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Author Topic: This boat is sinking. So why aren't we jumping?  (Read 7113 times)

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« on: November 05, 2015, 10:54 »
+27
Something has to change.  Or I'm out.

I used to wear rose-colored glasses.  I'd insist that people who knew what they were doing could continue to grow their microstock income into the foreseeable future.

People who've done this longer than me called me naive.  But I said I'd never hit the wall because I had a unique niche, style and workflow.

Ha.

Over the past year, the wall has come down on me.  Hard.  Overall, I'm down from last year by 25%. 

I still try to improve.  Explore new topics.  Come up with new styles.  The result?  Still down by 25%.

Increased my port size by about 20% in the past year.  Earnings down 25%.

I'm now thinking that if I'm still in microstock five years from now, I'll be earning around one third of what I earn today.

Your results aren't the same as mine?  You're probably either still new(ish) to micrsotock and have yet to hit the Wall (when your rate of portfolio growth is lower than the rate of total agency portfolio growth).  Almost every single veteran who has been in the top seller ranks for several years is singing the same tune today... earnings are down and by BIG numbers.

My family and I have become addicted to this income.  I've been desperately trying to hold on to as much as I can, thinking things will get better.  But reality is finally sinking into my thick skull.  I know I may have to give it up and move on, and the sooner the better.

I'm been trying alternatives.  Selling on my own doesn't work.  (OK, I get some sales, but a tiny fraction of what I earn from agencies.  It could never replace that income.)   Video looks to be in a similar state as photos and illustrations.  There's a price war, far smaller number of buyers, and video veterans seem to have it even worse than photogs and illustrators.

So what's the point of all this whining? 

1. Trying to talk some sense into the heads of people who think this is a place to make decent money.  Don't get fooled by your first few months of a few dollars here and there.  The glory days of microstock are long gone.  The competition is too fierce.  The laws of supply and demand will crush you.

2. A wake-up call to agencies.  Your experienced contributors are going to drop like flies if you keep playing the "my collection is bigger than yours" game with your competition.  Why would any artists with talent want to waste their time at this if there's no return?  I'm one of your top-selling contributors.  You've told me so yourself, reaching out to me for feedback on your processes and latest offerings.  And I'm thinking of throwing in the towel.  If many more of your top-sellers feel the same way, and this forum suggests that they do, that's experience that can't easily be replaced.  Yes, new contributors will continue to pour in to replace us, but it will take years for them to develop the market knowledge it takes to supply images that your customers demand.

Microstock is broken.  It's unprofitable and unsustainable for contributors.  If the agencies think they can survive with content from hobbyists, they're mistaken, but will soon have to learn that the hard way.




« Last Edit: November 05, 2015, 10:59 by stockmarketer »


« Reply #1 on: November 05, 2015, 11:26 »
+1
Unfortunately I agree with you but I do have some questions just to check when can I expect to see the same as you see now.

1. Is this your full time job and how many hours per day do you work on stock photography?

2. How many images do you have on your biggest earner agencies?

3. Do you invest in your images (models, equipment, travel or other expenses)?

4. Have you tried to change your style? Popular images today have nothing in common with popular images 6-7 years ago

Thank you!

« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2015, 11:29 »
0
you have to ask why so many ppl are discontented , first , before you believe everything you read.
it's like the real stock market... where conspiracy are what creates crashes, so that the ones who actually make money continue to make money.

i join in the part of the whining, as you say, because i am giving support to my peers. many , if you noticed , are absent conspicuously or purposely. perharps , you ask why too?

it's like all monopoly or government. the more the corporation , tyrant, corrupted official,etc think they have the general public as puppets, the more they will do worse for everyone under them.

and regardless of shouting or not, i only know that ss is the only agency worth uploading,
so naturally i will keep shouting until there is no money coming in.
for now, i sit on my bum and my earnings still come in. why should i want to jump ship?

