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Author Topic: Shutterstock very bad results  (Read 2454 times)

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« on: January 08, 2019, 03:54 »
0
Hey guys,
I am interested in opinion of the more experienced artists here.
I'm in microstock for 7 years now and went through all kinds of changes and downfalls, but nothing like what I'm experiencing now with Shutterstock. Because it has always been around 40% of my income, this kind of decrease in revenue is literally forcing me to search for a new way to earn my living.

On the graph:
The red line is the size of my portfolio
The bars are income (green is income from images, blue is income from video)



You can see that when I started uploading more - beginning of 2017 I tripled the size of my port - my income naturally went up. Not too much, but it went up. So I started working really hard on my portfolio, started creating more videos and I mean high-end videos, 4k timelapses, 4k aerial etc and started creating way more illustrations, hired people to help me, paid for keyworders etc. And you can see on the graph that the result has been an absolute catastrophe.
My income has dropped massively in April 2018 and in spite of me optimizing my workflow to produce more images than ever before, since April my income is decreasing month by month. In october I uploaded beautiful varied portfolio of hundreds of timelapses and aerials from around the world and my income from video is as low as it was when I had 15 simple animations in my port. In fact, I experienced nothing else but another massive decrease in revenue the following month.

I tried new concepts, I tried less keywords, more keywords, I tried photos, illustrations, videos, animations... and I am not able to stop the downfall.

I know the recent changes in algorithm impacted me a lot, I can see how my best sellers dropped down, but still... I have large portfolio and a sizeable portion of the market of the concepts that I am focusing on and I can still see my images on the first pages of the searches. So what is going on?

Also, my RPD has gone down from close to $1 per sale a year ago to less than $0.5 per sale now. More and more sales are $0.38 subs, anything larger is becoming a rarity.

I have growth in almost all the other agencies, even the ones that are not doing very well, but they are much smaller in comparison to what I'm losing in Shutterstock. Together with the fall of iStock, which was 20% of my income, I have now 60% of my revenue in free-fall and I feel helpless.

Is anybody else experiencing this, or are you still managing to grow on Shutterstock? I really like this work, I've built a superb efficient workflow and I have what I think is a strong pipeline of ideas and concepts to offer, I don't want to give up easily, but can't go ahead if I can't keep Shutterstock at least on level. Any ideas are appreciated.


ShadySue

« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2019, 04:30 »
0
You look to be doing extremely well this month, given that we're only on day 8 and the first day (or two) were holidays in much of the buying world.

« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2019, 05:08 »
+5
You look to be doing extremely well this month, given that we're only on day 8 and the first day (or two) were holidays in much of the buying world.

He doesn't show January 2019 the one you probably say is Jan. 2018

« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2019, 05:10 »
0
Harvepino ~ it really depends on what subjects you are producing.

What kind of stuff are you shooting?
« Last Edit: January 08, 2019, 07:37 by Sammy the Cat »

« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2019, 05:15 »
+5
@Harvepino, you are not the only one in this trend. It seems that once a contributor reaches a specific mass of files it doesn't go up in income anymore no matter the number of uploaded files. Neither the higher quality or variety of themes doesn't help. Funny thing is, that older and lower quality files still sell better.

« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2019, 05:24 »
+7
I believe this is your portfolio https://www.shutterstock.com/g/tomgriger?page=100&measurement=px&sort=popular&safe=true&search_source=base_gallery&language=en. You have way too many similar images. In fact, it should be considered spam, simply mass producing images won't increase sales.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2019, 05:28 by Saurav »

« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2019, 05:33 »
+1
@Harvepino, you are not the only one in this trend. It seems that once a contributor reaches a specific mass of files it doesn't go up in income anymore no matter the number of uploaded files. Neither the higher quality or variety of themes doesn't help. Funny thing is, that older and lower quality files still sell better.

So I've hit the wall  :(
What I noticed is that when I was doing it for fun some 6 years ago, a friend of mine started uploaded some of his travel photos too. At 4000 photos, he stopped, while I started doing microstock full time. I also had 4-5k travel photos that time, similar portfolios, just different countries.
Nowadays - his 4000 photos are still selling, albeit his income is slowly decreasing about 10% a year. My 4000 travel photos are completely dead. I sell maybe 1 a week. Looks like uploading new content in my case simply replaced the older files, even when the new files have nothing in common with travel photos. If this is still happening, by uploading lot of images, all I'm doing is "replacing" all of the previous images constantly. Killing my own images by uploading new ones. Just a theory, hard to test it.

« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2019, 05:44 »
+1
I believe this is your portfolio https://www.shutterstock.com/g/tomgriger?page=100&measurement=px&sort=popular&safe=true&search_source=base_gallery&language=en. You have way too many similar images. In fact, it should be considered spam, simply mass producing images won't increase sales.
Look at my sets please
https://www.shutterstock.com/g/tomgriger/sets
I do more that the "mass production". The mass production of countries on Earth worked well for me in the past. The ones showing currently in the front of my portfolio are not the best representation of my work, they are actually one of the worst ones. I agree that such images won't help in any way.

« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2019, 06:09 »
+2
Having many images of a same subject... you surely are (or will be) punished by search algorithms, since you dilute other's works who are themselves trying to emerge from the crowd/crap, by uploading only one or two images from a same subject. Diversity of the database is primordial, searching through similars is very boring for customers. This (spam) is not the best strategy for stability of revenue. Don't think/compute RPD but RPI, it decreases with the growth of similar images.
What does mean 4000 travel photos if only tens of different subjects? What did you expect?

« Reply #9 on: January 08, 2019, 06:33 »
+3
Having many images of a same subject... you surely are (or will be) punished by search algorithms, since you dilute other's works who are themselves trying to emerge from the crowd/crap, by uploading only one or two images from a same subject. Diversity of the database is primordial, searching through similars is very boring for customers. This (spam) is not the best strategy for stability of revenue. Don't think/compute RPD but RPI, it decreases with the growth of similar images.
What does mean 4000 travel photos if only tens of different subjects? What did you expect?
I value your opinion and critique. I also work on concepts where I upload only couple of high-value images, but when looking at my port, you can't see them, because the page is naturally full of the one concept where I create masses. Your advice makes sense. I guess I got carried away by the other contributors uploading millions of variations and I didn't want to stay behind, so I picked one theme to give over to mass production. That was likely a mistake... certainly from the point of view that my portfolio as a whole looks really crap now.  :-\

50%

« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2019, 06:51 »
+3
this thread lead me to look at my stats at SS for a very long time. I was surprised how well I performed my monthly earnings have been in the 200-400 $ range so very small earner but compared to 2017 it was actually better without doing anything in 2018 at all! I don't wanna be cynical but maybe the problem is your massive upload that put you back!

50%

« Reply #11 on: January 08, 2019, 07:01 »
+2
I believe this is your portfolio https://www.shutterstock.com/g/tomgriger?page=100&measurement=px&sort=popular&safe=true&search_source=base_gallery&language=en. You have way too many similar images. In fact, it should be considered spam, simply mass producing images won't increase sales.
I had a quick look but I don't see this as spam at all the pictures look similar but they focus on a different country with each image so no spam at all IMHO

« Reply #12 on: January 08, 2019, 07:02 »
+2
Massive uploads might penalise, but SS also opened the flood gate by removing the test to become a contributor and accepting pretty much anyone with access to internet. Competition is much higher - you've now got more than 3 million search results for 'maps' - and sales prices have gone down due to subs, which would explain why your graph is going down... Maybe try to create some more unique 'niche' or complex content, that will be more difficult for other people to copy. Your aerial photos looks very nice btw :)

« Reply #13 on: January 08, 2019, 07:13 »
+1
I believe this is your portfolio https://www.shutterstock.com/g/tomgriger?page=100&measurement=px&sort=popular&safe=true&search_source=base_gallery&language=en. You have way too many similar images. In fact, it should be considered spam, simply mass producing images won't increase sales.
I had a quick look but I don't see this as spam at all the pictures look similar but they focus on a different country with each image so no spam at all IMHO
Yeah, thanks, that was my idea when creating the concept. But I agree with the negative critique that I might have gone too far where I created some crappy images in which the country is not really obvious/hard to see/not the main subject of the image... and so the images for various countries look very similar and with 160 different countries it can look like spam. And maybe it can appear so for the search algorithm too.

