My First 10 Microstock Images

I have decided to see if I can make a few extra bucks on the side by dabbling in microstock photography whilst I fill in time between my day job (not much time left to fill in after that), paying photography jobs (a lot of time between them) and everything else I do (which has a habit of filling in more time than I can afford).

About a month ago I submitted a range of 10 images of a variety of subjects to what seems to be considered the “Big 4” of Microstock agencies. It was interesting to see what was accepted or rejected by each agency, and what the reasons for the rejections were. I also figured it was worth publishing the acceptance results of my submitted photos and some comments about the process so other prospective Microstock contributors can understand what you go through when you set off into the world of Microstock photography.

The Microstock Photography Agencies

Shutterstock

Acceptance rate of 1st 10 images: 1/10 (may have even been 0/10!)

Wow, they didn’t like a single thing I submitted apparently, and since you need to hit an acceptance of 7 of 10 of your first submission I am not yet a contributor at Shutterstock. Since Shutterstock were the first Microstock agency to reject my photos, I was a bit depressed on my first foray into Microstock. However, I have read that even regular contributors have found their acceptance rates droping in the last 6 to 8 months. I am not going to speculate why that is, but clearly Shutterstock is the most difficult Microstock Agency to get your photographs accepted to.

Their back-end and submission system is reasonable, but I wouldn’t say it was the best. You can submit via FTP which is a plus, but the system to add descriptions and key wording was a little clumsy. I cannot comment on the management side of their back end given I am not acepted to the agency yet.

Dreamstime

Acceptance rate of 1st 10 images: 9/10

Dreamstime only rejected the image I felt was most likely to be rejected (more on the images later). I was pretty happy with Dremstime in general, especially since they are the only one of the Microstock agencies I have made any sales through so far (2 sales in the first week…YAY! But none since then).

The backend is reasonably good with a Java based batch uploader you use from the web browser. There is no FTP upload option though. The system for adding key wording, categories and descriptions is also good, but the best part of Dreamstime’s back end is the account management system. It is almost everything you could ask for in a back end, including good (but not awesome) account statistics.

Fotolia

Acceptance rate of 1st 10 images: 7/10

The three image rejected by Fotolia were generally accepted by one or more of the other agencies, and I found the rejections a little odd on two of the images given Dreamstime and iStockphoto both accepted them. Fotolia also accepted the one photo that all other agencies rejected, being the image I most expected to be rejected.

There are multiple upload options, and I chose FTP as I would recommend everyone should. Adding keywords and descriptions is good although their category options are a bit lacking (but not as much as iStockphoto). There are some statistical options once you have accepted images, but they are a bit lacklustre.

iStockphoto

Acceptance rate of 1st 10 images: 6/10

I was expecting iStockphoto to be the most difficult to gain entry to, but after they accepted my first three samples I was hopeful. In the end I was reasonably happy with getting 6 from 10 of my photos accepted.

The disappointing part of iStockphoto is the back-end systems. There is no FTP or HTTP batch upload option and the category selection is confusing. I am not sure if my photos have hit the right categories and their categories are not particularly logical. Disambiguation of key wording with each upload is both good and bad. It is good to be able to define the meaning of your keyword more specifically and add new ones, but the process is quite painstaking.

The Images and Rejections

The images I submitted to all 4 agencies are below, along with the status of those images at each agency and my own comments. Feel free to provide comments or feedback through the comments form at the bottom of the page.

ShutterStock: Rejected – Reason/s: Poor Lighting, Focus
iStockphoto: Accepted
Dreamstime
: Accepted
Fotolia
: Rejected – Reason/s: Type of photograph – No commercial value for stock

My Comments: Accepted at 2 of the 4 agencies, so something must be OK, but I can understand why ShutterStock might have concerns with the focus.

ShutterStock: Rejected – Reason/s: Focus
iStockphoto: Accepted
Dreamstime
: Accepted
Fotolia
: Accepted

My Comments: (Note – image above is not the full crop) Even better, 3 of the 4 agencies accepted it. The shallow depth of field was intentional and it was in the description for the file, so I think this one is just ShutterStock being picky.

ShutterStock: Rejected – Reason/s: Lighting Problems
iStockphoto: Rejected – Reason/s: Keywords, file may include content subject to copyright, requires model release, unsatisfactory motion blur
Dreamstime
: Accepted
Fotolia
: Accepted

My Comments: I was suprised that iStockphoto was concerned with with need a model release. There are a couple of ride attendants visible at 100%, but they are very blurry. I guess ShutterStocks ‘Lighting Problems’ means they don’t like the motion blur.

