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Author Topic: Financially sustainable? An agency dedicated to images of 'real' people?  (Read 9735 times)

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« on: May 20, 2013, 14:58 »
0
I mentioned in another thread that due to being unable to quickly find the types of images I need for my graphic projects I am doing research into the viability of starting yet another microstock site. Yes, I am crazy. But I am finding other designers expressing their request for diversity and not so many perfectly polished (fake looking) photos also so there seems to be a good demand. And I have ideas for unique selling points that no other agencies are doing.

The images would be the type that so far no other stock site is interested in posting large quantities of - authentic, real people - not models - that are of different ethnicities, age, class, profession, you name it. And that are not too refined and perfect technically. Because when it's too perfect technically it loses some authenticity. And that are candid shots, not people smiling into the camera. These images would contain many non-smiling serious people as well as smiling. I found a site doing this for other countries but not so much in the US so that would be my focus in the beginning.

Shady Sue mentioned it's not financially sustainable to build a site around these images so I am interested in everyone else's thoughts and opinions. Please try to keep the comments constructive so I can get a true idea of whether this will work or not.

I'm curious why so little of these images are found on the current sites when the demand is rising?  Would it be financially sustainable for the agency?

Thank you for your input!
Rana


« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2013, 15:08 »
+3
Anyone that poses for images is a "model".  I use "real people" as my "models".  They don't smile all the time, and I try to get them to strike "natural" poses.  I'm not sure what you plan on being able to shoot that others aren't already doing.  Give us an example.

SS said it isn't financially feasible, because to hire a large group of multi-ethnic "models" costs a lot of money.

« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2013, 15:17 »
+14
When you say real people, do you mean average looking people, who may be overweight, with large noses, double chins, and yellowish teeth, or do you mean people who are in the top 15% for good looks? Maybe not the top 2%, which is what we see now, but still, really good looking?

I have seen these requests for real people over the years, and in the past have photographed a few and uploaded them, but they don't sell.

TBH I think you will find photos of real people on line, but they are probably way down the sort order because no one wants them.

ETA The other thing is pricing. These ordinary looking people may sell once or twice, but at micro pricing, it's just not worth the effort.
Also, you have to think about their hurt feelings when their photo doesn't sell!
 
« Last Edit: May 20, 2013, 15:23 by Travelling-light »

« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2013, 15:23 »
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When you say real people, do you mean average looking people, who may be overweight, with large noses, double chins, and yellowish teeth, or do you mean people who are in the top 15% for good looks? Maybe not the top 2%, which is what we see now, but still, really good looking?

I have seen these requests for real people over the years, and in the past have photographed a few and uploaded them, but they don't sell.

TBH I think you will find photos of real people on line, but they are probably way down the sort order because no one wants them.

Exactly. The market is already providing for what the market actually wants. Contributors watch what sells (or doesn't sell) like hawks and modify their shoots accordingly. If you want really niche stuff you might have to shoot it yourself or hire someone to do it for you.

« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2013, 15:26 »
+1
I think there's a market for what you're describing.   But maintaining the integrity of your collection would be a challenge.  As soon as you get some market presence you'd be besieged by pros trying to "game the system" and mass-produce the look they think you want.

« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2013, 16:19 »
0
Anyone that poses for images is a "model".  I use "real people" as my "models".  They don't smile all the time, and I try to get them to strike "natural" poses.  I'm not sure what you plan on being able to shoot that others aren't already doing.  Give us an example.

SS said it isn't financially feasible, because to hire a large group of multi-ethnic "models" costs a lot of money.

For example, I just searched Shutterstock for "Mexican Family". I picked "relevant", started at the last page (12) and worked forward. In most of the photos the people were posing, smiling and looking into the camera. They are affluent and very good looking. There are no candids and no average looking or low income people. And so many were shot in the park - what's up with that? A Canstock search pretty much resulted in the same and usually the other sites are similar too.

So just in this search, there isn't much variety. There seems to be a lot of missed opportunities - I can't imagine that what's there is all that sells?

« Reply #6 on: May 20, 2013, 16:21 »
+1
There are no candids and no average looking or low income people. And so many were shot in the park - what's up with that?

What should they be candidly doing?  What makes an average looking person?  What designates "low income"?  Where should they be?

« Reply #7 on: May 20, 2013, 16:25 »
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Reminds me of the classic definition of "obscenity":  we know it when we see it.


