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Author Topic: A perfect microstock website - what's it like in your opinion?  (Read 10618 times)

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« on: July 21, 2007, 14:43 »
Hello everyone,

My name is Richard.

I am photographer myself, not a serious one, but still. Photography has always been something I have always enjoyed. Due to some circumstanses I have never sold my photos online, so I can't judge myself and therefore I am here to ask you something.

I am going to open a new microstock website. I know that some of you just stick to the "Big 6", that's how you call it, and you are against the new-comers, but I see an opportunity here as a businessman and as a photographer.

In order to be a good competition I want my company (microstock website) to be held to the highest standarts and yet be user-oriented. So that's why I have some questions:

What is a perfect microstock website like in your opinion? What pricing model works for you? What is a perfect upload system like in your opinion? Are there any features you would like to appear?

Please not just stick to my questions. If there is anything you would like to add, you are free to do it.

Thank you in advance,
Richard :)

P.S. I have done a lot of research, I mean I came here because I think that in order to make my website as user-oriented as possible, I have to talk directly to the photographers.

« Reply #1 on: July 21, 2007, 16:09 »
A thread with no replies  :'( but its Saturday night in Europe

OK for starters FTP ITPC reading no or very simple categories to ease uploading or an autopopulate feature

50-100 uploads/day

Fast but fair reviewing system with some indication if a simple correction was made could it be resubmitted (more like Istock).

At least 50% of the sale price, bonus percentage on one image per 100 images (I know one of the other new sites offered this)

paypal/moneybookers to pay international contributors.

In this field to make an impact you would probably need some incentives to encourage photographers to upload such a few cents per single upload or lump sums per 100 etc.

Then you have to attract the buyers and there are a lot of agencies out there

« Reply #2 on: July 22, 2007, 02:36 »
Ok, thank you very much, fintastique!

I am sure others will share their opinion too. :)

Well, 50% of the sale price, all right. And what about the prices themselves & and sizes? I mean shall I stick to regular 1$ for small, 2$ for bigger and so on scheme? I have seen that some sell images that are 300*400 for 1$ and they call it small, others sell 600*800 for the same price and they call it small too.

It's quite important and I am asking you because you know what pictures (and in what sizes) sell better :)


« Reply #3 on: July 22, 2007, 02:50 »
The perfect site for me would have easy uploads, give the photographers a fair cut of the sales, and have loads of customers clamouring to buy the pictures.  ;D
The keywords and categories would be entered by the site to prevent keyword spamming, and the search would return results that were really useful to the customers.
A clear marketing strategy would be already in place, not just vague promises.
New photographers would have a quota of uploads to stop the approval process being swamped with rubbish. Once they had a certain number approved and had proved themselves, the upload limit would be removed.
Payment to the photographer would be prompt after the payment request, not days later, (after all, the site don't let the customers delay payment do they?)
The sites the have subscription and single purchase seem to be doing well for me. Both types of customer are catered for.
As to sizing, you should be asking your prospective customers, they are the one's who will be using the pictures.

« Reply #4 on: July 22, 2007, 03:12 »
Thank you very much, Clivia ;)

« Reply #5 on: July 22, 2007, 04:46 »
prices how about

300 x 400                  50c
600 x 800                 $1
2 mp 1200 x 1600     $2
4mp 1704 x 2272      $3
8 mp 2304 x 3456     $4

not sure about price increments after that 12mp and 16mp

prompt payment is important either set pay days Mon Wednesday and Friday or within 48 hours

« Reply #6 on: July 22, 2007, 05:35 »
That's an interesting offer, I will consider it.

Ok, and what about the min. payment amount? What amount would you call the most reasonable for both sides?


« Reply #7 on: July 22, 2007, 11:19 »
- Some sites you must earn $100 before payout (unresonable).
- One site is $30 (reasonable).
- The most reasonable site (in my opinion) has a $50 payout with no fees, or you can request funds earlier by paying a couple credits.

Many will never reach a cashout at $100 so in effect the agency is witholding their earnings which is illegal in most civilized countries. 

Which category would you like your site to fall into?  I hope you would like to be thought of as honest, ethical, nurturing to the community that makes your business possible? 

