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Author Topic: Sad day for photographers  (Read 35611 times)

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« on: July 31, 2009, 15:19 »
0
I have noticed disturbing trends among microstock agencies, particularly the trend toward demanding higher professional standards while the prices for licensing photos are in a race for the bottom.  I am attaching a photo that was rejected today by one of the microstock agencies as "not reaching our desired aesthetic level" and essentially telling me it was not worth the 14 cents they are licensing images for.  I'm a bit shocked.  The image is sharp, completely in focus when viewed at 100% and perfectly exposed and composed.  The work involved in creating the image is considerable, lining up the model, packing the tents, backpacking gear and other props and the strobes, battery packs etc up the mountain was not exactly easy. 

I walked away from microstock over a year ago when seeing how utterly futile it is to think it could ever support the costs of doing business.  However, microstock is also eliminating my paying clients at a staggering rate and I found I now have little choice but to spend the time I would otherwise be working for pay shooting microstock.

However, I must say if the aesthetic quality of this image (mind you it was not rejected for technical imperfections such as focus) is not worth 14 cents we are all in serious trouble.  I have posted the image below as well as a copy of the letter I sent to the agency after the rejection.  If the agencies are going to say this image does not meet thier standards, I think it is time we demand a bit of professional pricing and licensing practices from the microstock industry as well.



The letter sent to the agency:
As I get images rejected, the same thought occurs to me over and over.  On the home page of the _____ site it advertises images for as little as 14 cents.  This is not enough to park my car for 5 minutes in the downtown areas where many of my shoots are conducted, it is not enough to pay the credit card transactions fees on a single transaction (hence the requirement to subscribe or buy PACKAGES of credits), you can't even buy a stick of gum or penny candy for that amount anymore.  Yet a photo that required planning, finding locations, or setting up a studio, wardrobe, paying models or finding models to work free in lieu of paying to shoot thier portfolios (which I would make considerably more on) is a fantastic amount of work.  Much more than the computers and the credit card agencies do to have their computers automatically process the transaction at about 30 to 35 cents per transaction, plus interest and other fees charged on to both credit card holders an merchants.

One of the photos rejected today and MANY of the photos rejected in the past have been of exceptional quality.  I am not a newbie.  I am a pro, I have been commissioned by leading national and international magazines, fashion desigers and ad agencies.  To tell me a photo is not worth 14 cents is OFFENSIVE, particularly when these same photos have been accepted on the other microstock sites and are selling well.  I will admit some of the photos deserve rejection... however, even those are worth 14 cents!!!!

Microstock began as a place for amateurs and has raised the bar to demand professional quality.  Instead of raising the price to support the increased quality demands, it is cutting prices trying to edge out the other microstock agencies.  It is also engaging in deals to increase downloads that are highly destructive to the photographers and the microstock industry itself, such as a deal made by one of the agencies in which Microsoft would license images for a one time fee of $20 each and then make these images available FREE to anyone who bought a copy of Microsoft Office.  What is wrong with this?  Well, reverse it.  Does Microsoft allow someone to buy ONE copy of Windows and then provide it to others free?  Hell no!  They know it would destroy thier business.  As a note, they also charge higher fees for larger corporations to license their software than to individuals.  Kind of like the old rights managed stock photo system that the industry has now thrown aside at great cost to us all.  This race to the bottom is one in which we will all lose.

Yes, I know, I could just stop selling microstock.  I did for some time.  However, if you walk through the grocery store and look at the magazine covers, you will flnd an astonishing number of microstock photos gracing the covers of major mags.  Many of the magazines I shoot for are now using microstock in lieu of paying photographers. A court even recently ruled that a major photographers photos of a once in a lifetime event were worth only $7.00.  This absolutely destructive ruling was based on the anticipated earnings the photographer would have made were these sold as microstock!

I know there are many hobbiests on microstock who don't care if they make money and work "day jobs" to pay for their equipment.  However, the industry itself depends on the professionals who make their livings as photographers and maintain the facilities and equipment to do the work the industry needs so badly. 

I am writing this to urge the microstock industry to back up and evaluate the LONG TERM impact of its pricing and distribution methods on the very people who supply you your lifeblood.  Again, microstock pricing and licensing is in a race to the bottom and 14 cents is about as close to the bottom as it gets.  The next step is the free sites ... which is right where it began...   Come to think of it, maybe that would be a good thing.   

If you are going to tell me my images do not reach the desired aesthetic quality, then demand enough money for them to make it worth my while to produce better images for microstock.  Demand enough money to licence the images to support the cost of producing them.  Be as professional yourselves as you are now demanding from your photographers! 

