10 Steps To Get You Going

Step #1 – Why Microstock?

Today at stockphotoguru.com we are going to take you into the world of microstock photography and tell you why you should, and how you can get involved with microstock. This video is your introduction into how to put together a professional portfolio and submit it to stock agencies.

First and foremost, with the advent of the digital SLR or DSLR, photography is now available to everyone. If you have the drive and willpower to create images then you can do microstock. One of the really great things about microstock is that it will add to your current photography interests. You are probably already shooting, so why no make some income off of it, some residual passive income! Now don’t get me wrong, this is going to take some hard work, but with your hard work, you will begin to create some passive residual income.

Tune in to stockphotoguru.com’s next post/video where I’ll give you the run down on what gear you can get to get started, and what you should be spending to get it.

Step #2 – What Gear Do I Buy For Microstock?

Today at stockphotoguru.com we show you exactly what gear you should purchase and or use to get started on your stock photography business.

And what gear is that exactly you ask. You need a DSLR camera (a Digital Single Lens Reflex camera) and a 50mm 1.8
lens. The DSLR should be AT LEAST 6MP and should be made by either Canon
or Nikon. Your images will be at least LARGE sized on most stock photography sites and at 1.8 as your maximum aperture, you can shoot in many lighting conditions and have great focus fall off.
Taking great shots is not all about gear and it is certainly NOT about money. You can get a great setup that will get you taking great microstock images for around $200-$300 in the used market and around $550 in the new.


Tune in to stockphotoguru.com’s next post/video where I’ll give you the next step on becoming the next person to quit his/her day job through microstock photography!

Steve  (SJ) Harmon


Step #3 – When Do You Need a Model/Property Release?

You need a property release when you are shooting people where their identity is visible.  It is hit/miss when dealing with bodies, but always with faces.  Feet/hands, etc. you are probably safe to not have a release.   Most microstock companies will accept a signed model release from another agency, however we discovered that Dreamstime did not.
When dealing with properties, you may or may not need one, and it’s not always cut and dry.   It is recommended that a property release is obtained by a property owner when the property is more highly recognizable and unique.  If there is some kind of signage, or majorly distinct, get a property release.

This is vague, but a property release will almost always be needed for
A. cars
B. Art
C. identifiable personal property, ie, a handmade canoe
D. some real estate, ie.  Madison Square Garden.

I have shot high-end homes in high-end neighborhoods and these have been readily accepted and sold well.  In the end, if you can get a model or property release, GET IT!

Here are some links to Model Releases:

istockphoto.com – MODEL RELEASE

istockphoto.com – PROPERTY RELEASE


Step #4 – Available Light

Here at Stockphotoguru.com our goal is to get you on the path of creating residual income from microstock photography, and making this goal obtainable to anyone, regardless of finances.  So, you don’t need to run out and purchase tons of lighting equipment.  One of the easiest things to shoot is landscape, and the lighting is powered by the sun!  There is landscape pretty much all around you.  Take a look around, do you see rolling hills?  Shoot it!  Do you see a city skyline?  Shoot it!  Shoot everything around you and fill up your CF or SD card.

After you’ve maxed out a few memory cards, take a walk around your town.  Do you live in an urban area?  Do you live in a rural city?  It doesn’t matter your setting, there is architecture all around you.  Take pictures of that old rusty fence, or that boarded up factory.  Just be aware of any signage or copyrighted logos that you might need a release for.

You finished exploring your town, and filled up a few memory cards, now what?  Head indoors and check whats inside of your fridge!  Is that a bowl of strawberries?  Set up your PVC Lightbox you made, and take pictures of the strawberries.  Now, take a picture of the strawberries from above.  Then, from the side.  You can use the same subject and create many different images.  Do you have old paper or postcards sitting around?  Grab them and get’em into your lightbox.  Designers really like using old grungy looking backgrounds and old paper or postcards are perfect for this.

Step #4a - Shooting Challenge

Now that you have an idea of what to shoot, I present you with a shooting challenge.  Get out and take pictures!  Take 400 pictures and dig through them.  Push yourself to create, you’ll be surprised with what you come up with.


Step #5a – Work Flow

Now that you’ve set your camera properly and taken some pictures, what do you do with your images now?  You are probably going to need to store them somewhere and back them up!  You should store and backup your images on two separate drives either on a CD, DVD, USB flash drive, a hard drive, or even on a cloud service.

Getting your camera setup is a pretty important task!  One really important thing to do is set your white balance for a proper exposure.  On your camera there will be the letters WB which stand for white balance.  This tells your camera what kind of light in entering the lens.  The good folks over at WikiHow wrote a great article about the specific how to’s for setting your white balance.

After you’ve got your white balance set, you want to make sure you have a clean sensor.  If your sensor is not clean your images will contain sensor spots, which means extra work in post.  There are several safe methods for cleaning your sensor.  I usually use a compressed air can or a Rocket Air Blaster to remove dust from the sensor.

Once you have cleaned your sensor, it’s time to get your ISO correct.  For microstock, you want your ISO as low as possible for a properly exposed image.

Step #5b- Image Organization

To be able to organize your images, you want to make sure they are backed up.  You can directly link the camera using a USB cord, or use a card reader.

