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Author Topic: Looking back on one year in Microstock  (Read 9338 times)

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« on: December 23, 2010, 12:02 »
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After many years as an commercial and fashion photographer based in the NYC area, I decided approximately one year ago to investigate Microstock.  Don't know what took me so long.  I really wish I had started years ago.  I had dabbled in RM/traditional stock with the agency Retna who syndicates my celebrity portraits (not all that many) and a few hundred lifestyle images that never really amounted to much, so I wasn't that encouraged.

Honestly model releases were the biggest hurdle to get over.  Most of my assignment work is with models from agencies who are generally averse to signing any sort of model release that would allow for any stock usage.  That applies to the lion's share of my archive. I finally started collecting stock model release from some shoots and directing other shoots specifically for microstock. 

I hit two interesting (to me) milestones this week.  Just about one year to the date of first uploading, I had my 100th download from iStockphoto and my 1,000th download from Shutterstock.  Overall my impression of the two websites differ greatly. I have found iStockphoto to be frustrating with uploads and petty with rejections.  With effort I have maintained a 70% acceptance rate.  I could generally live with those two factors, but the biased search engine (towards exclusives) and the reduction of percentages to contributors leave me unenthusiastic to contribute to iStockphoto going forward.  On the plus side, the average value of each download has been about 4x that of Shutterstock.

On the other hand, I have found Shutterstock to be very easy to deal with.  The higher upload limits have allowed me to upload more than double the number of images in a slightly shorter amount of time.  Although I haven't specifically calculated it, I would guess my acceptance rate at SS is >90%. Of course the value of each download is significantly lower due to the subscription set up. 

I have seen both sites change their contributor's pages--generally for the better. However, trends in the overall photography marketplace do not leave me that optimistic for the future.  I don't imagine them to be any different in the microstock world.  Trends specifically at iStockphoto are not encouraging at all.

I can't say that the revenues from microstock for me have been disappointing, because I did not put any goals or expectations on them.  However comparing the results and revenue of my time and effort put into creating the images to that of my commercial work shows that microstock pays literally pennies on the dollar (maybe only a single penny??).  But that is, I know, not a fair comparison.  20 years in magazines and advertising vs. 1 year in microstock is never going to balance out, but my year in microstock has been rewarding from an information standpoint, if not a financial one.

I have learned an additional style of shooting and more about the lifestyle stock market.  I've also become more disciplined and efficient in retouching and image preparation.  I have valued the opportunities that having the goal of contributing to microstock has motivated me to do perhaps a dozen or more shoots that I would not have otherwise done as well as a use for numerous images I was creating anyway for other projects.

I had given myself a year to decide if microstock is worth the effort for my specific set-up.  At this point I would cautiously say that it is with the codicil that I would never take time away from my commercial assignments (or even my marketing efforts) to shoot or upload for microstock.  With the ebbs and flows of my schedule (somewhat determined by fashion seasons) I will find time that can be constructively applied to microstock and I believe that I will continue to find new ways of 'harvesting' images from assignment work that have value in microstock.

-Dan  (www.danhowellphotography.com if anyone is interested)

p.s. I have learned a lot from topics and messages on this board


« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2010, 12:19 »
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Really nice portafolio you have.
Dont know what images you have on the stock sites, but looking at you web i would think you made much more sales than that.

« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2010, 13:20 »
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Thanks for sharing, Dan. Wish you continued success. 

« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2010, 13:56 »
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Thanks for sharing your story, Dan. Very well composed.

donding

  • Think before you speak
« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2010, 15:31 »
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Thanks Dan for sharing that beautiful port again. That's the second time I've seen it and it still amazes me as to why you'd even consider microstock. It's just an amazingly beautiful portfolio. I know with everything that is happening in the microstock world any more, it's really hard to stay motivated to even shoot stock any more. I personally don't know that I will continue, unless things change dramatically and I really don't foresee that happening. Unless the enjoyment of microstock comes back into my life it will be difficult to continue. Guess we'll see what 2011 brings.

Good luck to you and hope you have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year... ;)

lisafx

« Reply #5 on: December 23, 2010, 15:59 »
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Really interesting observations Dan.  :)

AFAIK you are one of very few successful assignment photographers who posts on this board, so you offer a pretty unique perspective on the micro industry.   Thanks for sharing your impressions!

