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I have just uploaded a new photo album from a scientific cruise near Svalbard in the Arctic in March, 2008. We spent a week on a Norwegian coast guard icebreaker, deploying instruments for measuring radiation over the sea-ice and, more importantly, testing a tiny remote-controlled aircraft. This little thing can record vertical profiles of wind, temperature and humidity in the lower atmosphere. See more pictures here

iStockphoto: My portfolio on this site now consists of 162 images. 2 of these were added in November. The earnings amounted to $16.47 from 13 downloads. iStockphoto is still my favourite site and this is where I recommend beginners to start out. Just submit your best three photos (not too similar ones) and you’re good to go. If you get rejected, you can try again after a while. They’re quite picky, but that is a good thing in the long run. Rather than rejecting all new images, they are sensible enough to root out some of their old weed from slacker days. My approval ratio is 62 %.

Dreamstime: This is another very good site. They are not excessively picky here, so it might be a good place to get started with microstock. My approval ratio is 86 %, but this is mostly with material that had already been approved at iStockphoto. Since April, 2008, my total earnings are $99 (from 106 downloads). I now have 164 images online, 4 of which were added in November. This was my third best month by far, with $14.10 in earnings. This site is starting to rival iStockphoto. Another good thing about Dreamstime is that the earnings increase as an image gets more downloads. I now have a few Level 2-files.

Shutterstock: This is where many new microstockers get started. However, after a while I found their payout of $0.25 per download almost insulting and removed all my images. SS was my best earner; I made around $100 on just 100 images in a few months. I have now uploaded a few of my new images to give it a new try. The revenues in November were around $15, about half a dollar per image.

123rf: Very little activity. I have 50 files here now and 7 downloads all in all. Not worth the effort.

Fotolia: This site stands out with a very very low acceptance rate. I’ve read about this phenomenon elsewhere on the web as well. It is obvious that they have too many images online, but they have chosen the worst way to deal with that. They leave old, outdated, bad, probably non-selling material from their startup days online and reject new contributions. This is sure to provoke anger amongst contributors (it does, read other forums and blogs), and that is surely not a good thing if you’re hoping to stay competitive. I have 6 sales here now, which is not bad with a portfolio of 6 images. However, with the low chances of gettin a picture accepted, it’s just not worth it.

SnapVillage: Owned by Corbis, I find it very strange how little effort they put into this site. Their site doesn’t even work properly with Safari! I have around 30 images online to test the waters, and so far I have one download at $3. One! These guys seem to have given up.

PantherMedia: This is a German, fairly professional-looking site with slightly higher prices than typical microstock companies. The approval process is rather confusing, but I have now uploaded 29 images, of which 20 were approved. I have one download at €2.97, hardly worth the time it takes to upload.

A fairly good month during which I uploaded some new stuff. Here’s my breakdown of each site:

iStockphoto: My portfolio on this site now consists og 160 images. 18 of these were added in October. The earnings amounted to $20.97 from 18 downloads. iStockphoto is still my favourite site and this is where I recommend beginners to start out. Just submit your best three photos (not too similar ones) and you’re good to go. If you get rejected, you can try again after a while. They’re quite picky, but that is a good thing in the long run. Rather than rejecting all new images, they are sensible enough to root out some of their old weed from slacker days. My approval ratio is 62 %.

Dreamstime: This is another very good site. They are not excessively picky here, so it might be a good place to get started with microstock. My approval ratio is 87 %, but this is mostly with material that had already been approved at iStockphoto. Since April, 2008, my total earnings are $84.91 (from 91 downloads). I now have 160 images online, 11 of which were added in October. This was my second best month by far, with $21.31 in earnings. This site is starting to rival iStockphoto. Another good thing about Dreamstime is that the earnings increase as an image gets more downloads. I now have a few Level 2-files.

Shutterstock: This is where many new microstockers get started. However, after a while I found their payout of $0.25 per download almost insulting and removed all my images. SS was my best earner; I made around $100 on just 100 images in a few months. I have now uploaded 28 of my new images to give it a new try. If they generate more earnings than iStockphoto and Dreamstime, I may decide to swallow my silly pride and put more pictures up for steal here.

123rf: Very little activity. I have 48 files here now and 5 downloads all in all. Not worth the effort.

Fotolia: This site stands out with a very very low acceptance rate. I’ve read about this phenomenon elsewhere on the web as well. It is obvious that they have too many images online, but they have chosen the worst way to deal with that. They leave old, outdated, bad, probably non-selling material from their startup days online and reject new contributions. This is sure to provoke anger amongst contributors (it does, read other forums and blogs), and that is surely not a good thing if you’re hoping to stay competitive. I have 4 sale here now, which is not bad with a portfolio of 5 images. However, with the low chances of gettin a picture accepted, it’s just not worth it.

SnapVillage: Owned by Corbis, I find it very strange how little effort they put into this site. Their site doesn’t even work properly with Safari! I have around 30 images online to test the waters, and so far I have one download at $3. One!

