Review of the smaller Microstock sites

As you progress with your portfolio and your efficiency in managing large numbers of images improves, it is natural to look at other stock sites to increase your revenue. There are many, many online sites out there, so how do you decide which one to try? This post is an update on the various sites that I currently upload to – it covers the ease of uploading, potential revenue and any problems I have seen. By the way – if you decide to sign up, please use the links below as I do get a small referral fee if you are successful!

I’m assuming that you already upload to Shutterstock, iStockPhoto, Dreamstime, Fotolia123RF, BigStockPhoto and Canstockphoto – I think these are the core sites in anyone’s portfolio of online agencies.

Maybe I am crazy, but I currently upload to 25 sites! However, that does include Pond5 for video and PrintBusinessCards for a few graphics for business card templates. As I have mentioned before, using Lightburner for upload management makes the actual FTP process relatively simple, and if the site doesn’t require much work to complete the import, then the task of managing multiple sites becomes much easier. Why do I do it? It is surprising how the $20 here and there add up. Last month I made about $350 from this collection of smaller sites, so the upfront effort to upload all your images can make sense. Here is my experience to date on the smaller earners:


Veer is a site that should definitely be in anyone’s top list. It is relatively new, but is owned by Corbis, one of the larger traditional stock sites, and I’ve earned $526 in 2011 from the site. Upload is via FTP and the images appear in the “Workspace.” Here you can select 25 images at a time and move them to the “Prepare and Submit” section. Add any necessary model releases in this section, then select all the images again and submit for review. No categories or other steps. The only issues I have noticed is that Lightburner sometimes doubles up the images and you need to delete the duplicates in the first tab. Also, reviews can take a long time – a couple of weeks is not unusual – but as there is nothing you can do about it, I just upload and forget about them! Veer is particularly good for the larger value downloads – I have had a number of $50 or $60 downloads with $135 in earnings in October alone. Veer doesn’t take editorial images – just commercial RF, and they don’t have a referral plan for photographers.


I have only been with this site for three months, and it took some time to get all my images online. Earnings have been $0.50, $9.25 with $17.25 for November so far. PhotoDune pays 25% commission to photographers, although they announced that they will increase this to 33% from 1 December. The only downside to this site is the clumsy way they handle model releases. It took me a long time to find the detailed instructions on FTP to PhotoDune, but here they are for future reference. In a nutshell, you need to separate out the files that need a model release, and upload all the images for a particular model at the same time, and upload the model release into a unique folder on their FTP site. The processing then allows them to associate that model release with ALL the files uploaded in that batch. This is due to be revised sometime next year, but for now this means a bit of preparation work to separate your images before upload. As I keep all my images in Lightroom, I first went through my catalog and highlighted then exported (as originals) all the images that didn’t require a model release. I could then FTP these to Photodune. Then I found all the images with myself as the subject and exported those to a new folder on my hard drive. Once I had processed all the “no release” files on their site, I uploaded these people shots with the model release. A bit of an annoying process, but hopefully the earnings will make it worthwhile. On their site, you need to process the FTP images, and you are presented with 20 images at a time. You check they have keywords etc., select them all, and submit for review. Reviews take a day or two, and you get an email for every image giving you the results of the review. The reviews are quite detailed, and, as with other sites, I usually just accept their decision and move on. The sales then came in pretty quickly once I got the images online. PhotoDune do not accept editorial images.


I’ve talked about Zoonar before on my blog, and I’ve continued to work with the site. To be honest, November has been a disappointment, with no sales so far. I’m hoping that the past two months weren’t a flash in the pan! However, it is a very easy site to work – just upload your images via Lightburner or FTP. They review them and send an email letting you know which ones were accepted. You then visit the site and identify if the image needs a release and if you have one. No requirement to actually supply the release itself. Images without releases that need them, go into an editorial  category. You can also select a number of partner sites that you want to offer your images to, including Alamy, and Zoonar automatically supplies the images to those sites. If you haven’t joined Alamy, this is a potentially good way of getting your images on that site, although I assume that Zoonar take some share of your revenue before passing it along.


This is a site with a steady, if unexciting, sales performance. Almost $100 in sales in 2011, with monthly sales usually around $10 to $20. Upload is slightly more complicated than some on this list, as they do have a category system. The basic process is to upload via FTP (I never managed to make Lightburner work with this site), then visit the site to see the “Unfinished Files.” You can select multiple images that have the same basic subject and edit them in bulk to add a category – there aren’t many categories and so this is a pretty quick task – and then submit for review. After a week or so, you get an email telling you the results of the review (which I ignore!) and then the accepted files will be online.  DepositPhotos do not accept editorial images. They have a reasonable referral plan for photographers where the referring member gets 10% of the sales of the new photographer so please use my link!


Apart from the ability to use them as a free on-line storage system, MostPhotos do not generate much of interest! The free storage is interesting, as you can upload your full resolution images for sale as normal, but when you are logged into the site, you can find your images, and then click on the “Download” link to get a full size copy of the original image. So if you lose your own copy with some computer glitch, you can always get back the original files if necessary. You can also see a full list of your images with download capability in the “settings” page. Sales on the site have been very slow – $10 for the whole of 2011, but they accept all images (with no review stage) and they trust you to appropriate identify if you have model or property releases. The basic upload process is to use Lightburner to get the files to their site. Then visit the “Darkroom” section of the site, and select multiple images, then choose the language, whether you have a model release, and if they are adult images, click Save and then submit. No categories or other complications. The images are then online and available for sale. I believe that editorial images would be OK on this site if you clearly state that no model release is available for the shot.


