One of the steps of your stock photography workflow may require a lot of patience from you. I’m talking about the wait after you submit photos to the stock photo agency. The review times can vary widely!
To recap, when you submit the photos, they are reviewed by a person or people before they are made public. The agencies do this for a variety of good reasons:
to ensure the photos are of sufficient quality (sharpness, composition, etc.);
to ensure the photos do not infringe on anyone’s rights;
to ensure you have supplied the appropriate model or property releases where applicable; and
to ensure the photos are suitable for selling as stock.
You can see why this takes manual intervention. With today’s technology, no machine can run all of these checks.
The problem is that these reviews can take a lot of time.
My Review Times
The following are my experiences with review times at six stock agencies.
123rf: well over 7 days
BigStockPhoto: about 1 day
CanStockPhoto: within a day
Dreamstime: about 7 days
iStock: well over 7 days
ShutterStock: within a day
I have a few observations about this:
The review time seems to have nothing to do with how “picky” an agency is.
Your images go into a queue, so you may have several batches in the queue that will get reviewed in a “first come, first served” order. Don’t expect them to be reviewed in one batch unless you submitted them that way.
Some times of the day seem to get even faster response from the faster agencies.
What Can You Do?
You may get preferential treatment if your images are marked as exclusive for that agency. I don’t know – I am not exclusive with any agency.
Just keep taking photos and submitting them… they will get reviewed eventually. The agencies get thousands and thousands of images daily so it does take time for them to review them, and since they don’t get paid until the image goes live and is purchased, they have a good incentive to review as quickly as they can.
Since I started getting into stock photography in late November, I’ve developed a stock photography workflow (a set of steps) to cover processing, uploading and submitting stock photography to the various microstock companies. I’d like to share that process with you, and maybe help you on your own stock photography journey.
I’ll start by saying that my workflow is definitely inspired by “Get Started in Stock” (affiliate link), a great guide to all things stock photography. I’ve taken the recommendations from that and adapted them to my own preference.
Why a Workflow?
You need to have a system for your stock photography. You want the process to be as quick as you can make it, so you can increase the volume of quality photos that you submit to the agencies to have the best income for the time you spend. If it takes you forever to prepare images for stock, you won’t submit very many, and therefore you won’t make much money. Not good.
Here’s my setup. I use Adobe Lightroom for my photo editing and organizing. You can use other software for organizing – heck, you can just use Windows folders – but Lightroom is hard to beat for searching and cataloguing your images.
I use Lightroom collections extensively for my stock photography. For each stock site, I have a collection set with five collections:
(Lightroom doesn’t actually list them like that – it lists them alphabetically)
I also have three collections under my main Stock Photos collection set:
Potential Stock Photos (set as my Lightroom target collection)
In Preparation for Stock
It looks like this in Lightroom:
You’ll notice that I have the Stock Sales collection synced with Lightroom Mobile so I have that with me always.
My Stock Photography Workflow
Here’s my workflow. Refer to the collections above as appropriate.
I search through either existing photos or photos from a recent shoot. If anything catches my eye as a possibility for stock, I press B / click in the circle in the top right of the thumbnail / right-click and select Add to Target Collection, then move on. If there are several similar photos, I add them all.
Later, I review everything in Potential Stock Photos. I open each image and give them a second look. If I change my mind, I remove them from the collection. If I still like them for stock, I drag them up to In Preparation for Stock and remove them from Potential Stock Photos.
For each photo, I go into design mode and do whatever edits I like. I don’t usually apply presets. If there are several images that were taken in similar conditions, I’ll edit one then copy/paste the edits onto the rest.
I always will go into Spot Removal mode and check Visualize Spots at the bottom to look for dust spots, and clean them up. Logo removal happens here too.
Back in Library mode, I add keywords, title and caption. I might copy/paste keywords from some of my other stock photos if appropriate and make edits.
Once I have a set of prepared stock photos, I drag the group of them to the To Submit collection under each stock site. In a few cases I may not want to submit to all the sites, so I only drag to the ones I want to submit to.
I right-click on the group, and select my export preset “Full Size JPEG” to build a set of full size JPG images in a certain directory on my computer.
I then remove the photos from the In Preparation for Stock collection.
I run FileZilla and open each stock site’s FTP site in a separate tab so they are all open at once. I’ve configured them so they start at the same directory that the full size JPEGs are in, so I don’t have to fiddle with that each time.
For each site, I drag the images from the source side over to the target side to start the transfer. I do them all at once and walk away while the transfers go through.
Once they’re done, I’ll give them a bit of time and then go to each stock site and see if they are in their Pending folders. I have all the stock sites saved as bookmarks so I can open them all at once.
I’ll submit the pending photos, and once that’s done, I move the images from the To Submit collection to the Submitted collection for that stock site.
Later, when the stock sites review the images, they’ll get moved to either the Accepted or Rejected collections and removed from the Submitted collection.
