18 May, 2011 | Posted by: st

In the past two articles, we have been through the first steps of getting ready to enter the microstock segment of the world of stock photography. Now to the details!

If you do decide to “have a go,” future articles in this series will describe each of the main microstock photography sites and provide links. You'll find in general, there are no charges or fees to join these sites as a contributor.

Your First Microstock Photographs

Now to business

I happen to be more comfortable with landscapes and travel photography than working with models, although I do think that the brightly lit studio model shots sell very well.
Go with your comfort zone, at least at the start. I recommend that you go through your old photos (although not too old, the images need to be at least 4Mpixels at

most sites). Find the ones that are sharp, well exposed, have no people or identifiable products in them,*and then review the images at full size to make sure that there are no dust marks on the sensor. If noise is present in the shadows (colored blobs of “grain”), use noise reduction and then reduce the image down to about 4 – 5 Mpixels.

Finally, look at them at a small thumbnail size as well, as the buyers will often look at a whole page of images at that size and your picture needs to jump out at them even as a thumbnail. The first pictures I uploaded were travel ones like these:

These were pictures that I had taken during a vacation in
the Caribbean and were nice travel pictures. The originals were not much bigger than 4M – this was back in 2005 when the pictures were taken, and so I had to carefully crop them to not lose much of the file size. I also boosted the saturation a bit to make them jump off the screen, but not so much that they look artificial. These were accepted by all the agencies I deal with (although I had to reduce saturation for the St John Islands
shot to get it accepted at iStockPhoto as they are not keen on over-filtered images).
You should try to find about 30 images and get them all into first class condition and sized to 6M, say.

By the way, when I talk about 6M, I mean that if you multiply the dimensions of the image (eg 3000 x 2000 pixels) you get a number around 6,000,000. Smaller is OK as long as it is more than 4M.
To avoid confusion, this figure does not refer to the file size when you look at the file on your computer.

Save the images at the highest quality JPEG setting – usually 10, or 100%. You don’t want to have any sign of compression in the image that comes from using a lower quality setting. Also, if you can control the color profile, convert the image to sRGB before saving, as most monitors and websites are set to show those colors correctly.

Next, you have to keyword your photos. Keywords are probably the most boring part of the process as they need to be comprehensive, but not misleading, and so too much copy and paste between images is not going to work.

For a set from the same location, I often create a list of the keywords that apply to all images and copy them to each of the images, and then add some specific keywords to fully describe each picture.

There is a good keywording site which works by searching Shutterstock for similar images and then lets you select the keywords that apply to your image.
You should aim for about 30 - 40 keywords - never more than 50. Then add a title with around 10 words that succinctly describes the image and a description that more fully describes the picture.
I'm told that it is a good idea to include as many of the really important keywords in the title and description as possible, as that will help your picture in web searches.

If you keyword in Lightroom, you should then save the metadata (keywords etc.) to the file as they need to go along with the uploaded image to the microstock site.
There is a "right-click" command in Lightroom to do this, otherwise it may happen that the keywords will stay in the database and not be copied into the file itself. You can also use Photoshop and some free tools for manipulating the "metadata" in files. I've had good success as well with ProStockMaster, which is now a free software program. Now you have 30 properly edited, keyworded and described images ready for upload!

The next post
will describe each of the main microstock sites and their foibles!

* Ed. Note: Although true for many microstock sites, this is rarely true for editorial stock photography.

Steve Heap is an accomplished photographer who has built up a
profitable portfolio of microstock images over the past three years – mainly focusing
on travel and landscape images. He blogs regularly about his day by day experiences
in stock photography on BackyardSilver.com
and offers his best images for sale as prints or downloads on BackyardImage.com.


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