« Reply #14 on: January 08, 2019, 07:13 »
+1
Look at my sets please
https://www.shutterstock.com/g/tomgriger/sets
I do more that the "mass production". The mass production of countries on Earth worked well for me in the past. The ones showing currently in the front of my portfolio are not the best representation of my work, they are actually one of the worst ones. I agree that such images won't help in any way.

That's even worse.  I was expecting lifestyle or something when you talked about more "high end videos" and spending money.  Basically, you've got a bunch of generic travel imagery without people and 3d renders.  My 3d renders hardly ever sell anymore.  Too easy to mass produce them in Russia, I guess. 

I would stop wasting time one random bodies of land, water and barns, honestly.  You've got that.  Move on to a more saleable topic.

What's 100,000 of images like this actually bringing in?
« Last Edit: January 08, 2019, 07:16 by Sean Locke Photography »

ShadySue

« Reply #15 on: January 08, 2019, 07:14 »
0
You look to be doing extremely well this month, given that we're only on day 8 and the first day (or two) were holidays in much of the buying world.

He doesn't show January 2019 the one you probably say is Jan. 2018

Oh grief, if I only had a brain.  :-[

« Reply #16 on: January 08, 2019, 07:25 »
+1
Look at my sets please
https://www.shutterstock.com/g/tomgriger/sets
I do more that the "mass production". The mass production of countries on Earth worked well for me in the past. The ones showing currently in the front of my portfolio are not the best representation of my work, they are actually one of the worst ones. I agree that such images won't help in any way.

That's even worse.  I was expecting lifestyle or something when you talked about more "high end videos" and spending money.  Basically, you've got a bunch of generic travel imagery without people and 3d renders.  My 3d renders hardly ever sell anymore.  Too easy to mass produce them in Russia, I guess. 

I would stop wasting time one random bodies of land, water and barns, honestly.  You've got that.  Move on to a more saleable topic.

What's 100,000 of images like this actually bringing in?
Thank you for your input Sean Locke, I highly value your expertise in the field. I'll explore new topics as you suggest.
Btw, I create variations of maps for 160 countries, so 100,000 is in fact 100,000/160= 625 different images, only they are replicated for all countries. But I got your point, this is not the way to move forward.


Shelma1

« Reply #17 on: January 08, 2019, 07:25 »
+6
1. Hit the wall. 2. I believe when Shutterstock lowered their acceptance standards they simultaneously changed the search algorithm to favor older files, because they knew they were accepting millions of cr@p images and didnt want to horrify buyers. 3. Yes, too many similars uploaded at once.

« Reply #18 on: January 08, 2019, 09:13 »
+2
You're not alone. I've been saying this on forums that my sales also started descreasing since April last year. And near the end of the year, there were a lot of posts claiming sales have dropped for them too. I don't think our portfolios are the problem, I mean, they were doing fine for years.

« Reply #19 on: January 08, 2019, 10:37 »
+4
Portfolios with spam are definitely a problem. The site is so infested with bad similars, what buyer would want to wade through all that. When you spam, you arent the only one who suffers...everyone does.

« Reply #20 on: January 08, 2019, 13:46 »
+2
Portfolios with spam are definitely a problem. The site is so infested with bad similars, what buyer would want to wade through all that. When you spam, you arent the only one who suffers...everyone does.

Agreed, when I go to buy an image and search something there are about 40,000 of the same exact thing at a slightly different angle. This is one of the main reasons why I don't have a shutterstock subscription. Adobe has just done better in this regard, even though there are some that are "grandfathered" in that do that ... it's less prevalent.

Today for instance, I need some fake eyelash photos for a full width image slider ... 4 pages in on SS and I've seen maybe one that's appealing. (I'll go buy it with the sub anyway.)

« Reply #21 on: January 08, 2019, 14:05 »
+2
This portfolio is a text-book anwser to a question "Why I don't have any sales despite adding thousands of images". Dude, I checked first 10 pages for fresh content and it's basically same stuff page after page. How many peeople, do you think, need so many images of earth and country on it? Đeez
« Last Edit: January 08, 2019, 14:13 by Dumc »

« Reply #22 on: January 08, 2019, 14:39 »
+7
...So I started working really hard on my portfolio, ... and started creating way more illustrations, hired people to help me, paid for keyworders etc. ...Any ideas are appreciated.

