How good are you at taking criticism? No matter what your skill level, microstock photography WILL test your humility at times as your favourite image is rejected for reasons that seem to make no sense to you whatsoever. But there are steps you can take to limit how many times you will sit staring in disbelief at your latest batch of image reviews. But be warned – it’ll take some getting used to!
So maybe you’ve got a few hundred or even thousand images sitting on your computer and you’re wondering where to begin – do I submit them all? How do I choose? Which kind of images will sell as microstock photography? The first step in the process is the kind of images that you should submit as microstock.
On most of the sites, once you have joined as a contributor you will find lists of subject matter that they do or don’t want.
In general, the following list includes the type of images that most libraries will readily accept:
Most agencies will tell you to avoid submitting these types of images…
Bear in mind that these are general guidelines and not hard and fast rules. For instance, I have had considerable success with travel and nature related images. In fact, my most sold image across all the sites I contribute to would have to be this one (sells on average every 3 days or so across the main sites, mostly Shutterstock). But in the end your time will probably be better spent working on images that fit within the first group listed above.
Just because up until now you haven’t photographed any doctors working on the elderly, doesn’t mean that your current images aren’t worth thinking about. Some images online are better than no images online. So look through all your old files and pick the best of the best, the ones with real potential, nice lighting and in sharp focus. And then put them aside to fine tune to the point of getting your first submission ready to go online.
It seems each microstock site is particularly fussy about one or two things, while another might let them slide. But across the board, some problems will always get your images rejected. The top things to look for in your files are:
Noise - just like film grain of old, noise is your camera struggling to make sense of the scene it has captured. This exhibits itself in often oddly coloured pixels (purple, green) in darker areas of the image, particularly at large sizes or in low light. It looks dirty and unprofessional. Be very conscious of it, and use noise reduction software (such as found in Adobe Photoshop CS5) and shoot RAW if possible to limit its affects.
Poor lighting - look for distracting shadows, blown out highlights, dirty blacks, colour casts from different light sources and anything else that detracts from a clean looking image.
Composition – a good stock image is sometimes tricky to get your head around. If it’s an object on white, then don’t leave too much white around it as then buyers need a bigger size image which annoys them. But if it’s a portrait or a complex still life perhaps, then leave some room where a designer can add text over the image without it wrecking the shot. Always try to follow one of the major rules of composition, such as Rule of Thirds of something similar.
Commercial value - this one is pretty subjective, and probably the main cause of complaint from photographers. Microstock agencies want images they can sell, not just any old image that is technically sound. So make sure the images you submit have a clear message, concept, purpose or use and are the kind of image that a designer could incorporate into a design or use to illustrate a concept.
Once you have selected your images and made the necessary adjustments to make them the best they can be, you are ready for the next vital step, keywording your images.
2 - Select Images That Sell,