« Reply #8 on: May 20, 2013, 16:26 »
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When you say real people, do you mean average looking people, who may be overweight, with large noses, double chins, and yellowish teeth, or do you mean people who are in the top 15% for good looks? Maybe not the top 2%, which is what we see now, but still, really good looking?

I have seen these requests for real people over the years, and in the past have photographed a few and uploaded them, but they don't sell.

TBH I think you will find photos of real people on line, but they are probably way down the sort order because no one wants them.

Exactly. The market is already providing for what the market actually wants. Contributors watch what sells (or doesn't sell) like hawks and modify their shoots accordingly. If you want really niche stuff you might have to shoot it yourself or hire someone to do it for you.

I am thinking of niche stuff - mainly focusing on providing images for the nonprofit industry. I know corporations and big media agencies primarily buy and want the images that are currently in the market now so they are not as much of a focus. Obviously I still have A LOT of research to do.

ShadySue

  • There is a crack in everything
« Reply #9 on: May 20, 2013, 16:27 »
0
Would you be restricting your sales to education, charities and nonprofits? Or will you be allowing businesses to buy also?
Whatever, your 'real people' may not agree to sign MRs. If your non-profit's staff and volunteers won't allow their photos to be used to promote their own projects, where are your 'real people' going to come from?

« Reply #10 on: May 20, 2013, 16:37 »
0
Would you be restricting your sales to education, charities and nonprofits? Or will you be allowing businesses to buy also?
Whatever, your 'real people' may not agree to sign MRs. If your non-profit's staff and volunteers won't allow their photos to be used to promote their own projects, where are your 'real people' going to come from?

No restrictions, of course anyone can buy.

That is more of the issue - if the 'real' models will agree to sign MRs and thoroughly understand what they are signing so it doesn't become a future problem. Thanks for bringing that up in the  other thread. I have a lot more research to do in the licensing area of what the images can be used for and why 'real' people may not be interested in signing.

« Reply #11 on: May 20, 2013, 16:48 »
+1
why 'real' people may not be interested in signing.

Mostly because it sounds like you think "real people" don't want to be paid?   Well that, and "real people" - candids (?) - are people who weren't expecting to be photographed and used in commercially licensed images, whereas "models", people that seek out opportunities to be paid to be in image, are likely ok with it.

ShadySue

  • There is a crack in everything
« Reply #12 on: May 20, 2013, 16:52 »
+1
I have a lot more research to do in the licensing area of what the images can be used for and why 'real' people may not be interested in signing.
In my experience, mainly because they don't want to be seen apparently promoting "any product or service".
Also remember that a normal licence allows images to be manipulated in almost any way, sometimes excluding porn etc. Remember that you will have to factor in legal advice and representation.

« Reply #13 on: May 20, 2013, 17:00 »
0
There are no candids and no average looking or low income people. And so many were shot in the park - what's up with that?

What should they be candidly doing?  What makes an average looking person?  What designates "low income"?  Where should they be?

By candid I mean interacting with one another not paying attention to the camera. Kind of like a snapshot but technically better.

Ok, maybe 'average' looking person is not what I mean. It's more of the people not looking so perfect and high end. If I'm doing a brochure for a food bank or a nonprofit that provides basic needs I can't use photos that don't relate/fit in to the context.

« Reply #14 on: May 20, 2013, 17:06 »
0
why 'real' people may not be interested in signing.

Mostly because it sounds like you think "real people" don't want to be paid?   Well that, and "real people" - candids (?) - are people who weren't expecting to be photographed and used in commercially licensed images, whereas "models", people that seek out opportunities to be paid to be in image, are likely ok with it.

Not at all, of course they want to and would be paid. They would be models and would be expected to be photographed but the shot would be set up so that it wouldn't look set up. Can't that be done?

« Reply #15 on: May 20, 2013, 17:13 »
+1
Sure, you can direct people to pretend they aren't being photographed... http://www.stocksy.com/42921

« Reply #16 on: May 20, 2013, 17:18 »
0
Sure, you can direct people to pretend they aren't being photographed... http://www.stocksy.com/42921


Yeah, like that. Those are great - the candid-type photos I need for nonprofit projects.

