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Author Topic: Do you count on having microstock income in 5 years? 10? 20?  (Read 14743 times)

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« on: February 09, 2010, 22:30 »
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Lately I've been thinking about not just how much I can grow my microstock revenues in the short term, but also about whether I can count on it in the long term.

When I started nearly a year and a half ago, I set short term and long term goals for myself.  I recently hit my short term goal, and if my rate of growth holds steady, I could hit the long term goal (which involves making microstock my main source of income) in a few years.

But with all the recent changes in the industry, I'm wondering how realistic it is to think that a microstock income could last me well into my golden years (another 20 or 30 years).  Of course evolution will be constant, and this market may look completely different in just a year or two.  But I also strongly believe that communication will only become more and more visual, and images will be relied upon more than ever to convey ideas.  Therefore good imagery will always be needed, and thus, valuable. 

So here's my prediction:  Globalization and the race to the bottom will make our returns become smaller and smaller, but if the rewards of doing this work become so insignificant that talented artists (or even the copycats) can't justify the effort, then the supply and demand equation will level out making it worthwhile at least for those who can do unique, quality work in volume.  Today, of course, we all aim to do "good, quality work in volume," but I think the future will redefine the meaning of that (think 5x or 10x what it takes today to make a decent microstock income).

What do you think?  Does microstock have a decent lifespan in front of it, and if not, what might replace it?


« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2010, 22:40 »
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I'm fairly pessimistic about the long term.  The downward pressure on prices seems to be relentless.   

WarrenPrice

« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2010, 23:38 »
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First of all, I'm 70 years old.  I count by ones.  LOL
And, I think Video is the way to go in microstock.


« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2010, 23:51 »
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...I think Video is the way to go in microstock.

I think you might be right.  With magazines and newspapers going the way of the dodo, we'll be relying on electronic media more and more.  And in the near future, instead of seeing still images alongside articles on the Internet, all those images could be animated to better illustrate the points in the article.  We're already heading in this direction... the new version of HTML (HTML-5) will make it easier than ever to embed video in a page, no troublesome plug-ins (Flash) required.   Hmmm... Warren, I think you just flipped a switch inside my head... for a while, I've been thinking I need to explore video, but now I'm convinced it's where I'll need to focus my efforts very soon.

« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2010, 00:59 »
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I'm confused by "race to the bottom" - I'm assuming you mean a downward trend in RPDL, and I'm not seeing that at all. I've been doing this for three years, and prices have gone nowhere but consistently and steadily up.
« Last Edit: February 10, 2010, 01:28 by sharply_done »

« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2010, 01:36 »
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I'm confused by "race to the bottom" - I'm assuming you mean a downward trend in RPDL, and I'm not seeing that at all. I've been doing this for three years, and prices have gone nowhere but consistently and steadily up.

I agree. I wonder where people are getting their stats. Yes, some agencies are squeezing for as much profit as possible, but prices still seem to be rising.

« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2010, 01:47 »
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As far as the original post, it's hard to say. I assume things may not change too drastically in the next 5 years. Beyond that, I don't know. I think there is still a lot of room for growth in the microstock customer and contributor base.

I'd like to think that I'm still making money with my stock portfolio 10 or 20 years down the road, but who knows? That's a long way away.

« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2010, 01:50 »
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I disagree about video - I think it's a trendy fad that will quietly go away sooner rather than later. Those investing time and money into it are going to be very disappointed.

« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2010, 05:58 »
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I disagree about video - I think it's a trendy fad that will quietly go away sooner rather than later. Those investing time and money into it are going to be very disappointed.

I think you are right about most things but I disagree with you on this one.  I am a complete amateur with video and I have uploaded a small portfolio to a few sites.  The sales are reasonable and the commissions are good.  It is worth getting in to, have a look at the number of sales some people are getting, I was surprised.  Wont most advertising be moving images in the future?  Print is dying, everything is moving to the internet and screen advertising.  I see more and more moving images taking over from stills.  I still prefer stills but what do the advertising people think?

None of us can predict the future with any real accuracy and I think it is sensible to diversify in to footage, there is a chance it wont pay off but it is just as likely to be the next big thing.  I also like the fact that it isn't as simple as taking a photo, most people can master that now.  Footage has a steeper learning curve and at the moment it isn't as easy to upload 500mb files.  There is less competition at the moment, that will probably change in the future.

« Reply #9 on: February 10, 2010, 06:45 »
+1
I disagree about video - I think it's a trendy fad that will quietly go away sooner rather than later. Those investing time and money into it are going to be very disappointed.


