Selling Stock Photography

We're now selling an expanding library of images on several microstock sites. Below are links to the agencies we're selling through with our initial reviews which we will update as we use them more extensively. If you're a photographer, use the links below to sign up and get selling too!

iStockPhoto 5* Rated
The original microstock agency and it shows in the polished site and large userbase. Now part of the Getty family, iStockPhoto benefits from an excellent keyword disambiguation tool which means images can be keyworded in one language and searched in many others. iStock images are now replacing Stockxpert images as the premium links on free site, Stockxchange, and in the Jupiter sites JIUnlimited and Photos.com.

Update: Not sure what caused the shift, possibly the extra promotion that iStock's getting (not least through the demise of Stockxpert), but iStock had rocketed ahead on the sales front. The original and, in virtually every way, the best - I'll be applying for exclusive as soon as I've racked up enough sales!

Shutterstock5* Rated
A different sales model sees Shutterstock users offered near unlimited downloads for a fairly high subscription fee. As a result, sales on the site tend to be low value, but high quantity and many photographers report their highest earnings from here. The approvals are quick and sales start racking up fairly quickly so it's definitely worth signing up. The subscription model also means that users will be fairly well tied in to Shutterstock so even low value sales here are unlikely to take sales which may otherwise have been made at higher value elsewhere.

Dreamstime 4* Rated
This is quite a nice site to submit photos to with a clear, if quirky at times, interface and a fairly swift approval turnaround. The image QC is perhaps marginally more lenient than iStockPhoto which should be regarded as the benchmark standard. Images seem to be selling fairly well on the site and at a decent size too.

Stockxpert2* Rated
Part of the Jupiter/Getty group, Stockxpert seems be losing a lot of ground now as it gets replaced by the group's golden child, iStockPhoto, in the Stockxchange premium links and on JIUnlimited and Photos.com. It's a shame because it was nice site to use, but the approvals have been less than consistent recently and they tend to give "We are not interested in this subject" rejections regardless of what the subject may be. Probably not worth investing too much, if any, time in at the moment - I get the impression that the site will be entirely merged into iStock before long.

Update: As expected, Stockxpert is now closed, directing traffic to iStock. The featured images on free-site Stockxchange are now also taken from iStockPhoto.

PictureNation 1* Rated
Aimed more at the European market than most other microstock agencies, PictureNation has a different, and perhaps questionable approach. The QC requirements are noticeably lower than other sites, with some lower quality images available for sale, but they offer a much higher sale price and a high commission for photographers. The downside is that you can only host five images without upgrading to a pro account for £10 per year. Admittedly, it would only take one decent sale to justify this cost, but we haven't had one yet so we'll reserve judgement on VFM until later. On the plus side, the interface is good and album organisation is quick and effective. Approvals take over a week though.

Update: Still on zero. I'd imagine that most of the money this company makes is from people trying out Pro accounts, rather than expensive sales. My Pro account expires in February 2011 and I can't see it being renewed!

BigStockPhoto 2* Rated
Again, early days for me on this site, but as one of the first microstock agencies, it's a popular site with a good-sized userbase. While it hasn't particularly endeared itself so far, it's probably worth a punt. Rates fairly high in user friendliness stakes but on early impressions, seems harder to get images approved than iStockPhoto. Some people are getting good sales, but many reviewers put it outside of their top 5.

Update: As of July 2010, I have removed images from BigStock having had limited files accepted and minimal sales.

Fotolia 3* Rated
Sales on Fotolia are fairly slow, perhaps due to their massive collection, but it's a nice, clear site to use. Images are labelled by colour to show status - queued, approved, rejected etc, and deleted files can be shown or hidden in the file list. QC takes a little longer than some other sites, but rejections are generally well explained by email in batches. Reasons for rejections do not appear on the website (would be nice to have this on the site, perhaps as a rollover on the status bullet), but on the upside, you can view files 100 to a page which is more than you're allowed on other sites.

123RF3* Rated
Too early to comment on this one. Approvals seem fairly swift and at around the iStock standard, but early experience and most reviews suggest consitent, but consistently slow sales. A nice site to use with clear interface. If you're going for blanket coverage, I can see no reason not to include this site so far, but don't expect immediate returns.

Update: As per initial impressions, this is a nice site to use, but sales have been minimal, even with a decent spread of approved images.

Crestock2* Rated
Not a bad site on initial impressions. QC is significantly tighter than iStockPhoto so your image quality will need to be top notch to build up a useful portfolio. Some rejections seem inconsistent with top-selling images from other agencies being rejected on grounds of composition, and a few of the images that made it in seemingly of a lower quality. Maybe worth a try if you have a lot of very stock-focused images.

Update: As of July 2010, I have removed images from Crestock having had limited files accepted and no sales.

FotoMind Unrated
Too early to judge - just signed up. Seems like a good site, clear and easy to use with the only (very minor) criticism being that the FTP upload takes a while to go live after registration. Some reviews suggest very slow sales, but if that's due to it being a young site, why not get in early? The site were originally offering $75 golden handshakes to photographers with hundreds of images to add, but that deal seem to have passed.

Update: Fotomind.com has been closed since 15th April 2010

CanStockPhoto 3* Rated
Still early days, but seems to be a good bet. QC is significantly more lenient than the iStockPhoto benchmark so you can rapidly build a decent sized portfolio which is a good incentive. Submission and portfolio management is surprisingly user friendly given how bad the site looks on first viewing - could definitely do with a facelift! More exposure and better sales would net the site its fourth star!

Sales Chart
Based on the same image selection uploaded to each site, some sites have images which were rejected from others, but on the whole, all have a similar portfolio.

1 - iStockPhoto
2 - Shutterstock
3 - Dreamstime
4 - Fotolia

Updated July 2010

If you're starting out selling stock photography, iStockPhoto is definitely the place to start. Their QC gives good feedback and there is a large and helpful community to help you with critiques, events and 'cage fight' competitions. It's a great creative community and you can build a network of contacts as you build your portfolio and work your way up through coloured canisters and other special icons on your profile which demonstrate your talents and achievements. There's an opportunity to go Exclusive with iStockPhoto for which you're rewarded with higher royalties up to 40% (and extra icons!), but to do this you must have 250 downloads and an approval rating of over 50%.

If you decide not to go exclusive, then it makes sense to get into as many of the other libraries as possible - if people are tied in to a particular site through subscription or the preferences of their company/management, they can still get your photos if you offer them everywhere! Going down that road, your next stop should probably be Shutterstock, then Dreamstime. After that, maybe CanStock, Fotolia, 123RF and... take your pick of the others!

Visit Factor41Photography @ iStockPhoto | Stockxpert | Dreamstime | Shutterstock | Fotolia | 123RoyaltyFree | PictureNation | Crestock | BigStockPhoto | CanStockPhoto

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