Here's another example: I searched 'food bank' on SS and only 2 pages came up. Within that, there's only a few shots from one photo shoot and even those don't look as realistic as they could. I'm just saying there seems to be a lot that isn't being done that could be done.

http://www.shutterstock.com/cat.mhtml?lang=en&search_source=search_form&search_tracking_id=F41PAnpcgi6f3UHwtLXYRQ&version=llv1&anyorall=all&safesearch=1&searchterm=food+bank&photos=on&search_group=&orient=&search_cat=&searchtermx=&photographer_name=&model_released=on&people_gender=&people_age=&people_ethnicity=&people_number=&commercial_ok=&color=&show_color_wheel=1&secondary_submit=Search#page=1


ShadySue

  • There is a crack in everything
« Reply #17 on: May 20, 2013, 17:21 »
+1
That search is the worst SS search I've seen for ages. What a huge percentage of totally irrelevant images. SS search isn't usually that bad.

« Reply #18 on: May 20, 2013, 17:27 »
0
That search is the worst SS search I've seen for ages. What a huge percentage of totally irrelevant images. SS search isn't usually that bad.

And that is what I find basically every time in my searches for np projects. That's what leads me to believe there are so many kinds of photos that are not being listed. That's why it takes me 10-15 hours sometimes to find the photos I need for most projects. I search up to 5 sites sometimes before I find the right photos. Even in the 'relevant' searches. I'm so tired of it.

ShadySue

  • There is a crack in everything
« Reply #19 on: May 20, 2013, 17:29 »
+1
Does "food bank" have a different meaning somewhere? iStock's "food bank" search is pretty awful too, as is DT and FT. Is an isolated can with no label a "food bank"? In MR / PR images, Alamy surprisingly only has that same set that's everywhere else, plus two irrelevant couple pics. They do have a lot of 'real' but unreleased food bank images.

ShadySue

  • There is a crack in everything
« Reply #20 on: May 20, 2013, 17:33 »
0
Bear in mind that as well as model releases, you'd have to either have food / boxes etc with no labels (fruit, veg etc) or make your own labels to go around cans/make your own boxes etc. Unless you can get food brands to give you releases. Or shoot with such a shallow dof that you can't read any brand names. All of that conspires to make the image look 'unreal', but it's inevitable.

« Reply #21 on: May 20, 2013, 17:37 »
0
Does "food bank" have a different meaning somewhere? iStock's "food bank" search is pretty awful too, as is DT and FT. Is an isolated can with no label a "food bank"? In MR / PR images, Alamy surprisingly only has that same set that's everywhere else, plus two irrelevant couple pics. They do have a lot of 'real' but unreleased food bank images.

See what I'm talking about? And that's just one 'food bank' search. It's pretty abysmal. And I know other designers who do np work and they have the same problems finding the right images too. So it seems there is an opening for a niche site to offer these kinds of images don't you think?

« Reply #22 on: May 20, 2013, 17:39 »
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Bear in mind that as well as model releases, you'd have to either have food / boxes etc with no labels (fruit, veg etc) or make your own labels to go around cans/make your own boxes etc. Unless you can get food brands to give you releases. Or shoot with such a shallow dof that you can't read any brand names. All of that conspires to make the image look 'unreal', but it's inevitable.

I would definitely have to take all of that into consideration for sure and find a way to get around it to maintain the authenticity.

« Reply #23 on: May 20, 2013, 17:48 »
+3
Sure, you can direct people to pretend they aren't being photographed... http://www.stocksy.com/42921


Your photos on Stocksy are great - a good combination of candids and people looking at the camera. And they don't look so posed and fake. I will have to search Stocksy more now that they've launched!

« Reply #24 on: May 20, 2013, 18:17 »
0
Sure, you can direct people to pretend they aren't being photographed... http://www.stocksy.com/42921


Your photos on Stocksy are great - a good combination of candids and people looking at the camera. And they don't look so posed and fake. I will have to search Stocksy more now that they've launched!


Sweet.  Thanks!

