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Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid Starting out in as a Microstock Contributor

AuthorAlexandre Rotenberg

February 23,2023

If you’re a beginner microstocker starting out on your journey in 2023, I applaud your courage! The world of stock photography can be exciting and rewarding but it’s also challenging for all, in particular for those who are just starting out in their journey.  

You’ll be bound to make many mistakes, particularly in the beginning, but with the following tips, you’ll hopefully avoid the worst of them while you improve on the eventual road to achieving consistent sales. Let’s get started! 


1.  Not investing enough in quality gear

There’s a popular saying along the lines that great equipment doesn’t make a great photographer and that’s true to a certain extend. However, if you choose not to invest in quality equipment you will be extremely frustrated with little return on your time and effort. You’ll quickly discover the limitations of your “kit lens” and/or an outdated smartphone. 

Even though the market doesn’t pay contributors as much as it used to, on average, standards have never been higher with reviewers carefully inspecting for technical issues, including focus, lighting and noise (more on this on the next point). 

So, quality gear should help you to achieve quality images that may translate into regular sales. However, don’t take it too far and acquire too much gear, particularly if they’re expensive as you’ll struggle to pay off your investment!

Recommend checking out a recent blog post on Top 5 Types of Lenses for Microstock Photography in 2023.


2. Not paying enough attention to technical details

Shooting with quality gear means that you should have no issues capturing technically excellent images, right? Not necessarily, as you’ll need to be your own toughest critic and continuously check your images for issues related to: exposure, focus, composition, low noise. Ensure to inspect your images at 100% on the viewfinders immediately after shooting and then again on your computer before submitting to agencies. 

Also take your time to learn about the technical aspects of photography. This may involve taking a photography course and/or watching YouTube Tutorials on the subject and there are plenty! Thereafter, practice shooting in different lighting conditions and experiment with different compositions to get a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t for your style of photography. In addition, improve on how to post-process your images and improving your keywording skills so buyers can find your images. 

Check out this article on Microstocker’s Five Most Common Rejection Reasons and How to Fix Them.


3. Not doing enough market research

Research is crucial in stock photography, as it helps you to understand the market, the trends, and what buyers are looking for. It’s important to spend time to research which kinds of images are popular, what keywords and descriptions are being used and what types of content are being published in blogs, travel articles and news pieces. 

As you eventually hone in on your niche, you’ll be able to target that specific market with your content. Perhaps you’re really into street photography during your travels, such as the image of this man selling biscuits at the beach in Brazil. 

In addition, it’s important to try to keep up with trends and recommend checking out this article on Google Trends to Identify Trending Microstock Concepts.


4. Not also shooting videos

Photography and video are essentially two corresponding sides of the same coin, each with their own challenges as well as opportunities. If you're already an experienced microstock photographer, there's no reason why you shouldn't already be submitting footage to multiple agencies. 

The main benefit of shooting video is that you’re likely to earn at least 10 times more with every sale of footage versus a photo sale ($7 vs $0.70) as per a large sample going back a decade. Potentially much more if you shoot aerial stock footage using a drone.

Recommend checking out a recent blog post on 5 Reasons Why You Should Also Shoot Stock Footage.


5. Not being patient

Stock photography is not a get-rich-quick scheme and it can take time to build a successful portfolio and generate consistent sales. It’s important to be patient and persistent, even if you don’t see immediate results. 

To avoid this mistake, set realistic expectations for yourself and again try to be patient with the process. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see immediate success – just keep shooting, keep learning and keep working on your portfolio, and eventually, you will start to see results. Realistic expectations can be, for instance, a goal to upload 1,000 quality images and 100 quality videos in the next year. 



Stock photography can be a challenging but rewarding field. By avoiding these common mistakes and continuously focusing on your craft, you can increase your chances of success and start to build a successful side-career as a stock photographer. 


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