Your guide to becoming a microstock contributor.

Your guide to becoming a microstock contributor.

When I first heard about microstock, I was eager to become a contributor – in an instant. I´m a type of person who likes to go straight to the most interesting point, leaving deeper research for later. I know, I know…  it´s not the best approach and doing research beforehand ultimately saves time. But there is a bright side to this too. If you are anything like me and you want to sell your photos as soon as possible, you are at the right place! Read my time-saver guide that helps you become a microstock contributor – fast and hassle free!

Your journey to a microstock photography starts with a first step: signing up for a contributor account. In case you don´t know which microstock agencies are worth your time, check my complete list of microstock agencies you can trust.

To apply to become a microstock contributor, you need to be at least 18 years old, and an author of the images you upload. The registration process is slightly different from site to site, some have separate accounts for buyers and contributors (e.g. Shutterstock). But the one thing they all have in common: signing up is FREE. If you by any chance come across a microstock site that asks you for money, run away!

Here is everything you will need to prepare for your registration. I´m taking into consideration that each agency has a slightly different process, some sites require only your personal details and some all four steps listed below:


1. Your personal information and contact details

Full Name

Residential Address (and mailing address if it is different)

Email / Phone number

2. Digital scanned copy of your government issued ID, it can be either 

Passport – valid for international travel

National Identification Card

Drivers Licence (in some cases)

Your documents must show your full name, expiration date, and birthdate. They should be uploaded as a single file, so you will need to combine multiple scanned pages into a single document and submit it in PDF, JPEG or TIFF format.

3. Pass a Quiz or test (for example at iStockphoto)

It´s not a rocket science, you can easily pass the test! Just read the training manuals and tutorials provided by the agency – all answers are there! In general, questions are related to the microstock policies and cover subjects such as image quality (noise, sharpness, artifacts), model and property releases, copyright (logos and trademarks) and licenses and their use.

4. Sample of your best images for review (you will need up to 15 photos as JPEGs in an sRGB color profile)

This part is very important. If you don´t know how to choose your best photos from your portfolio, here is what you can do:

Look at microstock sites and see what kind of images they feature on their welcome pages – you will find photos with a commercial appeal. Keep this in mind and in your selection process, try to stay away from photos that are too artistic.

Once you have selected your images, look at them at full size (100%). This way you will be able to spot anything that otherwise could escape your attention. When reviewing your photos, look for these common issues:

  • Focus Problems – your photos should be in sharp focus when viewed at full resolution and the focus should be on the main subject of your photo. If you were shooting with a shallow depth of field (e.g. f/1,4 – f/5.6), your focal point should be at the right place, for example on the person´s eyes



  • Noise, Grain, Artifacts – your images should not contain excessive or distracting noise, grain or jpeg artifacts. These issues are usually caused by high ISO settings, shooting in JPEG or shooting with the point-and-shoot camera.  To avoid these issues, choose images that were shot in RAW with the lowest ISO settings possible and that are properly exposed



  • Overuse of noise reduction or too much sharpening you know you went too far with it when your image lost detail, looks soft or over-processed with lots of artifacts that were not originally in the photo



  • Sensor Dust dirty camera sensor or dirty lens can cause dark spots that appear on your image. Clean your equipment or remove the spots in the post process.



  • Chromatic Aberration – this is an optical problem caused by your lens. It´s that purple or green fringing noticeable on the edges of objects, especially in the high-contrast areas of your image – like on the edges of the tree against a sky. To avoid this issue, use a high-quality lens or remove it in post-production



  • Watermarks/Signatures / Personal logo – your photos cannot contain any of these!



  • Poor editing – your edits should be invisible when the image is viewed at full size



  • Keywords/Titles – metadata is what helps customers to discover your content.

Great titles read like a sentence or phrase and not like a list of words. They should be descriptive and unique to each photo, even when your image is from the same series. Try to answer these main questions: Who / How / Why / When / Where / What. For editorial images also include exact date and location and factual description of what´s going on in the photo.

Great keywords ( up to 50 per photo ) are detailed and accurate and relate directly to what is in the image or what the image represents.  You can also include words that describe concept, emotions or mood of the image.

  • Model and Property Releases – if you intend to submit your photos for commercial use, you will need model or property release for every recognizable person or private property in your photos. Although each agency prefers that you submit their own releases, they will usually accept forms from other agencies too.

Download Shutterstock releases here  (available in 15 languages )

Download iStock releases here – (available in 23 languages )

Download AdobeStock releases here


I wish you a smooth and fast application process and lots of success with selling your photos!

Down below is a visual step-by-step application process you will come across when you decide to sign up at Shutterstock (you can access Shutterstock contributor account here: For larger view, just click on the photo ↓