My current workflow

It is a long time since I wrote about my workflow and it has probably evolved over time, so an update might be welcome for some newer readers. Here is the essence:

  1. I always take my images in Raw format and import into Lightroom. Because I keyword all the images I think are worthwhile, having a structure on my hard-drive with topics or particular shoots isn’t necessary and so I use a simple Year and then Month structure:
  2.  I have some fast SSDs in my computer (Windows 10) and keep the Lightroom catalog on my C Drive, which is the fastest drive.
  3. I keep my current year images on another 500G SSD and move a completed year’s images to a normal hard drive (F: in the photo above) which is 4TB and large enough to hold all my images back through 1999. I do use a backup program (Oops!Backup) that copies the latest versions of any of the images onto another internal hard drive and I do make backups onto an external drive from time to time. I find that having the Lightroom catalog on a fast drive helps the response time of the program such that I rarely have any issues, even with 40 Mpixel Raw files.
  4. After a shoot, I import all the images and generally move through them editing the ones that I think are worthwhile images as I go. Because I don’t tend to take lots of images of the same subject, I can usually see which of a small group of similars is the best (and I often process more than one to get different perpectives) and when an image has been edited I flag it. If I take an image into Photoshop to remove some product name or make more complex changes, I save the resultant PSD file back into the same folder and give it a red color label so that I can see at a glance which are the images that have been processed externally to Lightroom. I would flag that as well so that I can easily filter for my chosen images.
  5. After I have been through the shoot and edited the “good” photos, I start again and do the keywording and describing. This is a step that I usually break into several sessions as it is really important to work hard at this! I currently use for getting a good start at the main keywords, as I find it pretty quick and accurate. I don’t just take all their suggested keywords – if I have a series of images in the same city, I would first pick the keywords that are likely to be common across all the images – things like the city name, country, cityscape, skyline, town, building exterior etc. – and put those with a general title and description in the first of the images from that city and then “sync” them across all the other images. I use the Map function in LR to pick the location of the shot as well and copy that across if the images are taken in the same location. Even if they aren’t, it is often better to put the location in all of them and then change specific ones. Having a location already recorded means that the map comes up with that location highlighted and you just have to move to the correct place. After my several sessions of keywording, I have all the images ready for the next stage.
  6. In this pass, I also do any editorial keywording. I mark my editorial shots with “one star” just as a way to identify them and I add “editorial” to the keywords so I can search across multiple folders if necessary. As I mentioned a few weeks back, I realized that Shutterstock and the other sites accept simpler editorial captions and so I use those simpler formats to speed things up.
  7. Now onto the export. I keep all the JPGs on a different hard drive to the original photos to provide a bit more security and on that hard drive I keep a very similar folder structure of years and months. I normally export images at 4500 pixels on the longest side (although a stitched panorama could be 7500 pixels or so). Once I am happy with the keywording, I export all the flagged images into the current month’s export folder. I use the current month rather than the month they were taken so that I know which images I uploaded in a particular month. So currently I am exporting all my images into 2017: December.
  8. So far, all these steps would be pretty identical regardless of whether you are uploading to one agency or multiple. As you know, I upload to multiple agencies – 16 in total, and I also upload all my images to all those agencies. I know that some people believe your “better” photos should go to more expensive agencies such as Alamy, but I’m now firmly of the view that all images go to all agencies. I’ve done some experiments on whether people who see an image on Alamy, say, then search for that same image and buy it at a cheaper site but I have found no evidence of that. So how do I get all my images onto 16 different sites without creating a big workload for myself. I’ve tried FileZilla and various sorts of parallel FTP programs, but you still have to fiddle with categories and often visit each site in turn to submit the images. As you probably know, agencies change their submission processes (as Shutterstock recently did) and so you sometimes have to learn new processes as well. A big pain! So instead of that, I now use Stock Submitter. Yes, this is a paid program, although a certain number of uploads each month are free if you are a starter, but it saves me so much time and energy that I happily pay for the program. The recent change to Shutterstock did create a glitch for a few days as the developer came up with a new design, but he did that quickly and the program automatically updates itself. There is a ton of work in keeping this program up to date and so I firmly believe the developer deserves something for all his work. I’ve written in depth about using Stock Submitter here on my blog, so I’ll only mention the basic steps here.
  9. So I next open StockSubmitter and browse to the folder containing my new images:
  10. It immediately shows the thumbnails and in this screen I select similar pictures, confirm that the program has guessed appropriate categories for them and then go to the advanced keyword editor to sort the keywords into some sort of priority order for Adobe and Alamy. Even if the individual files have different keywords, you can still work on multiple images at once, moving the important keywords to the front of the list, and the program will appropriately sort the order in each individual file. It doesn’t put the same words in each image – it moves the keyword to the top only if that image has that specific keyword already. I then click on the iStock Terms button, and that brings up a new screen where I can match my words against the iStock vocabulary. The program remembers my earlier choices and so that becomes much faster and easier with time. Clicking save puts all the newly ordered keywords into the JPEGs and stores the iStock terms in its database. It doesn’t take me very long to work through the images here and I’m now ready to submit to all agencies including those like iStock, Adobe and Alamy that have special requirements. There is a checkbox in StockSubmitter for editorial images and so I check that for any of the images that I have decided are editorial. This checkbox stops the program from uploading those images to sites that don’t take editorial shots – another time saver.
  11. I also have my model and property releases stored in the program and so I can add a model release very simply to the images that need it. You can see some in the screenshot above with MR in the corner of the thumbnail. The program remembers when it has already submitted a model release to an agency so it can select one that is already on file. Another big time saver!
  12. Now it is as simple as selecting the images I want to upload, make sure the agencies are all selected and click “Upload Selected”. It really is as simple as that. The program uploads them all using FTP (or whatever the site requires) and once that is done, it makes visits every 15 minutes to submit any images that are ready for submission, adding the categories, model or property releases, editorial markings etc. and then submits them. The only one that is slightly different is Alamy, where the images need to go through QC first. When I get the email from Alamy telling me the images have been accepted, I simply restart Stock Submitter again and it completes the Alamy process by marking the important keywords as Supertags. Again, no need for me to visit the site.
  13. Although this is a different topic, the program also handles video and automatically submits keywords along with the videos on my selected sites. To be honest, I don’t know what I did before I found this program – it is funny how careful we stock photographers are with our money when something like this can save us so much time.
  14. I don’t really track the success/failure of my uploads, except on Shutterstock and Adobe where I sometimes look at that they have accepted and if I made a mistake somewhere, I might fix it and resubmit to those sites. I don’t bother with the other sites.

