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When it Comes to Microstock put Copyright and Quality Before Composition

In my last blog post ‘Are your walking photos good enough to sell?’ I provided an introduction to microstock and how it is possible to earn a small income from pictures that you take whilst out walking. In this blog post I want to continue with giving some information about the type of pictures that microstock sites are looking for and, perhaps more importantly, the pictures they won’t accept.

 There are three areas that you need to become familiar with if you want to navigate the path to success with microstock.

Copyright  - People, Brands and Property

First people; if you have people in your pictures there are some very strict rules. In short you cannot include anyone in your pictures unless you have a ‘model release’. Model releases help protect both the photographer and customer from any claims that may be brought by the model. By obtaining a model release, the photographer is given the right to use the model’s likeness under the conditions laid out in the release. All microstock sites will provide some forms where you can add your (the photographer) information, the model’s information and witness information.

Make sure you have a model release for all people in your images (even if their back is to the camera or only part of the face is visible). If you don’t, the image will be rejected.

When it comes to brands & logos, microstock sites will not sell anything that might infringe copyright. This means that you cannot include any signs, logos, badges, etc. in your pictures. This may sound ok until you realise how this affects the pictures you take. For example, it’s no good taking a picture of a town high street with shop signs. You also cannot include any cars or lorries that are recognisable even if you remove the badge. A VW Golf will still look like a VW Golf. You need to look closely at the pictures you have taken to find any badges – for example, if you have people in the image check for logos on shoes, jackets, bags, etc. Also look for logos on cameras, phones and even the collar on your dog.

You may also need a property release; a property release must be submitted for any commercial content that is shot on private property, or is taken on public property but features a distinctive private property. I have had a few pictures rejected for not having a property release – although some other sites have accepted the same picture. So far I have just avoided submitting pictures that I know need a property release.

Image Quality - Cut Down the Noise

As you might expect microstock sites are looking for high quality images. This is so they look good on screen and in print and can be enlarged by the buyers. It is sometimes possible to sucessfully submit pictures from a cheaper camera, but you may need to work hard to get rid of noise and artefacts inherent to less expensive cameras. To produce images of the right quality I would suggest that you really need a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera. They can of course be quite expensive, but in my opinion a great investment. I started shooting and successfully submitting photographs to microstock sites with a Nikon D60 – and then I invested in my current camera, a Nikon D7000.

Screen Shot 2017-03-04 at 20.07.17.png

One of the first images I took on my D60  - and it still sells on some microstock sites


I love the D7000 and take it on every walk. In a later blog post I will talk a little more about what equipment I use (not a lot to be honest) and some of the things I have tried but no longer use very often. I want to take the right equipment but I also want to enjoy the walk and that means not carrying huge amounts of equipment.

When you take your pictures with microstock in mind, please shoot in RAW (or at least maximum quality JPG) and always save at the maximum quality possible. As a guideline keep your ISO rating between 100-400 (raise to more if needed, but for daylight photography or flash photography keep between the mentioned values).

You will always need to process your images before you submit them to make sure there is no significant noise, the correct exposure, crop, etc. and I will talk about this in future blog posts together with the types of software (I use Adobe Lightroom for example) that you can use – it’s not all expensive, indeed some of the software that you can use is free.

Composition - More Than a Pretty Picture

The composition of your picture is, of course, in many ways the most important aspect of taking great pictures and to some extent separates a ‘snap’ from an image that you can sell commercially. The reasons I have put this last is that no matter how good your picture is in terms of the subject, unless you manage any copyright issues and get the quality right it will always be rejected.

You can also take lots of pictures on your walk with your DSLR (unlike the days of film when each exposure would cost money to process) and therefore your chances of taking some great pictures with a commercial composition is high. For me, having a picture rejected because the composition is not considered to be commercial is disappointing, but not the end of the world. However, if you capture that wonderful landscape with breath taking light on a walk that you may only do once and the image is rejected because the quality falls short, you could (if you are like me) be very upset.You may also find that some sites like the composition of your photograph and others don’t. One of my best selling images on Shutterstock hardly sells on Dreamstime and vice a versa.