If you're honest with yourself, looking back on the decision you made to become a 3D map/satellite view factory (among other things), does it still make sense that this would really boost your income?

I searched your port for the keyword Germany and there were 500+ results - a mind-numbing display of tiny variations. Satellite views with and without borderlines around the country. Slight color variations, etc. Perhaps less than 10 would have been fine to cover your bases. And not all countries are equally interesting to stock buyers - I got similar numbers of results for countries that I doubt generate many searches, let alone many purchases.

In addition to a flood of similars, what you've done is so easy to copy if one or two should turn out to be really saleable. So you've invested time and money in mass producing things with limited market potential and low barriers to competitors.

Sorry if this sounds harsh, but I think the issue is largely not a result of SS's problems - although if they'd rejected lots of your similars when you first started down this path they'd have been doing you a huge favor (IMO).

I didn't look at your videos as I really have no expertise there regarding what sells or doesn't; this was just about the photo & 3D part of your portfolio.

« Reply #23 on: January 08, 2019, 15:41 »
+2
Maybe you can upload some to see if the sell and if they do maybe expand it but uploading a bunch of the same without even knowing if it's gonna work maybe it's a waste of time

« Reply #24 on: January 08, 2019, 16:19 »
+3
...So I started working really hard on my portfolio, ... and started creating way more illustrations, hired people to help me, paid for keyworders etc. ...Any ideas are appreciated.

If you're honest with yourself, looking back on the decision you made to become a 3D map/satellite view factory (among other things), does it still make sense that this would really boost your income?

I searched your port for the keyword Germany and there were 500+ results - a mind-numbing display of tiny variations. Satellite views with and without borderlines around the country. Slight color variations, etc. Perhaps less than 10 would have been fine to cover your bases. And not all countries are equally interesting to stock buyers - I got similar numbers of results for countries that I doubt generate many searches, let alone many purchases.

In addition to a flood of similars, what you've done is so easy to copy if one or two should turn out to be really saleable. So you've invested time and money in mass producing things with limited market potential and low barriers to competitors.

Sorry if this sounds harsh, but I think the issue is largely not a result of SS's problems - although if they'd rejected lots of your similars when you first started down this path they'd have been doing you a huge favor (IMO).

I didn't look at your videos as I really have no expertise there regarding what sells or doesn't; this was just about the photo & 3D part of your portfolio.
Thank you for your honest answer and advice Jo Ann. I now realise what a fatal flaw was my decision to make so many versions of images for each country. I must admit I feel ashamed and angry with myself.
I'll take a step back and refocus my attention to new concepts.

« Reply #25 on: January 08, 2019, 16:42 »
+1
Try to think like a buyer. Would you buy your own work?

There are too many duplicates in your portfolio. It confuses me, it confuses the buyer and everyone looking at your portfolio. Nobody look at sets, they just care about what they're looking for and what's in your portfolio. When I go into your portfolio, the presentation is overwhelming and I just want to leave.

Understand the market instead of doubling down on your niches. What's the point of 1127 images of the Lofoten Islands? Does anyone care? Simple 3D illustrations (unless they're amazing) are so 2000's. It stopped being trendy about 5 years ago and people have moved on.

You're basically fighting against yourself and competing against yourself. Focus on quality instead of quantity. You have over 100,000 images and very few of them stand out.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2019, 16:52 by Minsc »

« Reply #26 on: January 09, 2019, 01:29 »
+3
...So I started working really hard on my portfolio, ... and started creating way more illustrations, hired people to help me, paid for keyworders etc. ...Any ideas are appreciated.

If you're honest with yourself, looking back on the decision you made to become a 3D map/satellite view factory (among other things), does it still make sense that this would really boost your income?

I searched your port for the keyword Germany and there were 500+ results - a mind-numbing display of tiny variations. Satellite views with and without borderlines around the country. Slight color variations, etc. Perhaps less than 10 would have been fine to cover your bases. And not all countries are equally interesting to stock buyers - I got similar numbers of results for countries that I doubt generate many searches, let alone many purchases.

In addition to a flood of similars, what you've done is so easy to copy if one or two should turn out to be really saleable. So you've invested time and money in mass producing things with limited market potential and low barriers to competitors.

Sorry if this sounds harsh, but I think the issue is largely not a result of SS's problems - although if they'd rejected lots of your similars when you first started down this path they'd have been doing you a huge favor (IMO).