This is quite a hard site to work with, and my results have been pretty poor – $36 in 2011. Images are uploaded from Lightburner, so that part is easy, but then you have to visit the site to process the FTP uploads, and then choose groups of images and add eight main keywords to each group. In effect, these keywords are the ones that most fully describe the image and are given a higher priority in their search engine. You also have to check a box for each file or group of files to actually submit them for review. Model releases are selected on this same page, and so at least that part is not too complex. The last question on the page asks what commission you expect – 50% or 33%. I find this a very strange question as they seem to assume that if the image is for sale on a site that charges less than Panther, you should choose to receive a smaller commission from them – crazy! Needless to say, I always leave it at the default of 50% as I have no real idea how much Panther charges for images and if I look at my sales results, it does not appear to be a lot! So, on this site, my recommendation would be to ignore it for now, and come back to it once you are online with easier and higher earning sites.


This is another easy to use site, that accepts most images, and has occasional sales. So far, I’ve earned $30 in 2011, although $15 of that came in October with three sales. I put the images onto the site using Lightburner, then visit the site to the “uploading” section of “My Profile.” Here you can add a model release, identify as editorial, or simply step through each image submitting it if no changes are required. The site does make you go through each image in turn, but it is fast and easy. Reviews seem to be non-existent, and all images appear to go online for sale.  Nice and easy, but not great in terms of sales!


A strange title for a stock photo site – and I think they are due to change it shortly to GL Stock Images. However, this is a nice and easy site to work with. Just upload the images via Lightburner and leave it at that! The images are sold for $6.24 and the contributor gets 50%, and so far I have earned $60 in 2011. They don’t accept editorial images, and have only recently started to accept images of people with model releases. If you want to upload people images, you need to contact them to set up the process, as they seem to work by knowing each contributor and assigning model releases if they know that you can be trusted. Support is very friendly, and they have emailed me if they are not sure about a particular image. I think this is a good site to add to your list – if only because of the ease of doing business with them.


I’ve blogged about my experience with iSignStock recently – it has been the site that really surprised me this year. Uploading is very straightforward – set them up in Lightburner using an FTP link and let it rip! You visit the site only to add model releases, and their model release process is pretty slick. You simply select the images that need a release and then you are prompted to choose the appropriate release. Their reviewers appears to accept most images, and support has been excellent. The site suffers from a severe lack of information about sales though. You see your popular images, but you only see the sales by going to the site once the month has finished, and you can then see your monthly total. No idea which image sold, or how many were downloaded! All these deficiencies are more than balanced by the growth of sales I have seen from the site, with over $200 in earnings since I started uploading in March. October was particularly good with $65 in sales. They do take editorial images – my shots of Dulles airport near Washington DC seem to be popular with their viewers!


I had high hopes of this site – they were very selective at first, only allowing invited photographers to upload, and have since widened their scope. The founders are experienced in the industry. But, somehow, the sales haven’t come along for me so far, with a total of $5 for the six months since I started. I must accept that it took me some time to get my images online, as they have a limit of 25 images per day. You can upload all your files (and add them to Lightburner for new images), but you have to go to the site each day to submit your 25 images! I’ve no idea why they make the contributors do this – I can accept that they only review 25 a day, but why make me visit them every 24 hours for this mundane task? They are also relatively strict on images they accept – which again I have no issue with. I have seen it mentioned that they are getting a good set of images online before really starting to market the site, and so I will stick with them. If a site is going to become successful, it is always best to get in on the ground floor before they become overwhelmed with images! They don’t take editorial shots.


I only joined this site last week – mainly because I saw it mentioned as a site that specializes more in travel and landscape images. The process to upload was very easy. I requested an FTP account, used my images that I had separated out into “no release”, people, etc. that I created when I joined PhotoDune, and uploaded via FTP. They accepted them all after about 3-4 days. The process to add model releases is also easy – select multiple images and add the release. It is too early to see if I will get sales here, but I will keep you informed.

I think that is enough for now. I do submit to Cutcaster, but have found it very, very slow for sales, and Clipdealer is equally dismal. Watch out for my monthly summaries of sales to see if any of these sites starts to move forward in the rankings!




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Thanks steve for sharing your interesting information with us. I try to read all of your new stuffs… hope to see more stuffs soon.

I though that Veer was a simple as you describe above, and it can be, but you can edit each one as you upload and refine the keywords (similar to how iStock looks for clarification of double meanings) and they also suggest keywords based on yours… So you can get a bit more complicated with Veer if you like 🙂

    Yes, you are right. I used this recently when I came across my Lightroom Keyword problem described elsewhere, and I needed to add a new keyword into all my uploaded, but not submitted files. You can select multiple files and add one new keyword, you can correctly identify a keyword with multiple meanings, and then save the results to that group of files in one step. Whether it is worth spending a lot of time playing with your files in Veer is a different question though – it is a middle tier site with middling earnings for me.


What about panthermedia. Do you upload there?



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