There are lots and lots of books about how to take great pictures and you will read about exposure, dividing the frame into thirds, etc. It’s a good idea to read and learn from them but please do bear in mind that you are taking pictures for submission to microstock sites, and therefore you need to think about a different audience. For example, images with quite a lot of space can be good as the buyer of the image may want to overlay some words. Buyers also like unusual shots of objects and places that are recognisable. One of my best selling microstock images is of an empty street in a Surrey village. No-one is going to buy the image to hang on their wall, but if you were writing something about the village of Shere it could be perfect…


Screen Shot 2017-03-04 at 20.04.43.png

My current most popular images on Shutterstock

It is unlikely that landscapes will sell if the subject is too generalised like some fields with some hills in the distance or, even worse, just a sunset. The landscape will probably need some recognisable objects or people in it to give it scale and allow the buyer of the image to illustrate some emotion, activity or place. Don’t ignore commonly photographed landmarks, farmland, industry or urban infrastructure; they can all become great microstock images for you. Submitting the pictures only costs time, so experiment and try different types of shots and see which ones are the most successful. In a future blog post I will provide some tips on how to efficiently and quickly submit your images to multiple sites at once, with great titles and great key words.

So that’s all for this post on microstock, it would great if could leave any comments below.

Future blog posts will include:
Workflow – how to submit one picture to multiple microstock sites the easy way.
Software – how to manage and process your lovely images without breaking the bank.
Equipment – the essential and the not so essential.


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Comments

Chris on Friday, 10 March 2017 18:16
Good advice

Thanks Richard, the people and branding thing can be a real nuisance at times. I submitted a photo composed with my wife as a small red dot looking out from the top of the Old Man of Conniston. I was rejected because of lack of model release and branding. I did protest but to no avail. My wife is tiny and unrecognisable and happens to be wearing a branded rucksack not that you'd know.

Cheers Chris

Thanks Richard, the people and branding thing can be a real nuisance at times. I submitted a photo composed with my wife as a small red dot looking out from the top of the Old Man of Conniston. I was rejected because of lack of model release and branding. I did protest but to no avail. My wife is tiny and unrecognisable and happens to be wearing a branded rucksack not that you'd know. Cheers Chris
Chris on Friday, 10 March 2017 18:17
Good advice

https://www.flickr.com/photos/pulsefoto/18341904485/in/album-72157653833800085/

[img]https://www.flickr.com/photos/pulsefoto/18341904485/in/album-72157653833800085/[/img]
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Introduction to iFootpath

iFootpath provides a mechanism to capture and share details of walks, but it is worth explaining the essential structure of a walk as they are stored in the iFootpath database. The basic concept is that a walk consists of any number of sections that are joined end to end. For each section we might want to describe views or other points of interest about that part of the walk.

The database that underpins iFootpath provides the mechanisms to store the structure and details of each walk, descriptions, photographs and mapping data for the overall walk and each section of it. It is not mandatory to enter information into every single field in the forms we provide, although some basic details are essential to ensure the walk database stays manageable and searcheable.

Each walk entered can be shared with all other iFootpath users, but before a walk (and its sections) are shared there are three stages it must go through. The first stage is as a "Draft". When a walk is in draft it is only visible and editable by you, the author of that walk. Whilst it is in draft form you can add sections, photographs, further description and refine it as you see fit. You can do as little or as much as you like. However, it is worth remembering that if someone (you) wants to print it off and take it as a walking guide, then it is worth taking the time to detail each section reasonably concisely. Long descriptions are generally distracting when walking and a short, concise version is usually much easier to use.

When you are happy with the walk description and its sections you can set the status to "Ready". This does not yet make it visible to everyone. It does, however, lock the editing (although you can change it back to draft and continue editing) and alerts the systems administrators that it requires reviewing prior to being "Published". When set to "Ready" the walk will be reviewed to check it contains the basic data needed and to ensure the content is clean. We do not allow content to include obscenities, swearing or other offensive language or pictures. This review does not check the walk for accuracy; whilst we would love to test each and every walk through walking we simply do not have the time. If we do find something wrong with the walk we will contact you and ask that it is fixed prior to marking it as "Published".