I didn't look at your videos as I really have no expertise there regarding what sells or doesn't; this was just about the photo & 3D part of your portfolio.
Thank you for your honest answer and advice Jo Ann. I now realise what a fatal flaw was my decision to make so many versions of images for each country. I must admit I feel ashamed and angry with myself.
I'll take a step back and refocus my attention to new concepts.

Don't beat yourself up, we all make mistakes while learning as market keeps evolving. Nobody has a full proof way of selling stock images and videos, and a formula that works this year might not work the year after.

You can always check which files you've sold most in the last months and try to understand why these files specifically. Is it because of subject, or technique, or placement in search results... And then you've got a starting point on what to do next. Or you can try something completely different altogether.

Also, check the files that never sold, and try to understand why they haven't sold. For instance, if your position in search results is good and there's many duplicates of these files, but they've never sold in 2 years, you might want to keep only 1 or 2 similar versions to give more space to other content.

Or if you don't want to delete files, you can always change title, description and limit your keywords to a minimum for each similar file using different words, so they don't appear all at once for the same search. You can then cover more ground and allow buyers to breathe.

Here's a few interesting articles about giving too many choices to buyers. See how it can impact them negatively. (I've just found these on Google btw, no affiliation).

1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overchoice

2) https://neilpatel.com/blog/too-many-choices/

3) https://insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu/article/what-predicts-consumer-choice-overload

Happy reading!


« Reply #27 on: January 09, 2019, 04:45 »
+4
+1 on the don't beat yourself up. It's an act of desperation brought on by SS's policy of accepting everything. It used to be that good images would be seen by buyers rather than buried within days/ hours. Now there has to be a balancing act with volume to even get anyone to see your work. Definitely overdid it, but I can understand the reasoning.

Also, this isn't like the people uploading 1000s of background that are just a gradient in different colors, at least the globes seem to be of different countries. I mean someone looking for Germany focused isn't going to go for the UK if Germany isn't there. I just think you've shot yourself in the foot and lost all the buyers who may have been attracted to look through your portfolio based on the first few pages.

« Reply #28 on: January 09, 2019, 07:53 »
0
Figure out which of your images are best selling. Then do a Google Image search (as well as other image search engines). If you can find where your images are used you can determine how they were used and why your image was significant to the buyer. This might help you "think like a buyer".

H2O

« Reply #29 on: January 09, 2019, 08:12 »
+2
I noticed that I have quite a few days, sometimes a whole week, when I sell nothing in America, my sales used to be half America and then the rest of the World.

Their algorithm seems to be deliberately manipulated, which is just plain wrong.

Essentially they are keeping the rest of the World out of the American market, they are supposed to be a global platform for our work and they take a commission for this, it seems to me that like Getty/istock, that they have got hold of the wrong end of the stick.

I would like to think I am wrong, but the data seems to point otherwise.

Personally I believe that all these Microstock companies should publish facts and figures, like how many files where sold in Italy and in which Country those file were created, this should be on a monthly basis.

Then we need clarity on the financial side, so we can see how much money was made in each Country and which Country received the commission.

At the moment too much information is opaque.

I am sure all these Companies have this data and we are the Creatives producing the work that they are selling for us.


« Reply #30 on: January 09, 2019, 08:42 »
+2
"First they came ... " Martin Niemller

« Reply #31 on: January 09, 2019, 11:25 »
+1
I noticed that I have quite a few days, sometimes a whole week, when I sell nothing in America, my sales used to be half America and then the rest of the World.

Their algorithm seems to be deliberately manipulated, which is just plain wrong.

Essentially they are keeping the rest of the World out of the American market, they are supposed to be a global platform for our work and they take a commission for this, it seems to me that like Getty/istock, that they have got hold of the wrong end of the stick.

I would like to think I am wrong, but the data seems to point otherwise.

Personally I believe that all these Microstock companies should publish facts and figures, like how many files where sold in Italy and in which Country those file were created, this should be on a monthly basis.

Then we need clarity on the financial side, so we can see how much money was made in each Country and which Country received the commission.

At the moment too much information is opaque.

I am sure all these Companies have this data and we are the Creatives producing the work that they are selling for us.


It will never happen, but you can fight back easily. Stop doing business with them.


 

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