My name is Simone Tognon. I am from Padua, Italy, but now I live in Fuerteventura, a Spanish island near the northern African coastline.
I started working as a photographer in 1998 for a daily local newspaper called Il Mattino di Padova in times when photos still had commercial value.
A few years later, I went:
- from the dark room
- to digital photography
by sending (always in a hurry) my photos to the editorial offices of the newspaper with an ISDN connection. A photographic service at that time was paid 120 thousand lire (60 euros).
Do I have any nostalgia for that period?
Honestly, no. It is about evolution and extinction, like the dinosaurs.
Even in those days, a normal image never earned me more than 100 euros unless the photo was for the front page and exclusive (in that case you made the price).
Today, with the stock images that I sell in microstocks, I need 60 sales to reach that figure. But in the end, it’s always 100 euros. And in the microstock business, earnings can only increase over time.
Being a microstock contributor: the best job in the world
Thanks to this website (and the italian version of it: stockfootage.it), I discovered the best job in the world: producing stock images and stock footage. Although I have always been a photographer, after understanding that shooting videos was far more profitable, I also became a video maker.
I not only work for agencies, but thanks to my activity as a microstock contributor, I earn a second income, and I learn more and more every day how to make money with online business.
Why do I like it?
Because I hate bargaining with clients. Therefore, the sale of stock images and stock footage is perfect for me.
As I now live in Tan Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, the easiest subjects for me to shoot are:
- water sports
I know some photographers used to say that microstock is dead, but I can still sell my stock images and stock footage, so I don’t think so.
Will microstock die soon?
I do not think so. Actually, I'm sure that for those who want to continue to be professional photographers in the future, microstock will be an opportunity.
People will always need photos and videos, but to get them, they won't come knocking on the door of photographers’ studios anymore. They will find them on the internet.
Productivity tools for the microstock business
I learned a new approach about software that can help the producers of stock images and stock footage from Daniele's course.
I should call it a more commercial approach:
- ptimizes workflows
- saves the time I need to produce more and better
Most importantly: this is useful not only for the microstock business, but for every business.
A few lessons in the course are focused on tools that can speed up the keywording for stock images and stock footage. Sometimes the software has just launched and, as Daniele explains, it has not yet been perfected.
I tried the paid version of Everypixel Dam (visit the website). It is still full of bugs, and the support doesn’t answer customers’ questions.
I’m sure they are bugs, as I also tried to switch browsers, but nothing changed. Without any explanation, the site works today and tomorrow maybe not.
Therefore: since the strategy to make more money is to save time while keeping the quality level of your work high, Everpixel DAM doesn't help us producers at all. Rejected!
On the contrary, there is an interesting tool that works better: Microstock Plus (visit the site). It’s perfect for Mac users, while for Windows there’s a "twin" tool called Stocksubmitter (visit the site).
Microstock Plus has also several bugs but, compared to Everypixel Dam, it’s not that bad.
There was response when I tried to contact support.
What did I do then?
I wrote directly to the email address of the PayPal account where my money ends up when I pay. They answered me quickly.
My problem was related to the API, but the regular support has washed their hands, telling me that there are Telegram groups where someone still has some active API key. But unfortunately those groups are made up primarily of Russians, Ukrainians and Lithuanians. So you have to communicate by writing in cyrillic.
I was not discouraged, and with an online translator, I got the API key and started uploading to Istockphoto via Microstock Plus as well.
No! With Istockphoto, when you send files through Microstock Plus, it makes you waste a lot of time, because you have to convert each keyword and perform time-consuming actions.
So I changed my strategy: today, if I want to send files to Istock, I upload them from their site and fill the titles and keywords in the traditional way.
Unfortunately, I no longer have the AOIi key to share it here, because one of the Microstock Plus bugs is that sometimes you have to reset the settings of the agencies.
Conclusions: Microstock Plus Vs Everypixel DAM
Everypixel has a working and free tool that analyzes stock images (or frames from stock footage) and create the keywords to associate with them. It’s great, and I suggest you to use it. Unfortunately, the paid part of the software (Everypixel DAM) doesn’t work.
Microstock Plus is good for me. I created a workflow using it along with dropstock.io. So I can save time, and I also solved the problem of an unstable and slow internet connection.
My favorite microstocks
When I started, I used to upload my stock images and stock footage only to Pond5, Shutterstock and Storyblocks.
After discovering Microstock Plus, I expanded this number of agencies to 35. Most of them didn’t perform, so I removed:
- Motionelements (in the last month I have sold 3 videos and cashed only $0.54... worse than Istockphoto)
Now I upload to a limited number of microstocks:
- Shutterstock (read the full agency guide)
- Pond5 (read the full agency guide)
- Adobe Stock (it gives not just the royalties, but also a gift with its software every year)
And a few more…
I made this selection by getting rid of those agencies that forced me to manually send part of the information related to titles and keywords, as it took way too much time for the revenues they generated.
