A friend with a deep portfolio on images on his hard drive recently asked me if I had any advice on breaking through the barrier of “just too much to do and not enough time” to get started in selling these images on the various stock agencies. Often, being faced with keywording and describing hundreds or thousands of images, we tend to just put it off for another day! After all, this part of the process is the most difficult for many photographers – they love taking photos and processing them to get a perfect image to share, but then add in the 40 keywords and description etc. and the enthusiasm fades rapidly! I’m not saying it is as simple as ABC, but how hard would it be?
So how could you handle this? The first is to see if you could outsource some of those functions – particularly keywording. A quick search on Google provides several companies doing this, KeyIndiaGraphics, picWorkflow and ProImageExperts. I’ve never used any of these services, but the going rate seems to be around $0.80 per image. I last looked at my own earnings per image in December 2017 and at that time I calculated that my earnings per online image across all sites was $0.38 per image per month. While that refers to my portfolio and agencies, it does show that you should be able to earn back your 80c in 2 or 3 months or so. Not that bad a return on investment. You could also directly employ someone as a contractor through agencies such as Fiverr – I’ve no idea what sort of money someone would expect, but if it was $10 an hour, say, and they could do 20 images per hour, you could pay just 50c per image! The time obviously depends on how similar the images are – if everyone was unique, it could certainly take longer than 3 minutes to keyword each one.
How would I go about this? I think I would first add a title and description to each image, particularly if it was a travel shot. At a minimum, that would provide the keyworder with some indication on what the picture meant to you (if it was conceptual) or where it was. As Alex Rotenberg recently explained on his blog, Google Maps can give you an excellent start for keywording travel shots.
I would then explain to the contractor how to use the keyword suggestion tool I currently prefer – Keyword.io, and how to approach its use. Some shots would have to be editorial I guess, but it may be best to cover that with your description rather than have the contractor work out what should be editorial. With this approach, we aren’t looking for perfection – we are looking to get enough reasonably valid keywords in the file to give your image a chance to be seen and be sold. Also remember at this stage that Adobe Stock needs to have keywords in priority order. To a large extent, that is how Keyword.io produces them, but you would need to avoid using Lightroom for this as that always turns them back into alphabetic order. For my choice for this task, see later!
Now how to choose the agencies to upload to? I wrote about the ones I support back in January and the ones I would suggest for someone starting with a big backlog are the following:
I would also choose to invest in one of the packages to use StockSubmitter. If you have a lot of images and many sites to get them onto, then saving a lot of time and effort by automatically uploading and submitting images is really important. In addition, StockSubmitter has a pretty good system for copying titles and description between files and also it has an efficient keywording tool that stores the keywords in priority order and also allows you to check and confirm the Getty matching keywords that are used on iStock. So providing access to the application to your chosen contractor would allow them to keyword and confirm the iStock matches in a smooth efficient way. You needn’t provide all your user names and passwords to the agencies – as far as I know, you can do the keywording in an “offline” copy (with the exception of the iStock login).
Once you have the keyworded JPEGs back on your system, you can just put them in appropriate folders ready for upload and then upload them in batches once you have signed up to all the agencies. My links above do use the affiliate link provided by the agency (although not many have such things any longer) so please use them if you are signing up to a new agency.
You will get rejections, but unless you are getting a lot from the key sites (Shutterstock, iStock and Adobe), I wouldn’t bother about resubmitting.
Some may question why current low earners like Dreamstime or 123RF is in the list? Partly it is because StockSubmitter makes it a breeze to upload and submit, and partly because sites that once earned more may bounce back. Fotolio was useless for me in the past, but after Adobe purchased it, it has improved beyond all recognition. The same could happen to one of these other sites.
That is all I can think of at the moment. If you have other advice (or want to share experiences with keywording services) please let me know!