I know this will not go over well.  But I also know that all who read it will see the truth in what I am saying, even the industry execs....
Mark Stout
http://markstoutphotography.com
http://markstoutphotography.wordpress.com



zymmetricaldotcom

« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2009, 15:25 »
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If this was a bonafide reject it would be surprising. Did you check with the agency? Reviewers are only human and click the wrong buttons once in a while.

Otherwise your well thought-out message reads like a proper manifesto for change. :)

« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2009, 15:28 »
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Sounds like you're having a rough time right now.  Sorry to hear that.

If you're looking for comments on the "aesthetic" quality of the image, it's kind of a boring image of a guy on a rock.

iStockphoto has consistently raised their prices each year, and introduced the Vetta collection of exceptional images at 3x the price.

Maybe you just need to re-evaluate who you are playing with.  Or seek another source of income or business?

« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2009, 15:33 »
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Sounds like you're having a rough time right now.  Sorry to hear that.

If you're looking for comments on the "aesthetic" quality of the image, it's kind of a boring image of a guy on a rock.

iStockphoto has consistently raised their prices each year, and introduced the Vetta collection of exceptional images at 3x the price.

Maybe you just need to re-evaluate who you are playing with.  Or seek another source of income or business?

No I am not looking for comments on the aesthetic quality of the image.  I KNOW is is a good image.  I am saying the microstock industry needs an overhaul.

zymmetricaldotcom

« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2009, 15:38 »
0
Sounds like you're having a rough time right now.  Sorry to hear that.

If you're looking for comments on the "aesthetic" quality of the image, it's kind of a boring image of a guy on a rock.

iStockphoto has consistently raised their prices each year, and introduced the Vetta collection of exceptional images at 3x the price.

Maybe you just need to re-evaluate who you are playing with.  Or seek another source of income or business?


oh come on, http://www.istockphoto.com/file_search.php?text=egg&action=file is not exactly the opposite of boring. They're eggs. It's stock. ;) Agencies can't lowball creatives and then turn around and drop the editorial hammer on them just because it suits the current marketing plan, and expect not to piss off key suppliers.
« Last Edit: July 31, 2009, 15:49 by zymmetrical »

« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2009, 15:45 »
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Hi Marksout,

 You made a very sellable image here. Much better than so much of what I see on Micro. I would take the above advice from zymmetrical and send it through again. It was probably the problem all Micro sites suffer from, poor editing. These are not professional editors looking at your work. I have had many sellable images rejected, waited a couple of weeks and sent them through again with no trouble. I think most people would say that this is a strong Micro image. Sunglasses, lose them next time for a frame or two buyers love to see the eyes.

Good Luck,
Jonathan

« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2009, 15:52 »
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nice shot, as someone who reads nature / travle mags I could see it used a lot :) I'd resubmit

« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2009, 15:55 »
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Sounds like you're having a rough time right now.  Sorry to hear that.

If you're looking for comments on the "aesthetic" quality of the image, it's kind of a boring image of a guy on a rock.

iStockphoto has consistently raised their prices each year, and introduced the Vetta collection of exceptional images at 3x the price.

Maybe you just need to re-evaluate who you are playing with.  Or seek another source of income or business?


oh come on, http://www.istockphoto.com/file_search.php?text=egg&action=file is not exactly the opposite of boring. They're eggs. It's stock. Agencies can't lowball creatives and then turn around and drop the editorial hammer on them just because it suits the current marketing plan, and expect not to piss off key suppliers.


Thank you!  I am not attempting to just bitch and whine here.  I am saying there is a dangerous and disturbing trend here occurring with microstock and what it is doing to the industry as a whole.  The downward pressure it has created on the rest of the industry and frightening - as in the court case where a photographers photos of a once in a lifetime key event were worth only $7.00 based on the defense's attorneys arguement that were they sold as microstock, that is all they would make (they were not microstock).  If microstock wants to accept only the work of amateurs it is justified in the insanly low licensing fees.  If it is going to demand high end professional quality, it needs to demand high fees from its clients. To demand profesional work and amateur fees is hurting both the beginning photographer who cannot compete with the pros on microstock, and the pros who are finding the financial rug is being pulled out from under them.

I do know some guys are making extremely good money at microstock... but can the industry support the 100,000 plus photographers who are uploading to it having 1 million plus downloads per year?  What will happen to these guys as the microstock agencies demand the same quality of work from the rest as well (for less than a buck a download)?  