« Reply #6 on: December 23, 2010, 16:22 »
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Yeah, stunning work on your webpage.  Just jumps right out at ya.

Are those all assignment?  Do the creative types come to you and say "we want images of girls in these outfits standing by big cut out circles, with such and such lighting", or do they just give general direction and you come up with it?

« Reply #7 on: December 23, 2010, 17:44 »
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Thanks for your thoughts and story Dan.  It is interesting to hear other's opinion on the industry.

It is also interesting since you appear to have an opposite opinion to me.  i feel it is not worth doing commercial or portrait type work when I could be doing microstock.  I suppose it has to do with how we are used to working and which machine we have 'fine tuned' to make us money, or maybe where we get the most enjoyment fromt.... and I suppose outlook on the various industries as well.. for the future.

Anyhow, good luck in the next year - it will be interesting if you keep us posted.

« Reply #8 on: December 23, 2010, 17:50 »
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I just checked out your website .. very impressive.  Can we see what you put up on microstock as well?  You've got me curious.  scratch that.. Google told me.
« Last Edit: December 23, 2010, 18:00 by leaf »

ShadySue

  • There is a crack in everything
« Reply #9 on: December 23, 2010, 17:59 »
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I just checked out your website .. very impressive.  Can we see what you put up on microstock as well?  You've got me curious.
It's easy to find him on iStock at least!

« Reply #10 on: December 23, 2010, 18:35 »
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Very nice work Dan.

« Reply #11 on: December 23, 2010, 19:13 »
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Just noticed your photos of Chumlee. Were they promo shots for the show, or personal? Just curious.

grp_photo

« Reply #12 on: December 23, 2010, 20:04 »
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Oh Retna this reminds me as my time as a music-photographer (more than 10 years ago) :-)  time flies :-)
really nice and balanced post was a pleasure to reading it :-)

« Reply #13 on: December 23, 2010, 20:11 »
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Just noticed your photos of Chumlee. Were they promo shots for the show, or personal? Just curious.


Hmm...of all the people I photographed you noticed Chumlee!!!  

Just kidding.  That shot was from a recent assignment for a group tattoo magazines that I have been working with for a couple of years Rebel Ink/Urban Ink.  Tattoos are not a core interest of mine, but the magazine was founded by an editor I had been working with for several years and it has become quite popular.  Because I have worked with this editor for a long time I have enjoyed freedom and flexibility to set the tone of some shoots.  For this project I suggested the backdrop of the vintage casino signs because it was a location that I had longed to shoot at--The Neon Museum in Las Vegas.  I am fortunate to have also been able to suggest several subjects for feature layouts.  

I am very appreciative of the response to my portfolio link here.  MSG has been a valuable source of information for me.  I am sure there are some other assignment shooters who at least read here. To answer a few questions, most of the work on my site is from client assignments.  Much of my recent work has been shooting for several bridal/evening dress manufacturers for their catalogs and advertising in NYC, FL and CA.  Some projects come with an established look that I have to carry forward, but most come as a somewhat blank slate where I work together with the company to develop the concept/lighting/set design which has been a challenge I savor.  Of course the work on my site is intended to represent the best of my work and does not indicate how many days (weeks?) I spend shooting against seamless paper backgrounds.

Another component of my work is in children's fashion which I show on a separate website (www.danhowellkids.com) and most of that work is derived from magazine editorial assignments and illustrating fashion and craft books for publishers.  Those magazine editorials were developed in conjunction with the staff art directors (some were ideas that I brought to the table) whereas the book projects generally have a more rigid look that has been developed and approved in advance (advertising is similar in that respect).  Working with kids and families is an area that I have only begun to scratch the surface with as far as microstock goes.  The few images I have put up have not yielded many downloads yet--but I have a lot to learn as far as SEO and keywording.

I found Leaf's response interesting as the other side of the coin.  I certainly haven't developed the revenue stream from microstock to compete with my assignment work, but I am encouraged to hear that you have.  My sum total of revenue from microstock (IS, SS, DT) wouldn't even equal the fee I got for the editorial assignment Cclapper commented on.  However, I do know that the more you put in the more you are likely to get out.  I also have to admit that I have had great success with spec. editorial sales which is an abstraction of stock since it is not created on assignment, though they are direct sales so I don't have to share the fees.  

