Symbiostock Global Network Search

Symbiostock is an open source project that allows photographers to sell their work directly. We’re a network of independent photographers, illustrators and artists who license our royalty-free and rights-managed images. To make it easier for customers to find the right image, a network links our sites. So, when you look for “mountain” on one Symbiostock site you’ll also see images from other members of the network.

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Building a Microstock Tracking System – Part 2

Implementation – putting it together

The previous discussion we did a needs analysis for a microstock submission tracking system and found 2 requirements:

  1. Assign a unique number for each image
  2. Store all images in one place for simple retrieval

From these we developed a simple list of tasks it had to do:

  1. Storage of images for easy retrieval
  2. Fast sorting by date, topic, etc
  3. Instant access to any submission in progress
  4. Ability to track and analyze images accepted

Now we’ll set up the spreadsheet that will handle parts b & c.

I use Microsoft Excel, but any other spreadsheet should work just as well. It will have 2 data worksheets and a number of charts for tracking.

Table design:

[one col for each ms agency] [image id] [desc] [keywords]

This simple arrangement builds on the requirement for a unique name for each image and easily does the rest of the tasks. There’s no need to store all images multiple times and move them among different folders as the submission process proceeds with each agency. Instead, this single sheet will show immediately what the status is. A new image is entered by it’s ID – either yymmdd-xxx for digital images, or a single number for scanned slides. There’s also a column that can track different versions of one image – eg, different crops, color saturations, etc. I then add a description and keywords.

This information can then be used to describe images when you upload them to various sites. Even better is to add the information to the IPTC metadata contained in each image. All jpg files have information associated with the image that gives camera information, plus areas to enter title, description and keywords. Most MS sites read this information directly when you upload, saving an enormous amount of time. I use Free Pro Photo Tools from Microsoft – this free tool comes up as an option when you right click on an image. [It replaces Photo Info, the previous offering from MS.]

When an image is done, I add a yellow tagged ‘ready’ box under each microstock agency column to which I’ll submit it. We’re now ready to upload the images to various Microstock sites. I use FTP to upload batches, but you can also use the online submission pages each MS site provides. At this point, the ‘ready’ can be changed to the actual date uploaded; or you can skip this action.

As each MS reviews and rejects or accepts, I change the yellow box either a green ‘accept’, or a lavender note [rejected for focus, can resubmit, etc] All the actual images are kept in one place, so if you make changes you don’t need to copy into multiple folders. [ I only consider resubmit to sites with the most sales, for others, it’s not worth the time]

Now, you’ve got a complete list of all your images, sortable by date [embedded in the image name] , or by MS. And it’s color coded so you can see status at a glance. When joining a new MS it’s particularly handy to see which images have been accepted at most other sites. There are refinements but that’s the basic system

Building a Microstock Tracking System


Microstock seems so simple

— Upload your images, then sit back and let the payments come in. But it’s soon evident that there’s a lot more to do, and the newcomer to the process can quickly become overwhelmed in keeping track of where images are; which have been submitted to which sites; how each site reviewed each image; and where the original image now resides.

I’ve dealt with variations on this problem for over 40 years. First, with slides and classical stock agencies
[often called rights managed, with examples like Corbis and Getty]. I went thru multiple physical organizing systems – by shoot, by slideshow, by topic, etc, eventually settling on metal filing boxes for over 35,000 slides organized by category. I also kept a simple spreadsheet list of slide numbers and captions.

I’ve shot digital since 2001 and problems quickly multiplied with the greatly increased number of images now created. Most photographers aren’t computer programmers, but some computing oriented approaches are helpful. Rather than choose a software solution and force it to fit your needs, take some time to analyze what you currently have and what you’d like to be able to do. At that point you can decide what sort of workflow system works best for you. Only then do you need to decide what actual software might be needed.


Here’s how my approach proceeded.

I knew a big problem would be managing thousands of images at several stages – new images, edited images, captioning, submitting, tracking, and analyzing. [If you produce fewer images, the process will be much easier since you may be able to take each shoot completely through the process from initial creation to tracking after submitting to multiple agencies. A simple word processing program may be all you need to keep track of everything. ] The entire process could be automated, but for all but the largest shops, this is overkill. Most people will find a mixed system works well – combine old fashioned physical means with automated ones.

Now you’re ready to decide how the new system might achieve these goals. My highlighted two major needs:


1. Assign a unique number for each image The numbers produced by your camera aren’t suitable for this system.  But using text names like statue of liberty1,won’t work either. What’s needed is a single identifier for each image, that contains enough information to be able to sort by date. There are various ways to do this. My files are renamed to yymmdd-xxx.JPG.

Photoshop or Lightroom does this for you – you can run a batch process on a group of images taken on the same day and rename them with the year, month, day and a serial number. The result is a group images that will always be simple to sort, with no duplicates. Numbering sequentially has a major advantage over using text — when I’m traveling, I try to caption every night, based on my notes. I only need to identify the 1st image of any major sequence. For example, in India I could summarize over 300 images with 3 captions:

    • 070101-002 Arrival in Delhi
    • 070103-200 Arrival in Agra to visit the Taj Mahal
    • 070104-322 Ganges river

So there’s no need to caption everything right now. When I am editing image 070101-145.jpg weeks or months later, I immediately know it was taken in Delhi. We often visit many mosques or temples in a day, and this lets me keep them all straight, while still allowing for an hour or 2 of sleep each night.

2. Store all images in one place for simple retrieval

It’s important to have one place where all images can be found.

Once these decisions were made, the solution became simpler. I could quickly see there was no need for a database. Also a database requires too much maintenance, and a simple excel spreadsheet will do a better job.

The result is a solution that allows:

  • Storage of images for easy retrieval
  • Fast sorting by date, topic, etc
  • Instant access to any submission in progress
  • – Ability to track and analyze images acceptedWe’ll see how to accomplish this in Part 2.

Sell Your Photography


Microstock Photography Agencies

It’s quick, easy and rewarding to sell your photography online. Microstock photography agencies make your images available for sale and pay you royalties. Whether you’ve got 10 or 1000, you can find a site that handles all the selling details. You just upload your images & collect the checks!

Can you make money from your photography?

Build a Microstock Tracking System

How to Succeed in the Microstock Arena

How to submit your digital images to microstock agencies

Review of Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX1

Get free Free Digital Photo Tools

OK, if you’ve launched your  Photography website site you’ll want to promote it. Your portfolio is online and waiting for buyers to find it. Now what?

Symbiostock – what is it?

Symbiostock, an open source project . Photographers present their work directly.

Symbiostock is a network of independent photographers, illustrators and artists who license our royalty-free and rights managed images. To make it easier for you, our customers, to find the right image we are also linked to each other.

So, if you search for a “mountain” on my site and don’t find it, Symbiostock’s search shows you images from other members of the network.

However you discover the image, you can be sure you’re dealing directly with the artists themselves.

If you’re a photographer who wants to join the Symbiostock network, just follow the instructions in the FAQ . Install the Symbiostock theme,. Upload your images.  When you’re ready, let us know either thru the forums.Or send us an email That’s what open source is all about!

Symbiostock network 7/5/2013