Tag Archives: Microstock photography

Microstocks are for scientists too

Money is rarely directly discussed on science blogs, but rarely science bloggers say that they don’t care. Quite a number of them run advertisement or affiliate programs on their sites, trying to monetize the traffic they generate. And while I don’t know specific numbers, my estimate is (some time ago I did run such programs on a photography blog which was way more popular that this one) that in majority of cases it buys them a coffee or two per week. This blog is hosted over at and team forbids inserting your own scripts into the blog (occasional affiliate links seem to be fine, if you’re interested). Making money from Google ads wasn’t an option for me. But I have tried to earn money by sending images of molecules to microstock sites and that seems to be more profitable than previous strategy.

Inspiration to write this post came from the fact that I’ve recently logged into one of the sites and I was quite surprised to see that despite the fact I didn’t upload anything for almost two years, my images are still selling quite well. In majority of microstock sites your gallery exposure is bigger if you upload new stuff on regular basis. So the conclusion is that after two years there’s still not many similar images of molecules to choose from.


Above you can see one of the attempts to create nice picture of hemoglobin molecule. That should give you an idea what images are selling well. Simple, clean, bright colours etc. Few other suggestions:

  • pay attention to the license under which the software you use to generate images is distributed. For example, you cannot use VMD or Chimera (both have non-commercial licenses), while Qutemol (under GPL) is fine.
  • use automated submitters (available for all platforms), instead of relying on ftp. You just don’t want to manually annotate dozens of images on the web. The other route is to fill IPCT tags.
  • submit to all microstock sites that let you in, but start with the bigger ones (iStockPhoto, Dreamstime, Fotolia, Shutterstock etc.)
  • if you have time, experiment with graphics or 3D software. Additional modifications in GIMP or Blender occasionally produce interesting images.
  • If you live in a strange country, check first regulations under which you can earn money via microstock. In Poland for example, you need to start a company first (which, as my Polish readers can confirm, is a really painful process)


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Posted by on November 5, 2009 in Money


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