8 Microstock Websites and "What the Hell is Microstock anyway?"

Micro stock, is that stock photography of only Macro photographs or photos of microscopic thingies?

Nope, its the new rage across the photography scene. They’re websites which accept photographs from everyone, and their babies, given some very simple quality criteria. These photographs are accepted over the internet and are given a looking over by people on the other side of your monitor for quality. They’re then sold to buyers who would potentially use these photographs in publications, ads, websites or whatever….

So what’s the big deal? The big deal is that traditional stock photography websites usually have a more rigorous selection process when it comes to selecting photographers. Their photographs are then sold at much higher costs because the photographers have taken the time and effort to set up, and photograph the various shots using their expensive photographic equipment (which sometimes runs into many tens of thousands of dollars).

Typically, photographs on a stock photography website would sell at around $300 – $500 depending on what the photographs are going to be used for.

Microstock websites sell the photographs for between $1 and $20 depending on the file size. Some micro stock websites now also sell vector art and video at similarly low costs. The difference is that microstock websites accept photographs from almost anybody who can produce images that meet their quality standards.

Everyone’s popping up with new stock photography websites almost every other week, so what’s the big deal with these eight websites? Well, I’ve looked through quite a few of them, and in my opinion, these are the more popular ones among the lot.

Here they are, in no particular order:

  • iStockphoto – The granddaddy of them all… Now owned by Gettyimages
  • Shutterstock – Another popular microstock website
  • Snapvillage – Corbis’ new microstock and proving ground for entry into Corbis.com
  • Bigstockphoto – variable pricing of credits… depends on how many you buy. Now with vector graphics
  • Fotolia – now with a re-designed interface
  • Dreamstime – another popular microstock website
  • Stockxpert – Microstock website which has affiliation with sxc.hu, a free stock photography site.
  • 123 Royalty Free – A new entrant into the market, but look like they have good potential with a good library.

Remember that all of these websites have different rates of payment to photographers. Most offer 50% of sale cost to exclusive photographers and a lower rate (usually around 30%) to non exclusive photographers, while others offer a stepped rate based on how well your images sell. Do remember to check their agreements for all the details.

Microstock websites do business on the basis of a large number of images, so photographers upload a great number of photographs every month. If you want your photos to stand out among these, you’ll have to make sure that they’re good aesthetically. You’ll also have to upload (and sell) quite a few of them if all those $0.50 are to add up to anything substantial.

With the number of websites coming up, and thoughts of Flickr entering the market too, things are bound to change drastically in the near future. This list is by no means a compilation of the best or the most popular microstock websites, simply of the ones that I’m most familiar as a Photographer and as a Graphic Designer.

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