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. After that you can start uploading your images, once accepted, they will be available for sale.

Some agencies make it a little bit more complicated. They ask you to pass a test or submit sample images for review. First impression one may have is that they want to make our life more difficult. On the other hand you can get positive impression that the agency is not going to accept everything. Simply they do not want to clutter their database with poor quality stock photos.

Below we describe the main points of how to become a contributor. This process will vary from agency to agency. Visit their websites and find out what specific requirements they have.

What you need to do

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. 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 it is really helpful. You can learn about technical requirements, types of licenses, model and property releases, quality and type of photos they look for. Keep in mind that in the future it will help you streamline your uploading process.
Pass a test (or quiz) – it should be easy and you just need to pay attention to details described in tutorials. It will help you answer all questions correctly.
Submit your sample artwork for review. It depends on the agency, but some sites require 3 sample images (iStock), some require 10 (Shutterstock). Some may ask you to send a .zip file containing your sample photos.
Voilà! Start uploading your images!

Get familiar with the agency’s website

Once you have been accepted as a contributor, play with the interface, check upload methods, find (or request) your login details for FTP upload. Also, find your image views and sales stats to be up to date with your portfolio’s performance and earnings. Find out whether or not any useful tools for photographers are provided. For example DeepMeta from iStock, which we personally find very useful and would recommend it to any stock photographer.

Partner/affiliate sales

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. 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.

For more information on Partner Programs read this article.

Upload limits and acceptance rate

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

The latter is very important, so you can read this post and learn 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 photo collection to one stock agency only.

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