ShutterStock: Rejected – Reason/s: Focus, Poor Lighting, Composition
iStockphoto
: Rejected – Reason/s: Composition of lighting
Dreamstime
: Rejected – Reason/s: Focus – depth of field too shallow
Fotolia
: Accepted

My Comments: Yep, I agree the depth of field was too shallow and I should have rejected this from my own list. Other than that, iStockphoto appears to be happy with the focus, but they agree with Shutterstock on the lighting quality.

ShutterStock: Accepted/Rejected?? – Reason/s: I am not actually sure if this file was accepted or rejected as no comments were provided by Shutterstock other than my first 9 images had been rejected, so I gather they didn’t even bother looking at this one.
iStockphoto: Rejected – Reason/s: File contains artifacting, image is slightly underexposed
Dreamstime
: Accepted
Fotolia
: Rejected – Reason/s: Quality of the photograph

My Comments: I think this is the last image ShutterStock reviewed, so when they decided I was denied on this submission that there was no point looking at this one.

ShutterStock: Rejected – Reason/s: Poor lighting
iStockphoto: Accepted
Dreamstime
: Accepted
Fotolia
: Accepted

My Comments: Hmmm, Shutterstock seems to be clutching at straws on this one. If the other 3 agencies were happy with it, I don’t really understand ShutterStock’s issue with it.  The lighting composition is different, perhaps creative, given that the flash was off camera and from the bottom, but I guess I needed to light it front on and lose the contrast.

ShutterStock: Rejected – Reason/s: Focus, Poor lighting, Noise, Composition
iStockphoto: Rejected – Reason/s: File contains artifacting, poor composition of lighting
Dreamstime
: Accepted
Fotolia
: Accepted

My Comments: I was worroed about the noise in this one, and I can understand that maybe the lighting was not the best.

ShutterStock: Rejected – Reason/s: Poor lighting
iStockphoto: Accepted
Dreamstime
: Accepted
Fotolia
: Accepted

My Comments: Again 3 of the agencies accepted this, so I am not sure what Shutterstock’s problem is with this image. In fact this is the only image with sales to date, and 2 sales at that.

ShutterStock: Rejected – Reason/s: Focus, poor composition
iStockphoto: Accepted
Dreamstime
: Accepted
Fotolia
: Rejected – Reason/s: Quality of the photograph

My Comments: Actually, I totally agree with the focus not being ideal, but to suggest that the composition has no commercial value intrigues me, especially given there are similar images making sales.

ShutterStock: Rejected – Reason/s: Poor lighting
iStockphoto: Accepted
Dreamstime
: Accepted
Fotolia
: Accepted

My Comments: And 3 of the agencies accept, yet ShutterStock rejects. I really don’t understand what is wrong with the lighting…composition maybe, but lighting??!!

Conclusion

Let’s just start by saying ShutterStock is very picky, and perhaps they can afford to be. But given that there were 4 images that were accepted by the other 3 agencies, I really don’t understand what they want. I will not be disheartened though and I will try again with Shutterstock once I am allowed to try again (you have to wait about 30 days before you can try again with ShutterStock).

As for the rest, I can somewhat understand their rejections. The problem I have overall is the Microstock agencies don’t all agree what is a suitable Microstock image or what the specific problemwith a given image may be.

All in all it was an interesting first time out. I will be submitting another batch of photos to all 4 agencies this week. I have given myself a target of submitting 20 images a month for at least the next few months and then hopefully I can ramp up once things quieten down at my day job. I may also dabble in a bit of HDSLR stock video once I build my new, fast workstation in a few months.

5 comments ↓

#1 borke on 07.18.11 at 11:06 pm

Hi,
FWIT: the copyright problem istock sees for the funfair image is that Marily Monroe’s picture is clearly visible. She is recognisable, and also, the artist who painted her picture owns the copyright for the painting.
Good luck in the microstock world!
Best,
Borke

#2 KristerP on 07.19.11 at 5:21 pm

Thanks for this post. It’s an interesting insight into the world of stock-photography.
(I have not tried it out)

#3 Steve Heap on 07.27.11 at 10:27 am

Interesting to see the different rejections. It is worth persevering with Shutterstock – it has by far the best earnings for me. I publish a graph each month of how much I earn each month from each site – Shutterstock is always top of the pile. Once you get into the hang of it, increase the number of sites you upload to – it is surprising how the $10 here and there add up each month.

Steve

#4 ShannonC on 08.01.13 at 6:09 am

Great, useful post! I am in the process of diving into microstock myself, and the breakdown of your images and their acceptance was very helpful and encouraging.

#5 Corey on 08.01.13 at 10:31 pm

Good luck with your microstock endevours. I never did get around to adding more images to my accounts at the agencies that accepted me, but I have made a little bit of money since uploading these. I think it is time for me to have another go at it.

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