Also:  If you would like to study how NOT to launch, read about SnapVillage in this posthttp://www.microstockgroup.com/index.php?topic=1982.0

Also, if you read these forums LuckyOliver is also a yearling - the sales aren't there yet, but they have groomed a seriously loyal and dedicated community.  They are a fresh and exciting site that treats everyone with RESPECT.  Most of the others are rigid and anonymous.  At LO (and StockXpert - don't forget Steve) there's real people who have a real presence.

Good luck to you, and keep us posted

« Last Edit: July 22, 2007, 11:26 by Pixart »

« Reply #8 on: July 22, 2007, 12:09 »
Richard, smart move asking these questions here.

I have some questions for you:

How much capital do you have?
How many pages in your business plan?
How many business mentors do you have?
How many experts are in your team?
How much do good programmers, designers, technicians and reviewers cost in your area?
How many industry contacts do you have?
How will you differentiate your business in a crowded marketplace?
How long do your financial models project it will take before you break even?
What is your launch strategy?
Which industry events will you sponsor and speak at?
How will you incentivise us contributors to give you our images before you can deliver sales?
How many microstock agency CEOs have you interviewed?
What partnerships do you plan to create?
How will you scale your storage capacity, bandwidth and database platform?
What's your Business Continuance Plan and Disaster Recover Plan?
What legal structure will you use to contract with buyers and contributors from around the world?

Don't go in unprepared. There are hundreds of failed microstock agencies and nobody wants to see you join them.

The community here are not against new comers. They're very encouraging of anyone who can make them money without wasting their time. Once you have impressive answers to this list of questions they'll take you more seriously and give you all the assistance you need.

It's possible you will create a competitive microstock agency and make it a 'Big 7'. Just know what it will take to get you there.

« Reply #9 on: July 22, 2007, 12:12 »
I am going to open a new microstock website.
Another new one? Sigh. After Snapvillage, Geckostock, PhotoStorage, Newdarkroom? It must be the season.

The only new ones that sortof made it in the low top 10 are Featurepics and LuckyOliver. They had an innovative concept. LO is strong in community building, FP is strong in setting your own prices and high % payout. Both were designed well from the start with all features present, unlike Snapvillage.

In this oversaturated market, what's going to be your USP? It was easy for ShutterStock to gain ground in a very profitable subscription market because it was the first. The market has been taken 100% now, so your USP should be very good. Anyone (including me) can program a stock site. Marketing makes the difference.

Oh, and don't even count on having any lift-off before you have more than 300,000 photos online. I hope you have very deep pockets to bridge those 2-3 years without any income. ;-)
Just a thought. Reviewers get paid 0.1$ per image reviewed. That means 3,000$. Support, forums, sales... one full-time worker at least. 30,000$ per year.

Good luck ;-)

« Reply #10 on: July 22, 2007, 14:01 »
Hello everyone,

First of all, thank you, Pixart, for answering my questions. :)

Lee, by analysing my answers to your questions I may come to a conclusion I am not very well prepared. On the other hand, I believe that anything is possible and why not give it a try? I mean every businessman failed at least once. I have money coming from investments and I am ready to try and invest it in this venture. I am not going after big profit or whatever. I just love the community and I would like to be involved.

FlemishDreams, this market is oversaturated. By the way, I recently read some information about "midstock" and someone said that it was an "empty" market, but I was unable to find any further information about it. Anyone? ;)

Microstock market is oversaturated and therefore one have to offer something that isn't there just yet in order succeed. That's why I came for your help and ideas.

You know, you can prove any business plan you want on paper, but in real life it may fail very quickly. That's why I tend not to trust business plans and that sort of paperwork.

Anyway, if there are any thoughts how we can make a better agency, I am here ;)


« Reply #11 on: July 22, 2007, 14:56 »

In my opinion Richard the most important thing is HOW MANY TIME photos adding takes.
To create new successfull stock you'll need:
1) lot of photos - without them you won't have enough clients
2) lot of clients (money) to keep contributions

I'm ready to invest my time and give my photos to the new agency. The problem is that I really don't have much time!