Best holiday wishes.
« Last Edit: December 23, 2010, 20:14 by danhowl »

« Reply #14 on: December 23, 2010, 21:40 »
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Awesome work Dan, thank you for sharing...

rubyroo

« Reply #15 on: December 24, 2010, 04:38 »
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Beautiful work Dan, and thank you for the interesting posts!

« Reply #16 on: December 24, 2010, 07:31 »
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Just noticed your photos of Chumlee. Were they promo shots for the show, or personal? Just curious.

snip
Hmm...of all the people I photographed you noticed Chumlee!!!  

Just kidding.  That shot was from a recent assignment for a group tattoo magazines that I have been working with for a couple of years Rebel Ink/Urban Ink.  Tattoos are not a core interest of mine, but the magazine was founded by an editor I had been working with for several years and it has become quite popular.  Because I have worked with this editor for a long time I have enjoyed freedom and flexibility to set the tone of some shoots.  For this project I suggested the backdrop of the vintage casino signs because it was a location that I had longed to shoot at--The Neon Museum in Las Vegas.  I am fortunate to have also been able to suggest several subjects for feature layouts.

No, I noticed all of the other shots you did too. The women are gorgeous. And who wants to look at gorgeous women?  ::)  I'm just a big fan of Pawn Stars, that's all.  :)

I do agree with the "more you put into stock the more you get out". Photography is not my main career. I do believe that if I had the financial opportunity to do so, I could turn it into a career. But I have a lot of years experience in graphic design, and most recently web design, and I really like that work and want to continue on with it. Consequently, my photography is only a part-time thing. It has paid for all of the equipment I have purchased, plus helps out every month with the bills. I have gotten out of it exactly what I had intended.

« Reply #17 on: December 24, 2010, 13:54 »
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Just noticed your photos of Chumlee. Were they promo shots for the show, or personal? Just curious.

snip
Hmm...of all the people I photographed you noticed Chumlee!!!  
--------------------------

Is he really as perpetually stoned as they make him appear in the show?

« Reply #18 on: December 24, 2010, 19:32 »
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Quote
But I have a lot of years experience in graphic design, and most recently web design, and I really like that work and want to continue on with it. Consequently, my photography is only a part-time thing. It has paid for all of the equipment I have purchased, plus helps out every month with the bills. I have gotten out of it exactly what I had intended.

That sums up my experience almost exactly! The only difference is that I started in web and am now expanding into other areas.

lagereek

« Reply #19 on: December 25, 2010, 08:37 »
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Interesting!!  Im also freelance AD/industrial photographer, also been in RM with old Image-Bank, Getty, etc, for about Hmmmm, 1000 years it feels like.
I embarked on Micro approx, 4 years back and certainly dont regret it. Micro has on the whole been very good to me and on all fronts.

First thing I learnt was, you got to find some sort of a nieche, which is pretty hard since everything seems covered. It doesnt have to be a sole nieche, thats almost impossible to find but it does help to stay away from subjects that are covered in bazillions and lots of generic stuff.

Now shooting lifestyles?  well youre NOT alone there you know, this is a very, very popular subject and ofcourse a good seller but just search it and youll see.

Personally speaking I think youve got courage!  I wouldnt join today, I recon to make any serious revenue youre about three years too late BUT, that aside if you can come up with the goodies, executed in some sort of a special way (setting you apart from the mainstream), hell!! you can make it.

Youve probably read it thousands of times here and just about everywhere;  patience and more patience, upload, upload, upload, thats the bottom line.

all the best.

« Reply #20 on: December 25, 2010, 08:46 »
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Quote
But I have a lot of years experience in graphic design, and most recently web design, and I really like that work and want to continue on with it. Consequently, my photography is only a part-time thing. It has paid for all of the equipment I have purchased, plus helps out every month with the bills. I have gotten out of it exactly what I had intended.

That sums up my experience almost exactly! The only difference is that I started in web and am now expanding into other areas.

 :)

« Reply #21 on: December 28, 2010, 06:27 »
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After seeing your stunning images Dan, I think I'll take my ball and go home.  What beautiful work.

« Reply #22 on: December 28, 2010, 17:45 »
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After seeing your stunning images Dan, I think I'll take my ball and go home.  What beautiful work.

Not at all.  Looks like you get to some interesting places yourself.  Keep it up.


 

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