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Microstock Photography Forum - General => General Stock Discussion => Topic started by: Pickerell on June 06, 2015, 10:12

Title: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: Pickerell on June 06, 2015, 10:12
A Russian stock photo agent told me recently that a Russian photographer could live and support a family very comfortably on 50,000 roubles a month. At today’s currency exchange that works out to about $886 per month or $10,632 per year.

An equivalent in the U.S. would be about $30,932. In both cases these figures are basically net profit after business expenses are paid so a stock shooter would need gross royalties of maybe twice as much as either of these figures for a comfortable standard of living.

The questions are: (1) Do these figures seem accurate? (2) Are figures for other Eastern European and former Soviet nations about the same or higher/lower? (3) What would be the average for your country?

This information is important because more and more of the best selling stock images are being produced by photographers from countries with a low cost of living. Photographers in Western Europe and the U.S have difficulty competing because the revenue needed to cover costs and show a profit is so much higher.

This is not to say that photographers in low standard of living countries should not be producing, or that some type of restrictions should be placed on them. But photographers in the West who hope to one day support themselves from their stock photography earnings should make a realistic assessment of their chances to compete.

What do you think?
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: marthamarks on June 06, 2015, 10:22
What do you think?

I think keeping one's day job is a smart move.
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: Me on June 06, 2015, 11:41
Is this another of those topics where you post on here to collect information then collate it into an article and try to sell it back to us?
Sorry for the cynicism but we learn from experience
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: tickstock on June 06, 2015, 12:16
Contributors in the developed countries are okay to make almost nothing from their photos because they keep their other job, this is a hobby for so many of them so they don't think they deserve to be paid a fair amount.
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: Sean Locke Photography on June 06, 2015, 13:53
I can only comment at my going rate of $150 an hour, due to my cost of living.
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: cthoman on June 06, 2015, 14:26
I can only comment at my going rate of $150 an hour, due to my cost of living.

LOL. Send out an invoice.
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: Uncle Pete on June 06, 2015, 22:17
Wait... that's my day rate, what am I doing wrong. Oh right, no studio, just me, equipment, and God's lighting, outdoors.  :) (and no I haven't quit my other day jobs)

I can only comment at my going rate of $150 an hour, due to my cost of living.
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: PixelBytes on June 06, 2015, 22:28
Yes, its easier for photogs in lower cost of living countries, but the agencies better not rely on them for everything as they keep rate cutting. Sure, cliches like girl on white with headset, busuness team, handshake, etc. Can be done anywhere. 

But majority of buyers are still in the west, and for location stuff, they will want accuracy.  Things like hospitals and equipment, police, fire trucks, ambulance, achitecture styles, roads, construction gear, etc, are region specific and can't be faked on the cheap in Eastern Europe.  The agencies better wake up and keep this industry viable for westerners or they gonna be f%*ked ITLR.
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: LesPalenik on June 07, 2015, 00:26
Quote
(1) Do these figures seem accurate?
(2) Are figures for other Eastern European and former Soviet nations about the same or higher/lower?
(3) What would be the average for your country?

Yes, these figures seem about right, but the actual rates vary from country to country.
Prague is nowadays not much cheaper than Berlin, but the further east you do, the cheaper the life gets. And also the female models get prettier and vodka gets more available as you travel eastwards. Or maybe they look prettier because of the vodka.

In Canada, the standard of living is about the same as in USA. Taxes are higher, health care is cheaper. The only thing is that we don't get paid for blood donations (however, that could be circumvented if the blood donor is also a fashion model, and enterprising stock photographer could be fooled into parting with his money by believing he discovered a niche).
Gas is less expensive in USA, but Florida oranges and Cuban cigars can be found cheaper here. Alcohol costs more here, but that could be compensated by a cheaper highly potent BC-grown marijuana. Photo gear used to be cheaper south of the border, but due to the drop of Canadian currency, and depending on a particular item, it could be now more advantageous to buy it here.

However, if you are a landscape photographer, nothing beats the America the Beautiful - National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass in USA - Lifetime Pass for $10. Seniors from all other countries would go to war for such a deal.
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: qwerty on June 07, 2015, 01:21
minimum wage in Australia is about $33,500 AUD (about $27000 USD).
%25 loading for casual workers. (i.e. no paid sick leave, no holiday pay etc.)
cost of living is higher than in USA.
You'd be struggling to support a family on one minimum wage workers wage.





Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: ShadySue on June 07, 2015, 03:44
However, if you are a landscape photographer, nothing beats the America the Beautiful - National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass in USA - Lifetime Pass for $10. Seniors from all other countries would go to war for such a deal.
Our National Parks are free for everyone, though admittedly nothing like as varied.
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: Nikovsk on June 07, 2015, 04:10
Newbies from the US, Canada, Australia, Japan, UK, Scandinavia can just forget about ever making a decent income in micro.
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: LesPalenik on June 07, 2015, 05:42
However, if you are a landscape photographer, nothing beats the America the Beautiful - National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass in USA - Lifetime Pass for $10. Seniors from all other countries would go to war for such a deal.
Our National Parks are free for everyone, though admittedly nothing like as varied.

That's even better.
In Canada, the annual pass for adults to all National parks costs $67.70 and $57.90 for seniors.
The provincial parks are not included in those fees, and they sell their own annual passes in each province anywhere between $20 (Newfoundland) and $175 (Ontario) - and that's just for day visits, not camping. And for all this money, they don't even stock the prairies with giraffes and lakes with crocodiles anymore. Regardless, for the government it seems much more profitable and easier business than taxing the oil companies.
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: heywoody on June 07, 2015, 07:13
Possible to support a family decently on $30K in the US??? 
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: Mantis on June 07, 2015, 07:46
Possible to support a family decently on $30K in the US???


Once the $15/hour minimum wage becomes common in every state across the USA the lowest full time job will pay $31,200/yr.  Right now I don't shoot full time nor do I make $31,200 a year in micro stock.  And I typically put in nearly 40 hours a week on top of my day job, keywording, shooting, editing, etc.  $31k would be excellent supplemental income, but would not help to make a comfortable living with a $15 an hour salary if I dumped my day job. The only way, in my opinion, to go full time is to find new extensions to market your work and venture into other visual arts (illustration, video...even audio).
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: cthoman on June 07, 2015, 09:47
Possible to support a family decently on $30K in the US???

Self-employment tax is going to eat into that pretty good too.
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: marthamarks on June 07, 2015, 10:24
However, if you are a landscape photographer, nothing beats the America the Beautiful - National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass in USA - Lifetime Pass for $10. Seniors from all other countries would go to war for such a deal.

I agree with that, Les, and in fact I make verrrry good use of the lifetime Senior Pass I bought for $10.

However… the time and gas it takes to get to those widespread national parks and other public lands, and the price of staying in those areas (with their often-$$$ accommodations), undercuts the cost benefits. My artist husband and I own a motor home, so we can eat, sleep, and hang out quite reasonably in places like that. But even for us, there's a cost to get there.
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: Deyan Georgiev on June 07, 2015, 10:52
Too many calculations. Come on guys, do some more shots instead of losing your time of comparing eastern and western standards. There are so many examples of successful western stock photographers(having higher costs) and unsuccessful eastern stock photographers even when they are in one "cheap" area.
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: Mantis on June 07, 2015, 11:42
Too many calculations. Come on guys, do some more shots instead of losing your time of comparing eastern and western standards. There are so many examples of successful western stock photographers(having higher costs) and unsuccessful eastern stock photographers even when they are in one "cheap" area.

Then why are you wasting your time posting? Isn't this the pot calling the kettle black?
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: Deyan Georgiev on June 07, 2015, 11:47
Too many calculations. Come on guys, do some more shots instead of losing your time of comparing eastern and western standards. There are so many examples of successful western stock photographers(having higher costs) and unsuccessful eastern stock photographers even when they are in one "cheap" area.

Then why are you wasting your time posting? Isn't this the pot calling the kettle black?

To share my vision on this topic.
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: Mantis on June 07, 2015, 12:41
Too many calculations. Come on guys, do some more shots instead of losing your time of comparing eastern and western standards. There are so many examples of successful western stock photographers(having higher costs) and unsuccessful eastern stock photographers even when they are in one "cheap" area.

Then why are you wasting your time posting? Isn't this the pot calling the kettle black?

To share my vision on this topic.

Your vision is to tell everyone else to stop analyzing and start shooting? Yet you are spending your time posting that message instead of spending your time shooting to the very vision you are violating yourself?  You're funny.
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: Deyan Georgiev on June 07, 2015, 13:22
Too many calculations. Come on guys, do some more shots instead of losing your time of comparing eastern and western standards. There are so many examples of successful western stock photographers(having higher costs) and unsuccessful eastern stock photographers even when they are in one "cheap" area.

