Michael Jay Fotograf Berlin

Selling photos across agencies

Stocksy launches new Call to Artist – should you apply as contributor?

Stocksy relaunches Artist Application for 2014

Stocksy relaunches Artist Application for 2014

You probably have seen it as it has been going around pretty quickly: Stocksy United has announced their new Call to Artist page and is ready to find new artists for 2014. As you might know, I have been lucky to have been one of the very early contributors. I have been very happy about the experiences I have made with Stocksy so far. And I have recommended a few artists to Stocksy who are now represented with their portfolios**. So despite being harsh on my own skills every now and then, there must be something I have seen right in the past. And I would like to share some of my thoughts.

However, please do not take any of these thoughts as an “official guideline” or “inside knowledge”. All of this is personal opinion. Feel free to pick the parts of this post that you like and ignore the rest.

My thoughts on how and why to apply to Stocksy United?

Why is Stocksy limiting the number of photographers?

Stocksy does not want to be the place for everyone. Mainly because it just can’t. The claim is to provide “sustainable stock photography”. It can’t do miracles and change the whole market at once. It is still a startup, just over a year old, entering into a market that is really crowded already.

So while the growth we have seen is continuing, it just doesn’t make sense to split the revenue among too many people at once. Having everyone on board will end up with no one being happy and making a decent amount of money. Limiting the number of photographers is actually a responsible choice, not a fancy way to create some fake feeling of exclusivity.

What are the odds that Stocksy will accept you?

I do not remember the exact numbers but I believe they once mentioned to have received many thousands of applications last year. Actually an amount that was not manageable for the very small team Stocksy is having. Maybe it was 8,000 or 10,000?

I would guess the numbers won’t be that much lower this year. So the odds of getting accepted into Stocksy statistically would be around 5-10% of all applicants. That means, even if you have a great portfolio there is no guarantee. It also means that a rejection does not mean “you are a bad photographer” but “sorry, we just have a certain number of slots to fill right now”.

What kind of images should you apply with?

Self Portrait - the way I love

Self Portrait – the way I love

I believe that – especially when you are coming from microstock – the biggest mistake most photographers are making is to start thinking “which of the images in my portfolio would fit well into Stocksy?” Don’t get me wrong: There might be images in your portfolio that could end up in your Stocksy portfolio eventually. But I believe it’s the wrong way of thinking.

You should rather think about: Which are the photos that I really loved taking? Maybe: Which are the ones that I felt are not appreciated enough? Potentially even that much that you didn’t upload them into your microstock portfolios because you knew they would just sit there, ignored in the masses of images in those libraries.

If you look around in the Stocksy library, you will find images of many different types: Faded looks but also saturated colors. Lifestyle shoots but also landscapes. Simple concepts or fashion shots. You will even find images where you ask yourself “Is this really worthy to be on Stocksy?” It is really hard to “find out what Stocksy is looking for” by checking the images already in there.

However, there is one thing all those images have in common, and I needed quite some time to understand that: If you look at those images in the right context (in the single photographer’s portfolio), you will see that all of them were shot with passion. They were not produced with the “I shoot this because it will sell” mentality that stock (especially microstock) has put into our minds. It’s the “I really like this, I have to shoot this”.

Yes, there are “staged” images in the library. Yes, we all do this with the thought of making money from it. But it’s not all to it. It’s also that “I really love what I do” feeling which I believe is visible in most of the portfolios on Stocksy.

Also, a common thing among many Stocksy portfolios is that many images are “taken as snap shots from real lifes”. Yes, many just have good taste and have their lives arranged in beautiful ways. Others lead exciting lives and happen to be around interesting people all the time. And some of them are really good in just shooting every day whatever they find interesting in the world around them.

By the way, Stocksy has also published a Lookbook for applicant on Pinterest. You should definitely have a look at it. But don’t get too worried if “that’s not what you do”. If there is one image in there that you think “oh, I love it. I wish I could have shot that one”, you might already have found something you can use as a guide for yourself.

Advertisement: dPS Lightroom Mastery Class

Advertisement: dPS Lightroom Mastery Class

What if Stocksy doesn’t accept me?

Get over it. It’s not personal. No rejection ever is. You have lots of options, use them.

Find other places (there are tons and new ones seem to pop up regularly, like 500px Prime or the EyeEm Market recently).

Think about your personal development and try to improve your photography. Not saying your images are bad but we all can always improve. Focus on that. I did and still do. It helps a lot because that’s the part you can influence most. Let others do their job, focus on your own.

Try again. This year, next year, whenever.

Stocksy is arrogant, why should I apply with them?

Not beautiful - but the world isn't always, is it?

Not beautiful – but the world isn’t always, is it?