PantherMedia: This is a German, fairly professional-looking site with slightly higher prices than typical microstock companies. The approval process is rather confusing, but I have now uploaded 29 images, of which 20 were approved. I have one download at €2.97, hardly worth the time it takes to upload.

Things are picking up again after the slow summer. September was my best month ever on both iStockphoto and Dreamstime. I even had a sale or two on some of the smaller sites. Here’s my breakdown of each site:

iStockphoto: I started this month with a portfolio of 142 images. These photos generated $31.50 in 23 downloads. My best day ever was 24 September, with $9.50 on this site. This is the kind of numbers that actually make it worthwhile to upload. The bigger your portfolio, the higher earnings. I have started uploading again now and have 6 new images online, 6 in the queue and a ton in the pipeline. iStock is still my favourite site and this is where I recommend beginners to start out. Just submit your best three photos (not too similar ones) and you’re good to go. If you get rejected, you can try again after a while. They’re quite picky, but that is a good thing in the long run. Rather than rejecting all new images, they are sensible enough to root out some of their old weed from slacker days. My approval ratio is 61 % on this site.

Dreamstime: This is another very good site. They are not very picky here, so it might be a good place to get started in the microstock “business”. My approval ratio is 88 %, but this is mostly with material that had already been approved at iStock. Since April, my total earnings are $62.80 (from 70 downloads). I had 133 images online at the beginning of September. I uploaded 18 new files in that month. Only two were rejected, and that was because they were too similar to the ones that were accepted. September was my best month ever by far, with a fair $25.28 in earnings. This site is starting to rival iStockphoto. October looks very good so far. Another good thing about Dreamstime is that the earnings increase as an image gets more downloads. I now have two Level 2-files and will increase the upload rate to this site.

123rf: I have 48 files here now and 4 downloads in September, generating an income of $2.94. Maybe I should put in more of an effort here.

Fotolia: This site stands out with a very very low acceptance rate. I’ve read about this phenomenon elsewhere on the web as well. It is obvious that they have too many images online, but they have chosen the worst way to deal with that. They leave old, outdated, bad, probably non-selling material from their startup days online and reject new contributions. This is sure to provoke anger amongst contributors (it does, read other forums and blogs), and that is surely not a good thing if you’re hoping to stay competitive. I have one sale here now (at $0.99), which is not bad with a portfolio of 5 images.

SnapVillage: Owned by Corbis, I find it very strange how little effort they put into this site. Their site doesn’t even work with Safari! I have around 30 images online to test the waters, and so far I have one download at $3. The positive thing about this site is that, despite the lack of bulk FTP upload, uploading and keywording is quick. You’re also allowed to set your own price for each image.

PantherMedia: This is a German, fairly professional-looking site with slightly higher prices than typical microstock companies. The approval process is rather confusing, but I have now uploaded 29 images, of which 20 were approved. I have one download at €2.97, so it might be worth the effort to upload some more.

PhotoShelter: The less said about this site, the better.

Shutterstock: This is where many new microstockers get started. However, after a while I found their payout of $0.25 per download almost insulting and removed all my images. SS was my best earner; I made around $100 on just 100 images in a few months. If you can live with their royalty scheme, this is a very professional site.

The PhotoShelter Collection is closing down on 10 October, 2008. I had a few images there, spending hours on processing, uploading, waiting and, not least, keywording, which was a lengthy process at best. I feel sorry for the substantial amount of people who uploaded hundreds of images, all for nothing. The people at PSC managed to whip up a mass anger at the whole microstock business, in the process convincing an army of mediocre photographers that their work was worth as much as that of the pros. We can only hope that their utter failure (shutting down after less than a year and just after their “Shoot the day” competition) will act to set all the artificially inflated egos right. The most realistic scenario, though, is that PhotoShelter will manage to convince the same people that they will make lots of money if they buy storage space at their site. They will probably provide a seamless migration from PSC to the PhotoShelter archives. I’m leaving that site for good.

On a brighter note, I’ve had my first sale at SnapVillage.

The image on the left was sold at the extortionate price of $10, which gives me a handy $3, enough to buy three waffles at lunch today. Ok, so now we know that SnapVillage can attract buyer(s). They have a few things going for them. Their uploading process is very fast (although they don’t provide FTP batch uploads), they will keyword for you, you can set your own prices and they are owned by Corbis. This latter fact has baffled me for a while. You’d think they had the resources to shape up their web pages more than they have. They’ll have to step up quite a bit to keep afloat with iStock and the others dominating the game. Good luck to them; now I’ll consider uploading more of my portfolio (at least I would if they had an FTP server, how hard can it be?).

My first sale at 123rf.com also went through a couple of days ago. My fourth waffle will be purchased with the $1.29 I made from that transaction. No, seriously, this site looks promising. I’ve seen around the web that other people are enthusiastic, too. Maybe I will start uploading for real now.

