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Author Topic: "I Have Left the Skinner Box" - The Official Thread  (Read 1990 times)

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« on: August 05, 2016, 20:43 »
As early as 2011 I realized for certain where things were going with Microstock. Today, August 5th, I have decided to stop uploading and pursue a new industry. I'll let my work fall below a certain point in income then I will shut down all of my agency connections. Customers will only find me on my website.

I should praise microstock for bringing me from a sign shop to being a programmer, 3d artist, web designer, etc, besides the many customers who searched me out because they found me on an agency. Microstock has been full of good times. These things would not have been possible without this industry. There was a genuine turning point when I saw Istock giving away my images, and the obvious crash was silent, but it has happened. Much like the 2008 housing crisis, people only realize what a huge fall that had occurred in retrospect.

With these online superstores there comes a point when you are gaming or getting gamed, or maybe a little of both. Obviously when it comes to shear profit and opportunity, you know who is making bank. I don't think the owners of the agencies are motivated by canister achievements and cute pixel badges. Random rewards are good for rats, but not for me. If I tweet "I got a sale on Dreamstime!" I'm not sure how this is helping me... but this is the proverbial "Skinner Box" where contributors are led on by less than logical motivations. Some recognize this, some don't. Its not a common subject.

On this island I walked into a photographer's shop (undersea photography). He had to sell enough of his work to pay rent in the Queen's Shops at least. He was roughly my age, give or take a few years. I said "Your work is phenomenal! I'm curious - have you ever sold through a microstock agency?"

He stated quite matter-of-factly that he would be throwing away his work and dooming his career if he did this. This was not a surprise to me - I've asked quite a few photographers around here about that and they responded similarly. I understand though there are different ways to approach a market or markets, so this is not to say they were "right" but rather decided what they thought, with obvious results, what sustainability meant. Its the difference between a gormet chocolatier (we have one on this island here too!) and someone who runs a general candy shop (in hilo! awesome shop!).

I'm not badmouthing Microstock. I did well up till 2013. It had its place. In my teens I could have easily been convinced that investing in Beanie Babies would put my unborn kids through college, and silly me, a few years later I would have a room stuffed with useless sock animals. But I'm 37 tomorrow, and I've decided to make a career change. I look at the ploys and obviously less-than-logical motivations this industry uses to lead people on, and I've put it behind me and below me. I recognized the methodologies as early as 2008 when I saw Istock "Steel Cages" but hey I was making money so I could overlook it. Besides, that little double-blue-flame was a fun thing to see at the time even if it inspired people to copy me. I could tolerate the "community" power plays and hierarchies because the money was good.

I was telling my wife, as I woke up with an epiphany, that I used to count my sales in $3-$7 increments multiple times a day on the same image, and multiple images would sell this way. Profits were astronomical across the board. While diversifying among agencies has slowed the decline, the dynamics and numbers are different now. Its enough to say "Ok, I'm out". The epiphany was that my first 100 images in the first months outperformed my 4000 images in these months. My production is higher in quality and some months quantity, but the return is fractional compared to before.

That is not to say, of course, that there not will be many newcomers who might actually come into this business and rock the house. But I haven't numbered myself among those obviously more qualified producers.

Since many of us have shared successes together, as well as declines, perhaps we might share the enlightenment too. As for anyone who can stick it out longer - no shame on you! You are probably the right animal for this savana. But I believe, like many here, this industry has polished us up for the next venture. Onward and upward!

If you've come to the same conclusion I have, feel free to speak up with the good bad and ugly times, and if you are happy to share your new direction please do. I hope for the success of everyone I had known in Microstock.


« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2016, 21:50 »
Well said!  The good times were fun while they lasted.  I haven't uploaded in over a year.  I have whole sheds full of props and costumes/wardrobe I won't use again.  Someday maybe I'll have a massive rummage sale.  But meanwhile I'll just ride the long tail and watch my income decline year on year. 

The only comfort,  if you could call it that, is that when I was uploading the last year or two it didn't seem to make a difference.   Income still in constant decline.  And reading and talking to people that still upload, seems like its not helping them stay afloat any more than it did me.  So I will just collect the  passive income while it lasts.

I'm not as bitter as I sound.  I am grateful for the ride and super grateful for the six figures I made over the course of my microstock career.  Wish I'd saved more of it.    A wise and experienced old timer stock pro since the 80s used to post here, and he said that each stock photo boom was good for about 10 years.  RM good for 10 years, RF good for 10 years, now micro for 10 years, give or take.  Even if you havent  been doing this for ten years, thats about how long the boom lasted. He's beeen proved right. 
« Last Edit: August 05, 2016, 21:57 by PixelBytes »

« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2016, 22:00 »
Love your alien head image. Very cool.  :D


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