What is Microstock Photography?

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About Stock Photography – what is Microstock Photography?

Selling photos for stock may be an interesting and rewarding hobby for everyone. There are stock photography agencies that buy images mostly from proffesional photographers. Two largest of them are Getty Images and Corbis. Micro stock agencies buy/sell images from smaller contributors (including hobby photographers) with smaller price. Two large micro stock agencies are Dreamstime and Shutterstock.

Stock agencies have large online databases for images. Instead of hiring a photographer images can be downloaded with different licences.

How to get photos online?

There are three different activities, before you get your images online:

pure fun – shooting photos

pure work – key-wording & uploading

success – starting with first photo sell and hopefully never ending process

Lets look at these three topics a little closer 🙂

Shooting photos. You can draw inspiration from different everyday situations. Some stock photos will be used as an illustration on some web page, some might be in the corner of a news article. Some business related photos might be used on some company brochure or in commercial advertisement. If you would like to sell a picture of an object then different objects isolated on white background are needed by designers for various purposes.

If there are recognizable individuals on your photo you need their written permit. Many sock sites have special model release form for this. What if you have photos of famous people or if you have other news worthy photos with recognizable people? You can then try to sell these photos with editorial license. With images sold with editorial license you should read carefully what are specific requirements written the “Terms and conditions” rules of your stock agency.

What is key-wording? If you try to sell photos then it is very important that your photos are easily findable. You can accomplish this if you add keywords (tags) to your images. You can do this either in the right way or in the wrong way.

The right way is to add keywords that describe the main topic of your photo or the objects/activities on the photo.

The wrong way is to add very many popular words that do not describe your photo. The result is that the photo buyer who looks for specific photos will find many irrelevant photos in the search outcome. If the buyer is patient then maybe he or she will look through all these photos. If the buyer has limited time to find the right photo then probably he will try to look for this photo in some other place.

Before adding new keywords take some time to look at the photo you are about to upload. Try to figure out what is the purpose of this photo? Who would find this photo to be useful? If you would like to find this exact photo among thousand other images then what words would you type into the search box in your internet browser? Many stock sites require at least ten keywords. Choose them wisely 😉

Uploading photos. This is a time consuming process too. Choose only the best images for uploading. The best image for stock photography might be slightly different from photos that you are used to see on the walls of professional artistic photo galleries. Take a quick tour on any stock site to see what is already uploaded.

If you would like to upload images that are similar to the ones that are already up you should make your images better to stand up among other photos. You may try to beat other photos in quality 😉 Or you could start uploading photos that are still rare and hard to find among the photos that are already up.

NB! It is recommended to add keywords to the image metadata (properties) before uploading. Most stock sites can then receive image information and keywords automatically after upload.


Success? Few years later when you are experienced photo/image seller you might agree that this hobby has became a part of your every-day life. Even if you have not earned a lot of money you have still many good positive experiences. You may find your photos used from different parts in the World. You can improve your results when devoting yourself to photo subjects/topics that sell more often. You always can try shooting photos with better quality to build a stronger portfolio.

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