How to Make Money from your Digital Images

May 20th, 2010

Notes from How to make money from your digital images, written by Douglas Freer.

Short Summary

I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from this book when I bought it as the cover looked a bit cheesy but as they say, never judge a book by it’s cover and all that. The content is superb and after reading the entire book on my holiday I know a hell of a lot more than what I did. The main point the author stresses throughout is keep it simple regarding your stock images. One small thing that was a bit annoying was the errors the book had, like double words and missing ones, but not a big deal overall.

If you are interested in selling your images to microstock sites, you should buy this book.


  • The first microstock library was founded by a Canadian, Bruce Livingstone in 2000.
  • My advice is to make sure you send your work to both subscription-based and single-sale libraries if you want to maximize your market exposure and, thus, sales.
  • My mantra is this: simple sells. As a general principle, simple strong images with an obvious subject with immediate appeal sell. This holds true for almost any subject you care to think of. Simple sells for two reasons:
    • Simple images catch the eye of the buyer. A “simple” image stands out from the crowd, grabbing the attention. When a buyer has to choose from possibly thousands of similar images, this can be important.
    • Many stock images are used small. Small images need to be simple to be understood and to convey their message to their audience. Fussy images are less likely to reproduce clearly at smaller reproduction sizes.
  • It is important to know why you are taking a photograph, and what your sales pitch is. If it is a travel shot of France, does it say, “This is France”? If not, why would a buyer choose your image over other images that might better communicate a sense of place?
  • What designers really like are isolated objects.
  • Look carefully before you take the picture. Don’t just snap away. The microstocks will reject snapshots.
  • What are you trying to say with the image? What market are you targeting? Think like a buyer, and build your shot accordingly.
  • Remember that simple sells. Ask yourself: Is the image too cluttered? Is the main point of interest too small in the shot?
  • Are you using the right lens or focal length? Should you get down lower, or maybe up higher, to make your photograph more interesting?
  • If you are shooting people, are your subjects looking at the camera? Are they frowning when they should be smiling?
  • The idea behind the rule of thirds is to place your main subject at the intersection of the lines of the grid., thus placing the image roughly one third of the way in and one third of the way up or down from the edge.
  • With portraits and group shots, such as those great business shots that sell so well, you have to be careful to accomplish the following:
    • Focus on the eyes, not the end of the nose. (Focusing manually helps.)
    • Use a lens with a suitable focal length.
    • Use a wide aperture. A wide aperture throws the background out of focus so that the viewer’s attention is concentrated on the person.
  • You cannot correct image defects unless you can see them, so get a decent monitor and calibrate it so that it shows accurate colours. Calibration products include Pantone’s Huey and Colorvision Spider 2.
  • All digital cameras I am aware of output JPEG. So, why on earth would you use raw file format if all cameras support JPEG? The reason is quality. Raw mode retains virtually all  the data seen by the sensor when the shot is taken, so it allows for greater image manipulation later on.
  • White balance is vitally important if your shot is to look like the original scene.
  • Whenever possible, keep your photos in 16 bits until you have finished editing it. More data equal better results. That means outputting 16-bit TIFFs from your raw file converter.
  • To minimise noise, shoot at low ISO.
  • Always check your images at 100% magnification on screen in your chosen image editor. That way, you are looking at the actual pixels and you will see defects much more clearly than at lower magnification.
  • The simplest solution for noise is to use good specialized noise-reduction software like Neat Image or Noise Ninja.
  • Don’t repeat save JPEGs as this causes cumulative image degradation.
  • Logo = microstock rejection. Remove them!
  • More lights can provide more options, but two or three light systems should cover 95% of what you will ever need to do.


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