My folder structure is this (Year, Month, Date, Project), followed by specifically naming the individual files from each project.  Individually naming each file might sound like a massive task, but there are some really great programs too help with this job of batch renaming.  As a Mac user I use iView MediaPro, it’s a paid program but works really well.  On a PC I recommend IrfanView, it’s free, and there is a tad of a learning curve, but it’s a really great tool.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of backing up your images!  DVDs, CDs, Blue-Rays, etc.  Backup, Backup, Backup!  Hang on to your RAW images, because you never know when you need to go back and do some more work.

Step #6-Digital Asset Management

After you’ve got your images transferred to a hard drive and backed up somewhere else, double check that they are there, and then you can format your memory card.  With your newly transferred pictures on your drive, it’s important to organize them in a way you can easily find them.

Some programs I strongly recommend you get a copy of Lightroom and Photoshop.  If you are a student, you can get a pretty good discount on them. I use Lightroom and Photoshop, so most of what I’ll discuss is about those.   I like to organize each project in a new catalog.  In Lightroom click the new catalog option and enter in what your shoot was about.  Lightroom will restart and now it’s time to import your images.  Click the import button and toggle the standard preview option.  The standard preview option might take a little longer in the import process, but it’s easier to cruise through images while editing.  Images are imported, now you need to choose which ones you want to work with.  After your images are imported, you need to switch to a new module in Lightroom called Develop.   In my workflow I apply a star to each image that I like (the one star means this image has potential).  Filter your images to display images with one star.  Now that you have images with “potential”, you need to comb back through your images and look at the technical details.  If you feel it’s up to par, then assign it a two star rating.  Once you’ve filtered your images it’s time to normalize them.  By normalizing them, you want to do color corrections, check for exposure, and fix obvious issues like sensor spots and cropping.

Step #7 – Image Output

With you normalized images, you can do one of two things, either export them as a TIFF (for further work in Photoshop) or export them as a JPEG.  With your images in TIFF form you can do more post work in Photoshop with any loss of quality to your image.  TIFF is another for of a RAW image that doesn’t has little to no loss of quality.  In Photoshop you can remove any copyrighted marks such as logos or trademarks.  After this normalization process, it’s time to take those corrected images and turn them into JPEG.

With your JPEG images in hand, it’s time to get them up on some microstock sites

Step #8 – Get Them Up on Stock!

There are a lot of stock agencies that you can upload your images to and we’ve got a link here on stockphotoguru.com near the top of the page that lists most of them, but we want to condense that massive list down, and give you our recommended agencies.  I work exclusively with iStock, but my wife and kids upload images to a good amount of agencies.  I have a lot of get iStock tips on my other site istocksecrets.com

The first agency I’d recommend is iStock.  They are one of the larger agencies and images sell really well with them.  One of the tricky things at first is that they only allow you to upload 18 images a week at first.  Second up is Depositphotos.  One of the great things up them is they offer unlimited uploads.  There is no limit to the amount of images you can put up. The third agency I’d recommend is Fotolia. They also offer unlimited uploads and have a very user friendly site. They also offer unlimited uploads, and have been a pleasure to work with.  Fourth is 123rf.   They also have a really large European market. Another agency I recommend working with is Cutcaster.  Although they don’t offer unlimited uploads, they do have a very generous monthly upload limit of 140 images.  The sixth agency I’d recommend would be Dreamstime.  Images do really will with them, but keep in mind they won’t accept you images unless you have a model release directly from them.  Their upload limit is also percentage based, which means they more images you get approved, the more images you can upload.  Seventh, check out Bigstock.  The user interface is great and images do pretty well with them.  Finally, I’d recommend working with is Shutterstock.  I’ve found that getting accepted to Shutterstock is a tad on the tricky side, but once you do, images do well with them.


Step #9 – Uploading to Microstock Sites

The thing you need to thing about here is how am I going to get my images up. There are some sites that will help you get your images out to stock sites ie. Pickworkflow.  The idea is great, but we had trouble with the interface.  IF you are uploading to iStock, DeepMeta is really awesome!

Once you’ve got the images uploaded, you can go through and title, keyword, add categories, and a description of the image.  For keywording check out Yuri Arcurs website.  It’s very helpful in finding proper keywords for your images.  Another good site is Picniche.com. Both site will help you generate keywords for your images.  Just make sure you edit out the keywords that don’t pertain to your images because stock agencies can/will reject you for that.  Answer the main 5 questions for your images (Who, What, Where, When, Why).  After you have your images ready to go, you can submit them to the inspection queue.  Once they’re in the queue someone from the agency will take a look at your image and give you a verdict on it.


Step #10 – How to Upload 140 Per Week

It’s important to get your images up! Even if images are coming back rejected, it will give you an idea what where you need to focus on technically. Over the last few months, I’ve dug through over twenty microstock agencies and took an in depth look at where I feel images are selling, and what agencies I would recommend people working with.  You can get your images up with just an hour or two of work per day, maybe two hours a night after work.

I have outsourced my keywording  and my uploading.  This really frees me up to take pictures!  You look on Craiglist, or at the local university for someone who might me interested.  With outsourcing my keywording and uploading, I’m able to spend my time taking photos.


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