Microstock Update

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.

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