If you are anything like me, you probably have a huge collection of photos from holidays and days out. A while ago I read an article about submitting your photos to online microstock agencies. The photos are added to the agency’s vast catalogue, and each time someone downloads one of your photos you receive a small payment.
I thought that among my thousands of photos there must be some reasonable ones. So I selected ten that I thought were OK, edited them slightly, and rather nervously sent them off to Shutterstock. I had no expectations, thinking my photos could not possibly be good enough for a professional picture agency.
So I was amazed when 8 out of the 10 were accepted. And even more amazed when a couple of days later two of my photos were downloaded by buyers.
I then started systematically going through my collection, selecting decent photos, editing them where necessary, and uploading them. I joined a few more agencies, and the acceptance rate has generally been high (90% plus). And I am gradually seeing more being downloaded by buyers.
The amount of money earned per download is tiny, but if you have lots of photos in lots of agencies, or if your photos are very popular, those small amounts can add up. And it is actually hugely satisfying when someone chooses one of your images!
Of course photo agencies are not interested in your typical family snaps. They are looking for technically good quality photos that are well composed and of interesting subjects. But they don’t need to be works of art or of a standard that only a trained professional photographer could hope to achieve.
And they don’t need to be taken with a hugely expensive camera. The photos on this page have all been accepted by one or more agencies. Some were taken with a Canon Powershot, and some were taken with my phone. For more examples see my portfolio at Shutterstock.
If you are interested in having a go, here are some general points to note:
- Most agencies will accept JPG files that are a minimum of around 4 MP (e.g. approx. 2400 x 1600 pixels). Note that the 4 MP refers to the pixel count, not the file size (which is in MB).
- If you edit a photo, make sure you check the pixels again after editing it – even a small change can drastically reduce the number.
- The photos must be good quality – the main subject should be well composed, correctly exposed and in sharp focus without distracting objects in the frame of view.
- If there are recognisable people, property or brand names in your photo you will need to submit a release form – these are available from the agencies’ sites where further guidance is available. If you are not sure you can just submit the photo – the agency will let you know if a form is required.
- You will need to think of keywords for the images you submit. These are very important because they are how people searching the site will find your image. Think carefully about what words people might use if they are looking for an image like yours. Some agencies will suggest keywords for you and you can select the ones that fit best. Remember that there are literally millions of images in the database, so it is important for yours to be found.
Because the agencies’ collections are so vast it is good if your photos are of unusual subjects or places, or have features that make them stand out.
Of course it isn’t just travel photos – buyers are looking for all sorts of photos for all sorts of purposes. If you have photos relating to a hobby such as gardening, crafts, pets or cookery they could definitely be worth considering.
If you fancy having a go, Shutterstock and Dreamstime are good places to try. Have a look at their websites, and search for photos similar to yours to see what else is in their catalogues. Not all of the images are like the unachievable ones on the front pages!
Why not give it a try – after all you have nothing to lose.