This post discusses the pros and cons of some of the most popular microstock and photo sharing websites and which are best for you to use to sell your photographs.
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Category – Microstock
For me, Shutterstock has been the best Microstock site in terms of earnings. I have also found it easy to use with all the features I need. It remains my number one recommendation.
Let’s look at some of the features and benefits of Shutterstock:
- A fast review process for uploaded images. Sometimes it all most feels like it is in real-time. I rarely have to wait more than a couple of days, and they also review over the weekend.
- You can easily upload via the website but more importantly, via FTP and microstock submission services such as MicroStockPlus and PicWorkFlow. I have had only a few hitches during the upload process. Keyword and title metadata are retained and choosing the right categories is logical for me.
- Shutterstock accepts Editorial images, as well as commercial ones and rates, are both good for microstock, in my opinion.
- There is an affiliate programme that works and provides additional revenue from both referred image buyers and new contributors when they sell an image.
- Shutterstock also accepts video footage, music/sound and vector illustrations.
- You will find some useful analytics showing you how many downloads, earnings and even the location of your buyers. There is also an App if you would prefer to get updates on your phone or tablet.
- Shutterstock allows you to create catalogues and also a profile page with social media links, a link to your website, bio etc. I am not sure whether this provides any real benefit, but I also cannot see a downside.
- There are no costs to using Shutterstock, like most microstock sites and the payout threshold is quite low at $35 via PayPal. Payments can be set to auto, meaning that you do not need to make a request.
In terms of downsides, I think there are only a few. The first is that images are sometimes rejected for reasons that do not seem to make sense such as “Focus: The main subject of this image is not in focus.” when the focus is in the right part of the image, but other areas are out of focus. Re-submitting the same content can often result in acceptance of the picture. I have also found that some good photographs that have resulted in sales on other sites, did not get accepted by Shutterstock.
In short, if you are looking to start submitting and earning money from microstock, then Shutterstock should be on the top of your list.
Category – Microstock
Dreamstime was always my second goto Microstock website, although, in recent times, earnings have fallen away and have not kept pace with Shutterstock even though my portfolio is more extensive. It boasts that it has the largest contributor community and is undoubtedly one of the more prominent players.
Let’s look at some of the features and benefits of Dreamstime:
- A consistent review process both in terms of time to review and acceptance criteria. I have had more images accepted by Dreamstime than Shutterstock. However, I would say that my acceptance rates for Shutterstock have improved over time, and I think that this is in part, my better understanding of requirements.
- Dreamstime allows geo-tagging either automatically or manually. I list this as a positive although I have no evidence that this has a positive influence on sales of images of a specific location.
- Dreamstime allows you to submit photos, editorial, illustrations, videos, and audio, so once again, you can earn from a full range of your creations.
- The affiliate programme allows users to earn from both direct content sales and referred contributor sales providing a possible second revenue stream from the site.
- The upload and submission process is good, and you can use FTP of one of the microstock submission services, which simplifies the whole system.
- Analytics and reporting seem as good as mots sites, and there is a good app. Bit although they have updated the website dashboard, etc. I still find it a bit clumsy, and it looks old fashioned. The poor style may be just the colour scheme or font, but I never feel energised to look further – unlike with Shutterstock and Adobe Stock.
On the downside, as I mentioned, monthly sales are lower than Shutterstock. Dreamstime also has an annoying habit of asking you to make images free if they have not sold for a few months. I am not sure why this would benefit me, especially of the image is selling on other sites. It is also possible to upload an image in a different format such as RAW. I do not do this and see little or no advantage. Indeed allowing others to have your RAW image could make it hard to prove that you are the owner if that should ever be challenged for a particular picture.
The minimum payout from Dreamstime is also quite high at $100. I find this quite annoying as I like to be paid for what I have sold as soon as possible. I don’t want Dreamstime holding my money; indeed, as sales are reducing, it means that for lots of photographers, they do not receive payment every month.
Overall I am found of Dreamstime even though the sales are not as strong as Shutterstock or Adobe Stock. I will continue to upload and hope that I fund the right images that sell so that my income improves.
Can Stock Photo
Category – Microstock
Can Stock Photo is described as one of the world’s largest and oldest “microstock” photography agencies. It was founded in 2004 on the premise of offering professional yet affordable images while providing fair commissions for talented artists.
Can Stock Photo used to be one of my favourite microstock agencies but over recent years I have experienced two issues. This first is that sales have slumped. The second is that its approval process seems flawed and really rather annoying. It is easy to submit via FTP type solutions but my images are rejected due to “File contains invalid keywords, title, or description.” This would be fine other than the same keywords were accepted by all other microstock sites that I use. Can Stock Photo has a responsive help ticket system but the logic for rejecting keywords is not very helpful. Looking at individual images with them they seem to decide on whether a keyword is relevant without knowing the subject. For example, they rejected the word hexagon when the keyword described a six-sided post box in the UK. I am hoping that this is a blip… and they will start approving my photos again. If not I will not be submitting as I do not see a logical way of deleting keywords to gain approval.
Let’s look at some of the features and benefits of Can Stock Photo:
- The submission process is simpler than others as it is not necessary to add categories to the images that you upload.
- However, Can Stock does not allow editorial photos to be submitted.
- One-off buyers should be attracted as it Searching as downloading stock images is described as being ‘refreshingly fast and easy, and you don’t need an account or subscription’.
- There is an affiliate scheme that provides revenue from both contributors and buyers of images.
Category – Photo Sharing
500px does not fit easily into a category as it is both a photo-sharing website and a form of stock site, as your uploaded images can be submitted for licencing.
Indeed 500px provides a photographer with two possible revenue streams. Get discovered by clients looking to hire for photography projects in your local area. Licence your images via 500px for sale on other sites – Getty Images and VCG (Visual China Group). While there is a free (and useful) plan, you can also take a paid membership which offers further features.
Let’s look at some of the features of 500px.
- There is also a very active community of users and 500px encourages photographers to use the site as a social media site. This feature helps with understanding which published photographs are popular and admired and can inspire your own portfolio.
- The free plan is an excellent window to the 500px service.
- MicroStockPlus can be used to upload images to 500px via FTP, at the same time as uploading to microstock sites such as Shutterstock and Dreamstime.
- There are some good statistics in the paid plans which help better understand the popularity of each photo that you upload.
- The licensing option (exclusive and non-exclusive) provides easy access to Getty Images. The process is quite slow, and as you might expect, the criteria are strict. Nevertheless, 500px is a good route into Getty Images.
- Unlike many other photo sharing sites, 500px.com doesn’t require that you give away your photos to upload them. It does require the right to use your photos for publicity purposes, however.
- Focussed on photographs, it is a less cluttered site, and it is easy to view and enjoy pictures on the website and app.
As for downsides, well to get all the features you do need to pay a yearly subscription and direct revenue opportunities through licensing may be limited. The jury is out for me, but one thing is sure, there is no point in paying a membership if you do not use the feedback and statistics. I have also not found an affiliate programme.
Category – Photo Sharing
Smugmug is perhaps the best-known photo sharing and hosting website for photographers is SmugMug, a platform that has been around since 2002. SmugMug acts as an online gallery space, letting you display your photos easily and – relatively – inexpensively.
More to follow on Smugmug