Winners PodiumSo what is the conclusion? microstockinsider has all sorts of articles and posts with tips and advice, but there is always one question from anyone with a little experience in the microstock industry.... "What are the best sites to upload to?" (also see the buyers perspective)

Uploading to the only the top earning sites will save you a lot of wasted time over uploading somewhere that provides a poor return. The caveat on this is that everyone's portfolio is different, and it might well be that you have a speciality angle on your images such as a focus on 3d rendered business metaphors, this could sell really well on some of the sites, and not at all on the others, landscapes might sell well on shutterstock but not on istockphoto etc. The portfolio I have uploaded to each of the sites that I have performed a long term review is a specially selected generalised sample of various genres of stock images. As they say 'your results may vary'.

I personally would recommend if you are in any way serious about selling your photos as microstock that you upload to as many of our top 10 microstock sites as you can. Most of the work in microstock is in the sorting and key-wording. Uploading can be somewhat automatic apart from the categories the main sites have (hence some of the would-be microstock leaders have dropped this step from their uploads meaning the whole thing can be partly or entirely automated with software).


stock photos site reviews What We Recommend

First up, you should upload to more than one site. Preferably as many as you can. The results we have collected from our reviews provided a good estimate of the earnings that each site will return for a 'general' image collection, but niece or specialist collections might work significantly better on some  micro-stock sites and not at all well on others. We suggest at least the following top 5 sites are on your list to submit work to. (be aware that with at 100 million+ images at each site, acceptance standards are very high for the top agencies)

... view the rest that did not make it into the top 5


How do we come to this conclusion?
The number of images a microstock site is a very good benchmark of it's 'quality' as is the traffic / alexa rankings which show how many people are visiting the site i.e. buyers looking for photos. More important in our ranking is the amount of money we are earning from our sample portfolio which we have submitted to each site. Some of the smaller sites have a smaller portfolio, and this has been factored into the calculations.

 We recommend these sites View the directory of all the stock photo sites we have reviewed to check out more details about each company.


Related Posts:

Microstock sites to Avoid


"Everyone has a photographic memory, some just don't have film." -- Steven Wright


perfectimage's picture

I agree with what you say

perfectimage (not verified) on Sun, 2008-04-20 23:47
I agree with what you say about istockphoto, they really are just making money out of photographers, but it's hard to ignore them as a way of selling because so many people buy from there. I've been watching my istock sales gradually slowing since i stopped uploading to their site, no wonder, some might say, but the only seem to want pictures from their exclusive members these days. mark - pefectimages
Aaron's picture

My experience with photography sites

Aaron (not verified) on Mon, 2009-03-09 05:45
Honestly, its not worth the time. Some of the really good photographers make 600 a month, but it takes a long, long time to get that good. My advise; keep looking around. Internet Marketing is a much more lucrative business. Sean Rasmussen has written a book about this. Take a look - I know I haven't regretted starting with him.  
Steve Gibson's picture

I Disagree

Steve Gibson on Wed, 2009-03-11 02:03
I disagree quite strongly with that statement. Many photographers do make 600 a month but they are not doing it full time, I've met several at a recent conference doing it full time and earning enough money to live and fly to such conferences. Compared to the kind of disguised pyramid scheme that a lot of 'internet marketers' pedal to make money from thin air in microstock you are actually paid for either taking good photos or attracting customers who pay for stock photography at a microstock agency. If your photos are average then you will struggle (deservedly so) alternatively if you work hard on a related blog or gallery to attract buyers then you will be equally rewarded for your hard work with commissions up to 50%, In that respect microstock is no different to any other internet marketing which advertises a clearly defined product either physical or a license for intellectual property.
Anonymous's picture

600 a month? Thats pretty

Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 2009-05-04 05:40
600 a month? Thats pretty common I would say. My own brother is making well over a 1000 per month. I have just started and am making barely about 50 per month =) There are some who make thousands.
Anonymous's picture

Earnings with 300 photos

Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 2009-05-27 19:14
Dear all, In average, how many photos do I have to post online in order to get started properly? What can I expect from 100 and from 300 pictures on 5 big micro stock agncies? Thanks a lot thierry
Steve Gibson's picture

The Biggest Question

Steve Gibson on Thu, 2009-05-28 00:33

That is a really hard question to answer, assuming that you have 'average photos' (there are people with portfolios with less than 100 illustrations that earn much more than a portfolio with 1000's of photos).

Typical earnings with 300 typical photos in your portfolio, i'd estimate somewhere around 150-300 Dollars monthly if you upload to the 6 big sites - I wrote that some time ago in my post how much can I earn from microstock. (50-100 Dollars per month per 100 images on the big 6). Do understand that if the photos are not of the right subjects and the keywording is not good then they will sell less.

