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Poll

Microstock in the future

Stable development
46 (41.4%)
Like Nokia
6 (5.4%)
Decline
38 (34.2%)
Rapid growth
2 (1.8%)
No more room for development
19 (17.1%)

Total Members Voted: 97

Voting closed: July 24, 2014, 06:07

Author Topic: about Microstock Golden age  (Read 11673 times)

0 Members and 2 Guests are viewing this topic.

« Reply #25 on: May 03, 2014, 12:59 »
+4
Scott,

As I've said in a similar thread, there's a significant supply/demand gap that is inevitably widening. The growth in supply is massively outstripping the growth in demand. That's not going to be good for contributors and ultimately will probably hit the agencies too.

The emergence of DPC is evidence of just one potential threat to the incomes of both contributors and other agencies. It seems that FT themselves have effectively 'given up' on trying to grow the main Fotolia site and now want to 'disrupt' the microstock industry with a new lower-priced business model (which, if successful, will also kill their main brand).

If DPC succeeds, or even if it does not, then you can be sure that others will follow and introduce their own disruptive model. IS have become pretty desperate of late to breathe life into their ailing business. If the new subscription thing doesn't work for them, as it probably won't, then a mega-low priced model could be the next thing they'll try.

I'm a huge optimist by nature but I struggle to see much of a long-term future for microstock contributors who undertake it as their main occupation.

Unless the focus shifts away from volume and low prices, I fear the same thing.


« Reply #26 on: May 03, 2014, 13:00 »
+5
Hi All,

Thanks.  Lisa - I think the important thing to note is that I was giving a few specific examples, but the reality is that you can extrapolate that concept to millions of searches and I wouldn't be an advocate if I thought I were simply recommending niche opportunities that don't work for individual contributors - just the opposite.  I consider it an obligation to give you the best information possible.

Now, let's just talk about existing content on popular topics.  As we've sought to create educational material (and as part of the daily monitoring of contributor success, content performance, etc....), we've done things like looked at popular topics.  Would it be possible to upload a pizza image today and have that sell well?  I wouldn't suggest that people focus on popular topics, but it is. 

For workshops, I've pulled three images that were:

  • Uploaded at relatively the same time
  • Contained the same essential subject matter
  • Assumed that the photographer had access to a similar location, equipment, and similar quality models

From that perspective, they were almost exact.

Looking at the performance of those three images, there's wildly different results, with one image generating thousands of downloads and other images generating dozens. 

Based on what?  It's not the search engine. 

It's based on the styling of the model; the composition of the image; depth-of-field, the central object of focus, prop styling, naturalistic lighting, retouching and post-production, keywording and overall - the qualities of the image that make the image findable or desirable to customers. But nothing in those three images was something that the photographer didn't have control over.

That's awesome news.  It means that individual contributors have some control over their success --- not only in the many, many untapped subject areas, but also in areas in which content has been well-covered. 

When we announced support for
illustrative editorial images, I'm wondering how many people submitted content?  I'm sure some have and some haven't.  We created some quick images internally as educational examples (literally, a few minutes of shooting everyday objects in natural light) and began seeing immediate downloads ourselves.  We're not talking complex setups and high-priced models.  There's a lot that you can do with natural light and environments (in some ways, natural light shooting is even more desirable these days), though making natural light look highly professional does take skill. 

And just to be clear - this isn't an attempt to pontificate.  I'm genuinely excited about what it means for contributors, because it basically means that if we do a better job with education and knowledge-sharing, there's tremendous opportunity to be invested in "contributor success" and to help individuals take advantage of the vast customer demand.  We're here to help, because if you understand better what customers need, they're happy, you're happy, and everyone succeeds.

Best,

Scott

 
« Last Edit: May 03, 2014, 13:05 by scottbraut »

« Reply #27 on: May 03, 2014, 13:25 »
+8
Scott,

SS could give us all the marketing info and tips they could come up with - but as long as the price of a product can have no relation to the cost of production, or to the expected number of sales, nothing is going to change.  You'll continue to get pretty much what you're getting now.   

If you broadcast a specific customer need, you'll simply create what amounts to a flash mob of thousands of photographers submitting the same thing at the same time.  A handful will win, 98% won't even recover their costs; most will lose interest in this game pretty quick.  Maybe that model actually works for SS, but I have doubts about even that, in the long term.

Your posts give me the feeling that SS now feels locked in to a model of abysmally low royalties, can't change anything, and doesn't want to discuss that aspect of it.  As a result we end up talking around a very large elephant in the room, and I'm not seeing the point.


« Last Edit: May 03, 2014, 14:16 by stockastic »

« Reply #28 on: May 03, 2014, 13:30 »
+6
We're here to help, because if you understand better what customers need, they're happy, you're happy, and everyone succeeds.