?!?!?!?!?!?

If you mean that microstock video is a fad and perhaps a flawed model in some way, that's a reasonable thing to debate.

But the presence of video in our everyday lives is in no way a fad, and we will certainly see more and more video on websites and in emerging media such as books and magazines reformatted for devices like the iPad and Kindle (future video capable versions of it anyway).  These and other expanding markets for video will create greater demand, and that demand will need to be filled, if not by microstock video, then by another model that will surely emerge.  Today's forward-thinking microstock contributors will be watching for that model and hopefully the first to profit from it.

« Reply #10 on: February 10, 2010, 06:55 »
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I'm confused by "race to the bottom" - I'm assuming you mean a downward trend in RPDL, and I'm not seeing that at all. I've been doing this for three years, and prices have gone nowhere but consistently and steadily up.

In the "micro" view, I too have seen an increase in my RPI, suggesting that prices for my images are holding steady or even rising.

But I'm talking about the "macro" view... the big picture down the road.  Consider the current big discussions on this forum... ThinkStock's .25 commission plan, Fotolia's pricing direction, etc.  The big sites will be under more and more pressure to cut prices, and our commissions along with them.  Those pricing pressures, plus a rapidly growing base of contributors in countries like India and China who will be happy to work for tiny commissions, will tip the supply/demand equation so far that we may see commissions reduced to pennies.  It's even conceivable that images will be available free in a new microstock model that derives revenue from ad placements on the download pages.  In five years, we may look back at $.25 commissions as the lucrative days of microstock. 

I don't mean to be such a pessimist, but this is what is happening to every industry today, and there's no reason to think microstock will be immune.  In fact, this scenario has already begun playing out.

« Reply #11 on: February 10, 2010, 10:02 »
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I understand that many people have seen their returns go up over the last few years. But this business is still new. There will be a shakeout, a loss of competition, and less interest in paying reviewers to screen new images.  Venture capital will stop flowing in, owners and investors will want to see bigger profits.  I expect to see subscription plans rolling over the landscape, along with other marketing tricks and obfuscations (such as at Fotolia) aimed at breaking the commission structure on the contributor side, and flattening the pricing on the buyer side.   Bottom line: oversupply, a buyer's market.

Disclaimer: I tend to be pessimistic - although I often think of it as realistic.


donding

  • Think before you speak
« Reply #12 on: February 10, 2010, 10:21 »
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I agree with stockastic about this industry turning towards the subscriptions, but has any one taken into account the present economy? My sales steadily increase. This economic condition started back in 2002 for me and many of us got into microstock in 2005 - 2006. We don't know any different. I personally think once the economy starts to improve...sales will improve with it. I realize right now the market is saturated but I think once things get better those photographers that think they can make a thousand with microstock will fade away because they will have other places to make their income. Rather the stock agencies will raise our commissions...I don't know, but I do believe sales will increase when these ad agencies have a less tighter budget. I don't think they will ever go to the macrostock because its call profit and loss as far as a business and they will stay where they can get the cheapest images. That's just business. Only time will tell but that is what I think.

gbcimages

« Reply #13 on: February 10, 2010, 10:34 »
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I've been doing this for over five years  and seen a lot of changes. I hope to be doing this the next ten,but nothing is for sure. All we can do is take it one day at a time and be thankful.

« Reply #14 on: February 10, 2010, 10:35 »
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There is only over supply if you supply something that is already there or isn't of a high enough quality.  From what I have seen in the past 3.5 years, buyers love new images.  I can still spend a day doing searches and find things that haven't been done yet.  Can't see that changing, as there aren't many people that try and find new subjects.  There seems to be far more buyers now and I think as more people get websites, blogs etc, the demand will continue increasing.  There are always people in the forums that find it tough but that is good for the suppliers, it would be a lot worse if doing this was an easy way to make money, everyone would be doing it.

The sites are going to try and squeeze more money out of us but the way we have to upload to all these sites and they have to spend money reviewing and storing images is looking old, I am sure someone will come up with something better, that gives us more control and makes it cheaper for us to do business with buyers.

« Reply #15 on: February 10, 2010, 11:10 »
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?!?!?!?!?!?

If you mean that microstock video is a fad and perhaps a flawed model in some way, that's a reasonable thing to debate.

But the presence of video in our everyday lives is in no way a fad, and we will certainly see more and more video on websites and in emerging media such as books and magazines reformatted for devices like the iPad and Kindle (future video capable versions of it anyway).  These and other expanding markets for video will create greater demand, and that demand will need to be filled, if not by microstock video, then by another model that will surely emerge.  Today's forward-thinking microstock contributors will be watching for that model and hopefully the first to profit from it.

