initially started with stock, I was tagging the photos on the stock upload page (in my case Shutterstock) which would be fine if Shutterstock were the only place I plan on submitting my photos to. (It’s not). And you shouldn’t settle for just one either! Protect your time though! It’s important to embed tags in the images with your photo software so that the tags carry over during the upload process to every stock agency you submit them to. This will save you hours! I mean that, hours! Tag, then convert, then upload! Do it right in the field so that you don’t have to waste time on the computer. Often times, problems can be fixed in the field if you simply slow down, think about your shot, and then do what is necessary to get it done in the camera to streamline the entire process later down the road. Yeah, it might only take 3 seconds to bump up the exposure in your photo editing software, but multiply that across the 80 usable images in your shoot x the next 10 years of shoots. Protect your time.
My experience with stock has been primarily microstock. Currently, I have no experience with midstock or macrostock agencies. The plan is to find the appropriate mid/macro stock agencies for my shooting style and use them as a pre-filter for my images and video content. As I understand it, they have more rigorous standards for accepting media, but also have a better payout. The strategy would be to submit content related to their niche (say nature photography). Upon acceptance, if they are a non-exclusive agency, the work can also be submitted to other non-exclusive agencies. If they do not accept the work, then the work may be submitted to other agencies with less stringent standards.
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