Microstock Photography : Turning Old Photos into Money

I've done a post or two on micro stock in the past but this is all new.  I recently put together a collection of narrated videos to help anyone who wants to enter micro stock, do exactly that!

With the popularity of high quality digital cameras, there is no reason why everyone shouldn't be taking their best snapshots and turning that effort into residual income.

You can watch the four videos I'll link below. It will help answer your questions of what micro stock is and how to start it.  You can also read the rest of this post for more detailed information.

I'll start with a statement like this:  No one is paying me to write or create this message, in any way shape or form.  Everything I share here is strictly my own opinion.

You can find my older post on Microstock here:  Microstock Photography : Tip of the Iceberg


Number 1 : What is Microstock.  Answering the quick question, and how it all works

Number 2 :  What you need to get started quickly and effectively,

Number 3 : Making use of your time, and how to speed your micro stock photography workflow

Number 4 : If you're wondering why I want to help you make money from your photos too, this is the answer. 



If you've gotten a DSLR and want to start earning real money with your photos but are not sure where to start, micro stock may be your answer.  In fact, some agencies have special collections for quality cell phone and point and shoot images as well! 

Let me explain how making your photos available through micro stock photograph can pay off for you.  After even just a few months with a new DSLR you probably have enough imagery to get up and running in micro stock.  It's not something you can enter all at once, it often requires cultivation to reach earning potential. So start now. 

Microstock photography is when you supply your photos to an agency and that agency manages the delivery and the licensing of your images and you get paid on commission.  You should check every Terms Of Service for each agency you join, but you get to keep your copyright.  The agency is a middle man to help facilitate the use of your images by the people looking for them.  So each agency takes a cut from each sale for connecting you with thousands upon thousands of clients.  

You probably wouldn't reach these clients without the agency, so their commission is worth it.   You never have to deal with clients, just the agency.  And although some ask for exclusivity, a lot of the best ones don't. 

So before your images are available online they go through a review process.  Each agency has standards to maintain for image quality and that is what the review process aims to maintain.  Don't let reviews get you down. Don't ever forget you are getting the opinion of only one person, sometimes that person probably gets pretty bored with their job.  Don't sweat it, just save the image for later and submit again, hopefully you'll get a fresh set of eyes on it. 


The right attitude, equipment and the right images are all keys to success for stock photography.  And software is a big part of the right equipment. 

Firstly, before you sign up for an agency, they need proof that you are you. Have a photo ready of your government issued photo ID ready.   Then they'll make you jump through some other hoops, usually an initial submission. 

They want to see your best work and make sure you're able to produce the calibre of work they like to sell.  Have a selection of your best images ready for this. They should cover a variety of styles and use a variety of techniques. 

The images should be sharp and in focus. The exposure should be balanced, and colours shouldn't appear flat.  A successful image needs to pop off the thumbnail and stand out amongst the crowd of thousands of other thumbnails.  Images at a low ISO are key for their low image noise and optical quality.  Check all your images in 100% view to make sure.   There also shouldn't be anything unnecessary in them, this makes them look 'snapshotty' and sure to be rejected.  Just your subject and anything that adds to your subject's story. 

Your images need to sell a concept, and be ambiguous to apply to a variety of different industries for the greatest success.  That being said, a lot of sales go to single use images for blogs and news websites to illustrate a specific topic. 

Most websites have submission guidelines you should read in addition to what I provide here.  And remember, this isn't legal advice, but; you can't use images of copyrighted imagery, locations, or identifiable people without having the appropriate paperwork in place. 

So now you should be able to start the submission process with your initial batch. Or you can read on about the software and steps involved to prepare the images after you've taken them. 


The main focus of this point is the software, Adobe Lightroom being that software. It has 95% of the function you need for micro stock.  It is very fast and designed for batch processing, handling your raw files beautifully. 

I set up presets in lightroom to speed my editing process along.  Every image destined for stock will get a few tweaks; slight highlight and shadow recovery, clarity and vibrance boosts, lens profile corrections, and some fine sharpening and noise reduction. Then I do white balance for each photo individually, unless there are multiple of a set. 

Most of the time, that's all they will need.  Images for stock are not usually overly stylized, and things like selective colour and colour toned images usually get rejected.

After the images are developed, I head back to library and start filling them with relevant keywords which are what help your images get found and bought.  Use words that describe the images components well without spamming. The more keywords you use, generally the less each one is worth to the search algorithms. 

After the library its time for export.  I also keep an export preset to send my stock images in their full size with all embedded metadata to a specific stock folder.   I organize them by the month they were submitted. And then I organize them again after they have been approved or rejected.  I do this by colour coding with my Apple OSX finder. Green for accepted, red for rejected.  If an image seems to have gotten an unfair rejection, I colour code it yellow so I remember to submit it again in a few weeks or months down the road. 

One thing every contributor forum will tell you is to feed the beast. Keep uploading fresh content to your portfolio to keep the sales growing or at least at a plateau. 

Stock images are different than others because the best sellers are sometimes of the most ordinary situations, like handshakes, or a table in an office meeting.  So after you get more into it, you'll start shooting things you see just for stock. 

So that should get you started. 
I hope it helps, thanks for reading and for watching my short videos and good luck with the world of micro stock. 

Go ahead and sign up now if you think you have some images and your identification ready! 

C Gardiner Photography | Promote Your Page Too