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Author Topic: Microstock tug o' war  (Read 30141 times)

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hqimages

  • www.draiochtwebdesign.com
« on: August 26, 2009, 17:30 »
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Microstock started off as offering images for free on the internet via a web site. Then went from that to 1 dollar a download, slowly that boundary has been pushed up to 10 dollars a download, now they are trying to push that to 50..

Is the reason for this an evolution? Microstock started out as hobbyists with spare time and spare images, now the industry is FULL of professional photographers, with 10's of 1000's of images a pop. Microstock has grown to DEPEND on these images, to brand microstock as good quality at low prices, otherwise it's crap quality at low prices which, no-one is going to buy in fairness!

As the true hobbyist gets sqeezed out of microstock because of professionals, the professionals are also becoming more demanding. There is a level of unease among ALL microstock pro's as to the path they have chosen, and they find it hard to generate a moderate income, however the web site can't afford to lose the pro, because the pro is what they now depend on for their survival.

I think it's really interesting and, what do you think? What will happen in the end? Will everyone just keep treading that line? How will the microstock sites keep their pro's happy, and CAN they really do it?


« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2009, 17:54 »
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If your first paragraph is supposed to be a history of iStockphoto, it's incomplete.

Your second paragraph is incorrect as the image library was stocked by designers, not hobbyists.

"True hobbyists" in the third paragraph are not being squeezed out, as they are not particularly concerned with income.  It is a hobby.  Also, there is no "level of unease" among "all" "pro" photgraphers.

"Pro's" or anyone else for that matter, will stick around if they feel they are compensated adequately.

« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2009, 18:35 »
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If you said "small player" instead of "true hobbyist", I'd agree.  A small player (like me) does this as a sideline, but would like to get a reasonable price for his effort.   Today I think it's next to impossible for a small player to get a worthwhile return and many will drop out.  It's fun for a while because the sales validate your work, telling you other people like it enough to buy it; and ultimately that's what frustrates you, because you get the sense they'd be willing to pay more than 25 cents, but  you have no control over your prices.  

On the buying side, small design shops and individuals can't afford the subscription plans, which is what the microstocks will be pushing more and more.

If microstock becomes just the latest way to market the output of a few full-time pro shops, I've no doubt something will be lost - variety, originality - but the price, on the subscription plans, is so low that big buyers won't care. In the end, microstock may become just conduit connecting large-scale professional image buyers with large-scale professional photographers.  What's "micro" about that?

Small players - buyers and sellers - may find  new ways to connect with each other.



« Last Edit: August 26, 2009, 18:57 by stockastic »

« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2009, 21:21 »
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Good, question, I think it is worth noting that microstock itself has spawned a great many pro photographers. Folks who got in early and are making a career out of it. There are also the established pros who entered and are entering. The The upward evolution of  price is only natural considering the increase in quality.

« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2009, 21:45 »
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Where are these increasing prices everyone is talking about?

I started at SS in February with a handful of photos and within a week, I had a few subs, 2 on-dmands, and one $28 EL sale.   Cool, I thought.  Over the following months I slowly produced and uploaded around 80 images which I think are pretty good. And I never made as much as I did that first week.  That single EL was the only one I ever got, and the OD sales steadily fell off. This month, so far, it's 100%  25-cent sub sales.  Uploading more images simply doesn't increase my earnings.  I make less with 80 than I did with 10, 6 months ago.  

Sure this is a tiny portfolio but if I just look at the numbers, there seems little point in continuing to build it.

I'm not seeing what all the optimism is about.   It doesn't matter if the microstocks raise their on-demand prices, if at the same time they're herding all the customers to subscriptions.
« Last Edit: August 26, 2009, 22:44 by stockastic »

« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2009, 22:12 »
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The The upward evolution of  price is only natural considering the increase in quality.
and as the prices rise commensurate with that, an opportunity opens at the bottom (again) for a new site with bottom of the barrel prices - and the cycle begins again ...

Xalanx

« Reply #6 on: August 26, 2009, 23:22 »
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How will the microstock sites keep their pro's happy, and CAN they really do it?

Microstock sites don't give sh!et about the happiness of their contributors, no matter if they're pros or amateurs.

« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2009, 00:00 »
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I think that eventually all portfolios get to a baseline level (if you stop uploading).  I havent uploaded anything in more than a year and my earnings are stable since 8 months ago.  Now, with new challenges I know that despite the usual surge in sales in the short run I have to work with longer timetables, not weeks, but months (lot of those).  Keep shooting, diversify, find a niche, keep uploading...

« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2009, 02:01 »
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Where are these increasing prices everyone is talking about?

I started at SS in February with a handful of photos and within a week, I had a few subs, 2 on-dmands, and one $28 EL sale.   Cool, I thought.  Over the following months I slowly produced and uploaded around 80 images which I think are pretty good. And I never made as much as I did that first week.  That single EL was the only one I ever got, and the OD sales steadily fell off. This month, so far, it's 100%  25-cent sub sales.  Uploading more images simply doesn't increase my earnings.  I make less with 80 than I did with 10, 6 months ago.  

Sure this is a tiny portfolio but if I just look at the numbers, there seems little point in continuing to build it.

I'm not seeing what all the optimism is about.   It doesn't matter if the microstocks raise their on-demand prices, if at the same time they're herding all the customers to subscriptions.
SS isn't the only microstock site.  I do get $0.38 for subs there now, compared to $0.25 when I started 3 years ago, a substantial increase.  Prices for pay per download have gone up a lot across the sites since I started.

« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2009, 02:08 »
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The The upward evolution of  price is only natural considering the increase in quality.
and as the prices rise commensurate with that, an opportunity opens at the bottom (again) for a new site with bottom of the barrel prices - and the cycle begins again ...
So far, that hasn't worked.  New sites have an almost impossible task to get sales going now and those that have tried low prices have failed to attract enough conbtributors and buyers.  New sites need to have higher prices, so the few sales they have are worthwhile.  istock have raised their prices a lot and have maintained a high sales volume.

« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2009, 02:34 »
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^^^ New sites need to have new markets, a niche market, a high quality unique collection or another unique selling point, higher commissions do not affect customers who are only interested in the image not how much the artist will get.

A new site needs to look at Customers first and what can they give them that adds value to the service, I hate credits and subscription packages as I want only to pay for what I need at the time, I do not pay the supermarket for 10 tins of beans when I need only two so why should images be different.

As a low use blogger I want a new site that is a Pay-Per-Transaction cash, or any amount as a Pay-As-You-Go Top-Up service, if I want an image for my blog, currently I use istock for this and buy 1 credit sized images to blog, they cost me 1.40 a shot and I am happy with this rate, but sometimes I just have a couple of credits left, I may want 3 images but settle for 2 as I do not want to spend 14 on 10 credits.

The service I would change to tomorrow would be one with the same prices for the small image where I can pay as I go through PayPal be that 1.40 or 4.20, if that site gives the contributor a better cut then that is a good thing, but not something I would ever consider.

I know that the theory is that by spending credits the customer is not thinking about the financial value, if this is the case then a system where I can top-up by any amount which is converted at checkout to credits.

David  ;D       

hqimages

  • www.draiochtwebdesign.com
« Reply #11 on: August 27, 2009, 04:05 »
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The The upward evolution of  price is only natural considering the increase in quality.
and as the prices rise commensurate with that, an opportunity opens at the bottom (again) for a new site with bottom of the barrel prices - and the cycle begins again ...

lol yeah, that's probably it! Great posts everyone, interesting stuff!

hqimages

  • www.draiochtwebdesign.com
« Reply #12 on: August 27, 2009, 04:11 »
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If you said "small player" instead of "true hobbyist", I'd agree.  A small player (like me) does this as a sideline, but would like to get a reasonable price for his effort.   Today I think it's next to impossible for a small player to get a worthwhile return and many will drop out.  It's fun for a while because the sales validate your work, telling you other people like it enough to buy it; and ultimately that's what frustrates you, because you get the sense they'd be willing to pay more than 25 cents, but  you have no control over your prices.  

On the buying side, small design shops and individuals can't afford the subscription plans, which is what the microstocks will be pushing more and more.

If microstock becomes just the latest way to market the output of a few full-time pro shops, I've no doubt something will be lost - variety, originality - but the price, on the subscription plans, is so low that big buyers won't care. In the end, microstock may become just conduit connecting large-scale professional image buyers with large-scale professional photographers.  What's "micro" about that?

Small players - buyers and sellers - may find  new ways to connect with each other.





Great post and yeah, that is what I mean by hobbyist, it's the guy/girl with the small gallery, low output, they love to do it, and would love to make enough money back to cover equipment pretty much since it's a * expensive hobby! They aren't treating it like a business, build a portfolio of x amount, generate x amount of new images per month.. I feel they are being squeezed out by those who do!

« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2009, 08:16 »
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Great post and yeah, that is what I mean by hobbyist, it's the guy/girl with the small gallery, low output, they love to do it, and would love to make enough money back to cover equipment pretty much since it's a  expensive hobby! They aren't treating it like a business, build a portfolio of x amount, generate x amount of new images per month.. I feel they are being squeezed out by those who do!

It's funny, I started off on a rant in another thread and deleted it, then found this thread. It fits here perfectly.

My name is Cathy, and I am a small player.
  ;)  My photography skills have improved immensely, I have purchased studio lighting and equipment and I have more than made back enough money to pay for that equipment. I am not a hobbyist, because I do care about the income. But I don't see myself becoming a professional photographer full-time. I have been a graphic designer for many years and love that work. I'm not certain I want to buy a $3000 camera, quit my job, and hire models and do photography 24/7.

But there are some microstock agencies that are forcing that issue. While contributor commissions have risen, they have not gone up enough for me to invest even more money in equipment, etc. In order to make that investment, I would have to become a pro.

I suppose I will get squeezed out of one or two microstocks simply because I am not willing to make the progression. I am truly hoping that some companies will still be around for me to continue on the same path I am on. I will always want to improve my photography skills and I will always need to keep my camera up-to-date. But that doesn't necessarily mean I want to be forced into become a professional photographer.

If all microstock commissions were to increase substantially so that the equipment investment weren't so painful financially, it would be a different conversation. To me, we have a huge catch-22 going on here.


« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2009, 09:18 »
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What I am seeing is just a steadily deteriorating market.  The microstocks announce higher prices and commissions, which are more than cancelled out by the increasing volume of subscription sales.  New images now have less exposure, which combined with popularity-based ranking means they have little chance.  

A few months ago, images I put on SS would get a small burst of sales in the first few days; those images continue to sell now and then today, because they acquired enough popularity ranking while new.  Images I submitted a month ago have done nothing - they're DOA.

Meanwhile, huge numbers of new images are being added every week.

If there are still routes to success for the small player, they have to be few in number, narrow and steep.


  
« Last Edit: August 27, 2009, 09:33 by stockastic »

hqimages

  • www.draiochtwebdesign.com
« Reply #15 on: August 27, 2009, 09:33 »
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What I am seeing is just a steadily deteriorating market.  The microstocks announce higher prices and commissions, which are more than cancelled out by the increasing volume of subscription sales.  New images now have less exposure, which combined with popularity-based ranking means they have little chance.  

A few months ago, images I put on SS would get a small burst of sales in the first few days; those images continue to sell now and then today, because they acquired enough popularity ranking while new.  Images I submitted a month ago have done nothing - they're DOA.

Meanwhile, huge numbers of new images are being added every week.

Show me one positive trend here, for contributors. Just one.


  

Thanks Cathy it DOES fit perfectly!  :)

Stockastic you speak a lot of sense. It's crazy, there's no way a small supplier can keep up with the likes of pro's to beat that 'new images' search, it's just not going to happen! Then buyers are being bombarded with SO MANY images, that they are looking for brands within the site itself, and sticking with those, and of course they are always 'pro' accounts that are massively updated..

It'll be interesting to see exactly how this works out in the end!!

« Reply #16 on: August 27, 2009, 09:54 »
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It'll be interesting to see exactly how this works out in the end!!

My wife works at a big health care facility. Recently she told me that she and some coworkers had noted that they were seeing photos of the same woman in virtually every new piece of promotional and informational literature. It's becoming a joke.  So the sameness, and blandness, of this kind of imagery is already becoming grating, and this is going to eventually cause profound changes in how imagery is used for these purposes. 

 


 


« Reply #17 on: August 27, 2009, 10:10 »
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The best way to increase earnings is to think of all the simple images the sites are missing that wont cost much to produce and the buyers will want.  Do those using the equipment you already have.  Why spend more money on cameras, lenses, lights etc?  It doesn't guarantee you will make more money.  Some of my best sellers have hardly any competition at the moment.  That will probably change but I will move on to more new ideas.  The sites might look like they have nearly everything covered and it is impossible to come up with something original but if you look closely that isn't true.  Your imagination is and always will be the most important factor, not how much you can spend on photographic gear.

hqimages

  • www.draiochtwebdesign.com
« Reply #18 on: August 27, 2009, 10:16 »
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The best way to increase earnings is to think of all the simple images the sites are missing that wont cost much to produce and the buyers will want.  Do those using the equipment you already have.  Why spend more money on cameras, lenses, lights etc?  It doesn't guarantee you will make more money.  Some of my best sellers have hardly any competition at the moment.  That will probably change but I will move on to more new ideas.  The sites might look like they have nearly everything covered and it is impossible to come up with something original but if you look closely that isn't true.  Your imagination is and always will be the most important factor, not how much you can spend on photographic gear.