Is Stocksy arrogant? Maybe you’re right. It is limiting itself to a certain range of images which they believe are superior and unique. It doesn’t accept everyone who can push a button on a camera. Yeah, that’s arrogant. Rightfully so as that is the only way to be different, to be unique and to be passionate. Not trying to make everyone happy.

If you have a problem with that, you should rather go to (or stick with) the microstock agencies that allowed basically everyone to get their shot at selling images. I don’t blame you, I’m still there and will continue to be there.

But I have been rejected by agencies as well. Places that thought I wasn’t right for them. Or actually not me but my images. My portfolio sucks. My images are boring. So what? That’s how it goes, some place like your images, others won’t. If you think that means you shouldn’t even try, then go ahead and don’t.

They won’t accept me, so I don’t like them

Yeah, that’s the essence of many statements I have read in blog posts, on Microstockgroup, on Facebook. Well, you don’t have to.

However, then please also stay away from complaining about how other places are treating you badly. Because even if you are not accepted on Stocksy, as a stock photographer you should at least respect that some people are out there trying their best to change things to the better for many of us. And with every little success they will also put some pressure on other agencies to fight more for the best artists.

I believe we are now in another phase of change in the market: Microstock has opened the doors for many people who would not have been able to offer their images for licensing during the last decade. We are now seeing an oversaturated market of images while the demand has not grown as far as the supply did. This will certainly continue. However, the more those masses of images are growing, the more important it will get to be unique. And for those who are truly unique, chances are that you will find a place that treats you well.

Unless you trust that investment bankers are going to take care of your personal situation. Then go cheer for them.

Good luck and let me know

If you get ready to apply for Stocksy now, I really wish you good luck (even though it’s Friday 13th today πŸ˜‰ ) – it takes great images but also a bit of luck, I guess. Picking the best images to impress someone is a very hard task. Judging images is a very subjective topic as we all know. If you feel the need to get some feedback, there is a section at MicroStockGroup for Stocksy that is also regularly being visited by some Stocksy contributors. None of them can give you a final answer but you will at least get some more opinions on what to select.

I would definitely like to hear back if you succeeded or not.


** Apparently I wrote this in a way that it could be mis-read… I am (and never was) involved in the process of evaluating applications; nor do I exactly know (or want to know) who is and how they are doing it. It appears to be a complex business that I’m happy to let other people do. What I meant to say is that I found a few photographers who I was almost certain would get accepted and would appreciate the chance, so I personally contacted them suggesting they should apply. And with those I was mostly right. But I can’t really help you improve your odds. πŸ™‚


  1. Pingback: How to Get Accepted at Stocksy - Jen Grantham Photography

  2. Oh man.. now I’m even more nervous about the application I submitted.. πŸ™ Will let you know either way, as the article suggested.. ack.. :/

    Using this as kind of a starting point portfolio: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tanya_little/sets/72157640524807973/

    • I like your images. Not sure if the range of topics is a bit too limited, though. But you should definitely be able to find a good place for those cuties. Good luck. πŸ™‚

      • Thanks for the feedback! I was hoping the niche thing (children lifestyle) would help me out, as they stated before.. perhaps I should revise, heh. Thanks again!

    • go with the big boys πŸ˜‰ with shutterstock even dough its seams cheap do get a few cents per download but believe me you will make more money than you will ever make on stocksy πŸ˜‰

  3. Thank you. This is really helpful.

  4. I agree. Photography should be about passion, creating. In the early 90s I worked with Magnum for over two years which was all about passion. In the end I could not afford to stay with them. It was more honor then anything.
    Joined the Getty-House Collection in 95 and that was a combination of passion/commercial photography, I am still with them today and they have made me quite wealthy actually.
    I have looked very close at the content Stocksy and Offset offer and my fear is that in a few years time they will become yet another “lifestyle, model and waxy-people agency. That sell! and no matter what, every agency need an injection of funds and fuel.

  5. This is a great article. Very honest and helpful. I agree that rejection isn’t personal and what great artist hasn’t been rejected a million times before he succeeds? I hope I am accepted but if not, I’m going to improve over the next year and try again. πŸ™‚

    Good words of common sense and encouragement, Michael. Thanks. πŸ™‚

  6. Pingback: YES! I got accepted to Stocksy...

  7. When is the last day to apply?

    • I don’t think there is a time limit. However, there is a limited number of spaces to fill – so whenever they have found 500 new photographers to join the co-op, they won’t be able to accept any more.