Microstock needs to evolve. It is either a laughably low priced outlet for people to find amateur photos for web sites etc where quality doesn't matter, or it is an outlet for professional photos BEING LICENCED AT PROFESSIONAL PRICES.

To the earlier poster that I responded to, I will say that iStock is the ONLY microstock agency attempting to move in the right direction.  It does demand the highest quality and restricts uploads, but it is also working to push up prices.  They still have a long way to go before I could consider being an exclusive photographer with them.  I hope they make it.  They started the photos for nothing game, I hope they finish taking the responsibility needed to bring pricing back to a level that will sustain professional contributers.

« Reply #8 on: July 31, 2009, 15:58 »
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It is a good and sellable image, but the agency, if it is what I assume it is, is well known for arbitray rejections and dictatorial management. If you are taking it personally, you are just hurting yourself further. I am not sure if this letter will get you anywhere, I hope it does.

You are right that the agencies demand professional quality yet pay sweat shop (or less) fees. Even IS is not immune of arbitrary rejections. The difference is IS has a Scout review system in place so you have another chance.

Change is what we need, but most photographers are too busy counting pennies and looking after their self-interests, so I don't know what else to say.

« Reply #9 on: July 31, 2009, 16:09 »
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It is a good and sellable image, but the agency, if it is what I assume it is, is well known for arbitray rejections and dictatorial management. If you are taking it personally, you are just hurting yourself further. I am not sure if this letter will get you anywhere, I hope it does.

You are right that the agencies demand professional quality yet pay sweat shop (or less) fees. Even IS is not immune of arbitrary rejections. The difference is IS has a Scout review system in place so you have another chance.

Change is what we need, but most photographers are too busy counting pennies and looking after their self-interests, so I don't know what else to say.

Not taking it personally, I know it is a good image and don't need someone else to reinforce that.  The reason for the post is to illustrate just how badly change is needed.  If this does not reach microstock standards, then prices asked for licences need to return to those of the rights managed era.  To do otherwise is hurting both the pros whose work is worth more and the amateurs (for which and on whose backs microstock was started) who cannot hope to compete with the pros for the same price.

« Reply #10 on: July 31, 2009, 16:10 »
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The concept and composition of the image is good but, for my money, not particularly well executed. The image is exposed for the sky leaving the subject and the foreground somewhat underexposed. A fill-in flash would probably have helped quite a bit.

If it had been a landscape view (or at least if the subject had below the skyline) then the use of a graduated ND or double exposure would have been needed to cope with the contrast between the sky and the mountains.

Your website portfolio has some great stuff so I'm surprised you can't see the significant flaws in that shot. Jonathon is right about the glasses and a smile would have been better too __ microstock is largely about brightly coloured happy images. I'd have considered that image 'borderline' and expected some agencies to accept it and others to reject it.

You keep banging on about '14c' but I'm with 7 agencies and none of them sell for that low. I average just a bit under $1 per sale.

graficallyminded

« Reply #11 on: July 31, 2009, 16:11 »
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Nobody's perfect, and we all get rejections.  It's all part of this stock game.  Reviewers are imperfect as well.  Resubmit the image - you just got a naive reviewer.  Some of them need to relax with all of the drugs they must be snorting on the weekends.  

I personally find that inconsistency in reviews is the #1 biggest problem in the microstock market.  Sure, some places have higher standards than others.  That's all fine and well.  Can they at least stay consistent, though?  You know, like...actually train their review team?  I'm not talking 10 minutes, take an ABC quiz and you're in.  I mean, spot checks - regular reviewer re-evaluations by a designated head of the review team.  Sure in theory every agency has this type of setup, but from what I see personally not much focus or money is invested into it.  It's often brushed aside, or poorly executed.  


« Reply #12 on: July 31, 2009, 16:14 »
0
The concept and composition of the image is good but, for my money, not particularly well executed. The image is exposed for the sky leaving the subject and the foreground somewhat underexposed. A fill-in flash would probably have helped quite a bit.

Excuse Me?????  Subject underexposed?   Hardly1

« Reply #13 on: July 31, 2009, 16:16 »
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I can't imagine why that shot would be rejected. It's more than good enough for any stock purposes - and for the prices they're paying, they should have called you up and thanked you for it.  It might have just been a mistake... but in general, I agree with almost all of your points.  Microstock has destroyed an existing business model, and what they are putting in its place is neither fair nor sustainable.  

The people running these microstocks have to be a bit giddy right now. They've entered a business where they find their is almost no supply-side resistance on price - they've found they can just keep on reducing commissions and not only do contributors not pull their portfolios - but tens of thousands of new photos keep coming in every week.  