Yes, I was of course referring to stock video, which is inherently dull and bland. While video may be the hot thing right now, I think that with time people will find it too intrusive and designers will find it too limiting. If there's a future in video for microstock, I think it'll be with designers using still images to create faux video - zooming and panning around an image before homing in on a "sweet spot". I'm seeing this with increasing frequency, and when it's done well it can be far more engaging than a static ad. And that's the whole point, isn't it?

I think, too, that iPad and Kindle will not be successful - I applaud the effort, but the technology just isn't there yet.
« Last Edit: February 10, 2010, 11:56 by sharply_done »

WarrenPrice

« Reply #16 on: February 10, 2010, 11:55 »
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YouTube is quite a success, I think.  It could be a "fad" but it seems to be for real.



« Reply #17 on: February 10, 2010, 11:58 »
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YouTube is quite a success, I think.  It could be a "fad" but it seems to be for real.

You're missing my point: I was talking about commercial stock video, which YouTube isn't.

« Reply #18 on: February 10, 2010, 12:08 »
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YouTube is quite a success, I think.  It could be a "fad" but it seems to be for real.

You're missing my point: I was talking about commercial stock video, which YouTube isn't.


Again I think the place for this is in the macro agencies where decent sales prices can make for a viable business model. YouTube as far as I have heard is a total money loser. Sure it has millions of users and videos but it makes NO money. That does not make it a success.

WarrenPrice

« Reply #19 on: February 10, 2010, 12:26 »
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YouTube is quite a success, I think.  It could be a "fad" but it seems to be for real.

You're missing my point: I was talking about commercial stock video, which YouTube isn't.


Again I think the place for this is in the macro agencies where decent sales prices can make for a viable business model. YouTube as far as I have heard is a total money loser. Sure it has millions of users and videos but it makes NO money. That does not make it a success.

Sort of a "moving" Flickr?   :o

Maybe a forerunner to Getty/YouTube? 

Progress Marches on .. and on and on and on.   ;D

lisafx

« Reply #20 on: February 10, 2010, 13:36 »
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Really interesting question, and one I have been thinking about a lot lately. 

I want to buy a larger house with more studio space, and with houses cheap right now I think it is feasible on my current microstock income. 

My dilemma is that, of course, the time it takes to pay off a mortgage is most likely longer than I can expect my microstock income to hold out, even if I keep adding images. 

I am thinking that if we can get a 15 year mortgage, then we will probably have a significant amount of the principle paid off in 5 or 10 years, and if the micro market has dried up by that time we can refinance the balance and be paying around what we are paying in our current small house.

So I guess my answer is that I am fairly confident I will be able to maintain my income for the next 5 years.  Hopeful about the next 10 years, and fairly certain it won't last 15 or 20 more years.   

« Reply #21 on: February 10, 2010, 14:10 »
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Really interesting question, and one I have been thinking about a lot lately. 

I want to buy a larger house with more studio space, and with houses cheap right now I think it is feasible on my current microstock income. 

My dilemma is that, of course, the time it takes to pay off a mortgage is most likely longer than I can expect my microstock income to hold out, even if I keep adding images. 

I am thinking that if we can get a 15 year mortgage, then we will probably have a significant amount of the principle paid off in 5 or 10 years, and if the micro market has dried up by that time we can refinance the balance and be paying around what we are paying in our current small house.

So I guess my answer is that I am fairly confident I will be able to maintain my income for the next 5 years.  Hopeful about the next 10 years, and fairly certain it won't last 15 or 20 more years.   

Lisa,  I like what you say. What do think will happen in the next ten years that makes you feel you won't be able to make a living at it? After all in ten years of full time shooting and following the market you will be a qualified expert, if your not there already.

« Reply #22 on: February 10, 2010, 14:22 »
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It is an interesting question and, for those of us that make our living doing this, one that is never far from our minds.

If I examine the data from my graphs then it is difficult to be overly optimistic about the longer term future. Although I've been doing microstock for five years my sales on most agencies grew consistently up until early 2006 and yet, despite more than doubling my portfolio since then, has stayed at more or less the same level. My income on the other hand has quadrupled in the same timescale. I haven't worked particularly hard though.

Essentially most of my growth in earnings over the last 4 years has come from ever-increasing prices but clearly that can't continue at the same rate forever. I think most people will find that eventually their sales and income will stabilise and then gradually start to slip downwards as the market matures.

