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Thread started 27 Jul 2009 (Monday) 23:21
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How microstock is ruining photography

 
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blackshadow
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Aug 14, 2009 17:57 |  #361

There is an excellent piece on this subject here (external link)

In particular I like this excerpt.

The oddest thing about microstock is how the very lack of license fees equal to what it costs to produce the work fuel the growth. Microstock now only markets to professionals in the industry. As the more traditional stock agencies are folding up or photographers are discovering their income from these are reaching bottom, they unwillingly turn to microstock… often under assumed names. It isn’t good for business to have the person you are charging professional rates for an assignment know your are licensing images elsewhere for less than a dollar. This of course, as I mentioned above, is cutting into the income of the pros who got into it first and now they are looking for a way out.

The newbies getting into it are rapidly discovering that at rates of 20 cents per download paid to them that the the images uploaded into a body of 7 million existing images with 100,000 new images added each week, they cannot possibly earn enough to do more than dig a financial hole while trying to “make it”. They see the injustice and complain in the forums where they are met with an army of shills who tell them “you just need to shoot better quality work” and so they expend more money and dig the hole deeper. Then some get the bright idea to make up the difference through referral commissions. This amounts to about 2 or 3 cents made from the images the photographers they refer sell. This obviously will take a LOT of “sales” to make any difference, so they start blogs promoting the financial windfalls waiting for those who sell microstock and put up referral links; post ads on craigs list, refer photographers through networking sites and send out spam. Instead of learning the value of their work and demanding to receive it, they encourage others to make the same mistake so they can profit. They have just sold their soul.

Let's hope more photographers wake up and refuse to sell their souls.


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Aug 14, 2009 19:12 |  #362

blackshadow wrote in post #8461310 (external link)
There is an excellent piece on this subject here (external link)

In particular I like this excerpt.

The oddest thing about microstock is how the very lack of license fees equal to what it costs to produce the work fuel the growth. Microstock now only markets to professionals in the industry. As the more traditional stock agencies are folding up or photographers are discovering their income from these are reaching bottom, they unwillingly turn to microstock… often under assumed names. It isn’t good for business to have the person you are charging professional rates for an assignment know your are licensing images elsewhere for less than a dollar. This of course, as I mentioned above, is cutting into the income of the pros who got into it first and now they are looking for a way out.

The newbies getting into it are rapidly discovering that at rates of 20 cents per download paid to them that the the images uploaded into a body of 7 million existing images with 100,000 new images added each week, they cannot possibly earn enough to do more than dig a financial hole while trying to “make it”. They see the injustice and complain in the forums where they are met with an army of shills who tell them “you just need to shoot better quality work” and so they expend more money and dig the hole deeper. Then some get the bright idea to make up the difference through referral commissions. This amounts to about 2 or 3 cents made from the images the photographers they refer sell. This obviously will take a LOT of “sales” to make any difference, so they start blogs promoting the financial windfalls waiting for those who sell microstock and put up referral links; post ads on craigs list, refer photographers through networking sites and send out spam. Instead of learning the value of their work and demanding to receive it, they encourage others to make the same mistake so they can profit. They have just sold their soul.

Let's hope more photographers wake up and refuse to sell their souls.

Valid POV, but the part in red is a little short-sighted. It presumes everybody is in it to make a living, and that's simply not the case for a very large number of photogs. "Making it" isn't nearly as high on the priority list if you don't have to.

Theoretically, if literally every photog needed to make a living from their work it's possible microstock may have never taken off to begin with. Or, at least not at rates this low.

He also talkes about newbies complaining about the injustice, but it seems to me it's more the old timers that are complaining the loudest. Not without reason, just sayin'.


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Aug 14, 2009 20:31 |  #363

The more I read about the "business" of photography the more I'm glad its just a hobby for me.


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Aug 14, 2009 22:28 |  #364

Crashoran wrote in post #8448097 (external link)
If you think your photo is worth several hundreds of dollars from one single sale, then throw it up on Alamy and let it sit. Meanwhile, the latter will continue to generate a consistent stream of sales. Times change, either participate or fall behind.

You speak as if leaving your images up for the long term is a bad thing for macro, as if they suddenly stop long term sales just because you're not micro. I'd propose that it's actually quite the opposite.

So I ask you, what's the difference between my images selling from time to time, or a microstocker's selling over and over and over? Mine gets a few uses and remains 'fresh' and likely unseen for the uses it's most likely to be appropriate for. It's not over-used. Chances are the buyer won't have come across it in other uses, and won't be turned off to it.