A slow summer, with meagre earnings. I’m now contributing to a number of microstock/midstock/macrostock sites more or less actively. I write this to provide realistic numbers for prospective microstock contributors. I’m always amazed at the number of people who think they can upload their snapshots and make a living from it. Unless you make a real effort to take the kind of pictures that sell really well, and this means taking glossy studio portraits or lifestyle photos, you’re lucky if you make enough to help buy some new equipment now and then. I never take pictures like that; I’m mostly interested in nature photography, a category that always ends up first in we-do-not-need-these lists. I like to think that this is the reason for my low earnings. Anyway, here’s my breakdown of each site:

iStockphoto: This is where I started uploading first, and it is still my preferred site. The review process is lengthy (more than a week), but “clean”. You get told exactly what’s wrong and may or may not be offered the chance to resubmit. I now have 142 files online at iStock and my long-term earnings amount to $152 (from 121 downloads) since January, 2008. My approval ratio is 61 %. In August, 18 new files were accepted and I made $12 (from 13 downloads). If you’re a beginner, this is where to start. You upload three photos, and all of them have to be approved before you’re allowed to upload more.

Dreamstime: Another good site with a long queue for new submissions (also more than a week). They are not very picky here, so it might be a good place to get started in the microstock “business”. My approval ratio is 88 %, but this is mostly with material that had already been approved at iStock. Since April, my total earnings are $38 (from , and I have 133 images online. In August, I uploaded 18 new files, all of which were accepted. The earnings for that month were $9 (from 10 downloads). The average return per image is has been increasing lately with their new price structure.

SnapVillage: This site is owned by Corbis, and this make it their lack of efforts all the less understandable. They don’t even have FTP bulk upload, and their front page practically never changes. As a designer/client, I would be suspicious of this laziness. As a photographer, I’m worried on their behalf. I have 27 images there just to give it a try. No sales, but a reasonable amount of views for some pictures. The positive thing about this site is that, despite the lack of FTP upload, uploading and keywording is quick. You’re also allowed to set your own price for each image.

Fotolia: Out of 27 uploads, Fotolia have only approved 5. I’ve read about this phenomenon elsewhere on the web as well. It is obvious that they have too many images online, but they have chosen the worst way to deal with that. They leave old, outdated, bad, probably non-selling material from their startup days online and reject new contributions. This is sure to provoke anger amongst contributors (it does, read other forums and blogs), and that is surely not a good thing if you’re hoping to stay competitive. I have no sales here yet, but will probably keep uploading for a little while.

123rf: Here I’ve just uploaded the required 10 images to get started. They were all approved, but I was never notified. No “Congratulations and thanks for choosing to upload at 123rf.com” e-mail to further inflate the contributors’ already bloated egos. That’s fine, but I’m a bit alarmed at the lack of stats on their pages. I haven’t found a way to check how many times each image has been viewed, for instance. [Updated: The stats pages are there, see comment below.] We’ll see how this one fares.

PantherMedia: This is a German, fairly professional-looking site with slightly higher prices than typical microstock companies. The approval process is rather confusing, but I have now uploaded 29 images, of which 20 were approved. The number of views is very low, and I’m not very optimistic about the future.

PhotoShelter Collection: This is a new site that has generated a fair amount of buzz. All this ado aside, though, the only thing that sets this site apart from microstock sites is the shockingly high prices. A sale trickles in now and then, but this is not the place to get started as a contributor. Reading the forums, I see people shouting hallelujah every time they get a view, although that view probably originated from a fellow photographer clicking on your name in the forum. I have 36 images online, 41 views, 89 portfolio views and 2 Comp downloads (probably the only of these that matters). The uploading process is lengthy and the review queue takes forever. I’ve stopped uploading here, but will keep my stuff online in the very unlikely event that an image should be sold.

Shutterstock: This is where many new microstockers get started. However, after a while I found their payout of $0.25 per download almost insulting and removed all my images. SS was my best earner; I made around $100 on just 100 images in a few months. If you can live with their royalty scheme, this is a very professional site.

July is supposed to be a slow month, and that was certainly true for me. I’m one of those that have converted from microstock to midstock (like SnapVillage, where you can set your own pricing) or even macrostock sites (like PhotoShelter). I’ve deleted all my stuff from Shutterstock. The upshot is that I’ve just about stopped uploading to microstock sites, but many of the old files are still there.

As you can se from the long-term numbers below (I started uploading in January, 2008), the earnings are pitiful. Anyway, here I’m listing the no. of new uploads, the no. of downloads, and the earnings for each month for the microstock sites that I’m contributing to.

July: iStockphoto: 6 – 14 – $17 | Dreamstime: 0 – 9 – $8.

June: iStockphoto: 5 – 23 – $26 | Dreamstime: 17 – 15 – $11 | Shutterstock: N/A – 57 – $14.

May: iStockphoto: 20 – 19 – $21 | Dreamstime: 22 – 9 – $8 | Shutterstock: 19 – 79 – $22.

April: iStockphoto: 19 – 23 – $29 | Dreamstime: 64 – 5 – $2 | Shutterstock: 14 – 196 – $47.

These are my long-term numbers as of 1 August, 2008 (no. of files, approval rate, downloads, balance):

iStockphoto: 124 – 59 % – 108 – $139 | Dreamstime: 119 – 86 % – 38 – $29 | Shutterstock: peaked around 100 images, now 0 – N/A – 390 – $98.

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