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Author Topic: Are you serious?  (Read 6491 times)

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« on: July 15, 2007, 23:13 »
A thought has been crossing my mind recently: exactly how many 'serious' microstock photographers are there?  And what defines 'serious'?

As a starter I'm going to suggest that anyone with 1,000 pictures online and increasing that by 20-30 a week is a 'serious' stock photographer.  Many members of this forum fall into that category.

But worldwide how many are there?  Is the supply side of the market saturated or not?

StockXpert and DT oblige us by publishing lists of photographers, and these lists make interesting reading.  For instance StockXpert has 3,000 contributing photographers, but only 151 of those have 1,000 images.  Obviously the list is changing all the time, but at the moment 'serious' contributors make up only 5% of the list.  At the other end of the scale there are 1,634 photographers with 100 pictures or less. That's 54%.  The 5% have many more pictures than the 54%.

DT have 16,000 contributing photographers, yet only 234 of those have 1,000 images.  That's less than 2%.  13,357 have less than 100 pictures.  Once again the images being sold by the 'serious' easily outweigh the 'masses'.

They say that in business there is the 80/20 rule; I suspect that in microstock it is more like a 95/5 rule, with 5% making 95% of the money.

Clearly the agencies would rather attract the 5% than the 'masses'; it's just a more efficient way to work.  But with more agencies being launched and clearly a 'shortage' of serious stock photographers, what does that tell us about the future?

It certainly doesn't suggest the market is saturated.  Far from it.  In fact it suggests the opposite.

Yes there will be new entrants, perhaps from the Far East, but surely any serious amateur or aspiring microstock photographer has already signed up; there cannot be many left.

I'm not sure where these thoughts are leading me.  One thought says prices and commissions must rise.  Another says that 'exclusive' is going to become very important and probably command a much higher price premium than at present.

No wonder the newer agencies fall over backwards to attract a portfolio like Iofoto - with only two or three hundred serious players there is a huge shortage of quality product.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are a valuable commodity.

« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2007, 01:15 »
Very interesting read hatman.  I just wonder if we should define a "serious" photographer by the number of images they upload or the amount of money they make?

I have over 1,000 images but I see that there are a lot of contributors with less than 1,000 images that sell more than I do.  I would rather have 500 images that make $10 a month than 1,000 images that make $1 a month.

« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2007, 01:30 »
I think you have forgotten about the middle group.  The hobbiest who has between 100 and 1000 (like myself).  We make enough to feed our addiction (to camera accesories) but earn enough in our day job that we dont need to rely on the income.

« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2007, 04:46 »
I think its different also for illustrators- I have around 300 or so online, but I was serious enough to quit my job to do it (although it was a crap job). I think it depends more on the amount of time you spend. Some people put so much effort into a single shot that doing 1000 would take years.

« Reply #4 on: July 16, 2007, 04:59 »
yeah i would agree with hatman.  There area actually a rather small amount of people who take microstocks seriously and have a significant amount of images.  The playing field is pretty 'easy' still.  if you want to make a significant impact on most any subject area you can.

I think where the future photographers will come from is the macro-stock market.  As more photographers see that it is profitable.

I think the hobbyist which has been 100-1000 images is not a threat to the serious microstocker because
a) they will like the hobby and become a 'serious microstocker' soon enough if they keep at it - they will upgrade their camera and be good competition
b) they will loose interest soon enough and quit - their images will get old and be taken with poor equipment

« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2007, 07:45 »
I agree with sharpshot that the number of images doesn't determine if you're serious or not. I don't have any where near 1000 images, I just don't have the time to shoot more. When I do shoot I take it very seriously, I'll scout a location or do my best to come up with a new concept. If I'm going to spend time shooting, I want it to sell. I don't have the best portfolio in the world but it sells reasonably well. So I suppose I'm somewhere between the general hobbyist and the 'serious microstocker', so how about 'semi serious microstocker'  ;D . There is probably a bunch of us and as a whole we probably account for a very large number of images.

