Microstock photography is a viable income source for photographers once they learn how the system works. One of the first hurdles facing newcomers is that there are no standards for editing and submitting images. Each microstock agency has different rules. Most microstock agencies now accept bulk uploads via ftp, and those who don’t provide excellent bulk uploads on their sites. You can save a lot of time by adding descriptions and keyword/tags directly to the meta data of the image. Use an EXIF/IPTC editor and all agencies will read that information from your images.
Once uploaded, though, the agencies provide many different experiences in preparing images for submission. The tables below summarize the advantages and quirks of each agency. Most agencies require categories for submission, and without bulk editing features, these become very slow to process.
In most cases, agencies have a simple re-submit policy upon rejection – “Don’t do it!” But a few provide easy ways to re-submit images when appropriate. (Eg, in the image taken of pinnipeds in Newport Oregon is rejected ‘because’ ‘Newport’ is flagged as a trademark!)
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|Agency||Bulk edit?||Max items||
Consistency in response
|Shutterstock||yes||40||If you edit several items, then select all and submit, some items may not be saved as edited. Need to save after every edit|
|Canva||no||Nothing to add, uploads are automatically reviewed|
|Bigstock||yes||40||Rather than using the common standard of ctrl click to select they use shift click, but it’s not not consistent. click first in row, then end of row, entire row doesn’t highlight, or it highlights everything above. Sometimes takes 2 or 3 tries to get the actual items you want to bulk edit. Can’t select multiple individual items to edit.|
|YAY||yes||40||It’s all or nothing – after selecting group, must re-enter title, desc and keywords. So, can’t just add keywords to
images with different titles.
|Depositphotos||yes||20||inconsistent – click to select, sometimes stays on click to edit, save sometimes submits, sometimes doesn’t. box stays checked after submit even when nothing selected|
I’ve purposely avoided making any comments on the review process itself, as each agency has its idiosyncratic policies, and reviews can vary dramatically depending on the actual reviewer. See the MSG forum for the many threads concerning review processes.
|Shutterstock||yes||re-upload with note to reviewer||No undo so can mess up dozens of image desc, or keywords with one mistake|
|Canva||no||yes||Reviews are automatic, but it’s difficult to review the results|
|Dreamstime||yes||some can be resubmitted using previous file number|
|Bigstock||yes, but accepts ‘miscellaneous’||none||Makes ‘suggestions’, but often far from useful. if woman is in keyword, editor always suggest ‘sexy’ as a category|
|YAY||no||resubmit from rejected folder|
|fotolia||yes, but accepts ‘miscellaneous’||none||some categories missing – non-plant/non-landscape nature, military,historical,objects|
|Depositphotos||yes, but accepts ‘miscellaneous’||none||Won’t accept ; or  or / in description or title, but still says alphanumeric only! some new ‘changes’ only made things worse – it now thinks every place name or area is misspelled – eg,
|iStock||yes, highly detailed, multistep||none|
We don’t care! We don’t have to!
Few of these agencies have much concern for the user’s experience — all the editing procedures would get a failing grade in any first year programming design course, but some are gradually improving. Unfortunately, like many other web businesses today, they have no idea what a beta test is – they just change something without thorough testing and don’t care what it does to previously working features. Contributing users seem to be last on their list of concerns