« Reply #25 on: May 20, 2013, 23:14 »
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@Image Diversity :

you can't have your cake and eat it too.

for the sort of images you need there's not enough demand in microstock to justify the production costs, simple as that, everyone here is telling you the same thing but you just dont get it.

there's plenty of such stuff on sale if you just pay a bit more, search "food bank" on Alamy for instance.

you'll never find what you need as long as you search in the wrong place !

and dont think nobody is shooting candid people, there's a guy in the Alamy forum with 90,000 images on sale, half of them are about candid shots taken around the world, problem is (for you at least) he expects to earn 50-100$ net per image and he's getting it considering he makes 5-600 sales per month with such cr-ap.

but since it's cr-ap you can't find elsewhere buyers have no other choice (i mean serious buyers, BBC, Telegraph, book publishers).

you should just surrender to the reality of stock photography, either drop your no-profit projects or start shooting around with your iPhone, it'll be cheaper and funnier.

as much as it could sound strange to you, for us this is a job and we need to pay the bills.

as for launching an agency or whatever specialized in candid images, sorry there's plenty of agencies like that and they're all with Getty or selling on other RM/RF outlets including Alamy and less known distributors.

best wishes but i'm afraid you ain't go far with your projects, sorry.



« Last Edit: May 20, 2013, 23:19 by Xanox »

« Reply #26 on: May 21, 2013, 00:18 »
0
Ok well thanks everyone for your input.


ShadySue

  • There is a crack in everything
« Reply #27 on: May 21, 2013, 03:06 »
+3
there's plenty of such stuff on sale if you just pay a bit more, search "food bank" on Alamy for instance.
Not so, depending on use.
Alamy, 'food bank' photos only: 8362 results, which from the first page sorted on relevance have many authentic, 'real' photos.
BUT
With MR and PR, only 31, mostly irrelevant other than one set which is available on the micros.

However, it's all moot, as we now know the OP doesn't want 'real', she wants attractive models in a tidy background, evenly lit; just not on a white background grinning inanely at the camera. Big difference.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2013, 03:10 by ShadySue »

« Reply #28 on: May 21, 2013, 03:54 »
0
there's plenty of such stuff on sale if you just pay a bit more, search "food bank" on Alamy for instance.
Not so, depending on use.
Alamy, 'food bank' photos only: 8362 results, which from the first page sorted on relevance have many authentic, 'real' photos.
BUT
With MR and PR, only 31, mostly irrelevant other than one set which is available on the micros.

However, it's all moot, as we now know the OP doesn't want 'real', she wants attractive models in a tidy background, evenly lit; just not on a white background grinning inanely at the camera. Big difference.

Not so. I do want 'real', not attractive models in a tidy background, evenly lit. But as a freelance GD I can't usually afford Alamy's pricing and know other freelance designers can't either, even if we pass that cost onto the client. I can't buy RM.

« Reply #29 on: May 21, 2013, 04:33 »
0
Each buyer seems to think he/she and his/her need is the only one out there. They would say 'no, no' but yes, they do :)

sidenote: If the setting allows it, I sometimes tell my models to just forget about me and do what they would anyway. I did that recently, and they were so good at it that I had to wave my arms and shout to get their attention when I wanted them to sit elsewhere. They just totally got lost having fun - no surprise, I picked them for being natural, and we are on very friendly relations. So.... those shots got rejected on the basis of looking too staged. Cluelessness has beaten reality, again. Also when I clicked around I saw some of the worst spasm-face-smiles ever, and my favorite: people inserting food into their spasm-smiles. Try biting and smiling at the same time, it's fun ;)
« Last Edit: May 21, 2013, 04:39 by topol »

Microbius

« Reply #30 on: May 21, 2013, 04:51 »
0
I think there is a market for shots of real people. For example I have spent quite a bit of time visiting a relative in an NHS hospital in a poor part of London and for the most part the posters and the like there had real people, often with acne, over weight etc.

The thing is that they were still expertly lit and shot. A lot of the content with ordinary looking people on the stock sites tend to be shot out of necessity by non professional photographers because they can't afford to pay models or don't happen to know any people with movie star looks, there's quite often other things wrong with the photos to stop them selling (poorly lit etc.)

« Reply #31 on: May 21, 2013, 05:15 »
0
Does "food bank" have a different meaning somewhere? iStock's "food bank" search is pretty awful too, as is DT and FT. Is an isolated can with no label a "food bank"? In MR / PR images, Alamy surprisingly only has that same set that's everywhere else, plus two irrelevant couple pics. They do have a lot of 'real' but unreleased food bank images.

Try searching on 'food charity' instead. The results are fewer but more relevant.