Anyway, just my thoughts.

« Reply #6 on: July 16, 2007, 08:12 »
Having 1,000's of pics up suggests serious about making money.

I feel, taking really good photos is where serious is!

« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2007, 08:22 »
For an industry to survive, qualty has to be there.  The better microstock photographers will thrive. The casual hobbyist will eventually drop out, or if successful become more serious (like leaf said).

More and more macro photographers will enter microstock as they see the revenue potential, and I'm sure microstock will open the doors for some microstock photographers to go into macro stock. I think the door will swing both ways and create a situation where more, better photographers overall will be given the opportunity to participate in all models, and I think each model RF (micro v. macro), Rights Managed, etc. will further define themselves.

But it all comes down to competition, and the race is still in the early stages. Microstock simply gives many more people the opportunity to participate.

There are definitely enough microsites out there so the better microstock photographers, sooner or later will be discovered.

Then it comes down to the sites themselves competiting with each other. :)

« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2007, 12:56 »
I think number of sales is a better "seriousness" indicator than number of images. I've seen a few people with 1000+ images online that involved very little thought and effort. The only barrier to having 1000+ images online is time; earning money from your efforts involves much more. One contributor in particular comes to mind as I write this - although quite prolific in posting stuff, I very much doubt that he generates significant income from his efforts.

"Serious", to me, implies that you've got a measurable goal in place, and that you've thought about how you're going to achieve it. By including goals, strategy, and tactics into the equation, I'd say that very few people in this industry are "serious". From what I've seen, most people prefer to look at microstock in a very casual light, and are content to make whatever they make using that same casual approach.

« Reply #9 on: July 16, 2007, 13:01 »
Sharply - serious and successful are different.

« Reply #10 on: July 16, 2007, 17:19 »
As a starter I'm going to suggest that anyone with 1,000 pictures online and increasing that by 20-30 a week is a 'serious' stock photographer.
I'm not serious. 


« Reply #11 on: July 16, 2007, 23:30 »
I shoot as much as possible, but have a lot of things on my plate other than photography which restrict my time.  I also shoot things other than stock, so my portfolios are small.  Does that mean I can't be considered serious for another year or two till I reach the 1000+ mark?

While I'm not denying that there are a lot of contributors that start off with a few images and then peter out and abandon their ports, I'm not so sure that the people that have less than a 1000 images aren't just as serious as those with 5,000+.  Also, what about those people that have less than a 1000 images at DT or StockXpert, but have 1200+ at another site?  Would they be considered to be not "serious" photographers because they have a higher rejection rate at DT than somewhere else?

« Reply #12 on: July 17, 2007, 03:34 »
i think i would answer yes to all your questions glittered

I think the point hatman12 was trying to make was to see how many people are serious competition for eachother, or taking 'microstock seriously' in that they are treating it like a profession in an of itself.

I have quite bit over 1000 images, but i haven't uploaded 20 shots a week for over a year probably.... so recently i wouldn't say i have been taking microstock photography seriously either - but hopefully that will change in the next month

Just because you take microstocks seriously when you take the pictures and upload, it doesn't mean that you take 'microstock photography seriously' as a profession by itself.

for example.  I shoot a number of weddings each year.  Every wedding I shoot i take VERY seriously.  However I do under 10 weddings a year.  Someone who specializes in weddings would NOT consider me a 'serious wedding photographer'.  Not because of the caliber or quantity of work I do, but simply because of the number of weddings I do.  I am not a very big threat to him, because I am only competiting for 7-10 jobs a year out of his 100 jobs.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2007, 05:21 by leaf »

« Reply #13 on: July 17, 2007, 05:01 »
I am not serious either, even though I am trying to generate some income from microstock.

« Reply #14 on: July 17, 2007, 19:47 »
Just to make it clear, I don't find it offensive to be considered "non-serious".  Photography is not my job, but a very dear hobby. 