The microstock image on the other hand has literally found (as is typical for great microstock images) as many as several hundred uses. Pretty soon, the microstock image stops seeing downloads (as it's already been way overused and nobody wants to copy something already published for dozens of other uses). Sure, it gets future downloads, but nothing like it would have in it's initial availability. Why? It's been used up.

My long term plan actually involves my portfolio performing just as well then as it is now. You can't say the same for microstock. Pricing aside, that's really the biggest reason I dumped micro.

versedmb wrote in post #8461790 (external link)
The more I read about the "business" of photography the more I'm glad its just a hobby for me.

Always good to have an understanding of the business side.. even though most business aspects really take the fun out of it.


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chopper5654
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Aug 14, 2009 22:36 |  #365

this thread is the same complaint, different subject.

newspaper industry is going down the drain, too. owners are selling to larger companies...losing their incomes. some at ages where they cannot just start over. their industry is dying completely.

but, you know what? they adapt. and, the ones i respect dont complain....they just get to work. complaining just cuts into time that could be used more productively. in an industry like newspapers, or photography when talking microstock, you arent going to change the evolution no matter how much you try. so, move on. think more creatively.

my father's first "job" as editor and publisher was to fire ALL of his printer's union employees almost the day he took over for his father. he didnt enjoy it. he knew he was taking food off of tables. and, those men left some nasty words for him about how they saw him grow up from a paper boy, and loyalty, and how they knew his father wouldn't do such a thing.........but, they found other work.

adapt or perish. simple. and, i cant believe i wasted this much time trying to make this point. it should be common sense.

sorry if that offends some of you. but, the fact remains. digital is changing a lot inside photography. lots of industries are over-saturated. most people in this world barely scrape by, no matter the job. but, the truly elite still FIND A WAY TO MAKE IT. that could be a rude awakening, but it's reality.


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Mike-DT6
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Sep 22, 2009 05:50 |  #366

I haven't got any experience of dealing with photo stock agencies, but I have spoken to quite a few photographers who contribute to stock agencies. One thing that keeps coming up is that they are selling hardly anything through Alamy these days, but getting plenty of sales through Microstock, which they aren't complaining about because the money mounts up gradually into something worthwhile to them.

Mike


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chakalakasp
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Sep 22, 2009 12:01 |  #367

With all respect, Mike -- if you don't have any experience with stock photography, why try to present anecdotal hearsay as being indicative of a general attitude among stock photographers? I assure you that professional stock photographers are complaining amongst themselves about microstock and the negative price pressures that microstock places on the macrostock industry.


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Sep 22, 2009 16:14 |  #368

chakalakasp wrote in post #8688808 (external link)
With all respect, Mike -- if you don't have any experience with stock photography, why try to present anecdotal hearsay as being indicative of a general attitude among stock photographers? I assure you that professional stock photographers are complaining amongst themselves about microstock and the negative price pressures that microstock places on the macrostock industry.

Were you talking to yourself? :lol:

Ok, seriously... Even if it was second-hand information I thought his comments were pertinent, and not automatically suspect. Dismissing them as "anecdotal hearsay" was a bit unfair, IMHO.


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chakalakasp
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Sep 22, 2009 16:26 |  #369

photoguy6405 wrote in post #8690531 (external link)
Were you talking to yourself? :lol:

Ok, seriously... Even if it was second-hand information I thought his comments were pertinent, and not automatically suspect. Dismissing them as "anecdotal hearsay" was a bit unfair, IMHO.

Howso? He's basically saying "I don't know anything about this, but a few people who I know who I think might know something about it said that...". It's anecdotal because it's literally that -- anecdotal (external link). It's hearsay because it's hearsay (external link). Words mean things. :)

I mean this is a forum full of people who actually do this for a living. I don't bop into Former F16 Pilot's forum and post to all the former F16 pilots about how I've never flown in my life but that I heard from a friend that flies Cessnas that F-16s could fly backwards if you put them in reverse. This doesn't seem to be the forum in which to say "I don't do stock photography, but some friends of mine say that Alamy sucks and that you can make lots of money in micros".


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Sep 22, 2009 16:38 |  #370

I agree with you Ryan - except for the last line. The poster didn't say that Alamy sucks, he merely said that 'they are selling hardly anything through Alamy these days'.




  
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Sep 22, 2009 18:34 |  #371

Mike-DT6 wrote in post #8687181 (external link)
I haven't got any experience of dealing with photo stock agencies, but I have spoken to quite a few photographers who contribute to stock agencies. One thing that keeps coming up is that they are selling hardly anything through Alamy these days, but getting plenty of sales through Microstock, which they aren't complaining about because the money mounts up gradually into something worthwhile to them.