There is a point however at which experienced, creative professionals will stop submitting new shots requiring models, setup, front-end work and extensive post-processing.  I sense that point has already been reached, and so the overall variety and quality of new submissions has to be decreasing.  Slowly, the air is coming out of the balloon.  Do they think they'll be successfully selling nothing but kids' cell-phone photos, 3 years from now?

The only point on which I disagree is the claim that IStock is trying to improve things for contributors.  From my experience, they just expect you to jump through even more hoops than the others, for the same insignificant payments.





« Last Edit: July 31, 2009, 16:18 by stockastic »

graficallyminded

« Reply #14 on: July 31, 2009, 16:17 »
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It cracks me up, to read some of the responses to this thread.  You can't even post about a stupid rejection without getting it critiqued. This shot has good commercial value and nothing wrong with it.  It's an environmental lifestyle portrait.  Well done Mark, keep up the good work.

« Reply #15 on: July 31, 2009, 16:22 »
0
Sounds like you're having a rough time right now.  Sorry to hear that.

If you're looking for comments on the "aesthetic" quality of the image, it's kind of a boring image of a guy on a rock.

iStockphoto has consistently raised their prices each year, and introduced the Vetta collection of exceptional images at 3x the price.

Maybe you just need to re-evaluate who you are playing with.  Or seek another source of income or business?


oh come on, http://www.istockphoto.com/file_search.php?text=egg&action=file is not exactly the opposite of boring. They're eggs. It's stock. Agencies can't lowball creatives and then turn around and drop the editorial hammer on them just because it suits the current marketing plan, and expect not to piss off key suppliers.


Thank you!  I am not attempting to just bitch and whine here.  I am saying there is a dangerous and disturbing trend here occurring with microstock and what it is doing to the industry as a whole.  The downward pressure it has created on the rest of the industry and frightening - as in the court case where a photographers photos of a once in a lifetime key event were worth only $7.00 based on the defense's attorneys arguement that were they sold as microstock, that is all they would make (they were not microstock).  If microstock wants to accept only the work of amateurs it is justified in the insanly low licensing fees.  If it is going to demand high end professional quality, it needs to demand high fees from its clients. To demand profesional work and amateur fees is hurting both the beginning photographer who cannot compete with the pros on microstock, and the pros who are finding the financial rug is being pulled out from under them.

I do know some guys are making extremely good money at microstock... but can the industry support the 100,000 plus photographers who are uploading to it having 1 million plus downloads per year?  What will happen to these guys as the microstock agencies demand the same quality of work from the rest as well (for less than a buck a download)?  

Microstock needs to evolve. It is either a laughably low priced outlet for people to find amateur photos for web sites etc where quality doesn't matter, or it is an outlet for professional photos BEING LICENCED AT PROFESSIONAL PRICES.

To the earlier poster that I responded to, I will say that iStock is the ONLY microstock agency attempting to move in the right direction.  It does demand the highest quality and restricts uploads, but it is also working to push up prices.  They still have a long way to go before I could consider being an exclusive photographer with them.  I hope they make it.  They started the photos for nothing game, I hope they finish taking the responsibility needed to bring pricing back to a level that will sustain professional contributers.


ft brought in infinite (unfortunately for emeralds and above and it could easily be lowered, many people have a few images that could go into this collection) and 123rf have the evo label but I dont remember hearing from anyone as to whether sales are worthwhile in either. there is also the midstock agencies

I think istock bringing in vetta is excellent but it's not a new idea and istock is moving in both directions with the photos.com / jiu subs where you get paid $0.25 for xxlarge, which is optional for individual photogs so again isnt a critism just an observation that they too pushing things lower.  

« Reply #16 on: July 31, 2009, 16:22 »
0
I do know some guys are making extremely good money at microstock...

Well ... look and learn from them and you'll be making good money too. Simples.


« Reply #17 on: July 31, 2009, 16:24 »
0
I can't imagine why that shot would be rejected. It's more than good enoug.  It might have just been a mistake... but in general, I agree with almost all of your points.  Microstock has destroyed an existing business model, and what they are putting in its place is neither fair nor sustainable.  

The people running these microstocks have to be a bit giddy right now. They've entered a business where they find their is almost no supply-side resistance on price - they've found they can just keep on reducing commissions and not only do contributors not pull their portfolios - but tens of thousands of new photos keep coming in every week.  