Stock photography started as a challenge - are my photos (travel photos mainly) good enough for someone to buy them?  It seems they are, as some sold.  Then I was presented to the microstock concept.  Interesting thing, but I didn't find it worthwhile to sell my images in them (let's not start a discussion about volumes, please), but I found it challenging to venture in a type of photography that I had never tried before - the kind of image I produce for microstock only (mainly objects, general scenes).  It was quite an interesting learning process, a totally different situation in composition and lighting.  Best of all, I'm being paid to learn.  And I can't complain of the results. 

I'm far from being brillant, I'm far from ever putting resources (time and money) in setting up a studio and hiring models, and I'm far from being good in edition.  But I'm also far from being not serious when it comes to picking images, preparing and submitting them.  I don't put that much effort and time in that, but the little time I do, I do it seriously.  However I don't have any ambitions or plans of making photography (any type) my main source of income. 


« Reply #15 on: July 17, 2007, 20:01 »

I think you described a lot of us, with some insignificant variations.

« Reply #16 on: July 19, 2007, 11:07 »
I got the following numbers from DT breakdown of their photographers (who wished to be listed) any photographers who don't want their details to show up aren't included.

In terms of portfolio size of the 11,697 listed photographers with a portfolio of more than 1 image. There are 2,734 "photographers" who signed up but didn't upload, I am using the 11,697 figure for all calculations.

1.6% 181 photographers have a portfolio of over 1,000 images

81.2% 9,500 photographers have a portfolio of less than 100 images
43.9% 5,130 photographers have a  portfolio of less than 10 images

But i think we will all agree DLs are what matters

Number of photographers with 1,000+ downloads 453   3.8%

Number of photographers with 500+ downloads 856   7.3%

Number of photographers with 100+ downloads 2,657   22.7%

The breakdown of the top 3.8%
1,000-2,000 DLs 240 photographers
2,000-5,000 DLs 175 photographers
5,000-9,000 DLs   38 photographers
9,000+ DLs           25 photographers

with the peak at 36,000

there is an amusing bug of a photographer with 2,147 million DLs

« Reply #17 on: July 19, 2007, 11:48 »
I would classify myself as a serious hobbyist. I have some where between 80-400 pics dependeing on the site (five sites) but I don't have huge sales. I do this because it is fun and since I've been doing this for about 4 years I suspect that I am not getting bored at it. It will not pay the bills but it does keep me in new gear.

I agree that a small percentage of people are driving the majority of sales at most sites and that talent is the key to success. What micro has done is give the amatuer a foot in the door. I truely believe pros dislike micro because it allow anyone to be part of the "club".

« Reply #18 on: July 19, 2007, 11:51 »
Wohoo!!!  I am in the top 3.8% of Dreamstimes photographers according to the number of downloads  ;D Am I serious?? :)

« Reply #19 on: July 19, 2007, 12:22 »
Looking further at the numbers, I'd say that there are perhaps 2200 regularly active contributors on DT (i.e. people with 100+ images), with about 20% of them having 1000+ sales. I would call these people "serious".

I'll be in that club very soon. Not an overly bad performance given that I don't sell many aircraft shots on DT, and that I've only been there 6.1/2 months.