« Reply #3 on: November 05, 2015, 11:31 »
+9
"If the agencies think they can survive with content from hobbyists, they're mistaken, but will soon have to learn that the hard way." Imho The objective evidence such as Shutterstocks earnings don't support this conclusion.

« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2015, 11:43 »
+6
I think the shift has already been happening for awhile now. Experienced contributors have begun spending less time on micro as the returns are just not there. The library will start to be dominated by contributors in countries with less wage earnings. I think the models i see on shutterstock and fotolia already reflect that and it will get more apparent in the future.

Shutterstock has this artist spotlight type of thing. http://www.shutterstock.com/panorama/
Very telling when the contributors they spotlight are all outside the united states. Tells me that it doesn't make financial sense for a talented artists to submit their work on this platform.

« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2015, 12:07 »
+6
Aren't there any talented artists outside the US?

« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2015, 12:16 »
+3
Aren't there any talented artists outside the US?

Theres talented artist all over. Why isn't there any shown in the USA was my point.

« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2015, 12:20 »
+20
Stockmarketer, I've been doing this since 2005. I was ranked number 9 on Fotolia before I hit emerald and then sapphire rank. My portfolio is over 15,000, which is not the biggest out there, but bigger than most. I shoot diverse subjects and constantly looking for new niches. I've been also told by many agencies that I was one of their top contributors. And I see the same trend as you do.
You're saying - our experience can not easily be replaced, sure, that's true, however, they don't need our experience. I worked some time ago for a big very well known corporation that routinely let go experienced people only to replace them with new graduates - you don't have to pay them much, they're still optimistic and energetic and they work their butts off. Of course, their luck of experience and skill results in poor quality of the company's products. But guess what - the company (and many others like that) is still doing thriving business, just because they are huge, and their customers just suck it up - some for not knowing any better, some for lack of an alternative.
Microstock has become big corporate business. We're veterans with lots of skill and experience that nobody really cares about. Agencies are happy with younger less experienced and more enthusiastic crowd submitting maybe not so high quality, but fresh content. It sells. Who is to say they're wrong?
Where does this leave us? We'll see less and less money. But it was a bit naive to think that the ride will last forever. I love making pictures, and I can still support myself with this business. I don't think I can stop doing it even if the big $$$ is not there anymore. I do agree though that it is time to start thinking about new ventures. I just a met a person who teaches stay-home mums some DSLR basics once a week and makes very nice living out of it. Something to think about :-)
« Last Edit: November 05, 2015, 13:37 by Elenathewise »

« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2015, 12:21 »
0
OK I suspect it maybe because SS are trying to grow their market elsewhere as I think they have the US sewn up.

« Reply #9 on: November 05, 2015, 12:28 »
+3
Well, the advantage of stock and passive income is that you still earn money even if you dont upload. Just get a part time or a full time job, or two part time jobs in the family and see if you can still find enough time to get good results from less stock work, but maybe focussing more on a special niche.

We all know we cant outshoot the flood.

« Reply #10 on: November 05, 2015, 12:29 »
+4
I don't think there's any point in doing photos for stock today.  Unless you have a secure niche, it can't pay off.  And competition for the remaining niches will eventually close them off. 

Increasingly, the new images will be coming from new, inexperienced contributors and they will be mostly things that cost nothing to shoot.   Eventually these agencies' archives will start to give off a scent of mold, and buyers will react.  Things will change after that, but it's impossible to say what the direction will be, and it will take a long time.   

Shelma1

« Reply #11 on: November 05, 2015, 12:30 »
+8
"If the agencies think they can survive with content from hobbyists, they're mistaken, but will soon have to learn that the hard way." Imho The objective evidence such as Shutterstocks earnings don't support this conclusion.

That's where the industry came from...crowd sourcing hobbyists. That's why prices were and are low. The pros saw a way to make quick money and started contributing high quality work. I'm not sure who to blame for that.

« Reply #12 on: November 05, 2015, 12:35 »
+7
But it was a bit naive to think that the ride will last forever.