Once the walk is published it is now visible to any user of iFootpath and is therefore in the public domain given that anyone can register and access iFootpath. You are therefore responsible that any photographs used in your walk description are not infringing copyright. See our terms and conditions for further information on what we do and do not allow.

Published walks are available to all users of iFootpath and are listed in the walk browser to read or print and will be listed in the iPhone/iPod Touch application for download.

Walks in iFootpath

A walk in iFootpath is an introduction to the overall walk, identification of where it is and starts, some overview notes and general commentary.

Title (required)

A walk title should provide a brief indication of where or what the walk is. Walk titles do not have to be unique.

Description (required)

This provides a text area where you can describe the walk. Explain what you love about the walk, what makes it different and what people will see. In addition try to answer all the questions you might ask before going on a route. What sort of paths does the walk use? Any steep accents/descents? Are there any stiles? Are people likely to come across horse/cows/sheep?

County (required)

The county in which the walk starts is essential to help finding the walk in the database. Some walks may straddle more than one county - we suggest you select the county in which the walk starts or is mostly within.

Area (optional)

This field can be used, if you wish, to further identify where the walk is. This is particularly useful for large counties.

Walk Type (required)

To help quickly finding the right type of walk this provides a basic walk classification or type. Some walks may span two of these types - please use the type that fits the majority of the walk.

Length (required)

The length (in miles) of a walk is an approximation of the overall distance walked, not a measure of the distance "as the crow flies". iFootpath automatically completes this field based on the GPX file that has been uploaded.

Grade (required)

The grade of a walk is an indicator of how difficult it is to walk. This does not take into account the walk length but does suggest how challenging the walk will be. An easy walk, graded as 1 (and shown as 1 walking boot) indicates a walk that is essentially flat, has no sharp hills to climb, has no stiles or other obstacles, is easy to navigate (probably along a well worn path) and is suitable for most levels of fitness. Do be aware that the level of stamina required will vary and you should only walk within your limits - the indication of walk length will help with this. A difficult walk, graded as 5 (and represented by 5 boots) indicates a walk that is strenuous and involves steep ascents and/or descents. It may be technically challenging involving difficult terrain or obstacles.

Please note that the grading for walks is subjective and open to interpretation and should only be used as a guide when selecting a walk.

Map Ref / Start Point (optional)

The walk start point is an Ordnance Survey map reference to pinpoint the start point of the walk. This should be in the format:

AB 123 456

Further details of this system can be seen on the Ordnance Survey website.

Map Link (optional)

This optional field allows you to include a link to a web page containing a map showing the walk start. This is not the place to include any other links and the system will reject links to anything but Streetmap or Google Maps.

Start Point Co-ordinates (optional)

This pair of fields allows you to enter the longitude and latitude for the start point. iFootpath automatically completes this field based on the uploaded GPX file.

Key Image (required)

This is the main photograph used to illustrate the walk and can, if you wish, be the only photograph used of the walk. We recommend that you use a picture that characterises the walk, if possible, to show potential walkers what they might find or see. The picture must be in any of the main image formats (JPEG, GIF, BMP, PNG) and image files up to 2Mb in size are permitted. Once an image is uploaded it will be resized automatically and a smaller version saved that is optimised for viewing on both this website and iFootpath Mobile.

There are many image editing and manipulation applications available, so many that we cannot make particular recommendations although almost all are excellent. Our preferred way of saving images for iFootpath is to save or export them at a maximum size of 1024x1024 pixels as a JPEG file. This creates a file that is well under 2Mb in size, contains plenty of detail and displays well in almost any browser. Please be sure that you own the copyright to any images uploaded - you must have taken them yourself or have explicit permission. If you are concerned about image theft then we also suggest you include a small watermark in any corner of the image, but please remember that large watermarks that hide the image will not be popular with viewers!