« Reply #20 on: July 19, 2007, 21:17 »
Hey all. I just found this forum due to my research on microstock agencies and very curious as to the type of photographer who would be willing to give their talents and time for pennies on their investment. "Are You Serious" caught my attention. I will first admit I don't know much about this area of stock photography and simply wanting to learn more about it. I first must state that I am one of those macro stock photographers someone mentions in this forum. I do very well as I am represented by one of the top two stock agencies. I am just at 1000 images with this agency and just shy of $90,000 per year. The reason I share this number with you is I am guessing no one who participates in micro stock comes close to this amount of income. I would guess you would need hundreds of thousands if not a million images to even consider such a number. Maybe I'm wrong. But my real concern is why would anyone except from my understanding 25 cents to $1. per image when to consider not only your cost of equipment but the expense of getting to your location rather it be at a local park or an far away destination which might include airfare, hotels, restaurants, rental cars, fuel, etc... Then if you look at the time in front of a computer converting raw images into tiffs, cleaning dirt spots, any color corrections, etc... Then on top of all that I understand these microstock agencies want you to keyword the images which is no easy task if you do it correctly. How much is your time worth? I would guess that if you have a job outside of photography you wouldn't even consider putting this kind of time and effort for the few cents you earn from micro stock. I have looked over several of these sites and I must admit there is a fair share of bad photography but there is also a lot of really good photography as well. If you are one of those photographers who are serious about photography and pretty good behind the camera then I suggest you put a fair market value on your time and talents. Most stock photography buyers are people who have a product or service they are trying to sell and I would venture to guess their product and service is selling well over a buck. If your work is good enough for these people to download and use in their marketing pieces, magazine articles, wall decor, etc... than let these people pay you a fair market price for your talents. I guarantee you these micro stock agencies are sitting back and laughing all the way to the bank, what do you think it cost these guys to operate a microstock site providing it is making money. Making money is the only reason their in business, their not doing it as a favor to photographers. There are other venues for those of you who are serious photographers to make money from your talents, try I don't have a track record with this company but what I do know is the folks (I met the owners in New York) who are running this company are working hard to make good things happen and are getting photographers a fair market price for their images. I truly wish all those photographers who   are serious the very best of luck. I welcome any comments that might open my mind to the benefits of belonging to a microstock agency. Are You Serious?

« Reply #21 on: July 19, 2007, 21:30 »
I'll leave it to others to take this apart if they will... just one piece I can't leave with no comment:

Making money is the only reason their in business, their not doing it as a favor to photographers.

Ummm... as opposite to macroagencies who are in this out of sheer goodness of their macro-hearts and simply lose their sleep at night worrying about photographers well-being?

« Reply #22 on: July 20, 2007, 00:25 »
Welcome Traveler! Good question  :)
There are a number of reasons, why many of us are on microstock. First, for many microstock was a starting point to earn money with photography as it was for me. I never took a course in photography. It was kind a hobby. One day I discoverd a German agency, who did accept and sell image for people like me. It was The prices there are between macro and microstock. I just sold a photo one or two times before I discoverd the other micros. I was not serious at that time and am not totally serious now. But it was a start and in the first month I earned ~ 20$ with a few pics.
 I was a student with mainly pics of 3MP camera. For me it was great, upload and make money, you can even take a break stop uploading and your photo continue makeing money!! For doing it as a hobby microstock is very appealing.
However, now it is paying more than my rent of the apartment (Germany, not cheap!) my wife and I live in. That is after 2 years of hobby and the last half year being a little more serious about it. Still it is not my main occupation, I am studying engineering, and might work in that field later. But what is an easier way to make you hobby to money? It is at least a much better investment to have then another part time job.
One day I might think of getting more serious. But I do not know yet, for now I do not even know if macrostock agencies would be interested in the majority of my stock images since a lot of my successful Images are created with photoshop out of these old 3MP files. Half of my old images which are on microstock would not even be acceptable anymore for them. But for me microstock was and is perfect, while their quality standart rose my quality standarts rose too. If I ever will get to do this fulltime, I probably still will stick with microstock, because I think it can be a successfull model for fulltime photographers who are really serious about it. There are very few fulltime microstock photographers. Out of this few I think there are a handful who earn as much as you at least. Thats a guess. But they have a couple of thousand images online.
Others who know better might comment more on this.
I only have max 574 (on one site), with at least 300 of them crappy images online. What happens if I get really serious with microstock? I do not know yet, but it seems that there is a potential to earn quite a bit with it.
What would you do in my case? The keywording is not too bad. At Dreamstime you can also pay for kewords: 20 cents. Actually thats it worth for me :-).

Microstock I think is quite a bit underestimated by some macrostock photographers. Good for us to learn to be prepared for a quality level to be acceptable when more proffessional photographers will discover microstock. I believe the pro photographers who are in microstock now are fortunate. They are making a lot of money there allready. In future they will make more, they will have a huge advantage over those who will join, when microstock has a better image and higher prices than now.