At the beginning new agency will not be as profitable as the "top 5" - that's sure. The only way to push me to uplad to the new agency is EXTREME easy and fast way to do it. I think it is possible only if you won't expect:
1)  Adding Model Releases (as Alamy).  It's taking most of all uploading time.
2) Categories
3) Clicking, clicking, never ending clicking

I think that whole www/http solution to adding photos is absolutely wrong. It's depends too much on connection speed, time of the day etc. I think that better way is to prepair program-client which will make whole the process simpler and faster.

Good luck!

« Reply #12 on: July 22, 2007, 19:07 »
By the way, I recently read some information about "midstock" and someone said that it was an "empty" market, but I was unable to find any further information about it.

I think that was Bryan of LuckyOliver a while ago:

As to answer your specific question at the start: upload speed is very important for a new site where you have to upload an entire portfolio. That means FTP and IPTC extraction of course. No categories (does any customer uses it?) or auto-categories like CanStock (their keyword helper is neat too).

The less you have to tick and click per photo, the better. On ThePhotoStorage for instance, you have to click 3 times 'I agree conditions' to upload photos. Extended licenses, use, photo/illustration should be saved in session cookies, so you don't have to tick those on every photo.

The Model Releases are slowing down the upload workflow most. On most sites you have to pick the MRF on every photo. Imagine you have 20 photos with the same model.
I find the solution of 123RF the best: in the Release Folder, you can pick a specific release, then you get the thumbs of your portfolio, most recent first. By simple ticking then, you can add that release to a number of photos at the same time.

« Reply #13 on: July 23, 2007, 02:28 »
That's an interesting idea :)

Many new microstock websites contain a lot of junk photos. I mean they accept as many photos they can in order to enlarge their database and be competitive. But what I really want to do is to build a database of good-quality pictures only.

On one hand, these junk photos do no good. They don't sell well, they take reviewers' time, they make a customer think that a website is full of junk and leave.

On the other hand, if I don't accept those, my database will grow much slower than if I did, so in order to be compretitive I will have to improve (or offer) something else. It may be a pricing model, USP or whatever.

You are photographers and you know better than me where your photos sell well and where not. ;)


« Reply #14 on: July 23, 2007, 08:05 »
It's a tough choice sometimes for photographers... let me  cite an example here. On more accomodating sites with higher acceptance rates my portfolios do have some early days photos (umm, OK, a lot of photos, lol) that I wouldn't take/upload today. Yet what do you know, now and then some of them get downloaded. Fresh from this morning:

There is no way I would have shot such simplistic and overdone image today... but someone somewhere needs it. The conflict here between photographers and agency is, as a contributor I want this kind of "junk" to sit out there and wait for it's time, costs me nothing, right? Meanwhile, a lot of such things with extremely rare downloads (deservedly rare, no doubt) will introduce additional cost/workload for you as an agency.

My suggestion would be, for the first stage of agency development accept technically sound images without obvious composition flaws and let buyers sort out their commercial value. This, along with easy uploading process, would attract many contributors who are frustrated with "too many of a kind" or "limited commercial value" rejections. Use this period to build strong community feeling. It will also give you more room to find out what your niche of buyers want as this niche shapes up. Then if necessary tighten criteria as your database grows

« Reply #15 on: July 23, 2007, 08:51 »
One thing Dreamstime has, and the others I contribute to don't have, but which I really like, is a good way to set and view the licenses you have set on your photo's

And a way to sort by view/download/name etc.

Albumo has a way to automatically check for double uploads, especially when downloading a whole portfolio, and when uploading has some glitches, this is a really nice feature

And I do like the ability to add keywords when photo's have been approved and eliminate spelling mistakes in keywords and titles.

I second the option to cash out early, even if it will cost a credit for cashout below $30 or $50

« Reply #16 on: July 23, 2007, 11:45 »
Thanks for you replies.

Giving an option to cash out early is a good idea, but I have been actually thinking about crediting photographers some cents for each approved uploaded photo.
Let's say one uploads 150 photos, earns $15 (if 1 photo is 10c) and then requests a cash out. In this way it does no good for an agency. But if he uploads 150 photos, earns those $15 and then sells his images, reaches $50 and requestes a cash out, it does good for both sides: photographer is paid for his "uploading" work and it also stimulates photographers to upload photos to the agency.