  8. i think images there look great…but most of then if not all of them are the artistic type wich dont go hand in hand with STOCK PHOTOGRAPHY , as i know CONCEPTS sell the best not artistic photography in this business…and exclusive?hmmm why limit yourself to be exclusive when you can sell that images on all stock photo agencies?looking trough the categories…well i think buyeirs have a hard time finding an COMERCIAL stock image to promote their product, all images look like they are made by the same photographer, same style no variety, all images with the same shallow depth of field ( im not saying thats a bad thing) out of focus seams to work on stocksy, gard shadows and list goes on.Great images dough but i dont see the suitable as commercial stock photography wich thats what sells the best in this market, a simple cup of coffee steaming isolated on white will make you more money than an fine 1000 dollar paid model portrait or what ever , wich i dont see that on stocksy, there are very few comerial stock images, i know other agencies pay a few dimes per download…i rather sell it on a few dimes over and over again than to wait months or years to be happy that i sell an image on stocksy with 250 dollars πŸ˜‰ and im sure that if you apply to stocksy and send 25 images for review and you submit comercial type images you will get rejected…because the images are not artistic they dont have that insane shallow depth of field and that stylized color wich i see on all images there like all the people there use cross-process effects, stocksy should think commercial πŸ˜‰ maybe im wrong but i think the only people have the chance to sell there and make some money are the ones twords commercial images who know what stock photography really means.

    • To be precise: It’s image exclusivity. You can upload other images to other agencies like I do. Image exclusivity is basically what all higher priced agencies are asking for.

      And no, Stocksy does not need to start accepting apples isolated on white to be successful, just because that’s what sells on Shutterstock. πŸ˜‰

      • +1

        There is market for Stocksy, definitely not one that buy isolated objects on white. We have enough agencies that selling that already. Stocksy has clearly stated that they are offering editorial style stock images. I think only photographers who have experience selling RM images and those who are very well keep up to date with latest visual and social media trending (often being stereotyped as hipster) ‘get’ Stocksy.

  9. Thank you for your advice. After reading your and Jef Grantham articles a deleted few images from my portfolio and I added totally different. I’m glad that my portfolio is now more interesting and diverse, although I don’t know if Stocksy will want images I love to shoot.

  10. Hi Michael! how goes? nice articles indeed.

    Funny this but if you remember, image exclusivity was something I promoted with Bruce at IS way before it was even sold to Getty! and now its on, good.
    Anyhow I think many are a bit confused regarding the difference between Stocksy and general stock-photography. Its pretty much the same difference as in between the Getty-House collection and their general content but to many people, this is confusing.
    As an example, there you would do well with the Insta, Vsco, analog techniques, fading colors and all that but in general stock-photography the pics would probably never even get accepted.
    I remember at Magnum in the beginning of the 90s when cross-processing became so popular, I supplied some material and the editors nearly had a heart-attack , a few years later when it really took off they were begging for it, same as withing the Getty-house collection and probably also Stocksy.

    Maybe Stocksy and members like Sean etc, would do well in showing people the major differences between the run-of-the-mill content and Stocksy.
    I told a friend of mine, ( art-photographer) to apply and he got accepted but now, 5 months later he dont really know what to shoot for them.

    all the best. Chris.

    • Hey Chris

      Thanks for the comments, your experience reaches so much further back than mine. πŸ™‚

      As I said in the article: I believe “what to shoot for Stocksy” won’t work. Shoot what you like to shoot, upload it and don’t get frustrated by rejections. That’s not only true for the application but also once you are accepted.

      I believe what is perceived as “the Stocksy style” was heavily biased by the early contributors, namely Kevin Russ (http://www.stocksy.com/kevinruss) who does not only have “that style” but also started off with a huge number of images, so his images were very visible. But if you look at other large portfolios these days like Sean Locke (http://www.stocksy.com/sjlocke), Lumina (http://www.stocksy.com/Lumina), Mosuno (http://www.stocksy.com/MosunoMedia) or Thomas Hawk (http://www.stocksy.com/ThomasHawk), you will find that all of them have their own style, mostly different from the perceived “Stocksy style”. Rich colors, full contrast range, more “commercial” instead of “artsy”.

      So you can shoot a lot of different images and get them accepted at Stocksy. It seems to be easier to define Stocksy by the “what NOT to do”: ClichΓ©, staged, microstock style with big smiles, thumbs up and isolated on white…

      Cheers, Michael

  11. Yep! exactly!. Thats what I told my friend, just go out and shoot what you love to photograph. Thats the whole thing isnt it? and thats where one get the best shots, not so much for commercial usage but for originality.
    Far too many of todays agencies ar far too concerned with what will sell, commercial aspects, this and that. They tend to forget there is a tomorrow where todays material might just be out of touch. Its a great pity.

    Today when I supply the GI-House, Magnum or even the Nat-Geo, I only supply content which I enjoy, love to shoot. The commercial value and selling power to me is secondary.

    best Mike and have a nice summer holiday. Here in Sweden. 31 degrees, how about that.