Mike

I agree with that - 2 Alamy Sales and over a thousand through microstock for me this year (many of those were extended licences which pay considerably more)


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Sep 23, 2009 13:42 |  #372

Scuff wrote in post #8691298 (external link)
I agree with that - 2 Alamy Sales and over a thousand through microstock for me this year (many of those were extended licences which pay considerably more)

Um, sorry, but this is actually a pretty useless comparison...

First, we'd need a whole lot more information... Such as:

- How many images do you have up on each site? (If you have 30,000 images up on micro, but only 75 on Alamy... Well, hey, what do you expect?)

- What is the uniquenss and quality of the images in each? (It needs to be equal for comparisons to have any validity.)

- How long have the images been up? (If you've been working the microstock site for five years, but only on Alamy for one, well sure there's going to be some difference.)

- What was your net profit from each? (Two sales on Alamy can easily be more profitable than 1000 sales on some micro sites... And if you consider the value of your time spent sorting, editing, optimizing, keywording and uploading thousands of images.... the profitability of sales on microstock might be even narrower.)

But, second and much more importantly, even if all the above were "balanced", this would still only be one isolated example and pretty meaningless unless we can add it to a pool of experiences from a few thousand other people doing exactly the same thing, tracked over time, and all in just as equally well balanced ways... Then we'd have some useful data.

But we don't.

However, I gotta say that micro stock is simply a fact of life now. It's part of the stock sales "landscape" that we have to deal with. It's opened up new customer bases at the same time it's eroded the profitabiility of others.

And it's not just microstock... It's a "perfect storm" of factors that have combined to change the landscape so much. For example, globalization through the Internet is a major factor. The digitalization of photography is another one. Easier to use, more consumer oriented cameras that produce high image quality are yet another factor. A tough and competitve business environment forcing more customers to cut costs also plays a role. Online search tools and high speed access contribute too. There's more, but you get the point.

People's willingness to sell their skills cheap and microstock site owners taking advantage of them are my biggest gripes. I do think anyone selling stock is foolish not to try to maximize their profitability and not to at least make a good effort to make sales in a higher market, before relegating their work to the "bargain basement". This denegrates themselves as well as the entire business of photography, lowering the perceived value of quality images in the eyes of both photographers and photo buyers.

Over the long run, I think the most successful stock photographers will sell their work through multiple distribution channels.

Microstock will likely be one of those channels. The churn there is great, images burn out quickly and the individual rewards are tiny, but a lot of them can add up to make it a worthwhile sales channel. A photographer might find certain themes or subjects that they can work and make good micro sales with, which wouldn't sell at all through more traditional stock photo channels.

But you'd better have other things in the mix too... Some "mid-stock", like Alamy. And be working on some really unique and specialized work that is your premium "macro" stock, too. Sell that through a more specialized site. Or perhaps directly through your own website. The profit margins on these will be a whole lot better per sale. But there will be a much smaller volume of sales overall. As a result, though, many images will have a longer "shelf life".

You do have to be sensitive about selling an image through the macro-stock channels, where some degree of exclusivity is what buyers are paying extra for. If an image has ever been sold royalty free through microstock, or even just seen a lot of distribution there, it's no longer a candidate to sell through the macro- or mid-stock channels.

But older images that were previously sold through macro/mid-stock channels and are no longer productive there might find some additional life through microstock sales.

In the end, stock sales of all types are for most us a sideline to our "real work". Each of us has to figure out our own mix of sales channels... The way we do that is by trying different things.


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Sep 23, 2009 16:22 |  #373

Micro stock is just another form of Crowd Sourcing, and commerical photography isn't the only service effected by it.

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Sep 23, 2009 16:29 |  #374

It does seem mean-spirited that Time did not give a photo credit. But they will never pay for anything they can get for nothing, it is all in the value the creator places on their work.


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Sep 23, 2009 16:46 |  #375

Moppie wrote in post #8697266 (external link)
Micro stock is just another form of Crowd Sourcing, and commerical photography isn't the only service effected by it.

http://www.google.com …rls=gm&q=crowd%​20sourcing (external link)

Haven't heard of that one yet, thanks for posting it!

Part of me always wants to believe that one can set themselves apart from a crowd and produce a constant income. Experience, working relationship (though not as applicable in stock) and ambition should create success that is available to anyone that really tries.

I was looking at http://alamy.com …rs/statements/d​efault.asp (external link) Alamy's report page. While overall revenue has declined, the revenue for RM has gained against revenue from RF. Granted not that much, but I'm sure there will remain a desire for image exclusivity that feuls the the need for macro or mid stock.




  
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