Contributor Guide to Stock Photography

So your photo session is just finished or you returned from a trip with a memory card full of photos. Now is time to select your best shots and prepare them for sale.

Agencies look and approve every photo you submit before they list it for sale. We want to help you with some tips how to get your photos accepted.

First step: Filter your pictures

No, not the instagram kind. Not every picture you took will be perfect for sale.
Select your photos carefully, be critical and think as a buyer.
Shots need to be technically perfect and reach esthetical values.

There is no sense in fooling yourself, if a picture is unsellable, learn from what you can improve but don't waste time editing and uploading it.

To stay efficient, it makes sense to work in batches – less switching of tools and mental contexts helps you to get more done more easily.

So maybe you want to filter all new photos first, then do all post-processing on the remaining photos, then do all keywording, then uploading.
This way you'll save quite a lot of time and get more consistent results.

Photo Post Production and Editing Tips

The decision wether to shoot in RAW or JPG is up to you, but RAW photos are easier to edit after without losing any image quality. Your images are inspected at 100% zoom, so start here:

  • Zoom in to 100% and check that photos are sharp and in focus. Otherwise – see "Filtering your pictures"
  • Check for noise and remove it (in Photoshop: Filter → Noise → Remove noise ...). Make sure the photo is still sharp and not blurry
  • Remove chromatic aberration if present
  • Delete any visible logos on photos you want to sell with commercial (not editorial) license
  • Make sure the photo has correct white balance
  • Correct contrast and brightness levels, shadows and crop the image if necessary
  • Eventually you can scale down your image, different agencies require different minimum file sizes (commonly being 4 MP) and majority of them set the maximum at 30 MB

Use your preferred software like Lightroom, Photoshop, Gimp or anything else.

You can apply some trendy looks to the photos, but don’t over do them. Your potential buyers might want to post process your pictures themselves, so don't make it too hard for them!

Keywording and Captioning

Proper keywords, captions and titles are as important as a quality and content of the photo.
Buyers need to find your pictures listed for sale.

Most agencies allow up to 50 keywords and phrases and require relevant descriptions (mostly up to 250 characters) and photo titles.
Agencies usually prefer US english over British, which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include british or australian synonyms to your keywords.
Titles should be a direct explanations of what’s on your photo, while the descriptions provide more details about it.
Some agencies require special format for editorial caption, others don’t.

Keywords should be neatly organized sets of words provided by you regarding the content of your picture - they are not associations of words, but keywords relevant to the pictures - don’t spam as agencies can deny your photos with inappropriate keywords.
Think of them what a potential buyers will search to find your photo.

Need help to find a keywords? Open up english-english dictionary, check Wikipedia for location specific photos and use one of many keyword tools like Stock Photo Keywording Tool to get suggestions and ideas.
Use Photoshop, Lightroom or Bridge to insert keywords, descriptions and titles into picture’s metadata - no need to copy paste them after upload.
Watch out - keywords shouldn’t be in alphabetic order.

Model and Property Releases

All photos with recognizable people and properties require a model or property release to be licensed commercially. Model (or property) release is proof that model agrees to be photographed and their photos are going to be sold for commercial use.
The same goes with property release.

To simplify your workflow, you can use a generic (not agency specific one) model & property release that is accepted by all major agencies.
Just a word of warning – as you can find model releases in different languages, make sure your model also sign an english version of it.

Upload Photos for Sale

Congratulations, you now have a batch of your photos ready to upload and submit.

You can upload them via agency’s interface - this is many times limited to few files a time.
Most of agencies give FTP access to contributors, which makes uploading process, especially for big file batches, easier if you have a FTP client software.

But it still means uploading your batch of 100 something photos to 10-15 websites - this can be 1 GB × 10-15 agencies.
This means a lot of time to wait and "baby-sit" your uploads since they tend to fail quite often and require a manual restart.
And then there's the regular server problem where you can't upload at all to some agency or the other because you reached your daily limit, their disk is full or whatever just went wrong.

You can worry about all that, keep track of where you have already uploaded what and reduce the numbers of agencies you submit to, but that's not what you want, right?

Why not eliminate another piece of software on your computer and let handle your photo uploads to your agencies?

Pretty much everyone uses Dropbox for sharing/backup files. With you just move your files to specic folder in your Dropbox and they start syncing to your private account. takes your pictures from there and makes sure they end up in all your agencies, ready for submission. You only upload once – with the reliable, hands-off Dropbox syncing solution.
No matter how many retries it takes, your pictures will get there eventually.

You save a lot of time, manual work and bandwidth, the latter being extremely important if you are on a dodgy connection or paying by bandwidth for example over your tethered smartphone connection.

Start now by creating a free account!

Don’t use Dropbox yet? Sign up for Dropbox, it’s free. doesn’t require a pro account.