When we first start our journey into photography, we are usually just happy to show our shots to friends and family. As we learn new techniques and get more creative, we may enter competitions or allow the wider public to see our images on sites such as 500px.com. Eventually, we will build up a good and varied enough collection to consider submitting to stock agencies. If you feel that you have reached that stage, then read on as today we are going to talk about how to submit your images to stock libraries.
Before we start, it might be worth looking at some of the myths and realities involving microstock agencies.
If you are confident that you can make some money from your images, let’s have a look at some stock photography tips on how to prepare images to for acceptance by stock libraries.
All libraries will require you to submit an initial selection of 10-20 images for review. This is the first major hurdle, because many photographers incorrectly think they can just select several nice images and upload them. The reality is that you are going to have to work on those images to get them exactly right for the library that you wish to send to.
Each library will have its own strict set of image requirement criteria. These will include image size, color space, technical issues such as sharpness and exposure, and correct metadata. There will also be copyright and model release issues to be aware of, especially if submitting a royalty-free image to microstock. Having read through the library’s requirements and selected suitable images, let’s look at getting them prepared.
Check Submission Requirements
First of all, if you are shooting jpg files, make a copy and work on the duplicate file. Be organized; copy all the images you wish to submit to a new folder. If you use Lightroom or Aperture, create a separate album for them.
The first things to check are the technical details. Look at the image at 100% view, and carefully examine its sharpness. Reject any that are the slightest bit soft or that have untended motion blur such as camera shake. Do not attempt to sharpen any images, especially soft ones. Stock libraries prefer unsharpened images.
Next, have a look at the histogram of the image. If it is drastically off the scale either to the right or left, then reject it. If it is slightly off the scale, then see if you can recover the highlights or shadows without degrading the image quality. Use your post-production software’s clipping tool to look for blown highlights or unrecoverable shadows.
Check the image sharpness at 100% view
With the image still at 100%, look for excessive noise, particularly in areas of uniform color such as skies as well as in the deep shadow areas. Lastly, at this stage, we need to check that the image is clean. Dust is the bane of the modern digital photographer and you will need to examine every part of the image at full size to check for telltale signs of dust. If you find some, you should in most cases be able to use the clone or patch tools to remove it. If it is particularly stubborn or badly located, you may have to reject the image.
Also look for dust, blemishes and noise
Next, we need to get the image looking good. Make exposure, contrast and saturation adjustments to liven up the image, but keep the corrections to a bare minimum. One common mistake is to oversaturate images. Remember that the person that buys the image will almost certainly want to carry out further post-production on it, so they are more likely to opt for a natural-looking image than one that has been over-corrected. Also, keep any cropping to the very bare minimum.
Check the histogram for clipping issues
The last step in image editing is to check the image size. Most libraries will have a minimum pixel dimension requirement. Most cameras today will probably exceed this requirement comfortably, but if you are using shots from an older, lower-resolution camera, you may need to upsample the image slightly. Again as with the image corrections, do this very carefully and, if possible, in small steps so as to minimize the image degradation.
Make sure you have the right image size for submission
Of course, image correction is only half the story. Once we have done this, we need to add the metadata. Metadata is what allows other people to find the image. Typically, a stock library will require a caption, description and keywords. For example, in the image we have been using in this article, the caption might be “Mountain House”. The description may be “A high mountain hut sits near two spectacular alpine lakes at the peak of the Transfagarasen pass during autumn in Romania.” The keywords are the most vital element and should use the most important words from the description and a host of others that describe not only the scene but the emotional feel from the scene.
Emotional keywords in this case could be; inspiring, beautiful, inhospitable and majestic. In this example you can also use words such as environment, mountain peak, or Eastern Europe. The key is to think of words that picture researchers will use to find suitable images. Another tip is not to over-keyword or keyword-spam an image. This may lead to your image being rejected or getting rated lower than other similar shots in a search.
Add the metadata
With your images prepared, it’s time to make that initial submission. Once uploaded, it may take anything from a couple of days to several weeks before you hear back. If you have been rejected, don’t despair; stock libraries will often tell you why you failed. Correct these points and try again.
If you are successful, use all the above rules for any further submissions. Submit 20-50 images at a time and wait until these are accepted or rejected before submitting further.
Lastly, don’t expect immediate returns. Stock photography will not make most people rich. It can, however, be a useful supplement to your current living. To see a decent return, you are going to have to invest a lot of preparation time and a lot of good-quality images. If you can do this, there is money to be made.