It was VERY naive! I am always amazed how people (who consider themselves very experienced) could seriously expect their income to continue to rise "forever".

« Reply #13 on: November 05, 2015, 13:19 »
+7
I'm done focusing on microstock as my main and sole income from here on in.  This year is the last straw.  The last few years have been down at least 25%, consistently.  I will be supplementing this dying income with other photographic opportunities, from skills I've developed through this business.  So for me it's like this...

Thank you, college... for the 4 year BA degree that got me a job working as a full-time graphic designer for almost 4 years; which then introduced me to stock imagery; which later became my main income source for 8 years full-time... now on to the next adventure.   I'm still thankful to the microstock community for helping me get through the last decade financially. 

You have to view everything is a stepping stone.  Businesses and commercial industries change all the time (supply/demand).  Hardly anyone retires from the same job anymore.  You have to constantly re-invent and morph your career as you need to.  It's just how the world works nowadays. 

Stock will still be a side-hobby, but with dwindling returns at best.  Is it still worth me submitting?  Maybe for a little bit of extra income.  It's definitely not going to be cost-effective in terms of your time, for too much longer.

« Reply #14 on: November 05, 2015, 14:04 »
+3
You're saying - our experience can not easily be replaced, sure, that's true, however, they don't need our experience.

I should have been more clear.  When I say a new contributor lacks experience, I don't just mean the experience of creating an image.  I mean the knowledge of what sells.  How to keyword.  How to crop and frame so an image gets more attention on a search results page.  How to find niches.  These are the most important aspects of experience that not only benefit the contributor, but also the agency.  The better a contributor is at all those things I listed, the more money the both the contributor AND agency makes.  The big agencies will lose all that invaluable experience if veterans are shoved out the door and newbies have to learn those lessons from scratch.

cascoly

  • Photography, travel & online games at cascoly.com

« Reply #15 on: November 05, 2015, 14:06 »
+1
I'm done focusing on microstock as my main and sole income from here on in.  This year is the last straw.  The last few years have been down at least 25%, consistently.  I will be supplementing this dying income with other photographic opportunities, from skills I've developed through this business.  So for me it's like this...

Thank you, college... for the 4 year BA degree that got me a job working as a full-time graphic designer for almost 4 years; which then introduced me to stock imagery; which later became my main income source for 8 years full-time... now on to the next adventure.   I'm still thankful to the microstock community for helping me get through the last decade financially. 

You have to view everything is a stepping stone.  Businesses and commercial industries change all the time (supply/demand).  Hardly anyone retires from the same job anymore.  You have to constantly re-invent and morph your career as you need to.  It's just how the world works nowadays. 

Stock will still be a side-hobby, but with dwindling returns at best.  Is it still worth me submitting?  Maybe for a little bit of extra income.  It's definitely not going to be cost-effective in terms of your time, for too much longer.
my experience followed yours in reverse - I had a different career, which included 10 years as a computer games designer; I left the latter for new ventures as Hollywood took over games production and concentrated on database consulting

I started selling stock in the 70's and it was a decent side income thru the mid 90s; I switched to digital around 2000 but my first cameras were low MP so I didn't enter microstock til about 7 years ago

it's never been my full time job, but MS allowed me to retire early from my computer consulting business to spend more time on travel; that continues to be the case and my MS income is up about 15% this year (my SS portfolio increased about the same, but most sales are from older images)

so while MS may look bleak for those expecting a full time paycheck, there are many other ways to keep it going

« Reply #16 on: November 05, 2015, 14:10 »
+2


I'm now thinking that if I'm still in microstock five years from now, I'll be earning around one third of what I earn today.


That sounds about right, and that's only if you keep producing.


« Reply #17 on: November 05, 2015, 14:28 »
+7
Well I'd partially agree with you on some points.

