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Author Topic: When do portfolio sales start to flatten out... or do they ever?!  (Read 7638 times)

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« on: March 19, 2010, 08:20 »
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Hi All

I am interested to know if there is a general consensus as to when a portfolio sales may start to flatten out, I understand there may be a few things at play here including sectors targeted and upload rate  and of course quality. I upload about 30 images a week many of better quality than months before, and have a portfolio of around 1400 images (1 year in). Month on month my sales have continually grown. Now if things continue with such growth over the next year or two I would be very happy and could do this fulltime if I chose to. However I feel it may not be so easy and wonder if anyone has hit a brickwall...?!

Thanks

Jo


« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2010, 09:29 »
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Oh they will! Like death and taxes, hitting that brick wall is a certainty. How long it will take depends largely on your upload rate __ the more you upload per month the longer it will take. The only way to avoid it is to continually accelerate your rate of production (or the quality/saleability) which is impossible to do for too long.

At some point in the future the decline in sales of your older images (due to more competition) will equal the rate of additional sales from new images. At an uploading rate of about 100 new images per month I'd guess you will hit the wall in year 3-4.

« Reply #2 on: March 19, 2010, 09:34 »
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I think you still have some time to hit the wall with such a nice  portfolio ! Eventually you will but might earn enough by then to make a living out of it who knows?:)
I think also that sometime we can hit the wall and then make some decisions that trigger  a new growth: I am thinking about a photographer doing into video or illustrations or simply exploring a niche he was not before...
Keep us posted and good luck:)

« Reply #3 on: March 19, 2010, 10:08 »
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I'm in month 15 and have not hit the wall.  It's been slow and steady growth, outpacing the goals I set for myself when I began.  I see no signs of growth slowing down yet... in fact my RPI today is higher than it was in month 5 or month 10.  That's the key factor to watch... if your RPI is consistent, you can expect every additional image to earn a certain amount and can forecast growth, but if RPI decreases, you're simply replacing old images that no longer sell with new images that hopefully will.   My strategy for avoiding "the wall" is to constantly find new subjects and don't duplicate what I've already done.  If you oversaturate a subject, you'll simply steal sales from yourself.  But if you upload quality images to many different in-demand subjects, I think you can put off the flattening of growth for some time.  It's worked for me so far, anyway.

« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2010, 10:13 »
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That's hardly true. I mean the "oversaturating a subject" part. It just would be rigth I you talk about "unique" subjects than just you have or can have. But you can upload as many business handshakes as you want, you are not competing with yourself but with hundreds of others fotogs. The more variatons of the theme you have, the more you would (potentially) sell.

« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2010, 10:28 »
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The more variatons of the theme you have, the more you would (potentially) sell.

Sure, a designer might be looking for a handshake shot at a specific angle or with a certain color background.  But once you cover the bases... say with a dozen or so great handshake shots with different angles and colors... it's best to move on to an in-demand topic not covered by your port.  It doesn't help you if a designer has narrowed his options down to 5 great handshake pics and 3 of them are yours.  You'll only get 1 potential sale.  You might think you'd eventually run out of subjects, but you'd be wrong.  By the time you think you've covered it all and are tempted to upload more handshake shots, there should be emerging topics to cover... just read the headlines and follow business websites for new ideas.

« Reply #6 on: March 19, 2010, 10:46 »
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... in fact my RPI today is higher than it was in month 5 or month 10.  That's the key factor to watch... if your RPI is consistent, you can expect every additional image to earn a certain amount and can forecast growth, but if RPI decreases, you're simply replacing old images that no longer sell with new images that hopefully will.   My strategy for avoiding "the wall" is to constantly find new subjects and don't duplicate what I've already done.  If you oversaturate a subject, you'll simply steal sales from yourself.  But if you upload quality images to many different in-demand subjects, I think you can put off the flattening of growth for some time.  It's worked for me so far, anyway.

Over the last few years RPI has been driven mainly by rising prices, not increasing sales (and it was sales that the OP was asking about). You will never overcome the fact that sales of your older images will eventually decline, due to ever-increasing competition, and that reduction will eventually balance with the gain from new images. Of course it doesn't happen straight away __ you have to be doing this for 2-3 years before you notice the effect. The subject matter you choose is largely  irrelevant as it is the age of the images that cause the decline. It is a rare image indeed that goes on selling at the same rate forever and you would need a portfolio full of them not to hit the wall.

« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2010, 11:00 »
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That's about spot on, gostwyck.

« Reply #8 on: March 19, 2010, 11:05 »
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it is the age of the images that cause the decline.

I know what you're saying... but unless an image looks dated, why should its age cause its decline?   I know, you mean that competition for a given image will increase over time, and that will drive down its sales.  But if you have the best image (for a given search) today, and it somehow manages to still be the best image in three years, I can't see a buyer saying "that's three years old, I can't buy that."   (We can probably agree that the age effect likely has less impact on illustrations, where you don't have to worry about things like a model's clothes or computer equipment looking dated.)

I know I'm still a rookie at this, and can't dispute the experience of those who have been at this a long time.  I'm sure I'll eventually see the effects that gostwyck is describing.  They just haven't happened yet.  (My top sellers today are two of my oldest pics -- 14 months old, and I'm in my 15 month at this.)

Noodles

« Reply #9 on: March 19, 2010, 12:20 »
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Quality always sells.

« Reply #10 on: March 19, 2010, 12:21 »
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I know what you're saying... but unless an image looks dated, why should its age cause its decline? ...

