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11 Dec 2013

Are Photos of Birds and Wildlife Worth Submitting to Microstock?

Clearwater Beach Florida Pelican Stock PhotoRecently I noticed someone asking on a public forum if it was worth their time to submit images of birds to a microstock agency collection.  Here is my response to that topic.

The short answer is no.   But, like with anything else, it all depends.  Images like these will sell, but the sales may be few and far between.  You see, there’s this thing where the first subjects anyone with a camera enjoys shooting flowers, sunsets, and wildlife.  No wonder these areas of the stock collections are chock full of crap.  Some of these will sell (once in a great while) but they aren’t going to be your hottest selling images.  Don’t get me wrong… I personally love shooting these things just as much as the next guy.  But you don’t see me out running around trying to find every single shot like this to restock my commercial image library.

The more you can tell a story with your stock images, the better they are going to sell.  Period.

Seagulls Soaring Stock Photo

Unless wildlife photography is your passion and your photos are “out of this world” amazing, or if you’ve captured a niche species of bird, microstock probably isn’t your best bet for these.  Dump them on Alamy as higher priced RF or RM and see what happens.  Search ahead, if there are 5-10 results or less in the collection you’re submitting to, submit the shot for the heck of it.  You just never know.  My bird shots never sold very much.  Not enough to really get excited about.  Pelicans sold okay, and surprisingly certain species of Caribbean seagulls… but it just all depends on the image. 

Snowy Egret Stock PhotoIn the time that folks make these threads and ask others “will this sell”, they could have found out already on their own.  No offense, but the next time you’re unsure of something, I’d advise you to just go for it.  Not sure?  Upload it anyway. There’s nothing to lose but your time.  Take a risk.  You have nothing to lose but your time.  Now if you were about to upload 1000-2000 photos of a certain species of duck pictures without submitting a “test series” to gauge performance, then that would be foolish… but a small handful?  Go for it.

Ask yourself too, what context is the photo?  Is the place or landscape the wildlife was captured, actually recognizable?  For instance, the shot of the pelican on the Clearwater Beach Florida Pier above, would appeal not just to articles about wildlife, but also the travel industry.  Are there people in the photo?  Is there a way that you can even suggest there are folks in the foreground or background of the image?  All of these factors come into play, and may give you a lot more commercial value to what was just a regular old run-of-the-mill wildlife shot.

If there is one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s this:  The more you can tell a story with your stock images, the better they are going to sell.  Period.

Here are some animal shots that have much more commercial value.  Notice they include images of pets, animals that more folks can relate to.  When’s the last time you saw a TV commercial featuring a dog or a cat?  All the time!?  Exactly.  Now you get it?

Super Cat Attacking Stock Photovet using stethoscope on boys  Chihuahua puppy against white bac Stock PhotoAdorable Young Black Boy Holding pet Boa Constrictor Stock PhotoCloseup Perspective of a Saint Bernard Puppy Outdoors Stock PhotoDog Getting a Bath in a Washtub In Studio Stock PhotoPoor Homeless Dog Stock PhotoCat Looking out window Stock PhotoKitten Catching Goldfish Jumping Out of a Fish Bowl Stock Photo

is a graphic designer that morphed into a full time stock photographer. Founding member of Stock Images.

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  • Hua Khao

    As a wildlife photographer myself, I wholeheartedly agree. Animals in their natural context are a hard sell in macro sites, even tougher in micro.

    • Stock Photos

      Thanks for the feedback, Hua. I’ve never dabbled in macro very much. Alamy midstock RF is the extent of it. If you have something incredibly niche, and supremely difficult to capture, I don’t know why you’d want to give away the image at micro prices anyway. A shot of a specific species that takes you years to finally capture perfectly, that’s not the type of image I would bother slapping a $10 price tag on to.