You said "Microstock is broken.  It's unprofitable and unsustainable for contributors." What needs to be added to that is "for people who expect long term income growth"

I think the growth wall is because every image has a sales lifecycle. Grow, plateau, die. I don't know what the formula is but maybe let's say you need to double your portfolio every year to just to break even. If you start off with 25 photos it's not hard to quaduple that to 100 photos in a year and you perceive that as growth. Same for next year going from 100 photos to 400. Life is wonderful in microstockland. But a few more years down the road as on old timer how many people can go from 10,000 to 40,000 photos or even 20,000. Not many. So in the long term it's probably unsustanable for most people.

But for the agencies like SS who are seeing record financials and are doubling their collection quarterly, that would indicate that for every one person that abandons ship there are maybe dozens or even hundreds of people jumping aboard. And in a few years those people may abandon ship. And so on. So for certain distributors they dont see a problem. More people joining than leaving and record revenue and profits? What problem?

Who knows when or if the ratio of people jumping versus coming aboard will ever reverse. Until then it's probably not a concern for most or all distributors. This is kind of like the California gold rush. The only people who made money were the ones selling tools to the miners.

I've removed most of my collection from microstock to sell direct and also sell outside of stock. Turned out to be a good decision for me. Like I said before I'm grateful to have had micro give me the opportunity to learn the business. It has opened a lot of doors into other things.

« Reply #18 on: November 05, 2015, 14:49 »
0
Well I'd partially agree with you on some points.

You said "Microstock is broken.  It's unprofitable and unsustainable for contributors." What needs to be added to that is "for people who expect long term income growth"

I think the growth wall is because every image has a sales lifecycle. Grow, plateau, die. I don't know what the formula is but maybe let's say you need to double your portfolio every year to just to break even. If you start off with 25 photos it's not hard to quaduple that to 100 photos in a year and you perceive that as growth. Same for next year going from 100 photos to 400. Life is wonderful in microstockland. But a few more years down the road as on old timer how many people can go from 10,000 to 40,000 photos or even 20,000. Not many. So in the long term it's probably unsustanable for most people.

interesting. i did not read the rest as i agree with what you say above.
i also think it's about your own returns. if say with 10k photos today, will 20k double your earnings?
most i read say no. so in this case, i would not bother double my portfolio.
otoh, if i have 5k now, and my income has either stabalized or better than last year,
i will see no reason to bother another 5k new works, consider that my last 12 months new work earned me 0 to $5 cumulative while 75% of my daily income came from works i uploaded as a beginner with ss.  why bother adding more new stuff if i don't even get $10 on any of them.

sustainability? i think it is sustainable, but so long as ss don't eff up on my search of my regular earners. if i have to rely on 50 out of 5k images to earn payout every month, which i have reach every month since 5 years ago, i think i will consider it sustainable.

and wait till i see my new images earn me something worthwhile  before i add any new ones.
but to be fair, i have to admit, some of the new ones did earn me the biggest single earnings.. 28 to 102 bucks each. so i am not wasting time really,
just wasting time uploading too many, instead.

what do you dsay to that, paulie?

Hongover

« Reply #19 on: November 05, 2015, 14:49 »
+6
I don't think microstock is broken. I mean broken for who? It's thriving like crazy right now.

What's happening is that EVERYONE has more competitors now than ever. I hate to burst some people's bubbles...but things will continue to moving along even if everyone on this forum pull our portfolios. And the generation that replaces us will be just as talented, if not more so. Do a search for "stethoscope" and there are over 250,000 images. You take a bucket of water from a lake and you still have a lake.

Apple used to own the Tablet market when the iPad came out. Now that market is saturate, every company is seeing declining sales. So is the tablet market broken? No, it's just saturated.

Nobody is being shoved out the door. People can choose to stay or choose to leave. That's like me saying the Apple App Store is shoving me out the door. No, I choose to stop developing apps because Microstock makes me 700% more revenue.

« Reply #20 on: November 05, 2015, 15:05 »
+8
I don't think microstock is broken. I mean broken for who? It's thriving like crazy right now.

Here's what's broken.  A contributor used to see a payoff for creating and uploading images.  Today due to oversaturation, falling prices and lower commissions, the payoff is gone.  There's no reason to do it. 

