Top 7 Recommended MicroStock Photography Agencies

If you have realized there is residual income to be had with MicroStock Photography and/or you want to challenge your own photography skills against those of the photographer masses worldwide, then you will need to join at least one MicroStock agency online as a contributor and start building your online portfolio of images.

Based on my own experience with various MicroStock agencies, joining more agencies does not necessarily equate linearly to compound income streams. I kind of learned this the hard way, but at the same time it gave me a great taste of which online agencies sell best based on a similar portfolio submission. There are many factors as to why there is such a diminishing gain to joining too many online agencies. The biggest reason is because, as a contributor, it takes time and effort per image on each agency to upload, keyword, categorize and to set up galleries / lightboxes / series to make the most of your marketable presence. And quite frankly, the payoff for some of these sites, even with astounding photos in your portfolio, can prove to be dismal if the underlying agency has a small buyer community membership, overpriced campaigns, poor marketing strategies, non-intuitive web platform, or is composed of a selection poor selection of quality photographs.

Joining as a contributor is always free, but you might still have to pass an quick online technical / ethics quiz and also submit a few of your best photos to be reviewed before you are approved to start submitting your photographs for sale. This might seem like a nuisance at first, but you have to realize that this is a quality assurance measure for these companies to ensure their own client base that they are not advertising garbage. This builds trust and a reputation in the buying communities, and as a contributor equates to revenue from serious buyers. I would be very suspect of any reputable microstock agency that does not try their best to ensure they have quality photographers on their payroll.

Rather than waste precious time submitting to every online agency available, what you want to do is upload to a few select best ones so that you can capitalize on the highest level of earnings with the least amount of effort. Below is the breakdown and brief review of my top 7 MicroStock Agency websites that I contribute to, listed by ROI (Return On Investment) from highest to lowest returns.

Full disclosure: I have included my own referral links if you decide to join these sites. All these links are FREE to join and using my referral link does not cost you anything. Your referrals actually help me continue to provide useful information to you and others on this site. Thank you in advance… 🙂 Now on to the list…

 

1. Dreamstime.com
Dreamstime.com Stock Photography

  • Priceless-Photos.com Flash Review
    • Dreamstime.com is my personal favorite microstock photography agency that I contribute to. The reason I like it is because of how they structure their sales prices according to an item’s sales popularity. They have 5 levels defined by the number of sales your picture accumulates. The more sales your item gets, the higher the level as well as the sales price (meaning you also get more commission payouts with each sale). You can also create collections for buyers to easily view related photos and increase the chance of downloads. Furthermore, this web site has a great intuitive reporting system to track the individual lifetime sales per photo, how many of each file size for each of your photos have sold, how many views each of your photos have gotten and even what specific key words buyers entered to search for your photo. This is all great analytics for you to enhance or change up your sales strategies and/or even beef up certain types of photos that are in high demand.
  • Free Contributor / Member Registration
    • Please click this Dreamstime.com link and enter “res1032005” in to the “Referral/promotional bonus code” field. Thank you!!
  • Accepted Media Types
    • Photos, Vectors, Videos
  • Contributor Commissions
    • 25% – 50% revenue share per transaction.
    • Exclusive images receive an additional 10% bonus
    • Exclusive photographers enjoy a 60% revenue share and an additional bonus of $0.20 for each approved submission.
  • Referral Program
    • 10% of all sales made within the first 3 years from registration for each referred member, contributor or buyer.
  • Payout Minimum
    • $100 (on request)
  • Payments Forms
    • PayPal, Bank Check, Payoneer (Dreamstime Prepaid MasterCard), Skrill (MoneyBookers)
  • Editorials Allowed
    • Yes
  • Exclusivity Option
    • Yes
  • Approval Response Time
    • 1 week

 

