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Tips for Microstock Photography

A Guest post by Italian Photographer Giovanni Gagliardi.

I’ve always been fascinated by the endless different places we can see around the world. Undoubtedly this is one of the main factors that ignited my passion for photography.
Since I was a child my parents took me with them when traveling, and this thirst for visiting new countries grew inside me like a inherited gift.


In the last few years I had the chance to make many journeys and as a consequence something in my mind told me not just to make pictures but to learn how to do it better.

This way I discovered the wonderful world of photography! I began to attend photography workshops, read magazines and books, and eventually decided to buy my first DSLR (Nikon D80).

When I returned from my fabulous trip to Australia last summer I was eager to rescan the images of all my last travels. At the same time I read a review about Microstock. These two events came at the right moment and intertwined perfectly.

I didn’t even know that I could sell my pictures over the internet and this news open a new road in front of me.

I immediately tried to figure out how to begin selling photos.


The first thing I had to do was to select the best pictures from the thousands I shot during these years.

It was simple to begin but hard to go on because after a while you review the images you lose the capacity to correctly judge and select them.

The only way to do that is to leave some time every day to dedicate to this purpose. But this time must not exceed 10-20 minutes, otherwise it may become sort of boring.

From last September when I started many thing have changed.

At first my procedure was to select many pictures from a shoot and submit them to the microstock world. I even didn’t pay particular attention to keywords. I just thought about 5-10 keywords and write them in a hurry. Last but not least I went too far with Photoshop filters, eventually ruining potentially good shots.

After a few months of hard work I have constantly improved my skills and now I’d like to share with you what I learned and how my workflow is now organized: 

For every place I visited or every shoot I made I’ve created a different folder.
Depending on my inspiration I inspect one of this folder per day, selecting new pictures that could be sold.

I created a directory called bucket  with many subfolders where I put these selected  files. So for example I could have a subfolder “Australia”, another  one “Europe” and another “Harvest 2009”. I have many of them and they always contain files.

Every  time I have to submit pictures I select only one file from each of these  folders,  trying to make a group not exceeding 10-20.

This way  my submissions will contain images that are visible (as most recent) in a wider range of categories.

Remember  that some of  the main sites give priority to the last pictures submitted, so it’s a good idea to continuously send them new images in small heterogeneous groups.

This was the general idea which is behind my work, but keep in mind that there are 4 other main aspects that I will show you now.


1. Keywording: if you want your pictures to be found you need accurate keywords to be associated with. Instead of thinking about them there are many sites that can help you. Picniche is one of them. You put a Keyword Phrase in the search box and it will come out with several words. Pay attention to select only some of them, because they may  not be pertinent  to the context. Stocktagger is another great site and I think is more precise that picniche. The principle is the same and you have to experiment a little bit to extract good keywords. Yuri Arcurs, the best seller artist of the moment has a great visual keywording site that I use the most. Here you type a word in the search box and it will come out with pictures of your subject. You select the ones that are most similar to yours and click on “accept chosen images and proceed to the selection of keywords”, sorted according to their supposed relevance. Now select the ones you think are right and it’s magically done.

2. Pictures Cleaning and Improvements: first of all your photos must not contain any people or trademark object. So with Photoshop or another software like Gimp you have to remove these potential problems. After that it is better to improve your pictures as much as possible, so they can stand out from the mass of millions. Obviuously It’s up to your creativity and imagination but there are a couple of Photoshop filters that may be useful. I’m not a true expert but I often improve or even save some of my files with Noise Ninja from PictureCode (smoothly removes noise) and Topaz Adjust from TopazLabs. The latter must be used with attention because it could generate too much altered pictures. The trick in this case is to apply the filter and then fade it afterwards with the Ctrl-Shift-F keyboard shortcut. Try it and you can really improve your shots.

3. Uploading: the last step is to submit your pictures. Basically you can do it either from your web browser or through ftp (istockphoto doesn’t allow ftp for all and is the only exception among the main sites). The second option is by far the best and allows you to transfer a great quantity of files without having to follow the transfer. You just put the files on a queue and make the computer do the hard work. At the end you’ll find your files on the destination site, ready for the final refinements. There are a plethora of ftp client softwares, some of them even free. Filezilla is of of the best option for the free branch, it is well known and continuously updated. In the shareware branch I spotted a great software called SmartFtp. You can try it for 30 days and then you pay about 50 bucks to keep using it.

4. Finish Submitting: after you upload your file to the variuos microstock sites you have to make the final refinements directly on site. Typically you have to choose the right categories for each image, as well as assign permissions for sale and upload a model/property release. Each site has a separate approach to this last step and if you decided to submit your files to several agencies you could find trouble remembering the whole path. Months ago I decided not to go exclusive and to send pictures to almost all agencies, just to see by myself what could happen. Time after time I build a table where for each site there is a quick reference of the last steps to complete. I hope it can help you: ? 


SHU Images stats, Waiting to be submitted
BIG Uploads, Pending your edit
CAN My portfolio, Submit images
CLI Media management
DEP Files, Unfinished files
DRE Contributors area, Management area, Select commercial pictures
FOTO My works
MOS My profile, Upload, Publish
POL My profile, Edit image
123 Sell images, Upload, Continue, Ftp settings / Check upload results
CRE Upload images, Attach model release-Review and submit
CUT Uploads, Process ftp uploads, Submit
FEA Manage portfolio, My new images, Look for not submitted pictures
GRA My account, Manage portfolio
MOO My collection, Edit every single image
MYS Portfolio, Process ftp files
PAN My Panther, My images, Image overview, My images, Image Upload Ftp/Psm
PIXM Sell photos, Unfinished
SCA Photographers, Upload images, Transfer files from my ftp account
VEE YourName, Profile, Contributor, Workspace, Prepare and submit
YAY YourName, Uploading

See more of Giovanni Gagliardi’s work at her site www.gagliardipictures.com.

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