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26 September 2012 Stock Photography

How to become a contributor of a stock photography agency

Stock photo agencies will give you slightly different options in terms of becoming their contributor. To join microstock website you usually need to create a free account and start uploading your images, and once accepted, they will be available for sale. But some agencies make it a little bit more complicated and ask you to pass a test or submit sample images for review. First impression one may have is that they want to make our (photographers) life more difficult, but on the other hand you can get positive impression that the agency is not going to accept everything, thus cluttering their database with poor quality stock photos and "scaring" potential customers. Below we have described main aspects of becoming a stock photo contributor, but this process will vary from agency to agency, so you have to visit the agency's website and find out what their specific requirements are.

Basically, the following are the main steps you have to take to start submitting your photos:

Register - it is completely free. Sometimes contributor's account is separate to buyer's account so you have to choose whether you want to sell or buy images (or you can do both).
Submit a copy of your ID - not required by all agencies, but this is their security policy for payment purposes and you have to comply if you want to start selling your photos there.
Read contributors tutorial - not all agencies insist on doing this, but believe me, it is really helpful, as you can learn about their image technical requirements, types of licenses, model and property releases, quality and type of photos they look for (and other media if they accept vectors, footage, audio, etc.), and in future it will help you streamline an uploading process. Once you have read it, you might be required to:
Pass a test (some call it quiz) - it should be easy and you just need to pay attention to details described in tutorials to be able to answer all questions correctly. Once passed you have to:
Submit your sample artwork for review - it depends on the agency, some sites require 3 sample images (iStock), some require 10 (Shutterstock), and some may ask you to send a .zip file containing your sample photos (PhotoDune). Once approved:
Voilà! Start uploading your images!

Get familiar with the agency's website

Once you have been accepted as a photographer, play with contributor's interface, check upload methods, find (or request) your login details for FTP upload, see where your image views and sales stats are located to be up to date with your portfolio's performance and earnings. Find out if any useful tools for photographers are offered, like for example DeepMeta from iStock, which we personally find very useful and would recommend it to any stock photographer submitting images to iStock.

Partner/affiliate sales

For more information on Partner Programs read this article.

It is important to check if your agency offers any photo sales through their partners/affiliates websites. Microstock agencies, such as 123RF or CanStockPhoto will offer you to opt in and have your stock photos available for sale through other websites, such as Fotosearch, Thinkstock or Pixmac. They are most likely subscription sites, so there are pros and cons of opting in: on one hand your portfolio gets better exposure to potential buyers, but on the other hand it also carries a risk that your stock images will sell at lower rates. You always have a choice and before you decide to opt in you should check what compensation is offered or contact the agency to get more information. Some agencies will let you opt in for individual images, some will require you to decide on your entire portfolio. From our experience it can alway boost your sales if you have strong portfolio of well-oriented stock images.

Upload limits and acceptance rate

In some cases stock photo agencies will have their upload limits set (daily, weekly, hourly), and it may also depend on your contributor level, how big your portfolio is, how many sales you've made, and most important, what acceptance rate you score.

The latter is very important, so we can go to the next chapter, and tell you what to do to have higher acceptance ratio and what to avoid not to get upset with too many rejections.

Become an Exclusive

Have you ever thought about becoming an exclusive stock photo contributor? Read our Exclusive or Non-exclusive post on the pros and cons of contributing your stock photo collection to one agency only.

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