Then I removed Getty Images because the stock footage was sold at very low prices (they used to sell videos at the same price of photos).
As for Alamy, as I have already heard from other contributors, I considered it to be full of great surprises, but in the last year it was disappointing. For the moment, I keep it only because it does not take up my time with uploading and keywording.
My choice of the agencies to use is linked to the kind of subjects that I portray. For example, Canstockphoto loves lifestyle content (people doing things) and it doesn't even take my landscapes into consideration.
Direct sale of photos through my site
I’ve also started to sell my photos through my site.
The income they generate for me is almost exclusively generated by surfers/kiters images that I portray around Fuerteventura.
It works this way: I first have direct contact with them, during which I show them my website where they can buy the image online.
With this system, I have eliminated the bargaining and any further meetings, saving a lot of time.
I had the idea to sell directly after finding my photos on brochures and advertisements of local businesses. They had been purchased on microstocks.
- I upload those same photos to my site.
- I contact graphic designers and companies from Fuerteventura.
- I invite them (before buying from agencies) to take a look at oceansoulphoto.com (as they find the same content at cheaper prices).
The goal is to create an ongoing relationship with these small entrepreneurs. I'm having some results, but it’s still a young business to understand if it’s worth it.
My best seller stock images
The photos I have sold the most so far have grossed low figures compared to those of contributors who spend much more time than me on this business. The first year I only had a collection of 300 stock images online.
I want to diversify my income. For the moment, I settle for paying with microstock:
- the advertising I do
- an annual trip to somewhere
- the new Dji Ronin-SC stabilizer
These are my best sellers:
Sell your photos and videos online: The course
I bought Daniele Carrer's course (find more about the course) a few months ago. I have been waiting to talk about it because I'm used to testing things and review them only after having enough information to do so.
I'm happy with the lessons. Selling photos and videos online is a second income for me, but considering the earnings I used to get, it has become something important for me.
In Fuerteventura (the city where I live), there are no museums or relevant culture, so I have to focus on what this wonderful place offers me. Most of the time this is nature:
Probably these are not the best subjects for microstock.
So sales are still not that high, but I don't waste my time complaining about the market and, thanks to what I've learned in the course, I focus instead on creating salable content.
From stock images to stock footage
Daniele convinced me to start creating stock footage.
In the beginning, I was just a photographer, but thanks to what being a microstock contributor taught me, I now also offer corporate videos to my clients. As a result, I have expanded my bargaining power. Even more positively, thanks to the video shooting, I learnt something new, which is great on a personal level, not just for my professionalism.
I can say that now I love creating videos almost as much as photographing.
I am a rookie in the world of video making, as I started less than two years ago, but it gives me a lot of joy to see clients satisfied with my work in a field that originally was not mine.
65 sales on Shutterstock
50 sales on Shutterstock
There is also an image that gives me a lot of inspiration:
It has been online for only 2 months and already has generated ten sales on Adobe Stock alone, for an income of about 20 euros.
There’s something else that I love about microstock. As far as I'm concerned, it is the most important advantage. Regardless of whether or not my stock images or footage are bought, when I talk to a client about a project, I can prove them what I can accomplish by showing my portfolio on agencies.
I got some jobs with this strategy.
Having photos and videos already for sale online, even though they may be unsalable in microstocks (landscapes are difficult to sell, but everyone likes them), it allows me to ask for higher prices than my competitors.
More importantly: when I have to produce a generic time-lapse for a client, I can use one of those that I have already published as stock footage since I always have little time and it’s difficult to find the right hours of the day to get the best light to shoot.
Updates on my career as a microstock contributor
Even here in the Canary Islands during the COVID19 pandemic, we were forced to stay home, so I can take some time to:
- study to get supplementary licenses for drones
- Analyze Daniele’s website carefully
Microstock Plus and its limits
I also had time to practice with Microstock Plus and to understand the most recent features that its creators added, like the Trends indicator. Believe me: it’s absolutely useless.
If you use the Trend Indicator, the keywords you get are mostly off topic.
In my opinion, Microstock Plus is worth it only if you have a slow internet connection, because you only send files once and sell them to multiple agencies. But the artificial intelligence it uses is not reliable.
For those who don’t want to insert titles and keywords in English, the use of the integrated automatic translator should also be avoided, because it creates keywords that have nothing to do with your content.
Dropstock.io is still the top for creating stock images and stock footage that sell.
A thought on the agencies that Microstock Plus uses
In addition to deleting Istockphoto due to the API problems I reported, I have now deleted other agencies.
I found myself having to reset the login settings too many times. The tool gave me errors, forcing me to insert the login parameters again and re-send the files (be careful: even if an upload fails, it is counted by the tool for the amount of files you purchased).
Since Microstock Plus is used to save time, I would say that this is not good.
Now I only send to:
- Adobe Stock
I have also experienced no sales on Alamy for several months, but I still feel like giving them another chance.
By the way, these are:
- my site
- my contributor profile on Shutterstock
- my contributor profile on Pond5