There is a point however at which experienced, creative professionals will stop submitting new shots requiring models, setup, front-end work and extensive post-processing.  I sense that point has already been reached, and so the overall variety and quality of new submissions has to be decreasing.  Slowly, the air is coming out of the balloon.  Do they think they'll be successfully selling nothing but kids' cell-phone photos, 3 years from now?

The only point on which I disagree is the claim that IStock is trying to improve things for contributors.  From my experience, they just expect you to jump through even more hoops than the others, for the same insignificant payments.







Thank you.  I just love the folks posting saying the image is "no good".  I just have to laugh.  It is certainly worth a buck.  I certainly agree with your point about the good photographers will stop submitting.  I did.   But I found I was forced to resume submitting for a while until hopefully the industry resumes commissioned work.  Many of my magazine clients are now using microstock, and use it as a club to attempt to get my prices down when quoting shoots.  I do know one of the top microstock photographers made a post some time back about how at a cost of $40,000 to produce 2000 new images in three months, his sales were falling.  He is still doing microstock and I suspect the reason is that he too has found it is quite difficult to sell thorough high end stock agencies or directly when chances are the client can find an image of equal quality on microstock.  I license images directly and through one high end stock agency, but have found my "sales" have been significantlly impacted in a negative way on the higner end sites.  

I hope this post will cause a few to stop and think, cause a few to start DEMANDING fair return on the investment of our work and less of the weird, weird posts where people defend their right to get screwed that I see so often on the microstock forums!

« Reply #18 on: July 31, 2009, 16:28 »
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I do know some guys are making extremely good money at microstock...

Well ... look and learn from them and you'll be making good money too. Simples.

See my earlier post, these guys are finding it less than a picnic now too... $40,000 to produce 2000 new images in three months and have NO INCREASE in sales is not exactly the right direction!

« Reply #19 on: July 31, 2009, 16:35 »
0
Maybe your reviewer was attacked by a bear in the woods or had a traumatic experience at scout camp. Whatever the reason the reviewer rejected it, ridiculous rejections happen and you have to roll with the punches like someone else said. Unless you are exclusive, there are other agencies out there. Cut your losses and don't waste too much time on it.

« Reply #20 on: July 31, 2009, 16:39 »
0
Sometimes I wonder if these people are actually hired guns of the agencies.


I hope this post will cause ... less of the weird, weird posts where people defend their right to get screwed that I see so often on the microstock forums!

« Reply #21 on: July 31, 2009, 16:42 »
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I agree we should cut the losses, but ain't we just a bunch of silent lambs?

Maybe your reviewer was attacked by a bear in the woods or had a traumatic experience at scout camp. Whatever the reason the reviewer rejected it, ridiculous rejections happen and you have to roll with the punches like someone else said. Unless you are exclusive, there are other agencies out there. Cut your losses and don't waste too much time on it.

« Reply #22 on: July 31, 2009, 16:44 »
0
Sometimes I wonder if these people are actually hired guns of the agencies.


I hope this post will cause ... less of the weird, weird posts where people defend their right to get screwed that I see so often on the microstock forums!

Lol!  I know... but it occurred to me when writing a post to my own blog on another subject what this is.  Its just human nature. Some people work to get ahead and help others do the same. Some like to get ahead at the expense of others. Others have given up and seek to pull others down to their level.

« Reply #23 on: July 31, 2009, 16:48 »
0
I do know some guys are making extremely good money at microstock...

Well ... look and learn from them and you'll be making good money too. Simples.

See my earlier post, these guys are finding it less than a picnic now too... $40,000 to produce 2000 new images in three months and have NO INCREASE in sales is not exactly the right direction!

Just because Yuri spent $40,000 on his work doesn't mean A. it's a smart move, or B. you should either.

You're right - it's a perfectly good shot of a guy on a rock.  But that's all it is.  I'm not seeing any concept, like hope, or exploration, or freedom there. 

And if said agency has 2000 other shots of guys on rocks, they may be a bit tired of just seeing guys on rocks.  They may be trying to push the collection a bit.  The fact that you get $.17 or $1 from a licensing doesn't affect the direction they want to take the collection.  Or it could just be a persnickity reviewer.

You can take the opinion or not - I don't care.

« Reply #24 on: July 31, 2009, 16:49 »
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It cracks me up, to read some of the responses to this thread.  You can't even post about a stupid rejection without getting it critiqued. This shot has good commercial value and nothing wrong with it.  It's an environmental lifestyle portrait.  Well done Mark, keep up the good work.

It is insane indeed.  As if there is an Attila the reviewer in each of them.


 

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