Well, that is it – a lot of reading here, but I hope it will help you. As usual, ask me anything you don’t understand!


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27 Responses

  1. Bjorn says:

    Thank you for the insight in your workflow! I discovered Stock Submitter in one of your previous articles, and can’t but love it! That piece of software is a real lifechanger. It saves me time, and indeed, you have to pay for it, but it easily pays its own cost multiple times.
    Right now, the only thing I’m still looking for is a good and fast solution for keywording my images on my iPad while on the train. I use Lightroom mobile for selecting and editing, but keywording is still a problem there…

  2. admin says:

    Thanks Bjorn! I don’t know of any easy way to keyword on an iPad, I’m afraid! It is one of those things where a keyboard makes all the difference and I never find it very easy to type on a tablet.

  3. Great article with plenty of great tips and info – thanks for taking the time to write and share your workflow. I think I will reconsider StockSubmitter. That seems like a good solution for the non alphabetical keyword sort order needed by Adobe but it not available in Lightroom – or at least, that I can find. I do use the Alamy plugin to submit to Alamy, and I am curious to see how StockSubmitter and the plugin will play with each other.

  4. Hello Steve,
    First of all a big thank you for sharing your workflow. I confess that I was starting to get depressed because I couldn’t find a solution that would save time and effort to load photos on stock platforms.
    However, I have a couple of questions. I mainly work with models and usually I have them sign a model release corresponding to the agency. I work with Shutter, FT (AS) and Istock, so I have 3 papers signed for each model.
    Which one do you use that everyone recognizes?
    Thanks a lot

    • admin says:

      Thanks! I use the Getty model release. If you search for those words, you will see the PDF. That is accepted by all the sites I submit to. You can add a new model release to Stock Submitter and it automatically uploads the model release to the sites and submits it appropriately. Big time saver!

      • Thank you for your quick answer, I’m looking at the list of stocks on Stock Submiter there are a lot of them. Could you please tell me with which one you are working first.
        Thanks again

      • Gi says:

        Mind sharing info about CreativeMarket? In the image attached I see that your main earnings came from that stock..

        • admin says:

          There is not all that much to say about it to be honest. I upload using StockSubmitter, and so it happens automatically when I have new images to submit to the other agencies. I set my prices at $10, which means that I get $7 for each sale, and I get around 6 or 8 sales a month on average I would say. With relatively few sales, the specific images that are sold rarely form any sort of pattern. To me, it is one of those upload and forget sites!

  5. Hi Steve,
    Another question about StockSubmitter and Zoonar.
    When the photos are received on the site of Zoonar, one must nevertheless intervene on the site to choose the type of license (RF or RM) the price (Microstock, Standard, Premium) and if the photos have model release ?
    hat’s the case as far as I’m concerned.
    Thank you for your help


    • admin says:

      Yes, you are right. I tend to wait for a while and then go to Zoonar perhaps once a month and then you can edit images in bulk and set all those setting at one go. So it takes maybe 5 minutes at most to submit them.