LOL. Now, I feel like I've been missing out on all the happiness because I'm too focused on the financial part.  ;D

farbled

« Reply #29 on: May 03, 2014, 13:36 »
+12
Using your example scenario, it simply isn't feasible for me to do the work and get a high enough return to make it worthwhile anymore. I simply shoot things that I already have access to now, or things that I make for other reasons. Shooting something for stock is no longer my primary goal.

It's not all that hard to find good subjects. It is hard to make it worthwhile to invest the money, time and energy into shooting them for little return.

lisafx

« Reply #30 on: May 03, 2014, 13:40 »
+2
We're here to help, because if you understand better what customers need, they're happy, you're happy, and everyone succeeds.

LOL. Now, I feel like I've been missing out on all the happiness because I'm too focused on the financial part.  ;D

Yes, this is certainly the bottom line for a lot of us. 

Like JoAnn, I really appreciate Scott and any other admins that come in here to interact with contributors.  But if I could say only one thing that would perfectly sum up how most of us are feeling about microstock these days it would be this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGYk0nf4Ono

(can't figure out how to embed a youtube video into a post)



farbled

« Reply #32 on: May 03, 2014, 13:50 »
+4
Hello,

Obviously, the broad point across the entire thread was to increase your quantity of customer downloads, which increases your income and revenue.  When I'm referring to success, I'm directly relating that to your portfolio performance in terms of getting you the highest possible financial returns.

Best,

Scott

Understood, but generally speaking for my own experience, the returns don't justify the expense to shoot more higher cost scenarios. If you had a way where we could opt specific images into Offset, I would happily put my best works there and work harder to improve my content.

« Reply #33 on: May 03, 2014, 13:54 »
+4
Hello,

Obviously, the broad point across the entire thread was to increase your quantity of customer downloads, which increases your income and revenue.  When I'm referring to success, I'm directly relating that to your portfolio performance in terms of getting you the highest possible financial returns.

Best,

Scott

Definitely true. Making new and great images is the best part of my job, but the most profitable part of my job is figuring out how to get better returns on my existing images. Whether that is higher royalties or joining a new agencies, those are the quickest way to making more money. It's also the hardest to implement because there are a lot of forces working against those goals. Which I think is part of the reason for this thread and others like it.

« Reply #34 on: May 03, 2014, 14:01 »
+2
Farbled,

I understand that's a concern, particularly for people who don't shoot things that might sell in volume.  It's probably helpful to understand more about the nature of our direct sales and enterprise business (also called Premier).   This partially addresses Stockastic's question as well (I try not to comment on opinions, though I appreciate them).

Many contributors think of their costs and revenue on a per image or per shoot basis, rather than on a portfolio basis.   I'm not saying that one way is right or wrong, but there are a number of different strategies one could take.   

As far as opportunity, Shutterstock has many different products and sells the collection through many different price points via Shutterstock.com.  Value is added to licenses such as legal indemnification, accounting features, the option for sensitive use, prenegotiated volume agreements, etc...   Those licenses can be in the hundreds of dollars.  Those opportunities are always emerging, in the sense that tomorrow, we might work with a new corporation, partner, or customer that we weren't working with yesterday.

Everyone has to make their own decisions about what model that they sell their images through, how they think about their returns, etc...  We're not prescriptive.  High production value images can (and do) perform very well over the lifetime of the image, supported by the high volume of customers on the site.  It's really a case-by-case basis and can vary by portfolio and by image.

Best,

Scott
« Last Edit: May 03, 2014, 14:08 by scottbraut »

« Reply #35 on: May 03, 2014, 14:14 »
+6
Well ok then - if it's all up to me - just let me opt out of subs, and I'm back on board.   :-)
« Last Edit: May 03, 2014, 14:17 by stockastic »

« Reply #36 on: May 03, 2014, 14:27 »
+9
Well ok then - if it's all up to me - just let me opt out of subs, and I'm back on board.   :-)

More control would be nice. I think that is my message to all agencies this year. I'd like more control over where and how my images sell. I don't see it happening though.

« Reply #37 on: May 03, 2014, 14:31 »
0


Many contributors think of their costs and revenue on a per image or per shoot basis, rather than on a portfolio basis.   I'm not saying that one way is right or wrong, but there are a number of different strategies one could take.   


Yes totally agree! My new strategie is to think about what me costs the agencies!

farbled

« Reply #38 on: May 03, 2014, 14:43 »
+2
Farbled,

I understand that's a concern, particularly for people who don't shoot things that might sell in volume.  It's probably helpful to understand more about the nature of our direct sales and enterprise business (also called Premier).   This partially addresses Stockastic's question as well (I try not to comment on opinions, though I appreciate them).

