Photos are all around us every single day. Blog posts, articles and print media, like magazines, all use photographic images. Rather than paying an army of photographers to go out and take a picture for each and every article, webpage or other media they produce, publishers rely on stock images.
In the early days of mass-produced publications, stock photography was expensive and produced only by top professional photographers. With new technologies allowing amateurs to take higher-quality images, a new trend has emerged in the stock photo industry: microstock agencies. “Microstock” does not refer to the size of the images for sale, but rather the price at which the images are offered to the end-user. Microstock agencies offer stock photo images for a much lower rate, enabling bloggers, web designers and others to purchase images for their work, and opening a wide new market to photographers who can produce good quantities of high-quality images for sale.
Subject matter and quality determine what photos will sell. Each agency has strict guidelines and approval processes for the images they will accept. Many niches exist, as each agency divides its photo offerings into various categories such as pets, landscapes and close ups. The amateur photographer is best served by choosing a niche and honing their skills to produce the highest-quality images possible for that niche. A well-established stock photographer can build upon several niches, increasing the number of photos offered and thereby increasing their revenue stream. The more photos you have available for sale, the more chances you will have to earn money; but the photos must be of the highest quality, and they must be the images end-users want to utilise.
Microstock agencies do not buy photographs outright. Instead they “host” the images on their sites. The photographer receives a percentage of the licensing fee when an image is licensed. It is important for photographers to recognise what sells, and to be able to create high-quality images that will be in high demand. Images for print media must be at least four megapixels. The higher resolution the image, the better quality the final print will be, so higher-resolution photos are in demand. However, there is more to selling stock images than adjusting your camera settings to the highest resolution possible. Focus, clarity and quality are paramount. Photographs with poor composition, blurred images, scratches or dust will be passed over for more perfect photos.
Emotions, ideas and concepts are difficult to capture in visual images, but those are exactly the elements that companies are seeking. Emotion can be expressed through a unique pose, facial expression, or even elements of a composition. A solid understanding of the elements of composition, and practice, are the best ways to learn to create the images that will sell. Quality images of seasonal themes, groups, sporting events and people, especially children, are often in high demand. Remember that you will need a signed model release from any person you take an identifiable image of, and browse the stock photo sites to get an idea of which images are most in-demand.