The growth in new images will continue to increase and no individual contributor will be able to maintain their own share of the marketplace __ just as they haven't been able to for the last few years. I remember an interview with Istock's Hidesy a few years ago when she stated that her target was to maintain a 1% share of the total library. She'd have needed a portfolio with 64,000 images by now to have done so.

There will always be money to be earned from microstock but at some point in the relatively near future the income per image will progressively start to reduce. It will just become increasingly more difficult to earn the same money. Only last night I had 2 requests to join my CN at Istock __ coincidentally both from Chinese contributors. Think about it.
« Last Edit: February 10, 2010, 14:24 by gostwyck »

« Reply #23 on: February 10, 2010, 14:46 »
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Still though, the guy in China, who deserves access to the market as much as anyone, will not be able to shoot various ethnic groups very easily. It's easy for me, living in a large city, to shoot almost any ethnic group I want. It costs a lot that is for sure but I can it. Or does it matter. What I really wonder is what people are willing to finally settle for as a low enough income. That's what it comes down to really. When someone can't make enough to make it worth his while they quit and go to something else. Like everything I'm sure this business is self limiting. Eventually most of the rabbits die off and the cycle starts again.

microstockphoto.co.uk

« Reply #24 on: February 10, 2010, 14:48 »
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This is THE question!

I have no answers of course, but a few random thoughts (mostly already espressed by the original poster):

- people will always need pictures, so microstock will last "forever" (=that is a few years at least); video may replace photos in certain uses, but not all;

- not every buyer is even aware of microstock, so the buyers' base will continue to increase for a while;
 
- more and more photographers will join as well; although new photographers may find it too difficult to start and leave;

- more and more pictures uploaded every day means it may soon become unsustainable: not enough time to shot and edit photos not to lose market share;

- whether it will be profitable for us photographer or not, it depends on whether buyers will outgrow photographers or not;

conclusion: I do not know, but every "real" job is even worse: we could get fired out of the blue, while - even in worst case scenario - microstock's fall will be a slow decay at least; in the meantime we'll find something else to do; I didn't even know about microstock 3 years ago: there was life before microstock and there will be after
« Last Edit: February 10, 2010, 14:58 by microstockphoto.co.uk »

lisafx

« Reply #25 on: February 10, 2010, 15:03 »
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Lisa,  I like what you say. What do think will happen in the next ten years that makes you feel you won't be able to make a living at it? After all in ten years of full time shooting and following the market you will be a qualified expert, if your not there already.

Gostwyck's post above answers this better than I could :)

« Reply #26 on: February 10, 2010, 15:45 »
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I didn't even know about microstock 3 years ago: there was life before microstock and there will be after

Ditto!

Plus, spending all this extra time making new images is like getting paid to get better and learn, so I feel I'll be prepared for whatever is next.


« Reply #27 on: February 10, 2010, 16:01 »
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Only last night I had 2 requests to join my CN at Istock __ coincidentally both from Chinese contributors. Think about it.

Yes, I went through this in past. I freelanced as a software developer, mostly via RentACoder.com. The marketplace there (based on tasks on which the coders bid) was flooded with 'coders' that were willing to do the work for much less than I was willing to. They were ok biding with what sometimes was around $1 per hour (estimated by me)... And they were mostly from China and other countries.

« Reply #28 on: February 10, 2010, 16:56 »
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I am not pro right now microstock is around 1% of my income. Will I reach 10% in next 10-20 years? If it happens I will be satisfied if not I will still learn a lot :-)

« Reply #29 on: February 10, 2010, 20:20 »
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Call me a pessimist, but I think microstock is drying up for individual contributors. The agencies are laughing all the way to the bank, as the microstock market is (and will be) very strong for years to come. The problem is that there is just too darn much competition between the contributors, and our individual slice of the pie is getting smaller and smaller each day.

Think about what Shutterstock is doing at the moment: 100,000 new images every week! Five years from now, my individual portfolio will have increased by 5000 to 7000 images. But the large agencies are growing at a substantially much higher rate and it will be very difficult for individual contributors to get noticed in a sea of millions and millions of images.

I'm not betting the farm on microstock, and I'm already working on other projects which I think will give me a higher return on my investment years down the road.

« Reply #30 on: February 10, 2010, 20:28 »
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Call me a pessimist ...

Alright then. You're a pessimist Norebbo!

Unfortunately it is true, the agencies will do very well and ultimately most contributors will struggle to make it worthwhile.