  6. Sue Gresham says:

    I am re-reading your article and your comment in MicrostockGroup letter. Do you ever match up your images with the agency number s/IDs-
    I do in a rather clumsy Excel folder and rely on search to find it should it sell!

    I am going to join Stock Submitter as soon as I have a ‘group’ to go up…….

    • admin says:

      Hi Sue – I don’t ever track individual images across the agencies as I have just too many to manage. Microstockr Pro does a pretty good job of matching the thumbnails across agencies so you can track total sales of a specific image (or group) using that application. Good luck with your sales and I’ll look forward to your website going online!

  7. Sam Wordley says:

    Hey thanks so much for all your information… Im a stock photographer with about 20,000 images and Ive never heard of the stock submitter and man you should get a commission from these guys.. it looks great.. Im having a few problems setting it up, If I can trouble you for a few answers or do you have a contact at the company? I’ve looked but can’t seem to find one.

    1. It seems to upload the images twice? not sure why, Im getting fails on Pond5 and Dreamstime and Deposit is saying its not uploading but then I check and it does.

    2. I normally manually do the model release and scan it add the photo ect.. but you mentioned the App and I downloaded ” Releases ” and used the Getty release which I normally use for all my other Release and never had a problem. It only exports the release as a PDF and it seems you can’t upload it to stock submitter? I changed the PDF into JPEG and it worked fine but then I just got a rejection from Shutterstock for the release from. Not sure why. What App for the releases do you use and do you use the same for all agencies?

    Sorry for all the question but I’ve found your blog very helpful and thanks so much for your hard work.. great work buy the way.


    • admin says:

      Hi Sam – thanks for your kind comments! Yes, StockSubmitter is a great app and must be a pain to keep up to date. The author certainly earns his money. His name is Dmitry and his email is

      I’ve not noticed double uploads, but what I do see from Canstock in particular is a pop up window saying that there is a duplicate file on their site and do I want to delete it. I care so little about Canstock that I have never investigated, but I think that when they reject an image, it probably puts it back in the submission area so you can “fix” the issue. Perhaps StockSubmitter sees that as a duplicate file? I always just delete them. So it might be that Pond5 and Dreamstime are doing something similar, but I’m not noticing?

      I always do my model releases using that Getty master and that works everywhere for me. I save it as a JPG out of Photoshop and give it a specific name in StockSubmitter as I think the App uses that name to check if it has already uploaded and used that specific model release before. It doesn’t upload the same release each time – it attaches one that is already on the agency site if available. I know that Shutterstock occasionally rejects model releases if the date is very different to the file date, but it depends very much on the reviewer. I rarely get rejections for model releases at SS, although to be fair, I don’t take many people photos and they are probably less stringent with self portraits. I do know also that there was some debate on the Microstock forum about multi-page releases and that StockSubmitter couldn’t support those. All mine are single page JPGs so it doesn’t impact me.

      Hope this helps.

  8. charles E Hester says:

    I’ve started keywording in Lightroom and stocksubmitter is not importing my keywords from LR. I’ve set LR to export keywords to XML but that didn’t help. Got the question on SS’s Live Support Chat but haven’t gotten an answer yet.

    • Steven Heap says:

      Do you export the images from Lightroom as Jpegs? The same files as you export for upload to Shutterstock (and the other agencies) will be Jpegs with the keywords and description embedded in the file. No need for XML or anything like that. Then when you open a folder containing these images in Stock Submitter, the keywords should automatically be there. Stock Submitter is only reading them from the Jpeg as the agencies do.

  9. dallas720 says:

    Hi Steve.

    Notice you mentioned marking the location on the map. I use an external GPS unit on my 3200 but, I know a lot of the newer ones come with it built in. The external units are a pretty cheap way to speed that up. For me it was almost a necessity for my small travels.

    • Steven Heap says:

      Yes, I’ve thought about adding a GPS unit to my Sony (in fact I think it sync’s with my phone and uses it’s GPS). However, it all seemed a bit fiddly to me and I rarely have issues deciding where I was when I took a photo. I am pretty good at keeping a map in my head and so finding a spot only takes a minute or less. If you get on well with a GPS, that is a good solution though!

  10. Sam Wordley says:

    Thanks for the fast and very informative reply,

    Just to confirm do you use the “releases” app?! And you manually change it into a jpeg file in PS?!

    It seems I’ve got it sorted with all agencies but Pond5 can’t seem to get it working any idea?!

    Also do you have a list of all your agencies and their performance!? I’m pretty sure I saw it in one of your blogs but now can’t find it.

    Thanks again for all the information!


  11. admin says:

    Hi Sam – missed this.
    I don’t use a releases app – I don’t take many people photos and so I can work with paper copies that I scan into Photoshop and make JPEGs of. I just checked Pond5 – the model releases I attach in Stock Submitter are going to that site without any issues. So I’m not sure what the issue might be. I last did a summary of earnings per agency on my March 2018 earnings blog post.

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