Stock Photo Research Tool Rebuilt

I’ve built a new research tool prototype with new tech, to help you find ideas/topics/subjects for your stock images, i.e. what to shoot. The old one was hitting the database too hard, and built on difficult to maintain technology, so it’s time for an update.

Since I put it live yesterday I’ve had some positive comments about it’s speed and clean looks, but also got some complaints about how it’s no longer possible to copy/paste keywords in bulk from the page, and I wanted to address this particular issue because this is intentional:

Keyword Spamming is BAD

The keywords displayed on the old picNiche tool were never meant to be used in bulk as keywords for stock photos, they are related to the original search made in the tool, but applying them in bulk to photos is equivalent to keyword-spamming (which I am very strongly against) which directly harms the quality of search results presented to image buyers, and harms conversion rates for sales (as buyers then have to spend longer wading through images before they find the ones they want).

Every time your image appears in a search because of a keyword, but is not purchased because that keyword is not relevant, that image is downranked by each agency’s algorithm, and so appears and sells subsequently even fewer times.

For keyword suggestions I highly recommend the stock photo keywording tool provided by MicrostockGroup which provides a more accurate way to select only keywords relevant to you image, and by applying only relevant keywords (not just popular ones) you will improve your sales significantly. Or of course if you don’t want to take a little time to keyword your photos yourself, you can buy keywords from picWorkflow’s highly experienced keywording team :)

How to use the research tool to decide what to shoot?

The stock photo research tool gives you an arbitrary rating for possible search queries, (i.e. the ‘conversion rate’ of images matching that search at a popular agency). Enter a search query you think an image buyer would enter, and the ‘rating’ column shows a number predicting the chance of a sale if the buyer used that search (so be mindful of spelling, and use common sense).

If you’re a really awesome photographer, anything over about 20-25 is good; if you’re producing average quality then something over 100-200. Anything over a few thousand is probably a false-positive with either too few images to predict reliably, or unlikely search phrase; though again a little common sense is needed… use search queries a human being might actually search, this tool will not help you ‘game’ the system.

More features will be added

I’ve not finished the new site yet (it’s just a prototype) so will update the page with some more information in future. As suggested by others today I will be re-adding the rating-over-time graph and a shorter set of keyword suggestions to help with quicker checks on related niches/topics/ideas (but I will intentionally make it difficult to copy/paste keywords in bulk to discourage keyword spamming). I will also have it suggest related niches from the search history once a bit more data has been gathered (that I can test suggestion algorithms with).

Please give it a try then let me know what you think, I’ll try and accommodate any (except of course the spamming helper) suggestions or requests :)

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Stock Performer: Best of the Best

Luis and Oliver from Stock Performer gave a fantastic presentation at Microstock Expo (if you couldn’t attend, the full conference videos should be online in the not too distant future, you should totally check them out, since I’m in there too ;)) and published their raw data and full analysis on a very thorough and detailed blog post: Keywording for Success.

I caught up with them at the expo and we threw some ideas back and forth on where the best opportunities are, so I figured I’d do a quick run through their data with what I have here, then flag up some of their suggested topics you really should be shooting.

You can also grab the raw combined data in spreadsheet form here.

Flagging Easy Wins

I pulled out my weighted (by search volumes) ratings for all the suggested terms (good and bad) so have a confidence rating for each term (it’s quite a vague indicator, but good for our use here) and by looking at the 200 best converting topics from SP. I pulled the top 40 topics across both our systems:


Not quite sure why handshake is in there, presumably there is still demand beyond quality of the supply which is surprising, but the rest look pretty awesome to me.

They’re generally quite plain topics, no skydiving or boar hunting for example, which may suggest stock’s core rather than it’s more creative edges, which hints to me some of these topics may be coming back from the dead because of many contributors moving out the middle and demand picking up in new buyer spaces :)

Stock Performers Analytics Tools

If you’ve not tried Stock Performer yet, give it a go. They have way more agencies supported than I thought possible, their stats are fantastic and they’re really helping photographers to focus on subjects to shoot for the best sales, not only broadly like by sharing this data, but specifically for your own portfolio too.

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Completed: picWorkflow Server Upgrades

Website under construction with webserver

You’ve probably noticed the picWorkflow website running ever more slowly recently, sorry about that, the demand for the distribution service has been steadily growing over the years. picWorkflow runs on a pretty slim margin and was originally built pretty quickly (2 weeks for beta version) so I’ve had to hold back from spending on major upgrades and just fill gaps as needed, but it has finally reached the point where I’ve exhausted every optimisation I can add to the main server so I’ll be upgrading picWorkflow’s infrastructure and extending some of our cloud-connected features over the next week or so.