No payoff for veterans to keep submitting new images if it doesn't slow the falling of their earnings.  I increase my port size by 20%.  My earnings fall by 25%.  That's broken.

And certainly no reason for a newcomer to even start.

The dream of microstock is broken.  The hope many of us had of funding trips, a child's college tuition, or even just equipment is broken.

Customers are happy (for now).  Agencies are happy (for now).  But when top suppliers are by and large unhappy and stop supplying, the market is broken.



« Reply #21 on: November 05, 2015, 15:11 »
+3

Who knows when or if the ratio of people jumping versus coming aboard will ever reverse.

I only disagree with this one.

For now, it's like you said. But wait for time when all agencies will have about 100-200 millions of images (in next few years probably) and we will see that less and less people will join (and continue to work for microstock)

Why?

Because at this moment new contributors upload 100-200 images and they can even earn some money out of it in few months. In the future they will make less then a dollar with the same amount of images and just quit it in the start.

Technically they will join, but they will not be real contributors or competitors if they quit quickly.

« Reply #22 on: November 05, 2015, 15:13 »
+3
The business model doesn't need top-suppliers to thrive, or even run.  There are so many advanced amateurs, that it will stay afloat just fine.  Whatever a company can't find in the photobanks, it will commission to shoot on-demand commercially. 

It may just get back to that more, and that's where we come in... actually knowing what we are doing by now, and able to handle professional commercial assignments for those companies with larger budgets and deeper pockets.  It's up to us which side we want to be on.  The "residual income growth" road has been blocked or at least drastically cramped.

Hongover

« Reply #23 on: November 05, 2015, 15:36 »
+4
I don't think microstock is broken. I mean broken for who? It's thriving like crazy right now.

Here's what's broken.  A contributor used to see a payoff for creating and uploading images.  Today due to oversaturation, falling prices and lower commissions, the payoff is gone.  There's no reason to do it. 

No payoff for veterans to keep submitting new images if it doesn't slow the falling of their earnings.  I increase my port size by 20%.  My earnings fall by 25%.  That's broken.

And certainly no reason for a newcomer to even start.

The dream of microstock is broken.  The hope many of us had of funding trips, a child's college tuition, or even just equipment is broken.

Customers are happy (for now).  Agencies are happy (for now).  But when top suppliers are by and large unhappy and stop supplying, the market is broken.

Every market faces saturation at one point for another. When a platform is young, first moves make a lot of money, but anyone with a sense of reality know that it's not going to last. Soon, others will jump on board very quickly and dilute your earnings. Not only that, the newcomers will have better content than you do and force you to compete harder.

Increasing the size of a portfolio means nothing. It's not relative to your income, it's only relative to your specific portfolio. You can increase your portfolio by 100% and see your income increase by 10%. The explanation is fairly simple. Every new image you upload starts at the BOTTOM and it must compete with existing images. It also needs to climb the search results, which can take months or it may not climb at all if your competition is better. Your old images can earn money because some of them are in the 1st page of the results, but your new images are in page 100. In the mean time, your existing images gets more competition from others, cause your download numbers to decline. That's what's happening.

Your expectations is that you expect the world to stay still while you continue to progress. That's not how it works. I see people develop a sense of entitlement because they've been doing something longer than others.

I'm still consider a "newcomer" since I started this year. There are very good reason for anyone to start. If I can climb to a weekly position of 1610 with 184 images as a newcomer on FT, someone else can do just as well if they take the time to learn the business.


« Reply #24 on: November 05, 2015, 16:12 »
+3
I've been in Microstock 9 years now with 7000 vectors. First I stopped uploading to istock then I stopped uploading to Shutterstock after seeing massive sales drops in both. I kept my accounts on both because I put the effort in uploading. I put all my effort moving forward into Fotolia, Dreamstime, 123RF, Canstock, Deposit and regained most of my lost earnings. Now I put up when I can and enjoy stable sales month from month.


 

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