Many contributors think of their costs and revenue on a per image or per shoot basis, rather than on a portfolio basis.   I'm not saying that one way is right or wrong, but there are a number of different strategies one could take.   

As far as opportunity, Shutterstock has many different products and sells the collection through many different price points via Shutterstock.com.  Value is added to licenses such as legal indemnification, accounting features, the option for sensitive use, prenegotiated volume agreements, etc...   Those licenses can be in the hundreds of dollars.  Those opportunities are always emerging, in the sense that tomorrow, we might work with a new corporation, partner, or customer that we weren't working with yesterday.

Everyone has to make their own decisions about what model that they sell their images through, how they think about their returns, etc...  We're not prescriptive.  High production value images can (and do) perform very well over the lifetime of the image, supported by the high volume of customers on the site.  It's really a case-by-case basis and can vary by portfolio and by image.

Best,

Scott

I understand and appreciate the reply Scott. As my works fall mainly into two very specific niches, I cannot compete with the higher volume (usually people and lifestyle) subjects on volume. So it really is about the smaller dollars and cents stuff. (edit) I've been submitting to micros since 2005-ish so I can take a longer view on the sales of an image over time.

I have some unique access to areas that would be great sellers, but I have done that with my other niches and the returns don't justify it on micro. When I feel comfortable enough with my work, I will try for Offset or other RM style places with those.
« Last Edit: May 03, 2014, 14:54 by farbled »

Goofy

« Reply #39 on: May 03, 2014, 14:58 »
0

 It's based on the styling of the model; the composition of the image; depth-of-field, the central object of focus, prop styling, naturalistic lighting, retouching and post-production, keywording and overall - the qualities of the image that make the image findable or desirable to customers. But nothing in those three images was something that the photographer didn't have control over.

Than I must have the wrong composition of the image; depth-of-field, the central object of focus, prop styling, naturalistic lighting, retouching and post-production, and keywording  8)

« Reply #40 on: May 03, 2014, 15:31 »
+11
I haven't, in a year and a half, planned any shot that would go on the micros.  The return for the effort isn't there.  Everything I plan is meant for Stocksy, where one sale counts for 100 micro sales.  My existing micro work is still coming online, but I'm not shooting niche stuff if the hopes of $1 or 2.

« Reply #41 on: May 03, 2014, 17:27 »
+7
In 10 years of microstocking I've never really understood the argument that high commercial value images are what we should aim for. Every HCV idea quickly has 1,000 photographers rushing to mimic it and I'm sure the top 10 do absolutely brilliantly out of it. I suspect the bottom 990 (struggling with prop styling, lighting, DoF, etc) make very little and can easily lose on model fees.  If you shoot LCV images you have very little competition and a good chance of making a sale to the few people looking for that thing.
I shoot LCV and I'm pretty sure I make more than the bulk of people shooting HCV. In addition, we LCV shooters fill up all the gaps around the HCV stuff which, in my opinion, is probably more important to the agencies than having another 10,000 pictures of happy White families posing in front of a house, or athletic goldfish.  Not that I've ever seen any indication from the agencies that they regard LCV as being worth shooting, so I'm probably wrong.


Ron

« Reply #42 on: May 04, 2014, 00:44 »
+4
How many buyers need images of school children in a white and green uniform? Probably only one buyer, so you get a few sales. Thats not solving the problem we are facing.

PS: I submitted an editorial shot once, of school children in Dublin on a school trip. It was rejected for lighting, even it being the only image of school children in Dublin wearing a uniform had it been accepted by SS. So much for trying to fill the gaps.

« Reply #43 on: May 04, 2014, 00:51 »
0
In 10 years of microstocking I've never really understood the argument that high commercial value images are what we should aim for. Every HCV idea quickly has 1,000 photographers rushing to mimic it and I'm sure the top 10 do absolutely brilliantly out of it. I suspect the bottom 990 (struggling with prop styling, lighting, DoF, etc) make very little and can easily lose on model fees.  If you shoot LCV images you have very little competition and a good chance of making a sale to the few people looking for that thing.
I shoot LCV and I'm pretty sure I make more than the bulk of people shooting HCV. In addition, we LCV shooters fill up all the gaps around the HCV stuff which, in my opinion, is probably more important to the agencies than having another 10,000 pictures of happy White families posing in front of a house, or athletic goldfish.  Not that I've ever seen any indication from the agencies that they regard LCV as being worth shooting, so I'm probably wrong.

I think the goal should be to match the commercial value with the effort put in. - so maybe an image doesn't get a lot of sales, but if it is easy for you to get it is still worthwhile. The best would be some sort of medium to high commercial value images that aren't easy for others to produce. There is a lot of return in the long tail without so much competition. Especially as once your HCV  image drops back a few pages in a search it won't get many or any downloads but your images without much competition will always be in the first few pages of images for the search because that is all there are.

