By far the best aspect of microstock photography, besides the fun factor, is that you will sell photos online and earn you money every month, regardless of whether you work or not. Your best photos may continue to sell well for decades.
It is impossible to predict how much each individual will earn through microstock photography, because our photos are all so very different. Yes, you could be earning several thousand dollars every month having worked part time for just a year, or a great deal more (or less). You will get out exactly what you put in.
Earnings are based on two obvious factors.
1) The amount of time you invest in microstock photography
2) The quality and saleability of your stock photos, which is key.
I began microstock photogaphy as a part time hobby, shooting occasionally at the weekends, and after just a few months my monthly income selling photos at shutterstock alone had grown to over $200! My monthly income would have been greater if I had sold my photos online via other microstock photography sites, and greater still if had been shooting more often. At any time, if I stopped to focus on microstock photogaphy full time for just one month, I am sure I could easily increase my monthly income by several hundred dollars.
The rule of thumb is one dollar, per image, per month. Selling photos online with a portfolio of 4,000 images one 'might' earn $4,000 per month. In theory, if you created 11 new microstock photos daily, you would have 4000 photos within a year. If you were to earn $4k a month from 4k photos, your photos would all need to be:
- Saleable: Some photos do not sell well, others sell like hot cakes.
- Technically good: A percentage of the photos you submit will be rejected. My best batch acceptance was 79/80 photos at shutterstock. Shooting under studio lighting gives more consistent results.
Uploaded to multiple stock web sites: If you hope to earn "one dollar per image per month" you will need to upload your photos to several of the busiest and most lucrative microstock websites. You will not earn one dollar per image per month by uploading to just one micro stock web site, unless your images are exceedinly saleable.
Have a look here to see which types of images sell best.
The top professional 'traditional stock' photographers earn tens of thousands of dollars per month, fly models to exotic locations, and make good money because they are exceptionally good at what they do. They are not the norm, though.
There is one microstock website which seems to generate substantially more income than any other of the microstock websites, and that site is Shutterstock. I recommend that every microstock photographer submit images there. To get accepted as a contributer, you will need to have 7/10 images approved by their photo reviewers, or face a brief suspension of your account. Sign up now, then read the various sections on this website before submitting your first batch of 10 images. Your photos will need to be clean and free of noise, and should be keyworded appropriately so that buyers can find them.
Most photographers are photographers for life. If you dont have much spare time for microstock phtography today, you could still start now by building your portfolio slowly. Start today. You may look back in years to come and be glad you did.
One 'Great' stock photo will generate far more money than a fifty 'good' stock photos. The amount of high quality microstock photos on the market increases by tens of thousands per month. As time passes, you will need to improve if you want your future photos to sell as well as your current photos do today.
With dedication you will improve. To sell photos of burgers, you dont need to take "the best photo of a burger in the whole wide world" but you should aim to create stock photos which are better than the average burger photos currently available. To win a horse race, one doesnt need to run twice as far or twice as hard as the other riders - one simply needs to be a nose ahead when crossing the finish line.
The more stock photos you sell, the more you will learn about which types of photos sell well, and which ones do not. If you are dedicated to making a success of microstock photography, you are only going to improve, and reap ever greater levels of photographic and monetary reward.
Then, there are the older photographers, the people who are towards the end of their careers who have been taking photos for decades. I know photographers who have over 100'000 slides and negatives, and are doing nothing with them. I also know photographers who have vast collections of work who have realised they are sitting on a potential fortune, who employ people to clean, keyword and upload their photos for them. Do you fall into either category?
Both Shutterstock and Fotolia are great microstock photography websites, shutterstock will earn you the most money, but both are good places to start.