Stock photography is a collection of existing photographs that can be licensed for use by someone or a company. Stock photography has been around for ages and usually consisted of huge, professional photography companies with very large budgets. The internet has taken stock photography and created a whole new industry, Microstock Photography. Microstock photography companies operate almost exclusively online and have a wide range of photographers from amateur individuals to professional studios. This gives anyone the chance to collect some dough in exchange from some digital images.
Here's how it works. First, join a stock photography site by filling out their registration form. Registration should be free. If a site is charging you to sign up, skip it. You take your high quality, digital images and upload them to the site. The site reviews and either accepts or rejects your photos based on their criteria. Once accepted, your images are stored in their database. Buyers then browse the database and when they want to use your image for a publication or website they buy a license for your image. Once your image is paid for, the site allows the buyer to download your image. As the photographer you receive a commission. Your cut varies by site and can range from 30-70% of the selling price.
Although open to everyone, not all pictures will make the cut. These companies are looking for photos that are of high quality (usually more than 5 mega pixels) and are in demand by their customers. Most sites offer tips on how to make sure your photos meet their criteria. At the end of this article I list some sites to get you started.
A few things to keep in mind when submitting photos. All recognizable people, faces, and property (i.e. a particular high rise building) must be accompanied by a "Model Release" or "Property Release" which most sites provide for you in a downloadable file. Company logo and trademarks are not permitted (i.e. The MacIntosh Apple, McDonald's Golden Arches, etc.). Poor lighting is the number one reason your photo will be rejected so get lots of light, if you don't have professional lighting I suggesting using the radiant sunshine, it provides the best light for free, just make sure your wear sunscreen.
There are a variety of sites out there. Some are very rigid about which photos they accept. Some sites even go as far as to suspend you if you fail to submit enough quality images. Don't be discouraged though, there are a number of sites out there that give you a chance to get started. Here are a few with which I suggest starting.
Sites To Get Your Started
Fotolia.com is a relatively new site but is already creating a lot of buzz. They are the most rigid is accepting photos that I have on this list, but there is no penalty for submitted photos that don't make the cut. So, submit away!
FeaturePics.com has the least rigid photo review process and is your best bet for getting photos accepted. They also have a higher commission rate than most.
123rf.com is in the middle when it come to photo acceptance. About 50% of my photos were accepted here. You may have better luck if you have really high quality images. Like the rest on this list, there is no penalty for submitted photos that don't get accepted.
I'll will follow up with more sites in a later article. Good Luck!