« Reply #44 on: May 04, 2014, 07:32 »
+2
How many buyers need images of school children in a white and green uniform? Probably only one buyer, so you get a few sales. Thats not solving the problem we are facing.

PS: I submitted an editorial shot once, of school children in Dublin on a school trip. It was rejected for lighting, even it being the only image of school children in Dublin wearing a uniform had it been accepted by SS. So much for trying to fill the gaps.


Hi Ron,

Thanks.  I was just giving a hypothetical example, but to answer your question - quite a few buyers could need that image if say, for example, the uniforms within a particular country (or countries) are similar.  Every publisher that serves educational institutions needs them and what they tell us is that they default to using the few images that they can find over and over.

Most respectfully (and in the interest of constructive criticism), your image above makes my earlier point about composition and other attributes of the image being key distinctions. If an educational institution or publisher is looking for an image to use on their website, books and brochures, it's likely something more intimate and close up.   If it's a publisher specifically, they'd be looking for different actions or activities that look natural.

Street photography can still be valuable for filling gaps, but based on what we know about how images perform, there can be very different results based on how the image was constructed.

Again - this is just me passing information based on what we've seen in practice when studying what images bring the highest returns to artists.   One thing that we know absolutely (using illustrative editorial images as an example), is that gaps in the collection -- when filled with quality content -- can be a great source of revenue.  And I would argue that quality content is not something that's always or necessarily tied to the cost to produce an image.


Best,

Scott

 
« Last Edit: May 04, 2014, 07:44 by scottbraut »

Ron

« Reply #45 on: May 04, 2014, 07:46 »
0
I agree that commercial shots will have a greater audience and attract more sales, but 1 image sells better then no image. You still have not one shot of Dublin school children in uniform. If the reviewer had made that assessment, the shot could have been accepted and we would have both potentially made some money.

I understand your point to illustrate about supply and demand, I am just adding my two cents.

ShadySue

« Reply #46 on: May 04, 2014, 07:48 »
+2
If an educational institution ... is looking for an image to use on their ... brochures, it's likely something more intimate and close up.   
Would you count that as a fair use for an editorial photo?

(Though in reality they'd no doubt make their own photos for their own site or brochure.)

« Reply #47 on: May 04, 2014, 07:57 »
+1
I agree that commercial shots will have a greater audience and attract more sales, but 1 image sells better then no image. You still have not one shot of Dublin school children in uniform. If the reviewer had made that assessment, the shot could have been accepted and we would have both potentially made some money.

I understand your point to illustrate about supply and demand, I am just adding my two cents.

Totally agree.  I can't speak for the reviewer, but this is a daily topic of discussion when we think about how we mature our review standards to bring in the greatest variety of images with commercial (or editorial) relevance.   

« Reply #48 on: May 04, 2014, 08:01 »
0
If an educational institution ... is looking for an image to use on their ... brochures, it's likely something more intimate and close up.   
Would you count that as a fair use for an editorial photo?

(Though in reality they'd no doubt make their own photos for their own site or brochure.)

I'm sure it depends on context (who is using it and in what capacity). I'll grab our "official" standard from our Compliance team.  We're in the process right now of translating an free eBook on these topics. I can say that schools here in the U.S. are often pressed to not use copyrighted material, or material that otherwise creates risk.   

ShadySue

« Reply #49 on: May 04, 2014, 09:26 »
+1
If an educational institution ... is looking for an image to use on their ... brochures, it's likely something more intimate and close up.   
Would you count that as a fair use for an editorial photo?

(Though in reality they'd no doubt make their own photos for their own site or brochure.)

I'm sure it depends on context (who is using it and in what capacity). I'll grab our "official" standard from our Compliance team.  We're in the process right now of translating an free eBook on these topics. I can say that schools here in the U.S. are often pressed to not use copyrighted material, or material that otherwise creates risk.

OK, it was just an off-the-top-of-your head example, but I'm just thinking that presumably a 'school brochure' (rather than a handbook) is for a private school trying to attract custom, so wouldn't that be a commercial use?
In reality, I doubt very much if a school would look through stock agencies on the random chance that someone will have a photo of pupils in their school uniform, and even if they did, they'd need several, not just one image. Obviously they wouldn't use a photo from a rival school.
(In fact, schools here can't use micro agencies anyway because of the requirement to pay in advance. Our accounting requires the goods to be delivered, invoiced and paid afterwards.)
Most / all schools here have an AV technician who would at the least be competent enought to take photos of pupils and activities for a brochure. If not, they'd almost certainly have a keen photographer in the staff equally competent.
So I wasn't really asking about this exact scenario, which is a 'very improbable sale', just trying to understand what your company regards as 'fair use' for editorial photos.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2014, 09:30 by ShadySue »


 

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