Alternative title: Why you should try to sell your photos! So recently I have decided to try my hand at stock photography; to enter this venture I have chosen Shutterstock. I heard about it through a few fellow photographers, who had good fortune. There are alternatives out there (and no reason to pick just one!), but I will tell you about my experience to date and maybe a few tips & tricks on the approval process (at least what has worked for me!!).
The process. So you want to be a stock photographer. You might think to do so will hamper your creative freedom, and you might be partially correct. Things for sale need to have “commercial value.” This to a photographer (or least to me) sounds fairly arbitrary, but essentially you need to put yourself in the place of a graphic designer — find images that convey a message, show an object, describe an event, or really anything that you could picture in an ad. This turns out not to be as challenging as I initially thought, but what you do need to make sure is that your images are up to par.
First step: LOOK AT EVERYTHING AT 100%, PERIOD. I pixel-peep on every image I take, and strive to maximize image quality, to reduce noise, and to make things contrasty enough to catch someone’s eye. Think of trying to be able to produce the largest print you ever imagined…now treat your file that well. The photo reviewers pixel-peep also, so make sure your images have no noise, no sharpening artifacts, no sensor dust, or any other abnormalities (white balance errors, chromatic aberration, etc etc, they all matter)! Otherwise, standard things seem fine — I upload in an sRGB color space as JPEG at full quality (least compression). Tagging and categorizing your photos is the next challenge. If you use Flickr this is pretty easy; I mostly free-associate and type whatever comes to mind.
The initial approval process with Shutterstock requires 10 images to be submitted for approval — you need 7 of 10 to make it through. Choose your best, have releases signed if they include people (forms available), and one dirty trick I do is to size the image down slightly if they have a little noise (minimum requirements are 4MP, my images range from 8.2-16.7MP and give reasonable room to do this). I am very new to the process, but with high hopes and reasonable results to date. Here are a few samples of what has made it through.