Then why are you wasting your time posting? Isn't this the pot calling the kettle black?

To share my vision on this topic.

Your vision is to tell everyone else to stop analyzing and start shooting? Yet you are spending your time posting that message instead of spending your time shooting to the very vision you are violating yourself?  You're funny.

Please do not explain me my vision :)
Analyze what to shot and what sells, but i don't agree to analyze how the standard of life in my country affect my success in the stock photography.
Sorry, but I don't like to argue with anybody.
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: Tror on June 07, 2015, 15:00
It is getting more difficult anywhere. It has a bit to do with production cost, but more(?) with Talent. There are some amazing photographers based in Spain, Berlin, Rome, the US as well as Tallinn and Kiev. But everybody is feeling the squeeze.

Microstock is bleeding out at the moment. Shutterstocks strategy is disgusting - squeezing contributors for the sake of shareholders value. Raising prices and passing nothing through to the creators of content. Last week I spoke to a photographer who made a good living from microstock a few years ago. Now he had to cancel his health insurance. And yes, he is based in a developing country. Very sad.
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: Semmick Photo on June 07, 2015, 16:19
There's a time for chatting and a time for shooting. I  don't get these comments about stop complaining shoot more. I  can't shoot 24/7. Stop telling people how they should plan their time without actually knowing what they do. There a bunch of people on the SS forum doing that as well. It's  ironic.
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: ultimagina on June 07, 2015, 16:19
... but the further east you do, the cheaper the life gets.

This is a simplistic view. You should have said the "harder the life gets"

In those countries there is virtually no middle class. You have very few rich people and almost everybody else is poor.
This is why most of the top technology (including good photo equipment) can only be afforded by the tiny fraction of very rich people with absolutely no money problems.
Good technology cannot be afforded by the masses, so the prices are kept up for only those who can afford it. You will be surprised to see that good TVs, good cameras, good cars, etc are more expensive in Eastern Europe than in Western Europe (and definitely more expensive than in US).
So purchasing the gear required for decent quality photography requires huge sacrifices from a regular photographer. You should factor this in when you make your statements.
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: Semmick Photo on June 07, 2015, 16:23
Cheaper for us with our wages maybe. It's not cheaper for the people living there. If you make 150 a month and your rent is 100 you live a hard life paying bills and feeding a family off the other 50
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: Pierre on June 07, 2015, 17:27
A Russian stock photo agent told me recently that a Russian photographer could live and support a family very comfortably on 50,000 roubles a month. At today’s currency exchange that works out to about $886 per month or $10,632 per year.

The questions are: (1) Do these figures seem accurate? (2) Are figures for other Eastern European and former Soviet nations about the same or higher/lower? (3) What would be the average for your country?

you won't go far with 1000$/month anywhere in Russia, especially in big cities like Moscow where the cost of living is higher than London !

as for Eastern Europe that's a whole different ballgame.
Bulgaria, Slovakia, and Ukraine are still quite cheap and 1000$ is OK if you're single but you will struggle if you've a family and a big home.
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: LesPalenik on June 07, 2015, 18:16
... but the further east you do, the cheaper the life gets.

This is a simplistic view. You should have said the "harder the life gets"

In those countries there is virtually no middle class. You have very few rich people and almost everybody else is poor.
This is why most of the top technology (including good photo equipment) can only be afforded by the tiny fraction of very rich people with absolutely no money problems.
Good technology cannot be afforded by the masses, so the prices are kept up for only those who can afford it. You will be surprised to see that good TVs, good cameras, good cars, etc are more expensive in Eastern Europe than in Western Europe (and definitely more expensive than in US).
So purchasing the gear required for decent quality photography requires huge sacrifices from a regular photographer. You should factor this in when you make your statements.

You are right, it was a generalization and simplistic, too. It's not absolute all the way from Prague to Ulan Bator, there are a few exceptions, notably Moscow, and as you say, the further east you go, the harder the life gets - in general.
However, I know some photographers in eastern Europe whose living expenses, model fees, and studio rents are less than half of West European prices, and these guys know how to buy their cameras and computers from the same mail order outfits and for the same prices as their West European counterparts. So, everybody's mileage will vary. Enjoy the summer.

