Being Unique is Your Bright Future in Microstock

posted on 29th of july, 2010

If you've been a part of microstock photography for more than a year then you already (should) know it - unique images sell best, competition is severe on all levels, it's increasingly harder to deliver more (creative) and better content at the same time.
If you haven't been a part of microstock for more than a year, then you're most likely ready to sell (dare I say "give away") your dog just to get the whole of your next batch approved. Or not... if you're just in it for the fun of making a buck or two from time to time.

Either way, you may or may not have given all this the necessary attention, so the next read may be useful or at least interesting for you.

Careful observation is what should be on the agenda of all you contributors who are trying to increase your income from selling images through this market. Continually look back half a year, a whole year and maybe even two. See what's changed drastically and what slightly. Where do you and your portfolio fit in this picture?

After you've been convinced that you need to deliver truly unique and high quality content, the question remains how to ensure this actually happens. Below are a few starting points to consider.

Be unique in photographic quality - make sure that your images stand out as such. If your lighting skills are only average (or maybe even below that) - work on that specifically. Are you having troubles with composition? Leave the rest on the side for a while and focus on learning the rules, how and when to break them and practice all this (a lot). Are your photos today different than half a year ago? If not, then you're not moving anywhere... if you stay like this you can't expect your sales to move (at least not in a positive direction). Envision where you want to be in your photographic knowledge and skills and work toward that goal. Don't forget that books still exist (printed or in electronic format) and they're usually meant to be read. ;)

Be unique in terms of concepts and themes and don't just shoot what everyone else has already shot tens (if not hundreds) of times. We often direct new users to look at the online images in order to get a better grasp of commercial images as Dreamstime perceives them. Unfortunately, this often seems to be interpreted as "go look there and whatever you see - copy it". That's far away from the point. It's beyond clear that if you shoot what's already there your success will be limited. And nobody wants that. So get the main idea of commercial images and don't think that all concepts or themes have been covered! That's what many thought 3 years ago and somehow over 6 million new images have been added since then.
See what images are online and make it your goal for some time to not shoot the same concepts or themes. This will quickly open your eyes to what hasn't been covered at all yet, but still is very much needed by designers, bloggers, publishers, etc.

Be unique in the details. Clothing and accessories, props, environment, styling... All these are probably not what you think of at first, but together they make the difference between an image that probably won't sell more than 3-5 times for the next year and one which has good chances of reaching 3-4th level in that period. Remember that everything must contribute to the main concept and theme of the image. If you're trying to create a natural scene do a reality check before you start clicking. No hospital nurse has long fingernails, a ton of makeup and an a-la red carpet hairstyle. On the other hand, if you're trying to create something really out of the ordinary - make sure it's not ordinary. Push it a notch further than you feel comfortable.

Be unique in the way you describe your images. Keywords, titles and descriptions all play a role in how your images are found here at Dreamstime. If you stick with the same half-relevant terms that show up super over-sized on the image info page then there will be super many other images around yours in the search results. Provide clear and describing descriptions (yeah, you read that right!). Don't tell the story of your life but see how what you're writing could be useful for the potential customer. Stay away from the extremes - scarce or overdone. My general rule is to always try and fit within the boundaries of the text fields themselves (without causing the scrolls to appear). A bit more or less is O.K. but if I need to scroll down for half a minute to be able to read the whole description then they must have put something wrong in the Pepsi I had last night.

I don't think I'm writing anything new here... I'm pretty sure we've got plenty of blog posts on all these topics. The problem is that we often fixate on the details and fail to see the big picture. If all you do doesn't lead to improved quality, creativity and revenue then you need to do a careful check.

Bottom line, you will be a happy camper if you manage to do all this unique stuff and as a result:

- establish a clear style which will "brand" your images - customers will easily recognize you and probably return to your portfolio more often and easily.
- find a not-yet-full niche and start occupying it - you will stand a higher chance of selling because of fewer competing images.
- simply shoot a ton of great and varying photos - naturally your style will show up here as well. The amazing thing about variety is that it pretty much multiplies your revenue. It's one of those few things these days of which more is actually more. :)

Now, share your thoughts about being unique in microstock, how you deal with the details of achieving it, or simply how you manage to find a place of your own in dreamland.

Comments (19)

Posted by Ralukatudor on October 24, 2010
With over 6.000 sales I would say you also belong in the first category , not in the last two ones. I loved your insight and I wanted to thank you for your precious ideas. good luck and many sales !
Posted by Kelvintt on August 27, 2010
Great article & this is a very useful one. Thanks for sharing!!
Posted by smartview27 on August 18, 2010
very good ideas!
Posted by Maigi on August 07, 2010
It's really a challenge to think out new concepts and unique themes, cause they will be copied in a flashlight as soon as they will sell. When you get a new idea, it's good to give it some time and let it mature, use it in many different ways in your images, and only then when you have made the most of it, upload the batch online.
Posted by Kelpfish on August 07, 2010
All I can say is that most of my sales are from images that nobody else has...unique...and the same ol same ol don't sell well. I am focusing this year on being different because that is, in this day and age of microstock, the only way you can make any money. I would rather have 500 unique images rather than 2500 images of "me too" images. Good reference and advice above.
Posted by Maddrew on August 05, 2010
Thanks so much for the article. I've learnt alot from it :)
Posted by Tamas on August 05, 2010
great one thank you very much.....saludo
Posted by Jeniicorv8 on August 05, 2010
"the keywords of an image are shown in different size depending on how many other images have the same word. The larger the size, the more images have this keyword." Whoa, here I thought it was all random. Thank you, Petar, for the education. As always, I find your blogs, comments and posts, ever useful! Very much appreciated!
Posted by Petarneychev on August 04, 2010
Yes. For quite a long time now the keywords of an image are shown in different size depending on how many other images have the same word. The larger the size, the more images have this keyword. Just the same as with the keywords of blog articles (look at the right side of this page - Blogs! main page for an example).
Posted by Waxart on August 04, 2010
Helpful article. Thanks so much. However, I have a question: What did you mean by" If you stick with the same half-relevant terms that show up super over-sized on the image info page then there will be super many other images around yours in the search results."? Does the size of font in the keywords have special significance? I'm ashamed to say I didn't know that!
Posted by Laurasinelle on August 03, 2010
Exccellent article and very useful Thanks a lot!
Posted by Poteau on August 01, 2010
Appreciate the direction and guidance. This article has helped me a lot and look forward to sending in better photos! GREAT ADVICE!
Posted by Iwhitwo on July 31, 2010
Well written and great info Petar. Thanks for sharing.
Posted by P0temkin on July 30, 2010
Excellent advice! I think photography and design is slowly merging .... making it crucial to have a unique style or niche. Well put
Posted by Emmacharles on July 30, 2010
Thank you, much needed advice !
Posted by Yuritz on July 30, 2010
great article,something to keep in mind! :)
good weekend
Posted by Mariaam on July 30, 2010
Great article and very useful! Thanks very much!
Posted by Clickbeetle on July 30, 2010
Nicely said, now the challenge is to put our uniqueness into being!
Posted by Georgeskyrillos on July 30, 2010
Very useful. That's my strategy!

Comments (19)

This article has been read 3157 times. 25 readers have found this article useful.
Photo credits: Sankai.

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