2. Shutterstock.com

Shutterstock.com Stock Photography

  • Priceless-Photos.com Flash Review
    • This microstock agency provides me with many individual sales, probably the highest bulk quantity on average compared to the rest, but the sale price of each is generally smaller. Luckily, the smaller subscription downloads are offset by the sheer massive volume of sales made. This site provides more steady income and sales seem to continue to keep trickling in. You can also create your own sets of photos to organize them in a logical fashion and report on the selected sets’ accumulated earnings and number of downloads. Furthermore, there are some nice graphs to show your overall sales for the last 3 months – 2 years which can help you determine successful trends.
  • Free Contributor Registration
  • Free Member Registration
  • Accepted File Types
    • Photos, Vectors, Videos
  • Contributor Commissions
    • Get paid up to $120 per image download
    • The higher your accumulated lifetime sales is, the higher your individual commission per sale is.
      • Per-Day Subscription: $0.25 – $0.38
      • On Demand: $0.81 – $2.85
      • Enhanced License $28.00
    • 30% royalties for every clip sold
  • Referral Programs
    • Earn $0.04 each time an image is downloaded for the first two years after your referred contributor is approved.
    • Earn 10% each time a clip is sold for the first year after your referred contributor is approved.
    • Earn 20% of the first payment by your referred customer to Shutterstock, up to $200.
  • Payout Minimum
    • $75 (automatically scheduled based on first day of month calculations)
  • Payments Forms
    • Paypal, Moneybookers, Bank Check (drawn on U.S. funds).
  • Editorials Allowed
    • Yes
  • Exclusivity Option
    • no
  • Upload Methods
    • Web, FTP
  • Approval Response Time
    • 2 days

 

3. CanStockPhoto.com

Stock Photos

  • Priceless-Photos.com Flash Review
    • CanStockPhoto has a simple contributor and buyer interface and provides me with one slow and steady sales. It has one of the quickest turnaround times for uploaded image approvals out there, which is not to say that they accept everything submitted. You can also set up galleries to provide potential buyers a group of similar or similar themed photos to choose from. And interestingly enough, you can select up to 3 categories for your photo to be searched on, but after it is approved it shows appears online with up to 5 relevant search categories. I assume the reviewers slot them in to 2 extra categories for you to maximize sales opportunities.
  • Free Contributor / Member Registration 
  • Accepted File Types
    • Photos, Vectors, Videos
  • Contributor Commissions
    • 20% to 50% revenue share based on license and type of download.
  • Referral Programs
    • 10% of referred member’s purchases, within 6 months, up to $50.
    • $5 for every 50 photos referred contributors sell within 6 months, up to $50.
    • If your referral becomes both a purchaser and contributor you can earn double commission listed above.
  • Payout Minimum
    • $50 (PayPal on request) or $100 (Moneybookers/Skrill, Bank Cheque on request).
  • Payments Forms
    • http://www.canstockphoto.com/payout_schedule.php
    • PayPay, Moneybookers/Skrill, or Bank Cheque
  • Editorials Allowed
    • no
  • Exclusivity Option
    • no
  • Upload Methods
    • Web, FTP
  • Approval Response Time
    • 2 days

4. Alamy.com

Alamy.com

  • Priceless-Photos.com Flash Review
    • Alamy generates a few sales for me ever so often, but when I get a sale the commissions tend to be far greater than those on my other sites. So hence, it gets on to my top 7 recommended list. Alamy recently reduced their minimum payout from $175 to $75 which makes it much more attractive as a contributor. I love watching some of the bigger sales go through as it is a different thrill when you know your work is appreciated at a higher value.
  • Accepted File Types
    • Photos, Vectors, Videos
  • Contributor Commissions
    • 30% – 50% revenue share
  • Referral Programs
    • None
  • Payout Minimum
    • $75 (automatically scheduled)
  • Payments Forms
    • PayPal, Skrill (Moneybookers), or Bank Transfer
  • Editorials Allowed
    • yes
  • Exclusivity Option
    • no
  • Upload Methods
    • Web
  • Approval Response Time
    • 2 days

 

5. 123RF.com

123RF.com Stock Photography

  • Priceless-Photos.com Flash Review
    • 123RF.com has a pretty online layout and is easy to search and purchase from. It has a great earnings summary which lists out in a large spreadsheet form your money sales for all types of downloads as well as referrals. They also have a great FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section that is full of great information for both contributors and buyers.
  • Free Contributor / Member Registration
    • Please click this 123RF link to sign up as a contributor or purchasing member. Don’t forget to click the “Content Contributor” checkbox if you want to be a contributor.
  • Accepted File Types
    • Photos, Vectors, Videos, Audio
  • Contributor Commissions
    • 30% – 60% revenue share depending on your contributor level (how many credits sold through you in the last 12 months)
  • Referral Programs
    • 15% of the referred members’ purchases or subscriptions for 12 months
    • 10% of the referred contributors’ sales for 12 months
  • Payout Minimum
    • $50 (automatically scheduled)
  • Payments Forms
    • Bank Check, PayPal or Moneybookers.
    • Payments should reach you by the 17th of the month for Paypal and MoneyBookers. For photographers who have opted to receive payments via check, please allow up to a month for the check to reach you.
  • Editorials Allowed
    • yes
  • Exclusivity Option
    • no
  • Upload Methods
    • Web, FTP
  • Approval Response Time
    • 3 days