I can’t say specifically when each downtime will be (I’ll be testing a few ideas so may have to rollback some changes), though the site will usually be be back within 30 minutes, I expect a couple of hours (probably during early morning GMT, late night US) on Monday 23rd September and Friday/Saturday 27/28 as I put the final parts in place.

Thank you very much for your patience, we’ll be back up and running harder, better, faster than ever before as we get into October :)

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Why picWorkflow?

I saw this video today, and it got me wondering… Why do I do what I do? At first glance it seems pretty obvious, I run my own small business because it a) gives me interesting things to do, b) keeps me motivated to improve my skills, and c) helps pay my bills. But that’s why I run my own small business… that’s not why I run this small business.

Everything I’ve ever done has had one real goal… to help people save time. To help people focus on the things they do best. I did this for the large companies and clients I’ve worked directly with in the past, through process improvement, workflow development, and through the creation and introduction of tools to make that happen.

That’s fine, but why picWorkflow?


picWorkflow saves you time, lots and lots of time… and for the first time, I’m not alone in this…


picWorkflow connects the good people who want to, and need to save time directly with people who know how to do this best. People who do this day-in day-out, and really are experts at what they do.

So, What?

What picWorkflow does is connect people, really really good people… with each other.
Why? Because I want to help you take back your time.

I think that’s something to be proud of, for you, for myself, and for the rest of the team stood beside me :)

Ask yourself this question…
Why do you do, what you do?

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Microstock Expo 2013 – Don’t miss it!

Just announced today the dates, speakers and programme for Microstock Expo 2013 in Berlin. I attended and spoke at Microstock Expo in 2011 (and will be doing both again this year) and it was freaking awesome.

I’m really looking forward to it again this year. I hope to see you and many other picWorkflow members there, and I’ll be available to anyone with questions to ask, issues to raise or anything else you might want to speak about. Come along and say hey :)

Use code PWF2013 for 20% off the standard ticket price.

What’s on the programme this year?

  • Unique presentations from top authorities on increasing revenue and improving skills,
  • Educational panel presentations from the best experts in the microstock marketplace,
  • Masterclasses and portfolio reviews from luminaries in video, photo and illustration,
  • A dynamic exhibit hall with some of the top vendors and service providers in our space.
  • MEXPO Awards in 10 categories ranging from the serious to hilarious in stock,
  • Plenty of time to make friends, reconnect with old ones and plan your professional future.

Early bird tickets are €249 + 19% VAT, until June 1st, when they increase to €299. The andel’s hotel offers a rate of €99, including breakfast and in-room Internet. Lunches are included with the conference passes.
The schedule, speakers and sessions will be regularly updated on as November draws closer.

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Top 2000 Image-Buyer’s Searches vs Keyword Popularity

I’ve been playing around with some of my data the last few days (having a bit of an overhaul to get picWorkflow running faster) and before I archive off some of my data-tables I thought this one might be of interest to you :)

The list shows the top 2000(ish) short-form searches (no more than 2 words) made by image-buyers on my various search tools, and the rank (i.e. relative popularity) of that search in my dataset of a somewhere near a million searches. The far-right column shows it’s comparison to the popularity of that word’s usage on stock images (collated from various agency’s over the years, across about a quarter million images).

This is essentially an epic update of my previous post from 2 years ago: TOP 1000 Stock Photo Buyer’s Searches – THE List, that post contains a lot more details about the data quality, relevance, demographics and more.

How to read the data?

A green entry suggests the search is more common than the keyword, a red entry suggests the keyword is more common than the search. It’s not bulletproof as I haven’t vetted the raw data too heavily, but it IS a good quick-reference to many of the most popular stock photo ideas and whether they’re under or over supplied.

What do you think?
Any gems in there for you? :)

Top 2000(ish) Image-Buyer's Searches versus Applied Keywords Popularity

Please feel free to share with others; published under Creative Commons (CC-BY) so you must state it’s by me if you republish it (or derivatives). Would be great if you can drop me a link-back to here or the homepage too :)

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Photokore: A Fresh Market for Microstockers

Welcome our latest featured agency with free distribution on picWorkflow! :)


Traditionally The West has always been the major market for stock photography sales. Despite that success industry-wide growth has been limited in the west for several years.

Many stock photo agencies seek new markets outside their home territory, setting up a localization strategy, targeting their collections to specific languages and even moving their headquarters to try and connect better with foreign markets. It depends on their business and strategies, but Asia is a common place for their new home. Asia is so attractive because the economy (particularly in China) is continuously growing at a very fast pace across the continent, and there are enough people in Asia coming online to present a broad userbase to try new products and services.

What does it imply to you, the average microstocker? Seeing limited growth in sales to the American and European audience?