« Reply #31 on: February 10, 2010, 22:54 »
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It's not reasonable to simply expect to make money because you've had images accepted.  What is reasonable, and has always been reasonable, is to expect that in whatever business you're in, in the end, quality will win out.  The best products - as judged by buyers -  should always have a shot at making money.

How is that going to be possible at a place like Shutterstock, when they're taking in 100,000 new images a week?  The answer is, it is not possible.  No way can buyers expect to find quality in the midst of that quantity.  Variety, yes.  Cheap prices, yes. Quality becoms a needle in a haystack.

In the early days when these agencies numbered their images in the thousands and not millions, popularity-based ranking had some chance of bringing quality to the top of the heap. For images submitted today, it does not.  These quantities of images will simply overwhelm today's simple search technologies.  



microstockphoto.co.uk

« Reply #32 on: February 11, 2010, 03:00 »
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SS is taking 100k new images a week just because they want to reach 10M pictures first! (at least I hope so)

nevertheless, it's true that the risk of losing marketshare is always there for individual submitters

« Reply #33 on: February 11, 2010, 05:29 »
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It's not reasonable to simply expect to make money because you've had images accepted.  What is reasonable, and has always been reasonable, is to expect that in whatever business you're in, in the end, quality will win out.  The best products - as judged by buyers -  should always have a shot at making money.

How is that going to be possible at a place like Shutterstock, when they're taking in 100,000 new images a week?  The answer is, it is not possible.  No way can buyers expect to find quality in the midst of that quantity.  Variety, yes.  Cheap prices, yes. Quality becoms a needle in a haystack.

In the early days when these agencies numbered their images in the thousands and not millions, popularity-based ranking had some chance of bringing quality to the top of the heap. For images submitted today, it does not.  These quantities of images will simply overwhelm today's simple search technologies.  



If a buyer bookmarks your portfolio, they will easily find your new images.  You can also do something different to all the other contributors and guarantee that your image will be on the first page of a search.  It is still easy, there is an infinite amount of subjects not covered yet.  That is why I wont be concerned when SS has its billionth image :)

« Reply #34 on: February 11, 2010, 10:39 »
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You can also do something different to all the other contributors and guarantee that your image will be on the first page of a search. 

Explain that statement, please. 

« Reply #35 on: February 11, 2010, 13:13 »
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Explain that statement, please. 
Creativity! ;)

RT


« Reply #36 on: February 11, 2010, 13:22 »
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Explain that statement, please. 

Originality!  ;)


« Reply #37 on: February 11, 2010, 14:21 »
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So their server software now has an algorithm that scans the image for 'creativity' and puts unique, original images on the first page?  It's brilliant!  I'm on it!





« Reply #38 on: February 11, 2010, 14:26 »
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Yep, it's called the "niche match" system.  ;D

« Reply #39 on: February 11, 2010, 14:38 »
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I don''t even count on it now...micro is simply somewhere to place out takes and shoots that I don't feel are right for macro. It's starting to pay towards monthly bills but to be quite honest the returns on micro are not worth shooting specifically for it.

« Reply #40 on: February 11, 2010, 15:08 »
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I think that in 10 years 3D technology will have reached the point where realistic people can be dialed up in an application and eliminate the need for 'real' models in 'real' situations completely. 3D animators will become the major content producers.

« Reply #41 on: February 11, 2010, 15:10 »
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It just seems to me like there's a big opportunity being missed, in the huge gulf between micro and macro prices.  

The things I do don't make sense for micro. They're niche things that sell now and then, presumably to buyers who want them, but at 25 cents a sale, it's not worth my time in setup and post-processing.  But macro expects to sell them for hundreds; that greatly reduces the number of potential buyers - and I'd be quite satisfied with a lot less.  

I keep coming back to the CutCaster concept. At some point, it has to happen.

« Reply #42 on: February 11, 2010, 15:13 »
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I think that in 10 years 3D technology will have reached the point where realistic people can be dialed up in an application and eliminate the need for 'real' models in 'real' situations completely. 3D animators will become the major content producers.

That's definitely true, and not just for 'people' shots.  Is it 10 years away, or less?

Just think of the endless, gag-inducing images of radiantly happy, magnetically handsome people - in cubicles, phone pits, conference rooms, hospitals, on the street- and no model releases to be found.  Philip K. Dick would be fascinated.

Subjects which had been difficult or impossible will become easy.  I'm already picturing "Happy group of multi-ethnic employees receiving layoff notices" and "Happy senior man having sigmoidoscopy".