 

6. BigStockPhoto.com

BigStockPhoto.com Stock Photography

  • Priceless-Photos.com Flash Review
    • BigStockPhoto.com is another slow and steady income earner for me. Another easy to use and navigate site with a descent layout.  It is not the flashiest site out there but it has a good buyer community and offers a good value for buyers and hence commissions for contributors.
  • Free Contributor / Member Registration
    • Please click this BigStockPhoto link to register as a contributor and/or purchasing member.  Click on the “Sign Up” after the homepage loads up.
  • Accepted File Types
    • Photos, Vectors, Videos, Audio
  • Contributor Commissions
    • For subscription plans, the more downloads you’ve had in the previous 12 months, the higher your royalty will be. $0.25-$0.38 per download
    • For Bigstock Partner sales and Extended License sales contributors receive 30% of the US dollar price
  • Referral Programs
    • Earn 35% of the first sale when you refer a qualified new image buyer
  • Payout Minimum
    • $30 (on request)
    • Payment requests are processed once a week on Monday.
  • Payments Forms
    • PayPal, MoneyBookers/Skrill, or by U.S. Check.
  • Editorials Allowed
    • yes
  • Exclusivity Option
    • no
  • Upload Methods
    • Web, FTP
  • Approval Response Time
    • 3 days

 

7. DepositPhotos.com

Depositphotos

  • Priceless-Photos.com Flash Review
    • DepositPhotos is a clean and easy site to navigate. It is very intuitive and generates a nice steady stream of income for me. There something to be said about simplicity in this crazy and complicated world we live in. DepositPhoto does it right and hence it makes it on to my top 7 list.
  • Free Contributor / Member Registration
    • Please click this DepositPhotos link to register as a contributor and/or customer member.
  • Accepted File Types
    • Photos, Vectors, Videos
  • Contributor Commissions
    • The commission amount depends on the license type under which the image has been uploaded and the resolution in which it has been purchased. It is also influenced by your author level and status on the website.
      • 34% – 42% commissions for Demand Downloads
      • $0.30 – $0.35 per photos for Subscription Plan Downloads
  • Referral Programs
    • Contributor referral sales:
      • 15% commission for every Pay-by-Credit or On Demand Downloads sale
    • Purchases made by referral customers:
      • 10% – 1 month
        8% – 3 months
        6% – 6 months
        4% – 12 months
  • Payout Minimum
    • $50 (automatically scheduled)
  • Payments Forms
    • PayPal, Skrill (Moneybookers), or Payoneer
  • Editorials Allowed
    • yes
  • Exclusivity Option
    • no
  • Upload Methods
    • Web, FTP
  • Approval Response Time
    • 2 days

 

Other Honorable Mentions

  • If you want to try some other online microstock agencies, by all means please do. The 7 specific sites I reviewed above are the ones that have worked out the best for myself. It does not mean that you will have the exact same experience. I will however say that there are some sites that are still more worthwhile to try than others . Below are a few other very large and successful microstock agencies that I contribute to and have personally known others that have great success with…
    • Fotolia.com
      Fotolia
    • Clashot.com
      • DepositPhotos also owns Clashot.com which offers a very interesting mobile device microstock opportunity. I recently just joined this one just to try it out. So far I can say it is a cool app (available on iOS and Android) and seems like a descent way to network with photo enthusiasts. As it is geared towards smartphone users for editorial type photos, there is a lot of unique amateur perspectives mixed with some professional photographers.
    • GettyImages.com
      • GettyImages is formerly known as iStockPhoto. iStockPhoto was one of my top 4 in the past and it had a certain elegance and sophistication to its interface which makes you feel like you are dealing with a professional agency. Buyers get the same feel and likely bestow more trust in this site and more sales follow as a result. I am still undecided the direction GettyImages has taken with iStockPhoto so I will leave it off my top 7 list for now until I am more familiar with it. Check back for updates!

 

 Cool Tip For MicroStock Photographers

  • As a MicroStock photographer myself, I always who is actually buying my photographs and how are they using them. Well, there is a really cool and easy way to discover which websites are using your photographs. Check out my [Easiest Way To Search For Websites Using Your Photos] article and be amazed!!

 

I hope you have great success with MicroStock Photography and also have a great opportunity to enjoy and learn new things… 🙂

NOTE: The information in this article is subject to change at any time based on the microstock agency. If you spot any errors and out of date information, please contact us and we will update accordingly.

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