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28 September 2012 Stock Photography

What to do and what to avoid when submitting photos for sale

The following guidelines will apply to uploading your photos and also should help you pass initial review and get accepted by a stock photography agency.

- be selective - it is very important: if you have to submit sample photos for review, choose only your best images that vary in style, subject or technique. Do not send series of the same subject, but show them how versatile you are, what your strongest points are and what you are really good at. Reviewers want to see how you can contribute to their photo agency and be recognized amongst millions of other photographers willing to sell their photos.

- quality over quantity - remember that an average sunset shot (millions of them are out there) not always is a good stock photo. It is your advantage if you have a large portfolio, but quality matters above all. There is no point in having thousands of photos uploaded, if only 10 will sell. Also, if you submit many low/average quality images, they might be rejected and your acceptance rate will drop.
Quality here means both: image technical quality and high quality material (and resulting from this its potential sales value, as described below).
HINT: Many agencies base your upload limit on your acceptance ratio so be selective and keep in mind that quality of your stock images is much more important that quantity.

- high quality material - many stock photography agencies will list their requirements of what they need, what photo buyers/designers look for, and/or what photo subjects sell best. You should analize it to get a good grasp on whether your portfolio fits within these requirements. If not, look for something different, give yourself a challenge and produce fresh material that will sell. Don't rely on your family or friends opinion about your photographs (they all love them, we know it) - visit any stock photo website that is of your interest and check what photos sell best there. Most will have sections/summaries of their top 10/50, weekly/monthly best selling stock photos - for example check Shutterstock Top 50 Images Ever.
HINT: Ask any professional photographer to give you his/her opinion on your images - they will be honest and you will know what to improve or change. You may also visit the agency's photographers forum to see what issues and topics are discussed there.

- title - tagging (keywords) - description - they are required for your photos to be found in huge stock photo libraries. Also good title and description are essential to give potential buyer an idea of what is in an image. There are many techniques how to do it properly but the main rule is that the title should be quite short, and the description should describe your image subject as accurate as possible. Accurate keywords are essential, as we don't want potential buyers to look for "a boat" and find "a bicycle". Some agencies will review your keywords for accuracy as well, but think twice and do it right the first time.
HINT: Good practice is to describe and keyword your images and then check them again in a day or so before uploading to stock photo website. When you do this, you will be surprised how many new/different ideas you may have the next day.
Most stock photo sites have engines to read IPTC data (set of metadata properties, such as title, description and keywords that can be applied to images/photos), so describe your artwork before uploading. There are software and tools available so you should research and see which will suit your requirements best. Some of them will offer you batch keywording and it is very handy so you don't have to do it online, image by image, which may be very time consuming.

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