« Last Edit: February 11, 2010, 15:21 by stockastic »

« Reply #43 on: February 11, 2010, 15:44 »
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You can also do something different to all the other contributors and guarantee that your image will be on the first page of a search.

Explain that statement, please.  
All I do is look at the less well covered subjects that I have some knowledge about and I see are popular with the buyers.  Then I try and come up with something that isn't already there.  It isn't difficult to have your image as the only on one the site when someone does a search.  It will get copied, but that is usually after it has had lots of downloads.

« Reply #44 on: February 11, 2010, 16:00 »
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I'm off to shoot some cheese shoes and a concrete canoe.

« Reply #45 on: February 11, 2010, 16:01 »
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Explain that statement, please. 

Originality!  ;)

Creativity and originality by themselves aren't enough in the micro business, the image has to be difficult to copy, too. Many of my ideas have been ripped off and copied relentlessly, and on some sites it's the inferior rip-off that show up in searches first.  There are too many people with low integrity that are looking to make a fast buck by feeding off of the creativity of others. That's why I'm always working to add to my skill set, it's my only hope for survival in this business.

« Reply #46 on: February 11, 2010, 17:36 »
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... the image has to be difficult to copy, too.

But that usually means it took some time and effort to produce - setup, post-processing.  Which means it has to sell a lot, to be worth doing.   Like I keep saying - if we could just get some control over our prices...


« Reply #47 on: February 11, 2010, 17:43 »
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I think that in 10 years 3D technology will have reached the point where realistic people can be dialed up in an application and eliminate the need for 'real' models in 'real' situations completely. 3D animators will become the major content producers.
This is a good point. But even if this doesn't happen something else will. New technologies for making images will emerge, and buyers will want the images made using those technologies.

Microstock is the child of technologies:
-digital cameras
-image software, from Photoshop to 3DS Max
-cheap high speed internet access
-search engines

In the future, revenues will increase for people who are willing to learn the new technologies and who can see the market clearly enough to recognize the best opportunities.

« Reply #48 on: February 11, 2010, 17:51 »
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Only last night I had 2 requests to join my CN at Istock __ coincidentally both from Chinese contributors. Think about it.

Yes, I went through this in past. I freelanced as a software developer, mostly via RentACoder.com. The marketplace there (based on tasks on which the coders bid) was flooded with 'coders' that were willing to do the work for much less than I was willing to. They were ok biding with what sometimes was around $1 per hour (estimated by me)... And they were mostly from China and other countries.

What eventually happened with your freelance coding, did the Chinese competition drive you out of the freelance software development business, or did you take a different approach to finding coding work?

« Reply #49 on: February 11, 2010, 18:17 »
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I just added a Chinese person to my CN.  She has some nice photos of her local area and autumn leaves.  I can't see anything that looks like it has been copied.  I am sure Chinese contributors will find it possible to make more than their average national wage without having to resort to copying.  No doubt some will do it but I would think those that need to make more money will be tempted more.  Isn't the average wage in China around $3,000?

« Reply #50 on: February 11, 2010, 23:10 »
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Isn't the average wage in China around $3,000?
No. Top wages in the glitter cities on the east coast (Shanghai, Shenzen, HK) maybe. Beijing is much less and the giant mainland is still very poor. That's where the sweatshops are. Every 2 years or so, they move west about 200km to keep up with the receding low wage line.

The typical wage in India (Chennai) or the Philippines is about 0.70$/hr, 0.25$/hr if you provide food and a (crap) place to sleep. The call-center industry pays 1.1$/hr in the developed areas, 0.5$/hr in the rural areas. If you are a foreigner operating these, you need to double the price for the obligatory bribes or you will drown in red tape, mysterious power and net outages.

The main problem for photographers there is that they totally lack cultural empathy with the western market and lifestyle. The Chinese will have great autumn leaves shots but as to concepts involving models, they are totally in the dark. Filipinos for instance have a totally different perception of female beauty than the west. One striking difference: girls need to be fat to be attractive there. When they're about 18 they all start to eat 6 times per day till they look like their mom at 22. The west still has this "slim" preference, what Filipinos call "skinny" and "poor".

A very conspicuous exception on all this is Singapore with some great and productive model photographers (Phildate). But it's a totally westernized city. South Korea has very western tastes too. I wonder why there aren't more of them on stock.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2010, 23:19 by FD-amateur »

« Reply #51 on: February 12, 2010, 00:20 »
0
Huchen Lu - iPandastudio - seems to be doing pretty well as an istock exclusive.

