We’re always thrilled when we hear about the successes of our members in the Everything Microstock community. And we’re excited to share these stories so that everyone can learn and benefit from the experiences of others.
Meet Peter Milota, Jr., who contacted us recently:
“I want to thank you so much for your articles and stock agency list. It has been most helpful, and I am happy to tell you that I am now a contributor to 20 different stock agencies!”
20 different stock agencies – wow, that’s impressive! We contacted Peter to learn more about him and his microstock journey. Below are highlights from our interview with him, sharing Peter’s own experiences and his suggestions to those just getting started in stock photography.
EMS: What first drew you to microstock photography?
Peter: My initial steps into microstock photography stemmed from the idea that I could actually make a living doing something that I so much enjoyed. I looked into a few sites like iStock and Shutterstock and saw the wonderful quality and range of the imagery that the photographers were providing and thought, why not?
EMS: How would you describe your photography skill level?
Peter: I would now consider myself at a professional level, and I say that only because with so much of the imagery that I have taken, I can find things that I could have improved on and that I would have done differently if I were to do it all over again (i.e. exposure, ISO setting, white balance, etc.), things that could have profoundly improved the image quality and impact of the pictures.
I am my own worst critic and will admit that although I am very pleased with a lot of what I have taken, I am also fully aware of my shortcomings in a lot of them as well. What encourages and motivates me is that I can see where I need to improve and enjoy the challenge of refining my craft, and am always open to suggestions and constructive criticism. It is the only way I can improve, and benefit from it. Aside from a photography class in middle school I have not had any formal training.
EMS: What photo software program(s) do you use and what is your skill level?
Peter: My photo editing skill level is intermediate, and for my workflow I start with Adobe Lightroom (I only shoot RAW format). I then move to Photoshop, and will sometimes make final adjustments with GIMP [link: http://www.gimp.org/ ] for cropping or healing brush as I’m more accustomed to it.
EMS: When and how did you get started in microstock?
Peter: Although I made submissions as far back as around 2006, it wasn’t until spring of 2014 that I was accepted on iStock and Shutterstock. From there it grew. Patience and willingness to learn from critiques is so important. There are so many fantastic individuals out there ready to help!
EMS: How did you decide which microstock agencies to apply to?
Peter: I did some research online and tried to determine which ones would allow me the most market exposure, so I started out with the most notable ones and went from there, first by submitting my work and then once getting accepted, adding photos as I could. I then branched out to as many as I could get on to “widen my net” so to speak.
I chose to apply to multiple agencies because I wanted to get my customers as much access as possible to my photos, and as part of widening that net, my approach was to get accepted with as many agencies as I could in two steps. First off, since my intention was to eventually upload as much as possible, I initially tried to stay near the minimum that was required to get starting approval with as many sites as I could, just for the sake of maximizing my time and effort. Once I was accepted, then I could go ahead and fire away. Because each site has quite different upload procedures, some which can take a lot of time compared to others, I didn’t want to waste too much time at first with one particular site over the other.
I have a running list of the stock agencies where I sell my photos on my website, including 123RF, Bigstock, iStock, Shutterstock, Pixta, DepositPhotos, and Dreamstime, among others.
EMS: Describe your experience with the application process.
Peter: Some sites, like iStock, are pretty basic with only needing to submit three photos to get approved. Others, like Shutterstock, require up to ten of varying themes and context. It is all different.
The important thing is, make a submission, and if rejected (and boy have I gotten a lot of my photos rejected), read the critique and:
- See if the image can be edited/corrected as mentioned in the review and if not;
- Submit something else or go shoot something else. A lot of times if you have an idea of what they are looking for, you just go out and compose it; make it happen!
EMS: How did you select which photos to upload with your application(s)?
Peter: I try to include a variety but also go by rejections I get on other sites and the reasons, and can determine better what will be accepted and what will not from that.
EMS: Once you were accepted by one or more agencies, how did you select which photos to upload into your portfolios? Why don’t all your portfolios have the same exact photos?
Peter: To be quite honest, I already had a folder of images that I felt were acceptable (beforehand) so I basically threw everything from that at the sites and uploaded as many as I could, hoping for the best. It’s free so why not?
Each portfolio is different because of rejections that were not the same from site to site. I shoved in what I could, where I could, and let what happened, happen. Some places liked a whole lot of them, others barely accepted two. I tried to be prudent and briskly move from one site to the next to cover as much of a footprint as possible.
EMS: How long was it before you had your first sale?
Peter: My first few sales were within a matter of a week of being accepted. I had about a dozen sales my first three months (when I was only on two sites). Now I will tell you that I also have had long droughts of a few months where I have not sold any. So try to get as many out there as you can, and utilize several agencies.
I started this in earnest just several months ago, and it does take time; don’t give up!
EMS: Which site(s) have been the most successful for you so far?
Peter: For me, it’s been Shutterstock and BigStock for sales, and iStock for approved images. There are others, but my jury is still out on them till I’ve had more time to see how they pan out.
EMS: What was your greatest challenge getting started with microstock photography?
Peter: Forcing myself to be patient and really focus (no pun intended!) on collecting quality imagery to submit. You will likely spend more time on assembling your lineup of acceptable photos for approval than you will on subsequent submissions, so make them count, and don’t get discouraged from rejection. Learn from them and take it in stride, you’ll be better for it I assure you.
EMS: What are the benefits/disadvantages you have found being a microstock photographer?
Peter: Benefits are exposure to more customers and recognition. Disadvantage is you never know what your photos are going to be used for. I always want my photography to be something that is appropriate and that anyone can safely enjoy.
EMS: What tips or advice can you offer to someone interested in getting started in microstock photography?
Peter: First thing I would do is take a training course in photography. I cannot stress enough how much I would have done differently if I could do it over again. It’s worth it.
Second, get the best camera you can afford. It doesn’t need to be overly expensive but get good glass (lenses) and at the very minimum a solid DSLR, preferably full frame if you can.
Just in the past few years stock agencies have really gone down to the pixel (in inspecting photos) and if you have anything out of focus or that has excessive noise on the image, they’ll get you for it.
On top of that, just a few years ago I would say that the megapixels were overrated. No more. Try to get a minimum of 24 megapixels if you can. This gives you WAY more flexibility to crop in to images to increase your zoom.
Also, do compose your shots properly and try to avoid any distractions in the image like a sign or a branch or the side of someone’s head, as it will affect your images being accepted.
Congratulations, Peter! And thank you for taking the time to share your experiences and your insights with the Everything Microstock community.
You can see more of Peter’s photography at PeterMilotaPhotography.com
Do you have a microstock success story like Peter’s that you would like to share with the Everything Microstock community? Contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) and you may just be our next featured success story!