It seems that for exclusive iStockers contemplating independence the foremost worry is the amount of time and effort involved in uploading to multiple sites. Before I became independent I was told by an indie contact that they were able to upload their images to nine other sites in the time it took to upload to iStock alone. My experience so far bears that out. I think the upload interface at iStock is archaic and probably would have been changed for the better years ago were it not for Deepmeta. As most of you should know, Deepmeta is Franky De Meyer's excellent prog which allows automation and batch processing of the iStock upload procedure. You point it at your images, keyword and categorise, attach releases and go to bed. In the morning the new images are all there, sitting in your upload queue.
The question I was asked was 'do other sites have an equivalent to Deepmeta'. Well no, (I don't think so) because they don't need one - the upload interface acts in much the same way. I have written on here a few times about the benefits of putting keywords into metadata- it is a bit of a lifesaver and so far all my sites read this data without problems. Also all the sites allow multiple uploads, though I haven't tried to upload in batches of more than ten. These images then go into a 'holding area' from where you chose categories, attach releases (stored on the agency's site) and submit. You can do this days or weeks later, but some sites delete unfinished uploads after a month. I tend to set a batch to upload while I am cooking dinner or whatever, then categorise and submit at a later time when I am able to concentrate on it properly. The time consuming part (ie data transfer) does not require you to be present while it is going on.
Several sites then allow autofilling of categories from a previous image, which makes the uploading of a series very quick indeed. Others leave the last categories chosen in the selection box for the next image or have an easily accessible shortlist of recently chosen categories you can pick from.
Shutterstock seems to read the description info from CNX metadata as the title, which maybe deliberate as they don't also have a description field. I just leave it as the site chooses it and try and keep my descriptions fairly terse. Unfortunately Bigstock require the description to be a minimum of seven words. This is a bit of a pain as I always forget and write a minimal description with Shutterstock's titles in mind. It is easy to correct during upload to Bigstock, but it adds time and is worth remembering when you are adding keyword/description info to the metadata. Somewhere between seven and twenty words is probably ideal.
There are other ways of uploading such as FTP, which is supposed to make things even easier yet, but I haven't had chance to get my head round the technology to make that work so far. Hopefully a techy, newly-independent person will come by shortly and tell us all how to do it.
'Well,' I hear you say, 'if it is all so quick and simple then why haven't you uploaded more images so far?!' My answer to that would be that for uploading in quantity to multiple sites the following is required:
1 - The time and head space to keep track of what image needs to go where.
2 - Good quality internet access without restrictive bandwidth limits.
3 - All your images on the same computer, in the same place at the same time.
Number three I still don't have, number two I got three days ago and number one might happen sometime towards the end of 2011, but I'm not counting on it.
Other things to mention re Shutterstock:
As I have said before, they don't like images which have been cropped at all.
They also don't seem to find images taken on a D300 with an F2.8 lens with no sharpening (then sharpened in RAW) to be crisp enough for them at full res. There doesn't seem to be any penalty for having a low acceptance rate and all images are effectively 'can resubmit' so I am just sending them at full res for now, but will downsize and resubmit the rejections later. I am still only getting about half accepted there. They will also reject your images for a host of other reasons - they rejected one of my best-selling iStock images today for 'limited commercial value'. I don't think there is really much that can be done about this - it's just how it is. There is a box which allows for comments to the reviewer to be made, so I might try resubmitting with a plea and link to iS, but I am not going to hold my breath.
Ken (picturelake) told me that I was the first person he had heard of that was accepted to Shutterstock at the first attempt. In order to get through you need to have seven of your ten submissions accepted. If you fail at this then you will have to wait a full month before you can reapply. My advice is to chose your ten images very very carefully and downsize if necessary. They need to be your most punchy 'stocky' images as well as technically top-drawer.
Sorry this has been such a long post - anyone still awake?