Microstock

Microstock Update

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Whitby Pier at Sunrise. Captured on a Sony RX100.
Whitby Pier at Sunrise. Captured on a Sony RX100.

Some time back I published a blog post saying that I wanted to test out the Microstock market using Compact and Micro 43 cameras. I already sell stock through a couple of “traditional” agencies who require I meet certain equipment standards. Interestingly these now allow the use of Micro 43 cameras providing they meet the quality and pixel count standards. Most Micro 43 cameras will achieve this when correctly used and I have already had submissions accepted.

Before I started this experiment I did visit a few site forums to pose the question about the acceptability of Compact Cameras for Microstock and the usual view was that whilst the libraries may claim they will accept lower quality submissions you do need a DSLR or they will reject the images.

So, how has my experiment been going?

Not well to be honest. Not because the cameras aren’t good enough but because I just can’t find sufficient free time to shoot and submit stock (I have the same problem with my traditional stock work also). My initial few submissions went well enough but I soon ran into problems with the way some libraries limit submissions. Some have a weekly or daily limit and you need to build up a reputation with them. Others are very time consuming and don’t support FTP batch uploads. There were also problems with the speed with which some of these image batches were reviewed. Because of the nature of this experiment I didn’t want to submit too many images without first having an earlier batch accepted. This quickly caused a backlog of images with some sites taking 3 months to review my submission and one site still hasn’t reviewed my submission from January. I guess they don’t want new photographers.

So the first question I wanted to answer was “will the libraries really accept images from a compact camera”. The answer is yes. I only had a couple of images rejected for being underexposed. These had been shot in the evening and to be honest, I would agree with the rejection. If I brightened them too much it revealed noise and even removing this left the images lower in quality than I would like.

One interesting point is that one of the libraries has repeatedly rejected my LX5 images as showing signs of being shot with a low quality lens. Looking honestly at the images I think this is rubbish and no other library has identified a problem. This has only happened with one library and it is so consistent that I suspect they are checking the metadata.

So what about sales?

Not too bad actually. Despite only having loaded around 20 images many of these have continued to sell regularly and appear to have generated around $60 in sales across the various sites I have submitted to. Not a huge amount but it shows there is potential. The two surprising best sellers are images of the Statue of Liberty and perhaps more surprisingly a rather lacklustre image of Wastwater in the English Lake District.

What all this has done is encouraged me not to leave my compact camera images on my hard drive and to submit them to the Microstock libraries. As for using Micro 43 cameras for stock, I now have no choice having sold my Canon 5DII and switching to an Olympus OMD.

I will provide a further update in the future but if you are wondering if you should try your hand at Microstock using a compact camera, I don’t think there is anything to stop you – especially now I have seen what cameras such as the Sony RX100 can achieve.

My Lightweight Microstock Experiment

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GX1 stock image - Suitable for MicroStock?
GX1 stock image – Suitable for MicroStock?

After my last blog post about my Camera Wish List, it got me thinking that I will probably want to upgrade my trusty LX5 at some point over the next year. There is nothing currently on the market that would make me switch but I suspect there will be over the next 12 months. Why? Well there is something in technology known as Moore’s law which stated simply says computing power doubles every 18 months.

I’m sure it hasn’t escaped your attention but camera is now really mini computers and the rate of improvement has accelerated so that after 3 years I can probably get a model that’s twice as good at the same price. My LX5 will be 3 years old next December and I think there will be something so good launched that I will just have to switch.

My suspicion is that I will need in the region of £500 to upgrade although I should get some of this back for the sale of the LX5. I need a way therefore to create an additional £500 over the next year and that’s where this experiment comes in.

I was looking at my image archive the other day and realised I had some 50,000+ images shot on my lightweight camera gear that are just sitting on my RAID drives, bit doing much. Some of these I use to illustrate my blogs but by far the majority never see the light of day. I actually want to slim down this back catalogue by editing the images to remove the rubbish, refine the ones I like and generate some money with them.

Now I should point out that I already shoot stock for two libraries but this tends to be with my DSLR. All the LX5, R1, GF1, GX1 and Sony NEX-5 images never go to these libraries as they have very clear guidelines over the cameras they accept. Microstock libraries on the other hand are more open minded about the equipment and will accept all of the above if the quality is right.

The problem I have is not in the quality of the images but in the subject matter. The vast majority of my work is landscape and travel based. These are subjects that the Microstock libraries generally don’t want more of as they are not as saleable as the concept images. I am therefore likely to have quite a lot of rejects although I am free to submit the same images across multiple libraries.

So, my plan is to sign up with 5-10 libraries and submit approximately 10-20 images a week from my archive. If 50% of these are accepted then I should achieve 500 images by the end of the year, hopefully generating sufficient to pay for the equipment upgrade. The only problem with my whole approach is that I might get tired of the relentless keywording and editing to generate the 10-20 images a week. Assuming I get the experiment underway I will report back through this blog in the coming months. Don’t be surprised however if I report back that I don’t have the patience or time to do this.