Many of the microstock site reviews featured on this site have been generated after a lot of careful measurements, in many cases over more than two years, (for the big three sites, I have been watching income and returns from time spent uploading for more than 6 years.
The Test Portfolio
So far as possible each site has had the same portfolio of images submitted, in the case of some of these sites I have an older account and a newer account where I have started fresh. Back in 2003 a two mega pixel image was acceptable, many sites now require at least three megapixels and even then reject most images less than five as some sites want to down-sample the images to a better quality.
The collection of images uploaded includes:
- Travel landmarks
- Landscapes and fine art abstracts
- Traditional table top stock images and metaphors
- Food photography
- Seasonal images / holiday-festive etc.
- Computer generated images, fractal backgrounds and shapes
- Abstract textures and backdrops
I also include images from a
3 Megapixel consumer camera (invariably rejected these days) and 8 megapixel consumer camera (images downsized to 5MP to get those approved), 10 and 12 megapixel DSLR (Nikon D200 & D700) and scans of 35mm slide film. Despite reading "upload film scans if you want to get 100% rejection" on another website (I forget where - sorry) the acceptance rate of my slide film scan is high (But I do only shot with professional fine grain slide film) I have not attempted slide film uploads since 2008.
Decision to review a new agency
For fairly obvious reasons I can't define exactly the criteria I use to decide to review a new agency. If I did someone at those agencies would use it as a checklist to get a review done.
My criteria are fairly broad, some are quite technical, and some VERY subjective. They include:
- Is it an off-the-shelf photo content management system, it takes a lot more than a $400 turnkey solution to start an agency.
- What is their unique selling point, lots of other agencies are selling photos so why will this site be different?
- How many photographers do they have? catch 22 for a new site I know, where and how are they recruiting photographers?
- Spam Activity - I see a lot of microstock related content, and can spot a paid or biased syndicated article a mile off, I also see plenty of "I've just uploaded my images to this new agency" type posts from "well known" photographers that I have never heard of. If this is how a new agency plans to advertise it won't be much of a success.
- How many photos do they have? and is the search good? How fast is the collection growing and what's the plan to attract new photos and photographers?
- Contact information, a contact form or business address? or do they have some sort of online chat option? is there a user forum or a blog? are the DNS contact records 'private'.
- Does it look professional? logo/layout, 'copycat', spelling and grammar errors? Sometimes this is a misleading indicator, the important thing is that they are part of the 'work in progress' and are getting fixed.
- What are the traffic statistics like, this is not easy to monitor for completely new sites, but six months down the line it's fairly easy to spot a site that is not growing. (There are lots of services that collect Google Page Rank and Alexa stats, I use the site analysis here to compare sites)
- Discussion in the microstock forums? (good or bad) the success of a new site does not depend on the likes and dislikes of photographers, but legal and contractual aspects for them are important, as are issues that will stop the new agency growing an image collection.
Plus many more...