When images sell, I add them to the Sales collection for that site and also to the master Stock Sales collection, so I have a master list of all of my sales.
I also have a spreadsheet to track statistics on acceptance ratios and sales per month.. something I’ll share another time. It’s not really part of the workflow.
I like this workflow because I always know where my photos are in the workflow and the submission process. I also know if I’ve submitted a photo before, so I don’t stumble across a photo in my library and try processing it for stock again.
One benefit of using these collections is that I can look at what collections a photo is in and see how “good for stock” it is. To whit:
4/5 agencies liked the Eiffel Tower image at top left.
This lock bridge photo was accepted by 3, rejected by two (one for copyright), and is still in the submitted stage for two others, plus it has sold at one agency. You can click on any of those to jump to that collection to find out more.
I hope this description of my stock photography workflow has been interesting. Maybe it’ll give you some ideas for your own workflow! Please feel free to provide comments, suggestions, or to share your own workflow.
I tried my hand at stock very recently, and I want to share my experience and show you how to fail at stock photography.
Then I hope to show you how to succeed at it!
Why Stock Photography?
I believe it is important to diversify your income online. You never know when one income stream will dry up, and some things sell better at certain times of the year. One obvious income stream for your photography side hustle is stock photography. You’re taking photos anyway, so why not sell some of them?
The big appeal of stock photography is that it is passive income. Once you’ve uploaded the photos to the stock agency, all you have to do is sit back, the images will sell, and the money will roll in! How easy is that?
Of course, things are never that easy.
Strictly speaking, I am talking about microstock, where you offer a large number of images for sale at low prices. Traditional stock photography involves selling unique images at a relatively high cost per image, whereas microstock is volume-based and the images are “ready to use” for blogs or other online use. This article gives a great overview of the style differences between stock and microstock.
Getting Started in Stock
I knew next to nothing about stock photography, but a little research pointed me to this fantastic guide. “Get Started in Stock” (3rd Edition at the time of this post) is an excellent e-book and delivers what the title says. It is full of valuable tips and is well worth the modest price. Go buy it if you’re at all interested in stock photography. Those are affiliate links but I’d recommend it regardless. It’s a great value.
The basic steps for getting started in stock photography are these:
Register at one or more stock agencies
Select images from your library to sell
Edit the images
Title and keyword the images
It is… but you’ll see that step 6 is the hard one.
The First Batch
“Get Started in Stock” recommends that you start with CanStock and then move on to Shutterstock (affiliate links). I followed that advice. I selected 10 photos, uploaded them to CanStock, and they were all accepted! Awesome. Great start.
I moved on to Shutterstock and uploaded the same 10 the next day. 9 were accepted and I was in. Sweet. I registered for Dreamstime (affiliate link) and uploaded there too. I decided to hold off on iStockPhoto for a week or two and just concentrate on these three.
I was really on a roll.
The Second Round
I selected a bunch of other photos from my library, edited them and uploaded them to those three again. This time I used FTP for efficiency (it’s all in the e-book).
It takes time for the stock agencies to review your photos to decide if they wish to accept them. I had close to 30 in the queues at CanStock and Shutterstock and Dreamstime… when it all came crashing down.
First up was CanStock, which rejected about 25 of the images. Ouch.
The big blow was Shutterstock, which rejected all 29 images.
Picking Up the Pieces
I was devastated. After such a promising start, I got a hard lesson on how to fail at stock photography.
I stopped uploading for a day, just to take a breather and assess why so many were rejected.
The agencies give one or more reasons per photo, but I can distill them down to three main reasons:
Unacceptable image quality (focus being the biggest problem);
Too common / similar to others in their database;
Image was boring / didn’t “pop”; and
Image wasn’t saleable / didn’t tell a story.
They were right to reject them.
Back At It
I went back into my library with a far more critical eye. I was pixel peeping with a vengeance, looking for images that really grabbed the eye and could communicate a message or a feeling.
I also slowed down my upload rate. I aimed for uploading 5-10 images/day to get some quality in and improve my success ratio.
I had better success after that. My approval ratio is still not great but it has improved. In my experience, Shutterstock is the pickiest, followed by CanStock and then Dreamstime.
I was so excited. When I noticed I had a balance in my Dreamstime account, I ran and told my wife. She was a bit… underwhelmed. She did see that it was progress, but she knows, as do I, that stock photography is a numbers game and one sale means more will come.
I have a net income of $0.60 after investing probably 30-35 hours of effort.
You might say that is a terrible hourly rate. You’re correct. I see it as an investment. Now that these images are out there, they will bring income, bit by bit, and as I increase my portfolio the income will increase. I don’t expect it to ever be huge but those images are now generating passive income.
Here is where I am going with my stock photography:
Upload more photos
Expand to more stock agencies (now on 5)
Start shooting specifically for stock
Publicize my galleries
My goal for December is to have 100 images online. For January I want to double that, and then we’ll see for February. My secret plan is to have 1,000 online by the end of 2016.