Industry leaders like iStockphoto and Shutterstock can be quite strict with first time applications and may penalize you or even ban you from making subsequent applications if your work repeatedly fails to meet their standards. If your initial application is rejected take time to read their do's and dont's before re-applying.
Experienced photographers should find that they will be welcomed by most microstock agencies. However it's important to remember that all images submitted to all agencies are reviewed before they are publicly available. No matter how experienced you are you will inevitably find that some of your images will be refused at some point.
Don't be offended by initial rejections or refusal of specific images. The people who review the images will usually be microstock photographers themselves. They are after all only human and they will inevitably have slightly differing views on what is and is not acceptable. Images can be rejected for a variety of reasons. From technical imperfections to unsuitable subject matter.
- Noise and artifacts are the two most common reasons for image refusals. Both are created by digital cameras . Read this Noise and Artifacts editorial at iStock for an overview of what to look out for. It is particularly relevant since iStock are the ones most likely to refuse your images for any signs of the aforementioned. Software like Neat Image will help to remove these irregularities from your pictures.
- When you submit your photo's you will need to add keywords so that they will be searchable on the sites in question. Whilst you can add these keywords manually after you have uploaded your images, you can save a lot of time by embedding the information in the file BEFORE you upload. Irfanview is free software that will allow you to do this, although you will need to download both the program and the associated plugin to be able to add IPTC information to your pictures. It's a good idea to look at other similar images on the micro's for some keyword suggestions.
- Landscapes, for the most part don't really sell particularly well in the microstock world. Micro buyers consist primarily of web and graphic designers. They don't have much call for landscapes and there are already thousands to choose from. That said, a stunning sunset or two will always find a customer or two. However, shots from airplane windows and photo's of your cat are a definite no-no. There ARE sites that specialize in more artistic shots, but they are not microstock sites. Try Imagekind or Red Bubble for selling artistic subject matter.
- The biggest sellers in the microstock industry are people shots. Unfortunately though you can't just hit the streets and start snapping away at members of the public. Every recognizable face in a photo submitted to a microstock agency has to be accompanied by a model release appropriately signed by the person or people in the shot. You don't need to have a different release for each agency. There are plenty of generic blank releases in the help and support sections of the different micro sites that'll be acceptable everywhere. Of course it's not only people shots that sell. Take some time to check out the best sellers at iStockphoto to see what's popular. Most of the other micro's have similar best seller collections too.
- With ALL agencies it's worth taking the time to read up on what they are looking for and more importantly what they DON'T want from their contributors. Microstock forums are full of posts from frustrated applicants who continually submit images to agencies who have quite clearly stated in their submission guidelines that they specifically don't want the type of images that the applicant had submitted.