Compare this with some of the photographers who post their earnings (list of microstock blogs) notably Lee's site microstockdiaries, where he posts is earnings, Microstockdiaries April 2009 earnings, he earns slightly above the range specified above

Anonymous's picture

New image brokerage system

Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 2009-07-18 11:46
A new agency that I can recommend is They are relatively new as a stock agency but growing fast. At the moment they only have 400,000 images so get in before the competition. The guy behind imagebroker has been on the go for ages and has years of experience within the stock industry as a photographer with his image brokerage he has a great idea. If you like me have images with agencies all over the place that are going down in the ranking and being buried by other content then use imagebroker. They don’t sell directly. As the name suggests they broker images through leading stock agencies around the world. The clever guys there have a process to not only supply directly as photographers to agencies they also use their imagebroker system to re-supply the images as a separate brand. Therefore increasing the chances on sales. A great thing with their brokerage system is that they don’t require that submitting photographers to sign an exclusive contract. Therefore you can do the same as the, have your images directly with your agency and you give imagebroker the same ones. Some of the big players that they supply are, Alamy, F1 online. They have a great online upload system and will take care of the entire key wording and the images get pushed directly to their partner network. It couldn’t be easier. You also get to decide about the license type RM or RF. For those of us that are used to selling images for a few credits this is a way to make real $ prices. 50 % of royalties and absolutely no costs for the image supplier. So if you have a stack of images that need a new lease of life, give them to imagebroker. Try it out!
Max Headroom's picture

Being exclusive or not

Max Headroom (not verified) on Thu, 2009-11-19 19:49
Hello everyone, I am about to upload my archive to microstock agencies but need to know which to choose; Upload to big 5-6 agencies or Upload to istock or fotolia as "exclusive". In which way i make more money? Thanks
Steve Gibson's picture


Steve Gibson on Fri, 2009-11-20 00:41

"Max Headroom" theres a blast from the past!

I'd suggest upload it to the big 5/6, and have a look at what I wrote when i compared exclusive and non exclusive also the matching exclusivity data table

im guessing 'your archive' means you have already been selling stock for a while? perhaps to start with just one agency, SS for a fast start but IS and FT for more long term, and see how acceptance goes, and plan things from there. I get messages from people in the stock business for a long time who find it hard to adapt to microstock, perhaps also transition into microstock is relevant


Jo-Kerr's picture

What about illustrators?

Jo-Kerr (not verified) on Sat, 2012-01-14 15:37
Do you know any place where I can find this kind of information but focusing on illustration and not on photography???
Steve Gibson's picture

Microstock for Illustrators

Steve Gibson on Sat, 2012-01-14 23:52

I have a list of microstock sites that accept vectors

(pretty much all the major agencies)

Those that don't sell vectors would accept rasterised illustrations.

I've written a few times on the site, it really depends on the style of your work - some agencies like certain things more than others. The seem to work well at shutterstock, but there is no premium for them (rasterised) and I suspect its because of the ease in which buyers can download a relatively vector background so a quick design task as part of a subscription. I'm not really an authority on illustration I'm afraid

have a look at




Jo-Kerr's picture

Thank you for your time!

Jo-Kerr (not verified) on Mon, 2012-02-06 10:10
Thank you for your time!
Jo-Kerr's picture

Thank you for your swift

Jo-Kerr (not verified) on Tue, 2012-02-07 06:59
Thank you for your swift response. The site you proposed gave some info but not as much as I needed. The more I search for mikrostock illustration tips and tricks the more I think there is a market gap there...
Bhaven Jani's picture - Micro or Macrostock site?

Bhaven Jani (not verified) on Wed, 2012-12-26 18:13
I am curious about the differences between a Micro stock site and a macro stock site. I am a regular contributor at for the past 6 months and have ~600 images on it for sale. Alamy has more than 34 million images on sale, however i do not see the name of this site on any of your lists. Why is that?
Steve Gibson's picture

Alamy Is Macrostock

Steve Gibson on Fri, 2013-01-04 08:15
Although Alamy are gradually tweeking their business model to do more 'microstockish' things they are still very much a macrostock agency. The line between micro and macro continues to get more blurred but price is still a big distinction.
Dan's picture

Shutterstock hate his contributors

Dan (not verified) on Tue, 2013-04-23 21:24
From SS FAQ: How long does it take for content to be reviewed? We review all uploaded content in a fair and detailed manner. As a result, some reviews may take up to seven days. Forget about that. The average SS inspection time are 20-30 days. By the way, "Clearly the order in which images are approved has nothing to do with the order they were uploaded. If the delay is 2-3 weeks (as it is now) there could be even more than 200 thousand images in front of your "fresh" content". No Views - no Sales... Contributor Support just keep silence, does not answer to contributor's messages. Exceptional corporate and contributor loyalty policy...
Bill Smith's picture


Bill Smith (not verified) on Tue, 2013-10-08 07:37
Hi, what do you think of Royalty-free stock photos for $0.50 each! See real preview before download an image
Steve Gibson's picture


Steve Gibson on Tue, 2013-10-08 23:21

Mediocre might be being polite. I highly recommend that people DO NOT UPLOAD to that site. If it's not reviewed on microstockinsider be suspicious, investigate further.

Flawed pricing and royalty structure I think would make artystockphotos incapable of growing in an already crowded market.

Cheryl's picture


Cheryl (not verified) on Mon, 2015-09-21 21:08
What is your take on this program from instagram? Just curious if this is a way to go if you are a novice photographer?

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