EDIT:
I must confess, that I also exaggerated (in my other post), about all seniors willing to go to war for that park pass. Maybe just the younger ones.
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: LesPalenik on June 07, 2015, 19:39
However, if you are a landscape photographer, nothing beats the America the Beautiful - National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass in USA - Lifetime Pass for $10. Seniors from all other countries would go to war for such a deal.

I agree with that, Les, and in fact I make verrrry good use of the lifetime Senior Pass I bought for $10.

However… the time and gas it takes to get to those widespread national parks and other public lands, and the price of staying in those areas (with their often-$$$ accommodations), undercuts the cost benefits. My artist husband and I own a motor home, so we can eat, sleep, and hang out quite reasonably in places like that. But even for us, there's a cost to get there.

Hi Martha,

How I wish, I could buy that $10 lifetime pass, but in my case, it's too late to apply for the green card.
Speaking about green - that's how most our parks look, interlaced with swimmable sparkling blue waters (well, for the few short months, anyway). That's the part I like about parks here.
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: WeatherENG on June 07, 2015, 20:18
Good topic, keep in mind it's a free trade economy, those who can run their businesses in areas where costs are lower will have an advantage, not different than the big car companies leaving Ontario Canada for Mexico, Mexico has a big advantage, same with China.

Not much one can do about it sadly, we are losing jobs here daily to area where costs of living, wages, etc are lower.

http://www.pond5.com/artist/WeatherENG (http://www.pond5.com/artist/WeatherENG)
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: pancaketom on June 07, 2015, 22:33
The cost of doing without is about the same everywhere.

Still, just in the USA the cost for housing can vary very wildly. 

Also what standard of living people expect to be able to afford varies greatly around the world.
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: qwerty on June 08, 2015, 00:38
However, if you are a landscape photographer, nothing beats the America the Beautiful - National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass in USA - Lifetime Pass for $10. Seniors from all other countries would go to war for such a deal.
Our National Parks are free for everyone, though admittedly nothing like as varied.

What about for "commercial" photography.
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: MichaelJayFoto on June 08, 2015, 02:22
Wow. People living in countries with lower cost of living can compete at lower prices than people from countries with higher cost of living?

Yes, that's a theory that certainly needs more investigation before it can be sold as an thorough analysis for $2 per viewer.
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: ShadySue on June 08, 2015, 06:16
However, if you are a landscape photographer, nothing beats the America the Beautiful - National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass in USA - Lifetime Pass for $10. Seniors from all other countries would go to war for such a deal.
Our National Parks are free for everyone, though admittedly nothing like as varied.

What about for "commercial" photography.

No charge for stills or normal video.
I couldn't find anything about big blockbuster type films where they'd want the public kept out of an area.
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: ArenaCreative on June 08, 2015, 09:57
I can only comment at my going rate of $150 an hour, due to my cost of living.

Ditto.  This is my current portrait rate in the Northeast.  I'll sometimes discount that hourly rate if the people will sign MR's allowing for stock image sales.  I'm also learning that editing time eats up most of this, as for every hour of shooting you can easily spend 2-4 additional hours editing, depending on the shoot.  From now on I'll only be promising a limited number of images to the client, per hour commissioned.  My last 2 hour shoot ended up costing me way too much in edit time, because I'm too generous with the quantity of files delivered.  No more TFCD shoots for me.  I just can't afford to do that anymore, with the way things are ever-decling.

To earn $150/hr for the weekly time I spend shooting/editing/uploading to microstock; yeah right.  Not even close.  Maybe if I were to work just a tiny portion of the week ;) 

Where I live in the northeast, $30k a year will have you just barely above the poverty level.  That's if you don't have a car payment, and just a rent or mortgage.  Moving somewhere with a lower cost of living would give many of us a dramatic raise in income.  Easier said than done.
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: cascoly on June 09, 2015, 14:07
However, if you are a landscape photographer, nothing beats the America the Beautiful - National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass in USA - Lifetime Pass for $10. Seniors from all other countries would go to war for such a deal.
Our National Parks are free for everyone, though admittedly nothing like as varied.

What about for "commercial" photography.

no problem if you're just shooting the scenery, battlefields & monuments, or editorial shots of tourists, but you need to get a permit to shoot commercials, etc -- mt rainier eg, is often used since it's easily accessible
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: Pierre on June 09, 2015, 16:25
Where I live in the northeast, $30k a year will have you just barely above the poverty level. 

Is it worth it ? you could live fairly well with 15K or 20K anywhere in south east asia surrounded by hot girls and cheap booze.

Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: ShadySue on June 09, 2015, 16:28
Where I live in the northeast, $30k a year will have you just barely above the poverty level. 

Is it worth it ? you could live fairly well with 15K or 20K anywhere in south east asia surrounded by hot girls and cheap booze.
Not all of us are particularly interested in hot girls or cheap booze. Just sayin'
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: cthoman on June 09, 2015, 16:43
Where I live in the northeast, $30k a year will have you just barely above the poverty level. 

Is it worth it ? you could live fairly well with 15K or 20K anywhere in south east asia surrounded by hot girls and cheap booze.
Not all of us are particularly interested in hot girls or cheap booze. Just sayin'

Yeah, Mrs. ArenaCreative might have something to say about all that.  ;)
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: Mantis on June 09, 2015, 17:36
Where I live in the northeast, $30k a year will have you just barely above the poverty level. 

Is it worth it ? you could live fairly well with 15K or 20K anywhere in south east asia surrounded by hot girls and cheap booze.
Not all of us are particularly interested in hot girls or cheap booze. Just sayin'

Seems like everywhere I've gone in my life has cold women and hot beer. I must be doing something wrong.
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: imagesbykenny on June 09, 2015, 22:57
I live in East Asia, and while the cost of living is definitely cheaper than my home country of South Africa, the demand for East Asian scenes and models seems to be proportionally less.

Some of the biggest sellers in stock photo and video reside in Cape Town, so perhaps there is a lot to be said about being in the right location.
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: jaguarblanco on June 11, 2015, 11:59
Hi everyone. I´m mostly a reader than a writer on the forums, but this is a topic that a see very frequently, people in developing countries complaining about how the "third world" is taking the bread out of their mouths on micro stock. I´m currently live in Colombia, and despite micro is just a eventual hobbie for me , I been close to this for a few years and I believe that there´s isn´t easier in one place or the other. It is true that less develop countries have a lower cost of life, but the income per/h is lower swell. For example , here in Bogota, you can live well with 1.000 usd per month, but for example basic salary is about 300 usd per month only, most professionals here earn about 700 usd per month. Other countries like ecuador, peru or bolivia are even cheaper. You can said that with an income doing micro stock of 1000 per month you can live on one of this countries very well, but there are facts that made this very difficult.First, to make a decent living here, you have to work more hours per week ,sometimes have other jobs aside of your day job, so there is no so much time off left to do micro, shooting , keywording, uploading and etc. In the case you have the time, all the equipment are more expensive, like camera, lenses, lights and gear to do it properly, because of import taxes and other. You can have the time and equipment, but still you need to have an space to do it like a garage or basement , or rent an studio. More additional cost, plus the expenses of production like paying models and transportation. In developing countries you can use your credit card and afford all of this at the beginning and pay later, in third world countries credit work very differently , so you have to gathered all the cash for equipment and production  first ,and after start to shoot and upload and wait for the income to come without leaving your day job.

Like any other business microstock requires and investment of money and time to make it work, in develop countries is easier to have this 2 resources and produce more but this is not enough to live well, in less develop countries is much more difficult to get money and time to do it, but at the end , if you build a large enough portfolio, you can make a living. So this is very relative. I personally think that the problem is photography stock business, everyday there is more images, more photogs, more agencies and the demand remains quite the same, so it is a logical consequence that the piece of the pie for every photog will be less and less, no matter where you are.
Title: Re: Cost of Living's Affect on Production
Post by: robhainer on June 11, 2015, 12:29
Possible to support a family decently on $30K in the US???

In some places. Small towns, rural areas. And you'd get some government assistance with health care, food and so on with that amount. It really depends on where you live. Cost of living varies as much from one state to another as it does from the USA to Eastern Europe. For example, it costs about twice as much to live in some areas in California compared to where I live in Georgia. I live in the suburbs of a major city in the Southeast. I can get a nice, 3,000 square foot house in a good school district for about $260,000. (We're supposed to close on it at the end of the month). The same house in suburban San Francisco or Los Angeles would cost $750,000 or more.

So, I would say you'd need $4,000 to $5,000 a month in cheaper areas (Southeast, Midwest) of the US to support a family, unless you can live in a small town far from an urban area where the housing prices are rock bottom. To live in the Northeast or Pacific area, I'd say you'd need $7,000 to $8,000 a month. To live in New York City and San Fran, even more. I couldn't even speculate.