What do you think of that?

pr2is, I don't find that picture a junk picture. It's simple, but not bad. Simple things are good things. When I say "junk" I mean.. Well it's like when you do a "sexy lady" search and along with great pictures of great girls you get some pictures that have no style and no taste, and you may say that these photos were taken from a home porn photosession or something. (It's just an example)


« Reply #17 on: July 23, 2007, 13:37 »
Well, "no style no taste" is a reject no matter what stage new agency is at, I would think there is no really question about that... and hey, thanks for not considering my junk shot a junk, I appreciate that! Just kidding, you know what I meant calling it junk - maybe useful once a year and technically clean, but carries zero imagination. I do have better ones, lol

« Reply #18 on: July 23, 2007, 19:21 »
Richard, the Microstock market is changing rapidly; there are lots of people trying to launch new agencies, but they are all chasing a diminishing supply of product.  And the more photographers that get signed as exclusive by the likes of IS and DT the greater the product shortage becomes.

Prices and commissions have to rise, and I suspect that good images will be earning 50% higher commissions on average in two year's time than they are today; FT has increased prices by 33% or so and IS has just slipped through about an 8% rise;  SS increased commissions by 20% in April and restricted that increase to those who can produce the goods, recognising that there is a difference between the part time hobbyist and the player with serious intent.  All of this is just the start.

A new agency has to be able to sell the product and generate an economic return for the contributing photographer; to a great extent the level of commission doesn't matter; after all, what is the point in promising 50% or 70% if few sales are ever made.  Volume of sales is the key, and for that an agency needs quality product and a large marketing and development budget.

iStock can get away with 20% commissions (for the moment) because it has 2 million customers and can sell hundreds if not thousands of copies of an image.  Can you do that?  If you can't, why should I risk diluting my returns from iStock by giving that product to you?

I wish you every success, but I am not going to hand you my images to allow you to build a business unless you can give me a solid economic reason for doing so.

« Reply #19 on: August 19, 2007, 12:14 »

I haven't posted for a while, sorry about that.

Well, I have been thinking.. There are indeed a lot of new microstock websites popping up and I believe that the majority of them will fail. So, once again, in order not to fail, a new agency has to be unique at some point.

First of all, I don't want to create another microstock agency. I would like my agency to deal with nice, high-quality and valuable images. When a photographer is selling pictures at $1, he can't *usually* produce really great images, because everything.. you know, costs - be that a nice model or something else.

I have recently looked into MoodBoard agency. The idea of selling both microstock images and premium royalty free images is quite interesting, but I think that their premium royalty free images cost too much - I wouldn't pay 399 pounds for a *ordinary* royalty free picture, while something similar can be found on the same website for 8-50 pounds.

So the idea is to create an agency that would deal with valuable images and sell them at about (for example) $25-$100.

This way pictures would be much better; there wouldn't be millions of pictures available for sale; searching for a specific image would take less; reviewing images would take less, etc.

What do you think about it?
« Last Edit: August 19, 2007, 12:17 by Jagelski »

« Reply #20 on: August 19, 2007, 13:41 »
That's called shutterpoint.com, and they never sell anything there.

« Reply #21 on: August 19, 2007, 14:54 »
Or Image Vortex.  Very nice quality images but they don't seem to have many sales.  People seem to either want images as cheap as possible or they are willing to pay a large amount.  The middle ground doesn't seem to have many customers.

« Reply #22 on: August 19, 2007, 15:28 »
Ok, thanks for responding.

So you think it is better to stick with the proven microstock business model, don't you?

The reason I am asking these questions and discussing it here is because I want to make an agency that will be needed, not a "one-of-the-10-agencies-that-popped-up-in-September". Photography is not a business only thing for me, you know. So you have my reasoning.

« Reply #23 on: August 19, 2007, 16:09 »
I want to be able to set my own prices from microstock to macrostock levels with royalty free, rights managed, prints and other merchandise all on one site.  None of the sites offer all these options.  Might be a difficult task to set up but one day someone will do it.

« Reply #24 on: August 20, 2007, 03:22 »
Let's talk more about it. Here or using some online messaging service. Do you have one?

As far as I get you, you want a website to contain both microstock and macrostock images, all in one and be able to price them yourself?



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