Pdf file

Pdf file for walk

Icon (recommended)

The icon is a small image, 60 pixels square, used to provide a label for the walk when displayed in lists or in iFootpath Mobile. It is recommended that a small, square image for such use is created and uploaded. This should be in JPEG, GIF, BMP or PNG format and less than 100Kb in size. If you do not provide an icon the walk will be automatically given a generic system icon. If you do upload a photograph for the walk icon its size will be checked by the system and it will automatically be resized to 60 pixels square. However, please also note that if the image is not square in format it may be cropped and you will not get the result you might have expected. Just thought you should know!

Getting There (required)

This provides a text area to explain how to get to the start of the walk. It is good to include a post code.

Preview

This function allows you to see how your published walk would look, before you submit as 'Ready' for review.

Status

When a walk is created and saved in iFootpath its status is automatically set to 'Draft'. This implies that you are still working on it and may want to come back later to add walk sections, images or other information. When you are ready for the walk to be shared with other iFootpath registered users then the status should be changed to 'Ready'. This will automatically notify the system that you want to share the walk. The system will check to ensure you have completed the required information and alert a reviewer. The reviewer will read through to check the content is clean and consistent with our terms of use. This does not check the accuracy of the walk details or any other information. If there are issues with the contents you will be contacted by email. The walk status will also be reset to 'Draft' in this case. More likely, however, that everything is fine in which case its status will be set to 'Published' at which point it becomes available for viewing and downloading by any registered user of iFootpath. This includes download to iFootpath Mobile.

Filters

Filters allow you to narrow down your search for walks of interest. By County restricts the list of walks to those in the selected County. The Filters links at the top of the list page allow you to jump quickly to the filters or to clear them.

Keyword Search

The Keyword search facility will search through the walk descriptions and notes to find words or phrases you specify.

My GPX Files

This page gives you the list of GPX files that you have uploaded from iFootpath mobile (or from other sources). You are able to view, edit, delete or download these files. Once you are happy with your GPX file you can 'convert to walk' to create a draft walk based on this data. This walk will appear under 'Manage My Walks'.

Manage My Walks

The list of walks presented are those you have written and entered into iFootpath. From here you can filter the list if you have lots to narrow down your search, list all or just those with a particular status. If you select a 'Published' or 'Ready' walk you will see a read-only version of your walk, although if 'Ready' you can reset status to 'Draft' again for further editing.

Walk Sections in iFootpath

Each walk section represents a particular piece of a walking route. The start and end of each section are defined by waypoints. Each section joins onto the next to form the complete walk. There is no limit to the number of sections a walk can have, but on a long walk we recommend breaking the route down into manageable pieces that are delineated by particular landmarks, turnings or changes in obvious route. Each section has its own photograph and descriptive text which should hold a photograph that illustrates the section and any instructions or other notes you want to add that may be of use in helping navigation or pointing things out.

Section Title (required)

The section title is used to provide a short name for the section. It is useful in section titles to provide an indication of the start and end, so using names of landmarks, roads, etc is a useful aid. Sections will be named automatically as the name of the waypoint at the end of that section. It is recommended that you rename the sections as something more useful to walkers.

Section Description (required)

This field is used to provide as much information as you wish about the walk section. This should include notes on navigation, even if obvious, and any further information you care to share about views, historical notes, things to look for, etc.

Key Image (recommended)

A picture can save many words and will often be very useful in helping to navigate or spot things along the route. The picture must be in any of the main image formats (JPEG, GIF, BMP, PNG) and image files up to 2Mb in size are permitted. Once an image is uploaded it will be resized automatically and a smaller version saved that is optimised for viewing on both this website and iFootpath Mobile.

Our preferred way of saving images for iFootpath is to save or export them at a maximum size of 1024x1024 pixels as a JPEG file. Please be sure that you own the copyright to any images uploaded - you must have taken them yourself or have explicit permission.

Map Ref (optional)

This allows the OS Map reference for the start and end of the section to be entered. These should be in the format:

AB 123 456

Further details of this system can be seen on the Ordnance Survey website.

Start/End Point (optional)

This provides the facility to capture the co-ordinates for the start and end points of the walk section. iFootpath will automatically complete this field based on the GPX file used to create the walk.

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