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How To Become a Stock Photographer

May 1st, 2009 · No Comments

iStock is a very popular royalty free stock photography website - with both photographers and buyers. If you’re new to selling your photos at online stock photography websites though, it’s usually helpful to find overviews and reviews of various agencies in business.

iStockphoto is one of the more popular stock agencies online, so I thought it could help to give a closer look of my own initial impressions of them. When I first started selling my photography at stock photo agencies online a couple of years ago, I didn’t sign up with iStock. I’ve noticed people use photos from that site in ways they’re not suppose to, and that concerned me. I also really did not care for their upload process and restrictions.

Since I’d been earning a decent stock photography income from other stock photo sites, I thought it might be time to finally give iStock a go. It’s reputed to be a top earning site for many photographers, and the number two earning site for most of the rest. I figured if I was serious about trying to earn my living as a freelance stock photographer, then I should make sure I submitted my images to a place which is often considered to be the top online stock photo agency.

Signing up at iStock doesn’t cost anything. To become a contributing photographer though, you’ll need to jump through a few hoops. The first thing you’ll need to do is submit an application to become a photographer. This involves taking a brief test, and then submitting your initial photos.

iStock only requires you to submit three photos for your “test”. But all three of those pictures have to be approved before you’re actually allowed to start contributing more photos.

Some photographers feel that the initial test is quite difficult to get three photos approved for, but I personally didn’t have much of a problem. In fact, the only problem I ran into was the fact that I’m primarily a stock food photographer. I submitted two images of food and one people photo for my initial test of three, and I quickly found out that iStock prefers to see a variety of topics in your test submission. So even though my photos were not similar in any way, since two of them were on the topic of food one was rejected.

Once I understood they wanted to see 3 different topics for the first submission, it didn’t take long for me submit something different and become accepted.

After you’ve passed your initial submission quality review, you can start submitting more of your pictures to iStock. And this is the part that I personally detest. Uploading to iStock takes more time than most places, because you can’t FTP multiple photos to them at once. You are forced to submit just one picture at a time, and this can be quite painful.

Another restriction that I’m not particularly happy about is their upload limits. As a new contributer to iStock, you are only allowed to upload 15 photos in a one week time frame. The time limits are rolling though, and that tends to help, but the restrictions make it impossible to get a decent sized stock photo portfolio built there quickly.

Rolling time frames with the upload restrictions are confusing to many new users too. It’s easy to understand once explained though: The restriction clock starts new with each photo you upload. So if you upload two pictures today and then 13 tomorrow, you’ll have reached your initial 15 upload limit. About 7 days afterwards you’ll see there are now two, not fifteen, upload spots open. That’s because you only uploaded two pictures your first day. A day or so after those new slots open, you’ll have another 13 open up though, since you put 13 pictures into the queue the second day.

Speaking of the queue, I’ve found the iStock takes roughly 5-7 days to review pending photos for new contributors. They apparently review photos from exclusive photographers much faster, but you’re not allowed to become an exclusive photographer with them until you’ve reached a specific dollar amount of sales.

Like all online stock photo agencies, iStock likes certain types of photos better than others. So when you first start submitting photos to them you may notice a high rejection rate. It won’t take too long to figure out what types of photos they prefer to see though, and then you’ll find yourself getting submissions approved more often.

Due to the painful and slow uploading and submission process there though, I have found myself dragging my heels with getting my stock photo portfolio onto their site. It took me several months just to get 42 photos online with them, and I only earned a little over twenty dollars in the same timeframe. So I still have quite a ways to go before I can call this site a good earner for me.

Despite these drawbacks, a photographer who wants to sell more of their photos online should sign up with iStockphoto. While their system may not be overly friendly to photographers, they do have a very large buyer base that no photographer should ignore.

(If you are new to making money with a camera, Camera Dollars System offers a full step-by-step guide on how to get paid taking photographs.)

Tags: Make some Money

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