How about trying something a bit different?

As companies in all markets are increasingly eager to sell products in Asia, the volume of commercial media targeted to Asians is increasing hugely; and as a result the demand for Asian imagery grows with it. It does not mean that you must produce photos of Asian people, landscape, and objects immediately though you should consider it. The demand for local content is increasing in many Asian countries and many Asian creatives still use western-focused images to market to their customers. It’s ideal for you to expose your existing images to the current market and use the results of your sales to help research when/how you create Asia-targeted content for future production.

As the first microstock agency which focuses specifically on the needs of users in Asia-Pacific region Photokore provides a platform for talented artists like you to sell your images in one of the fastest growing regions in the world –Asia! Whilst some agencies are still struggling in the wilderness, there’s an untapped goldmine waiting for photographers interested in reaching such a new and exciting marketplace.

Get started in Asia, signup with Photokore today!

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Taking Part in Deactivation Day? picWorkflow can help.

Bored businessman behind laptop

This week I’ve been getting a lot of requests for help from people deactivating their images/portfolios on iStock as part of Deactivation Day as a result of iStock’s crazy Google-drive partnership ripoff.

I only have a tiny portfolio on iStock (52 images) because their submission process is such an inefficient time-sink anyway but will be removing 48 of them, keeping the last 4 images till I reach payout before removing them too.

How can picWorkflow help you?

For anyone using picWorkflow to upload their images to other agencies I’m offering free storage for a month or so (usually a week, but I’ll round up to the end of the following month from your contact), and will provide free distribution credits to anyone using picWorkflow to distribute more than 200 images.

Just signup for picWorkflow (or use your existing account), add your agencies, upload via FTP and import your images (or wait 24 hours for them to be imported automatically), then drop me an email to from your registered email address. I’ll extend storage for all your recent imports, and credit your account with distribution credits for any pending-auth upload tasks you have active when I receive your email.

Suggestions and Tips:

picWorkflow also offers keywording (and re-keywording), captioning, and retouching, with a focus on metadata for non-exclusive imagery. I can’t discount these services as they’re already as low-cost as is realistically possible (the keyworders and captioners work really hard, and take ~90% of the paid amount) but be assured our keyworders know their stuff and if you choose to use any of these services we’ll do our very best to ensure you’re 100% pleased with the results.

You can also speed up your image submissions using the picWorkflow microstock submission assistant browser plugin for Firefox.

You may also want to check out my recommendations on previous post written specifically for people leaving iStock which includes lots of tips on optimising your distribution/workflow, my video tutorial for people new to picWorkflow, and my full list of agencies to sell photos and illustrations through now. I’d also like to put in notable mentions for Shutterstock and Depositphotos, both of which sell like crazy for me (far outpacing my RPI on iStock and most other sites).

A lot of people are fed up of constantly getting royally-screwed by iStock over and over, will you be taking part in Deactivation Day and which agency/agencies are you moving to?

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How To Sell Photos: A Complete Guide

There’s recently been a lot more people using picWorkflow, many of whom may have missed out on some of my earlier posts about the stock-photo/microstock industry, so I figured it’s time for a review post listing some of the most useful previous posts covering various techniques, tips and advice on both getting started in microstock and improving sales of your stock photos and illustrations in your existing portfolio.

Beginning Microstock

My guide on how the industry has developed over the last few years: Is there still money in Microstock photography?

Must-read Microstock blogs covering all the latest news and changes in the industry, as well as thoughts, tips and tricks, processing tutorials and all kinds of other useful info.

Must-follow Microstock bloggers, agencies and knowledge-leaders who announce the news/events, share what they know, and give you access to everything you need.

My Top 10 tips for new microstock photographers.

A complete (90min+) video of how microstock has developed in the last few years, and where it seems to be moving in the near future.

Finding/Refining a Market for Your Images

A massive TOP 1000 Image-buyers Searches, gathered over more than a year and with some decent niches highlighted.

A few review posts of picNiche data showing some excellent photography niche subjects, photoshoot ideas, subjects with a lot of opportunities for sales, some science-themed shoot ideas, some more stock ideas. And just to balance it out, some photo subjects you should either avoid, or be prepared for very challenging competition in the field.

Some awesome blog posts from others on choosing what to shoot for stock sales.

Improving Your Workflow/Process

Use Image Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to maximize your visibility to image-buyers.

A huge list of stock photo agencies to sell photos with to choose from.

Spring-clean your stock portfolio for better buyer-targeting and improved sales (conversion/performance) on the agency’s search engines.

My HUGE guide to improving your photography workflow, everything from basic prep through to uploading and submission processing.

Have I missed anything? Tell me in the comments :)

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