Michael Jay Fotograf Berlin

Selling photos across agencies

How quickly can I get many images up on microstock agencies?

Today I have run a test how quickly I could upload a bunch of images to several agencies. It wasn’t planned, so I didn’t use a stop watch or anything but still I think the results might be interesting to some of you.

Preparation of images

Image Preparation in Lightroom

Image Preparation in Lightroom

First let me say that the images were all ready on my hard disk for my own stock image site Stocksnippets.com – I had to finish the meta data first and add the keywords. I am getting better at understanding the error messages I will get for different keywords, so to speed up the process I added keywords in Lightroom that all agencies will accept. Also, the images had a lot of similarities, sometimes a series of 10, sometimes up to 30 images. This certainly helped with getting them finished later in the process.

Uploading through FTP

Uploading files with FileZilla FTP client

Uploading files with FileZilla FTP client

I am still not using any third-party solution or service to get the images distributed to different agencies. I might change that in the future but so far I am uploading all my images directly to seven agencies: Shutterstock, Fotolia, Dreamstime, GL Stock, 123RF, Canstockphoto and Depositphoto. All agencies allow uploading through FTP. I am using FileZilla on my iMac, though there are lots of FTP clients out there. I had all connections set up already whenever I started working with a new agency.

To get a better overview of what I have uploaded, I am using one main folder with sub folders on my hard disk. The subfolders are named e.g. “Batch00012”, so I can go through the folders from 1 to x when I start a new agency.

Today, I have finished two new batches, one consisting of 109 images, the second one of 90 images. For the future I am thinking to go to smaller batches, one for each series, as it would make categorization easier. The problem with the FTP uploads is that at some agencies the images are getting mixed up out of order. Having them all bunched together would speed up the process even more.

However, telling my FTP client to upload the images takes a few clicks for each agencies, maybe two or three minutes in total for all seven of them. Then the images are getting queued and uploaded automatically, depending on the connection speed. This can take an hour or two but the process is running in the background, so I can do other stuff in the meantime. Once the uploads have reached the agency, it can still take a few minutes or even a few hours for them to “process” the images, i.e. moving them from the FTP server to the real upload area.

It is much easier to wait for the agency to process all images first to avoid mixing up series. So a good recommendation is to start the upload process early in the morning, stay busy for the day and finish the uploads in the afternoon, evening or next day.

Finishing the uploads

Shutterstock mass editing interface

Shutterstock categorization is made easy by selecting large groups of images

Once the images show up in my profile at the agencies, I need to check the keywords for compliance with their standards (usually I do that before in Lightroom, so no big work here) and choose the right categories. With GL Stock and CanStockPhoto you don’t even have to do that, the images are going into the queue directly.

With Depositphotos and Shutterstock categorization is quite simple: You can select multiple images – or a whole page of 40 or 50 images – and assign a simple category from the list. Done in seconds.

The ulimate challenge of my patience

The ulimate challenge of my patience: The Dreamstime categorization system

Fotolia and Dreamstime are a bit more complicated as they have a multi-tier categorization system: With Fotolia you have to select the top level, then a sub level and a third level. You can do that for multiple images at once, though. Dreamstime has a two-tier system, however all categories are listed in one big drop down box. The list is quite long, though, and it can take some time to find the one your images are fitting in. Another complication with Dreamstime is that they seem not to have a mass editing feature. You can however copy some or all meta data from the prior uploads, so it takes a few clicks per image.

How long does it take?

As said at the start, I didn’t plan to make a real test (yet), so I didn’t use a stop watch. However, I started uploading images after 10 am this morning. Now it’s shortly past 3 pm, not even five hours later. Right now I have 199 new images pending at seven agencies (well, Dreamstime puts a limit of 140 images per week, so they got a few less). And I had time to write this blog article on the fly. 🙂

So it wouldn’t be unrealistic to assume you can get up to 1,000 images online in a busy week focused on the upload process. This does not include the image preparation, though.

How much wait is going to follow until the images are online?

Well, the agencies are very different in their inspection process. With some agencies I just assume they either take a quick look on a whole batch or they set a flag for “trustworthy contributors” or something else. Otherwise I couldn’t explain why my images usually are accepted within hours or at least overnight. And mostly I am getting 98% or more acceptance at these agencies.

The larger agencies – Shutterstock, Fotolia, Dreamstime and 123RF – take a bit longer. A good assumption is a wait of a week. Sometimes it can go a bit quicker, sometimes it takes a bit longer. And they certainly go through all images as the rejection rate is significantly higher at all of them, well above 80% though. And rejections are different on each agency, so I am quite sure all of my images are getting a chance for sales somewhere.

Good luck with your own experiences. Please share or add them if you like.

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