Mobile Photography Receives a Nod from Istock

Long have I heard photographers lament, “I can’t submit to micro-stock sites, they only want un-processed, clean images…”

There may have been a time when that was true, but istock has been throwing off the shackles and restrictions for years, and just yesterday they have taken a step further, sending a photography brief to their contributors that they will now accept mobile photos!

Let me try to shed some light on creative photography/processing & micro-stock first

Photographers are more than welcome to upload heavily processed photos (HDR, TiltShift, Cross-processed, TTV, you name it). In fact, many of their more pricey offerings such as Vetta and Agency line images are processed and trendy. These images command a higher price point, they’re more refined, and better represent what’s hot right now.

I absolutely love those images,  however, it is always wise to also upload a clean, properly processed version of the image right alongside. Why? Many times the graphic designer who is purchasing images for their projects needs more than one and often those are sourced throughout a variety of photographer’s portfolios. In this instance they need the coloring/exposure to be consistent from one image to the next. They may absolutely adore your composition and subject, but if the image is pushed too far creatively, they may not be able to make it work within their project. Offer both and you’ll be casting your net wider.

Now, onto’s announcement that they’re now accepting mobile photos!

The impossible seems to have happened! Stock photography has traditionally been a realm of expensive SLR cameras with nice bloated sensors (so that those purchasing your images can get the most mileage possible from images bought).

Staying up-to-date with the trends their photography brief states, “Social media defines the trends in imagery right now. People want images that look and feel like those streaming past second-by-second online. We think the best way to deliver that is to encourage mobile photography submissions from our contributors.”

This is indeed exciting news and really opens up the world of micro-stock photography to a whole new group of creators. They offer a few pieces of guidance for those of you looking to contribute mobile images:

  1. Get the exposure right – Brighter is better. Mobile cameras tend to have a fixed aperture and a narrow shutter speed range. Images taken in low light force the ISO to go up and introduce noise and artifacts. Some more advanced apps like Camera+™ and Camera Awesome™ have controls for setting focus and exposure separately giving you much better control.
  2. Don’t over filter – Filter sets or editing apps can be great for adding some style or mood to an already great image, however you also risk adding additional noise or compression to your image.
  3. Make copies – Some apps don’t save the original image versions or allow you to revert once a filter has been applied. Saving a copy before you edit can prevent a catastrophe.
  4. Max your Resolution – Many photo apps capture or save only the medium resolution files to save your mobile storage and data costs when uploading. Check your app preferences and be sure you are saving the maximum image resolution possible.
  5. Tag your uploads – Be sure to use the keyword tag MobileStock in your uploads and add an additional note in the image description about the image capture device/filters. This will let the editor know that your submission was captured on a mobile device and should be inspected accordingly. It also helps the customer know that they are viewing a mobile captured image.

As a graphic designer, I’m excited to see where this leads and how these images are incorporated into more advertising and marketing campaigns. As a photographer, I’m looking forward to submitting some of my own shots, and perhaps I’ll even “mobile” treat some of my high-res DSLR images. Get out there and get shooting!

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My background as a fine artist (painter/illustrator) and graphic designer gives me a somewhat unique perspective when at a shoot composing my photographs. I came to photography a bit later in my creative career, but I've embraced the challenge and excitement of harnessing a new medium and have worked to make it my own.

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