ShadySue

  • There is a crack in everything
« Reply #32 on: May 21, 2013, 05:22 »
0
So.... those shots got rejected on the basis of looking too staged.
There's a rejection for 'looking too staged'?!!!
LMAO, as they say.  8)

« Reply #33 on: May 21, 2013, 07:49 »
0
So.... those shots got rejected on the basis of looking too staged.
There's a rejection for 'looking too staged'?!!!
LMAO, as they say.  8)

That wasn't the exact wording, but it was something very similar. It wasn't a regular micro agency.

« Reply #34 on: May 21, 2013, 08:55 »
0
Not so, depending on use.
Alamy, 'food bank' photos only: 8362 results, which from the first page sorted on relevance have many authentic, 'real' photos.
BUT
With MR and PR, only 31, mostly irrelevant other than one set which is available on the micros.

However, it's all moot, as we now know the OP doesn't want 'real', she wants attractive models in a tidy background, evenly lit; just not on a white background grinning inanely at the camera. Big difference.

authenticity comes with a price, that's why it's better suited for RM, there are so many situations where it's impossible to get MR.


« Reply #35 on: May 21, 2013, 09:02 »
0
Not so. I do want 'real', not attractive models in a tidy background, evenly lit. But as a freelance GD I can't usually afford Alamy's pricing and know other freelance designers can't either, even if we pass that cost onto the client. I can't buy RM.

you should email Alamy and ask them what to do, i'm sure they have special prices for these things, as they have super cheap deals with newspapers and other smaller publishers who buy in bulk.

an example, for BBC and Daily Mail they managed to sell images for as low as 5$/each.




ShadySue

  • There is a crack in everything
« Reply #36 on: May 21, 2013, 09:25 »
0
Not so. I do want 'real', not attractive models in a tidy background, evenly lit. But as a freelance GD I can't usually afford Alamy's pricing and know other freelance designers can't either, even if we pass that cost onto the client. I can't buy RM.

you should email Alamy and ask them what to do, i'm sure they have special prices for these things, as they have super cheap deals with newspapers and other smaller publishers who buy in bulk.

an example, for BBC and Daily Mail they managed to sell images for as low as 5$/each.

These might be bulk buyers. The Beeb use TS for generic pics, so that's a negotiating point. Maybe they want celeb pics cheaper than Getty and play them off against each other for the best deal. From two off-board conversations along this lines, I suspect they don't offer discounts to small charities who may only want occasional pics. However, it's always worth asking: policies can change. Also it may be that the OP is a bulk buyer.


« Reply #37 on: May 21, 2013, 09:54 »
0
These might be bulk buyers. The Beeb use TS for generic pics, so that's a negotiating point. Maybe they want celeb pics cheaper than Getty and play them off against each other for the best deal. From two off-board conversations along this lines, I suspect they don't offer discounts to small charities who may only want occasional pics. However, it's always worth asking: policies can change. Also it may be that the OP is a bulk buyer.

never say never, Alamy itself is running a charity, no idea if real or bogus to evade taxes, but certainly they're sensible to the needs of charities and no-profit orgs.

i had a few sales on alamy for as low as 2-3$ so there must be someone who's paying a pittance for web-sized images or bulk deals and they were all RM.




« Reply #38 on: May 21, 2013, 19:34 »
0
Having volunteered at soup kitchens/food banks I can say there are some wonderful characters that would make great photographic subjects, although not necessarily good for microstock. Also the model release/PR would be a pain. Homeless people often don't have addresses and phone numbers among other things. If I knew I could get real money for sales it might be worth the effort, but for the likely few bucks at microstock it isn't. I am pretty shy about asking strangers for MR anyway though. Also they were pretty dimly lit, so it would take some effort to get decent lighting in there.

« Reply #39 on: May 21, 2013, 21:45 »
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Such an agency could be put out of business in a very short time if one of the big agencies just made such a category or lightbox or something.

« Reply #40 on: May 22, 2013, 10:36 »
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from any perspective an agency like that would a foolish idea.

i've plenty of candid shots and i can tell you even as RM they barely pay the bills, it wouldnt be sustainable if i also had to get the MR and good lighting and all, no * way, sorry, there's just not enough demand for it, it's a niche market and it's going to stay that way forever.


gillian vann

  • *Gillian*
« Reply #41 on: May 23, 2013, 04:15 »
0
I'm shooting an editorial on homeless people in a weeks. I might take a few model releases and see how I go... (no mexicans sorry, it's Australia. probably just white people and aboriginees)


 

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