See, I'm not so sure about that anymore.. is anyone really submitting to stock sites using images taken using a compact camera still? It seems like a DSLR is a basic requirement now (It wasn't always)..

« Reply #19 on: August 27, 2009, 10:27 »
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The best way to increase earnings is to think of all the simple images the sites are missing that wont cost much to produce and the buyers will want.  Do those using the equipment you already have.  

Agreed, and I'm still doing that, now and then. My fear though is that the recent de-emphasis of new images, combined with popularity-based ranking, makes this an exercise in futility.



« Reply #20 on: August 27, 2009, 14:59 »
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My ad agency is finding holes in the image libraries all the time. Of course I ad these missing items to my shot list. ;D

« Reply #21 on: August 27, 2009, 15:07 »
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My ad agency is finding holes in the image libraries all the time. Of course I ad these missing items to my shot list. ;D

I'd be happy to contribute to your Xmas fund for this list.

« Reply #22 on: August 27, 2009, 15:10 »
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[

See, I'm not so sure about that anymore.. is anyone really submitting to stock sites using images taken using a compact camera still? It seems like a DSLR is a basic requirement now (It wasn't always)..

it's still possible -- i just bought a sony hx1 - partly for video ability, partly for the 20x zoom combined with the low light capabilities [it takes 6 images and averages them, producing sharper images than a dslr]  and have seen no difference in acceptasnce rates for those shots and my dslr ones

i also use a lumix oint & shoot for ski trips, etc, and these are good sellers.

since i'm submitting 4MP images, the biggest differnence is the dslr gives me more latitude in cropping and reducing than the smaller cameras d

steve

« Reply #23 on: August 27, 2009, 15:41 »
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The best way to increase earnings is to think of all the simple images the sites are missing that wont cost much to produce and the buyers will want.  Do those using the equipment you already have.  

Agreed, and I'm still doing that, now and then. My fear though is that the recent de-emphasis of new images, combined with popularity-based ranking, makes this an exercise in futility.


No, Sharpshot has it exactly right.  It's Marketing 101... look to fill a need, give the buyers something they can't find from your competition, and you'll get the sale.  If you're offering something unique, the whole "de-emphasis of new images, popularity-based ranking, etc." doesn't matter because your work will be unique and buyers will find you.  This is what I am doing every day, and I can guarantee you that it works.  Don't rely on your same-old same-old images appearing at the top of the "newest" list, which will make a few bucks and slip into obscurity. 

In a marketplace that is more competitive every day, there will be only one way to be successful:  STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD and when the crowd sees your success and follows you, FIND ANOTHER SPOT AND STAND OUT AGAIN.  The microstock success stories of tomorrow will make this their mission, and everyone else will fail.

« Reply #24 on: August 27, 2009, 19:46 »
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The The upward evolution of  price is only natural considering the increase in quality.
and as the prices rise commensurate with that, an opportunity opens at the bottom (again) for a new site with bottom of the barrel prices - and the cycle begins again ...
So far, that hasn't worked.  New sites have an almost impossible task to get sales going now and those that have tried low prices have failed to attract enough conbtributors and buyers.  New sites need to have higher prices, so the few sales they have are worthwhile.  istock have raised their prices a lot and have maintained a high sales volume.

I agree wholeheartedly that new sites to date have not worked but that is because the prices remain still very low ... but as prices rise (and they will rise) the price bottom will be vacant and calling out for a new "istock" all over again - and with the "hobbyists" and/or "amateurs" getting squeezed out (as they are cause I am one too Cathy) by the increasing number of pros going micro, they will be the ones to join the new cheap site - and the buyers will come ... and the revolution will continue. There are too many amateur photographers looking to sell their wares and there are too many buyers looking for the cheapest prices for this not to be true - IMHO ... I am not talking about this year or even next year ... but it will happen.


 

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