« Reply #52 on: February 12, 2010, 00:45 »
0
Huchen Lu - iPandastudio - seems to be doing pretty well as an istock exclusive.

Fantastic talent... he got it totally. And... he is in Shanghai, the most westernized city of mainland (apart from HK).

« Reply #53 on: March 29, 2019, 09:03 »
+6
This old thread popped up, and I realized it might be relevant for some. Same old comments even 9 years ago... Race to the bottom, too much competition, evil agencies...

So, anyone still doing stock from the beginning of this thread (2010)?

« Reply #54 on: March 29, 2019, 09:17 »
+3
This old thread popped up, and I realized it might be relevant for some. Same old comments even 9 years ago... Race to the bottom, too much competition, evil agencies...

So, anyone still doing stock from the beginning of this thread (2010)?
As I was reading, I thought it was from this year. When I realized it was from 2010 I thought maybe that was all paranoia

« Reply #55 on: March 29, 2019, 09:18 »
+4
This old thread popped up, and I realized it might be relevant for some. Same old comments even 9 years ago... Race to the bottom, too much competition, evil agencies...

So, anyone still doing stock from the beginning of this thread (2010)?
It seems the imminent death of the industry may be somewhat exaggerated.

« Reply #56 on: March 29, 2019, 10:28 »
0
This old thread popped up, and I realized it might be relevant for some. Same old comments even 9 years ago... Race to the bottom, too much competition, evil agencies...

So, anyone still doing stock from the beginning of this thread (2010)?
As I was reading, I thought it was from this year. When I realized it was from 2010 I thought maybe that was all paranoia

Same here :)
As making more income requires more and more effort - the question whether all this will justify itself in 5-10 years always comes to mind.
I tend to divide the answer into 2 -
1- the demand for stock video will be on the rise in the foreseeable future in all aspects of the media - web, TV commercials, mobile apps and so forth...
2- As the result of the drop in video gear prices, along with the great video quality these cameras give, the amount of video contributors will rise greatly - and so will the amount of content they produce.

This will make our lives under the search engines tougher then ever.

What will make some clips stand out from the crowd then? I think it's a combination of: first and foremost - great and useful concept - a result of market research, and thought before shooting. Then - fine technical aspects - lighting, camera movement, color grading etc. 

What I would really like to know - if great content that sells well today - will still be up in search results in a few years. From my experience - even great clips slowly sink down the search results, as a well established stock agencies strategy.

Good luck to us all :)


Uncle Pete

  • Great Place by a Great Lake - My Home Port
« Reply #57 on: March 29, 2019, 11:15 »
+3
I don't want to pick on anyone, because who knows what I would have said, or what I did on other threads. But a couple had me laughing. Some were right on. Some editing was done on the quotes to make them shorter, no words were changed.

Video is just a passing fad?

And, I think Video is the way to go in microstock.


I think Warren had it right, that video was the next opportunity.

Call me a pessimist, but I think microstock is drying up for individual contributors. The agencies are laughing all the way to the bank, as the microstock market is (and will be) very strong for years to come. The problem is that there is just too darn much competition between the contributors, and our individual slice of the pie is getting smaller and smaller each day.

Think about what Shutterstock is doing at the moment: 100,000 new images every week! Five years from now, my individual portfolio will have increased by 5000 to 7000 images. But the large agencies are growing at a substantially much higher rate and it will be very difficult for individual contributors to get noticed in a sea of millions and millions of images.

Sounds like he was right?

I think that in 10 years 3D technology will have reached the point where realistic people can be dialed up in an application and eliminate the need for 'real' models in 'real' situations completely. 3D animators will become the major content producers.

Or maybe it was eight years?  ;) But so far not easy or replacing real people, still a good prediction.

I think most people will find that eventually their sales and income will stabilise and then gradually start to slip downwards as the market matures.

The growth in new images will continue to increase and no individual contributor will be able to maintain their own share of the marketplace __ just as they haven't been able to for the last few years.

Yeah we see that now, he was right.

What I don't think anyone saw coming was, agencies declaring "Unsustainable", cutting levels, combining tiers, or removing potential for higher percentage based on performance. Dropping nearly all referrals for artists but also limiting them to two years and new buyers for shorter terms. Changing percentages down. Dropping prices so our smaller percentage was of a smaller number. Some cut commissions in half, by the way. Higher quotas were set.

Some saw the increase in new artists from countries that had a lower cost of living.

In 2010 illustrators were on top of the heap. In demand, as fast as they could make something, there was a sale and more demand. Photographers were already on the down trend. By 2012 we saw that photography had hit the wall, competition exceeded the capability of individuals to keep up and no number of new buyers would ever balance for the losses in market share. Photos had become a commodity for most content.

