Let's start with some explanations, because you may know yet what it is, therefore see how it works.
Microstock is a website of an agency selling pictures, images (drawings, 3D, Vector) and even videos (on some sites) to whoever need, websites, magazines, book illustrations, etc... And on those sales, you earn 30% commission in average (noting that on most sites, the more you sell, the more the percentage increases!), but it varies depending on the site. For payments, it's very simple, they all use Paypal!
So I selected a few hundred photographs to try my luck, and 3D images created specially for the occasion. I put it all online at these sites, but beware, they don't take anything you submit to them, they make a selection on various criteria of quality, framing, interest, marketable (for them), etc... Let me be very clear, they not look at all the artistry, the unusual at best, a little creative marketing oriented, but that's all.
Last detail, all these sites have an initial test phase, you submit between 3 and 10 images depending on circumstances, they're studying, and after that, they only allow you (or not) they propose images for sale. Some sites are much harder to the first selection than others, but I'll get down...
Each site has different priorities and guidelines, the acceptance rate is very variable, on some I'm at 90% while on others, I'm barely at 40% with same images! Which gives finally different portfolios depending on the site!
Let me show you microstocks where I work for now...
One I prefer is FOTOLIA , there comes quite easily, it's multi-lingual, fairly well organized and easy to use, and more referrals are entirely in French, and sales are Euros, which is fine for the Europe.
Well, a "technical" detail, amounts of commission are less interesting as two years ago, now you start at only 20% for the first 100 sales, and you can hardly reach the 31% after only... 10000 sales! But you can't get away from that microstock, finally it's better to be in.
You can look at the portfolio I feed here :
The second site, nice and not too difficult to access DREAMSTIME, it's also multi-lingual. In addition, the referencing of images is in English, the ideal is to use it directly in the language of Shakespeare, for those who are doing in English, it is finally easy! The interface is well, despite some little quirks.
Main drawback, sales are in dollars, and having regard to euro / dollar at the moment, this isn't the most interresting for Europeans... You can see my portfolio here :
Then a new site that's putting the turbo to increase its image bank as soon as possible because they started from scratch in January 2010, DepositPhotos. But it also works in Dollars,
but you can still put the interface in French! For now, it's pretty easy to be accepted, but they may be more demanding in the near future.
Finally, after two years, they are now a big images database and they are always cool with the image selection system. It's a good thing!
Of course, I've created a portfolio, you can see here :
The following is more selective, it's ShutterStock where I have finally been accepted! In the third test anyway ... This is one of the largest image bank now (more than 22 millions!) but they are the specialists of the subscription
for sales, so it doesn't relate much to each sale, but in exchange it sells well and fast! But it also pays in dollars, too bad, but hey, we can not have everything! Note the possibility of a French interface.
To know, more your sale and more you win money, increasing steps (amounts of sales since the begining) are $500, $3000 and $10000, it's easy and efficient!
You can see me there :
I just mention those that sell well because they have high traffic. For the others, less so, their traffic is lower, you must have a portfolio with many images, at least 1,500 to 2,000 images, to hope some sales ... But this isn't my case, such a quantity of images is labor intensive and take lot of time! But let me just introduce them to you ...
So here 123RF, the entry selection isn't too hard, their interface has been completely redone, in multiple languages??, it's correct with sometimes strange menus. They sell and pay in Dollars
But the submit of images is very simple because they require no specific category, all done with keywords and the description (in English only).
Since about middle of 2011, sales was really increased because they had signed some partnership with other websites.
My portfolio can be seen here :
Another site with that I work is BIGSTOCKPHOTO, it works exactly the same way as the previous with the same constraint of large portfolio to do some sale. The mine is currently small, but you can watch it here :
This site : Most Photos is a Microstock like with special features. First, it's Swedish, that changes because others are rather North American, and I assure you straight away, it's not written in Swedish but in English, which is still easier.
First major difference, there is, for now, no selection at the entrance and then either! They depend on the seriousness of contributors to do than make pretty pictures, knowing that other members can comment and "like" or not.
Then, the sales prices depend on the subscription type chosen by the buyer, it goes from 0.19 to 10 Euros (yes, Euro, it's better than the Dollar for us Europeans!) and above, they'll paid a commission of 50%. It's quite well paid compared to the others.
Finally, referencing images is really very simple, like the site 123RF, there are no categories to choose from, this implies to study well the keywords that are used.
To end this little review, what about sales? From what I've read on various forums, some say from zero sales in 6 months while others are 4 or 5 in ten days. I think as usual, the portfolios of significant size, and quality, will sell better than others, even if it seems far scores of sales sites like ShutterStock or Fotolia. Anyway, I found their system too simple to not be tried! Now, you see... ;-) My pictures are here :
I'm signed in on another microstock which exist since some years, it's CanStockPhoto. They're a database with more than 6 million of images and more than 130,000 footages. They're the particularity of validate picture extremely quickly, in few hours max it's done! In this website, I've a validation rate around 85% of my images, that's very good for me! From the footage, they take between 24 and 48 hours and they accept almost all, because they've very few for now...
They pay in Dollar, commissions are between 20 and 50%, its depend of using of the buyer, and subscriptions pay between $0.25 (Small to Large) and $0.35 (Xlarge and Vector). They use Paypal to pay you, always also easy!
About sales, it isn't so big but commissions are interesting and the site is really easy to use, well... why not!
A small practical detail, no need to fill classes, they are only based on your keywords, you need to write them properly, but it saves a lot of time! You just specify "photo" or "illustration" and that's all. It's a good microstock website, easy and efficient that I recommend, you can just click on the sigle... ;-)
It's been quite a while I was trying to be accepted among the best known of microstocks, I named iStockphoto! Well it's done! It took me no less than eight tests, but I got there! Like what you have to be persevering in life ... p>
So why this one more than another? Just because it's the world leader of the activity of microstocks! They have significantly fewer pictures than the others, still more than 9 million (2012-04-25), but they require a quality and creativity very significantly higher than all others. So they have more customers looking for quality, which is great for progress.
In practice, they limit the number of images that can be offered per week, only 18 at the start, then when your sales increase, the number of images you can offer also increases.
Regarding the royalties, you start to 15% in non-exclusive, or 25% in exclusive mode (if you fancy), and it goes up by step with your sales, up 20 % in non-exclusive and 45% in exclusive. This may seem small compared to other microstocks, but be aware that in iStockphoto the start of sales can be slow (a lot of months), but once it started with three, four times less images of Fotolia for example, you have as much (maybe more) in turnover
Last practical advice for those who attempt the adventure, we must propose three images with three different styles REALLY to the minimum resolution (1600x1200), it's better! Then, once accepted, only offer images high quality, why don't hesitate to offer a very good image in only 5MP, rather than an average image into 12MP. Because the small may be accepted, but the greater will be rejected ruthlessly! But they explain very precisely the reject and specify reasons for each image, and if you can represent it or not.
That's all for now, this list is far from exhaustive because there are other microstocksites, but I usually speak only of what I know!