But why don't you try for your self? Just upload some of your images and see.... you have nothing to loose. When Ron Chapple thinks its worth trying out, why should not you think about it yourself. He is serious.
A question for you: How many years it took to build up such and portfolio to earn as much as you do on macros you are on?
Do you think you are an exception or is the norm to get 90$ per image per year at those agencies?
« Last Edit: July 20, 2007, 00:45 by Freezingpictures »

« Reply #23 on: July 20, 2007, 00:34 »
traveler, you are 100% correct.  There is no real money to be made in microstock.  I am not going to encourage photographers with a large macrostock portfolio to compete with me in the microstock sites :)  It is more sensible for us to move up to macrostock.

I have been doing microstock photography for a year and I am now starting to collect some photos to submit to alamy.  Are there any other good macro sites I should consider applying to?

« Reply #24 on: July 20, 2007, 01:07 »
Traveler, I enjoy hearing your perspective.  First, I must say that for you to earn $90,000 per year shooting stock would put you into Icon status in my books and would very much like to see a link to your portfolios if you wouldn't mind sharing.

To be fair, I don't think many macros would take Joe's pocket camera submissions seriously.  A lot of microstockers started on public photo sharing sites and evolved into submitting to agencies, updating to a Rebel... having more and more success.  Myself, I found this as part of a family-life change.  I lived in a big city with a good job, then we started a family, husband had a job transfer to a small prairie city... salaries here suck, and I didn't feel it was worth it to work for someone else for lousy wages, and well my digital imaging business just evolved.  I didn't even know "micro" stock existed until last year when I needed images for a travel client.  

While a lot of microstockers could be labeled "hobbyist", there are serious kick-ass photographers making staggering sums of money - Lise Gagne at Istock for example was recently reported (NY Times?) at making over $100k/year - but that girl must work her *ss off too.

When I started submitting it was a thrill just to have a photo accepted.  I had no clue that that quantity meant nothing.  My idea about that has changed and submissions are now very deliberate. 

My knowledge and photography/photoshop skills continue to grow on a daily basis.  Personally, I'm not ready for macro.  But, hopefully next year at this time I will be. 

So, I sell photos for 25 cents.  I also sold one this week for $20, and two last week for $17.50.   I know it's taboo to talk money, but by the end of July I will have made $1000 this year with the disclaimer that I didn't really start "quality over quantity" uploading until February and I've only been on the 2 "best" agencies since March - with 6 on one and 30 on the other.  My portfolio is hardly macro caliber - but I'm still getting cashouts.

As a professional on the other side of the grass, how many times does a macro photo sell per year?  Based on your earnings your average is about $90 per photo per year.  If I took all the crap out of my portfolio and whittled it down to the 20 that actually sell on a regular basis, I wouldn't be far away from that average.

I'm sorry to stereotype you Traveler, but I assume you are a highly skilled and exceptionally talented photographer.  I also bet that stock may not your primary income either. 

I know micro must look like a serious insult to a professional such as your self.  It's the digital evolution.  No business can be taken seriously without slick marketing and the imagery in their ads.  Small businesses simply can't pay macro prices.  Ladies making church bulletins cannot pay macro prices.  I predict this thing is going to level out at some point.  Micro may be - not so great quality - and Istock and the likes will be charging perhaps double what they do now.

Back to the original question.   Am I a serious microstocker?  No, of course not - I've shared my numbers.  Could I be?  Yes.  I am so convinced of this that I could see myself moving towards this very thing over the next couple of years.  (No more deadlines.  No more phone calls.  No pleading with the lab to rush 100 photos through by noon.)  The first years would be lean - but think of a real estate agent - all the training, the tough first years - then the referrals come in and after 5 years or so the same clients sell and buy again.  I would hopefully get out of it what I have the time to put into it.

And would I try macro.  Definitely.  But, this microstocker ain't ready yet.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2007, 01:09 by Pixart »



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