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What Is Microstock? How To Sell You Images Online

Updated on December 17, 2012

What is Microstock and what are microstock agencies? When searching for information about photography, whether it is on Google, or here on Hubpages, you are bound to run into information about how you can make lots of money buy selling your photographs as microstock at an agency like Istockphoto. Since there are so many of these articles, I am not going to discuss how to sell your photos, but I am hoping to give you an understanding of what microstock is, that way you can decide yourself it you want to check out Istock.

First off, let's talk about the different kinds of stock photography and what each type entails. Traditional stock photography consists of large companies that collect photos from numerous photographers and maintain a database of these photos. Stock photography generally consists of images that are generic in nature. Images that can be used today and will maintain usefulness in several years. These photos are generally sold for a specific use, such as in an ad campaign. The picture can only be used in the context and for the duration that is specified in the contract. After that usage is up, the image can not be used again without paying another fee to license it.

Microstock came about with the intent of making photos more available to people that need a photo for smaller uses, such as photos for blogging and web articles.

A digital SLR, the tool for microstock.
A digital SLR, the tool for microstock. | Source

Enter The Microstock Agency

While the model of traditional stock agencies worked well for large businesses investing vast sums of money into major ad campaigns, there remained a market for the smaller buyer. Some smaller businesses and smaller news companies had a desire to use stock photos, but didn't have the financial means to license photos each time they needed them. Some of the larger stock agencies started offering Royalty Free photos at lower costs. These photos had a one time fee, then the buyer was free to use the photos in any way they desired.

This lead to the creation of Microstock Agencies such as, Dreamstime, Shutterstock and Fotolia, just to name a few. These agencies offer large catalogs of royalty free images that can be used on a smaller scale than the rights managed photos of traditional stock agencies. Many of these images cost around $1.00 and can be an inexpensive way to use a photograph legally for smaller businesses or personal blogs.

Some of the microstock agencies even offer free images. Dreamstime, for example, has a section of free photos that you can download. While there aren't as many images available for free on their site, it is a create option for saving money when you can find images that fit your needs. You also know that you are using the images correctly, rather than just copying photographs from another website online.

Who Is Yuri Arcurs?

Yuri Arcurs is arguably the world's most successful stock photographer. Based in Denmark, Yuri has a full time staff of 35 people that help him prepare for photos shoots and get his photos out to dozens of stock and microstock photo agencies.

Yuri's photographs are licensed around 5,000 times each day! That adds up to over 10 million of his images used each year. In addition to his stock photography, he contributes to the stock photo world with a blog, videos and keyword tools that are aimed at helping aspiring stock photographers make the most out of their portfolios.

You can check out Yuri's blog here:

How To Make Money With Microstock

Traditional stock agencies often require that you submit a portfolio of hundreds of images for review. If you are accepted as a photographer for the agency, they may require that you submit a certain number of photos per year to stay in good standing with the agency.

By contrast, many microstock agencies are open to anyone to join. They may have an inspection process that requires you to submit up to ten photos for review, but if you don't make the cut, you can always submit more photos after a certain time frame. Once you are selected as a contributor to a microstock agency you can contribute as many or as few photos as you would like.

As with most things, the more time, effort and energy you put into it to create high quality, relavant photos, the more money you can potentially make. While many people make no more than a few pennies a month on microstock sites, some photographers, such as Yuri Arcurs may make a very comfortable living off of microstock. The difference is the amount of effort put into it. If you only upload a few photos a year, you are not likely to make a lot of money. Yuri Arcurs puts in a very full work schedule and invests most of his money right back into his business.

Again, I am not going to get into the how of selling your photos through a microstock agency. I just want to make you aware of what a microstock agency is and help you to decide if it is worth checking into for yourself.


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