Difficult to find the time to start in Stock Photography?

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:

Adobe Stock/Fotolia

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!

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15 Responses

  1. Thank you for another great post!!! πŸ˜‰
    A small question: do you prefer keyword.io or do you use the auto-Keywording function of Stocksubmitter?
    I used to use keyword.io all the time (and long before: Arcurs Keyword tool), but since I started using Stocksubmitter, I always use their Keywording tool too.

    • admin says:

      Hi Bjorn
      Thanks! I haven’t tried the auto keyworder in StockSubmitter yet. Mainly because I normally keyword my raw files in Lightroom because I want to be able to find the original file easily if I want to change it or create a new copy of it. I rarely want to search for the Jpeg that I created for the stock agencies. So keywording in StockSubmitter would require me to export the Jpeg, keyword that and then copy those keywords back to my Raw file (at least I think it would!)

  2. Steve … great post! It came at just the right time for me and hits the nail on the head for my problem : how to find the time to get going. Thanks for providing a road map.

  3. AlessandraRC says:

    Just a note from someone who started 1 and 1/2 year ago, this takes up ALL of my free time + some, since I work full time. After starting out with several stock agencies, I’m pretty much reduced to the big ones now.

    Adobe Stock/Fotolia

    I also contribute to 123rf and dreamtime when time allows but those are very slow players, it takes me an entire year to collect a payout from those. I would not waste my time uploading there until I have at least a 1,000 picture portfolio.

    My two cents

    • admin says:

      You really ought to try StockSubmitter – it is free for up to 33 submissions a month and above that I believe it still uploads, but you have to visit the site to submit. With that, submitting to 15 sites is as easy as submitting to one and so there is no reason not to do it.

    • Hi Alessandra, I know what you mean. I too work a full time job, with quite a lot of commuting time. I tend to work on my photography on my iPad in LR as much as possible, so that once at home, I can export the images, and upload them in batches via StockSubmitter. I learned to know about StockSubmitter via Steve, and I got me a paid subscription. Worth… Every… Cent! Really! If I want to upload to 1 Agency, or 15, the werkload is the same now, thanks to StockSubmitter (I only wish they also had a web- or ipad version!!!! πŸ˜‰ )

  4. AlessandraRC says:

    Bjorn Beheydt, I use a MAC. My experience with stock submitter was not very good…

  5. Thanks really great article!

    For a site that actively supports content producers and the industry consider using Content Eleven.


    It’s the only site where sellers pick what price to sell their work and pay no commission. If you sell for Β£1000 you keep Β£1000. It’s also free to join and there is no subscription either.

    They provide to their members: the buyers, licences, portfolio space, free marketing and they make sure the sellers get paid, fast (within 3 weeks). So it really is good for creative people.

    Check out this members portfolio here.
    works for video and audio too.

  6. Jane says:

    K-meta SE suggestion tool also can help to find right keywords.
    Sometimes I use Question Suggestion( feature of this tool) feature to understand what people search. It helps me generate ideas for photo

  7. Ramana says:

    Hi Steve,

    have you considered EyeEM in the list of agencies?
    What is your view on them.

I'm always interested in what you think - please let me know!