Sure there are still areas and ideas that are unexplored and with room to make some gains, but nothing of the easy subjects, like it was in 2010. Optimists were predicting that they could go for five more years and see. I don't think anyone saw that 2010 was already the beginning of the end, or that in two years, almost everyone would see the growth and early entry profits, were over.

I'll admit I thought that the need and demands and ability to build a collection that would bring some return on the investment, was more possible. I was too shallow and it was too easy, not big waves or running against the tide. Once that changed, and the ship hit the rocks, I figured it was time to do what was best for myself, because bailing and hoping wasn't going to make Microstock float again.   ;)

With that, I'll answer the OP. Yes there will be Microstock in 5, 10, and beyond. No I wouldn't count on income growth like most of us did in 2010.

What I'm not seeing, like what happened with computer makers, software companies and other recent technology is the big sorting out where over 80% of the contenders are forced out of the market, bought or merged. Maybe that's for "old timers" but there were an easy 50 computer makers, and everyone with a bit of software, became a software company.

The only reason I can see that the weak and lame Microstock agencies have been able to hold off their own demise for so long, past the usual business adjustments and market weeding is the unfairly low percentages that they pay for the supply of images and products. There you go, global economics, anyone with a camera, anywhere, can sell their photos for a small commission.

Good news, that's not going to change. We have the whole world as competition, not many new areas to be jumping into the business.  8)

Hopefully the business will go so flat some day, so that new people will seek some other new "gold rush" or fad for making money, and we can have some stability. That's next, even without new entry stopping altogether. Microstock will reach a stable point or plateau, and the extreme growth and change will be much less. Our earnings won't be as high or low or as unpredictable. Income might not be good or great, but it will be more predictable.



« Reply #58 on: March 29, 2019, 14:29 »
0
I disagree about video - I think it's a trendy fad that will quietly go away sooner rather than later. Those investing time and money into it are going to be very disappointed.

I think you are right about most things but I disagree with you on this one.  I am a complete amateur with video and I have uploaded a small portfolio to a few sites.  The sales are reasonable and the commissions are good.  It is worth getting in to, have a look at the number of sales some people are getting, I was surprised.  Wont most advertising be moving images in the future?  Print is dying, everything is moving to the internet and screen advertising.  I see more and more moving images taking over from stills.  I still prefer stills but what do the advertising people think?

None of us can predict the future with any real accuracy and I think it is sensible to diversify in to footage, there is a chance it wont pay off but it is just as likely to be the next big thing.  I also like the fact that it isn't as simple as taking a photo, most people can master that now.  Footage has a steeper learning curve and at the moment it isn't as easy to upload 500mb files.  There is less competition at the moment, that will probably change in the future.

I agree, keep producing good quality niche photos, a much better option than video IMO

Uncle Pete

  • Great Place by a Great Lake - My Home Port
« Reply #59 on: March 29, 2019, 16:15 »
0
I disagree about video - I think it's a trendy fad that will quietly go away sooner rather than later. Those investing time and money into it are going to be very disappointed.

I think you are right about most things but I disagree with you on this one.  I am a complete amateur with video and I have uploaded a small portfolio to a few sites.  The sales are reasonable and the commissions are good.  It is worth getting in to, have a look at the number of sales some people are getting, I was surprised.  Wont most advertising be moving images in the future?  Print is dying, everything is moving to the internet and screen advertising.  I see more and more moving images taking over from stills.  I still prefer stills but what do the advertising people think?

None of us can predict the future with any real accuracy and I think it is sensible to diversify in to footage, there is a chance it wont pay off but it is just as likely to be the next big thing.  I also like the fact that it isn't as simple as taking a photo, most people can master that now.  Footage has a steeper learning curve and at the moment it isn't as easy to upload 500mb files.  There is less competition at the moment, that will probably change in the future.

I agree, keep producing good quality niche photos, a much better option than video IMO

Or both?  ;D I'm just starting into video and my observations are from friends who were and are heavily in photos who started adding many videos the last couple years and found that video is holding up or increasing where photos have been losing.

In the end, video will be just like photo and illustration and whatever the next hot area is, when the producers start to make so much that anything easy or common, will start to wither.

100% behind you and everyone who continues to point out that niche subjects, unusual, or find something that's in short supply. I think I've been promoting that theory for about seven years. That doesn't stop me from making some of the worst Crapstock some days, but I know you are correct.



 

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