Here's something to consider:

All things being equal, the most important factor in how an image sells is its placement in search results. Images are given 'bonus points' for being new, and thus have a temporarily improved search placement. Perhaps it's only a matter of time before agencies begin to handicap older images, giving them an increasingly worsened placement based on their age. Unless an image is outstanding enough to overcome this effect, it will eventually be placed low enough in searches that income from it will effectively disappear.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2010, 12:23 by sharply_done »

« Reply #11 on: March 19, 2010, 12:23 »
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Well it looks like I may have a couple if years to plateau and if so I'm happy with that... Obviously if that level is high enough! However I wonder if the vector nature of my portfolio will help. After all a silhouette or icon or map etc is undateable as powerdroid mentioned. If I can get some in the first page of the searches (by downloads) they may have more staying... power. In the meantime I guess I need to cover more bases and start with shooting some shaking hands... Hahaha no I will leave that to the masses!

Any vector guys out there with views?

lisafx

« Reply #12 on: March 19, 2010, 12:30 »
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I have been at this for 5 years and seem to have hit that wall. I upload roughly 30 images a week.  

If I were to increase production I could probably get a boost, but after doing this for 5 years it is tougher to come up with new concepts, not to mention that for a one person show it's challenging to upload much more than thirty quality, relatively non-redundant images week in week out.  

Looking at the folks that are uploading hundreds every week, there is a huge amount of redundancy there, plus these are usually groups of people rather than individuals.

I still get a fair amount of sales on older images, which is good.  Istock's best match has pretty much convinced me that search placement is a much bigger sales factor than the age of the images (as sharply pointed out).  

« Reply #13 on: March 19, 2010, 12:30 »
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Interesting point from sharply_done.  I've always known that new images get a boost, but figured that was mainly due to appearing at the top of searches when the default is Show Newest First.  I wasn't aware that the microstocks are actually engineering a boost for new images at the expense of old ones.  Is this conjecture or confirmed fact?

Anyway, this is exactly the kind of info that keeps a rookie like me frequenting these forums.  Thanks, sharply -- and other veterans who have figured out how this stuff works -- for sharing your knowledge.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2010, 12:32 by PowerDroid »

lisafx

« Reply #14 on: March 19, 2010, 12:33 »
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Interesting point from sharply_done.  I've always known that new images get a boost, but figured that was mainly due to appearing at the top of searches when the default is Show Newest First.  I wasn't aware that the microsites are actually engineering a boost for new images at the expense of old ones.  Is this conjecture or confirmed fact?


The sites refuse to publicly confirm how their search engines work, but if do sample searches you can figure out trends.  Also, on IS you can view your own portfolio sorted by Best Match and it will give you some clues what factors are weighted. 

All of this is subject to change too.  The sites are constantly shaking up search results to get a variety of different images in front of buyers.

« Reply #15 on: March 19, 2010, 13:27 »
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I can't remember when FT introduced their Infinite collection - and all the mockery they got from us about some of the horrendously dated old shots at inflated prices. Technology was a big factor in images looking dated, but not the only one. Of course some of the images were just terrible and always were terrible and FT removed those to avoid further public embarrassment.

My point is that some of the factors that age images can even be subtle things in background and clothing - even for the ubiquitous handshake images. Processing fads come and go - high key, low key, gritty, partially desaturated, flood filter, etc. Images that ride the wave of a new processing trend will likely rise higher and fall much faster than the general rule.

I think it was Ellen Boughn who described some images as "evergreen" - content that just didn't fade in appeal over time. Mixing in some of those doesn't hurt.

I also think that different sites have different patterns. A while back on SS's own forums there was a long thread about how sales stalled at a certain level per month even as their portfolio grew - running to stay in place. When the PPD sites introduced subs (DT, FT) that had an impact on the monthly returns. I can't think of a year since I started this when something material hasn't changed at one or more (typically all!!) of the sites.

I guess this is long way of saying that you should be wary of projecting out from the last 15 months to the next couple of years.

RacePhoto

« Reply #16 on: March 19, 2010, 13:40 »
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  The sites are constantly shaking up search results to get a variety of different images in front of buyers.

Which is the best answer to why we can never figure out how the search works on some sites. They keep changing weighting to feature, hypothetically, week one Upload Date, week two individual image sales, week three artist rank, week four image popularity. All four factors can remain the same, but the agency can give any one more weighting to bring in a fresh view for buyers. The image rotation only takes a few search engine modifications in weighting of any factor and it's presenting buyers with a different selection from the same database.

Some images are timeless and will sell at a slow rate for a long time. Some are modern and trendy, and they will sell better for a year or so. Also, even with the blind eye to the facts, some buyers stockpile new images. Say there are 50 agencies that do this. That means 50 new images will get downloaded in any period, and eventually, other new images will take over. Anything older, loses it's appeal because it already got it's agency collection downloads.

What I'm getting at it, with every agency that features new uploads, there will be an artificial boost in sales, followed by the longer period based on need, not collecting or accumulating. Of course new images will sell best and old ones will taper off. The second phase is the real sales based on need. Any image that sells over and over after the first six months is a prize!


« Reply #17 on: March 19, 2010, 13:47 »
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I think you got more time ahead of you, illustration/vector market is still less crowded than photography. In other words saturation of the market is lower, entry point is probably higher. I do not know if "designer factories" are already there. If they are sooner or later they start flooding with top selling subjects. Find your niche.

microstockphoto.co.uk

« Reply #18 on: March 19, 2010, 15:23 »
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Hi All
I am interested to know if there is a general consensus as to when a portfolio sales may start to flatten out, I understand there may be a few things at play here including sectors targeted and upload rate  and of course quality.

I think market share is the key. As long as your portfolio grows more (in percentage) than the total portfolio of a site, there's room for improvement.

Of course it's difficult, because there are more and more contributors, and because the perceived improvement gets lower as your portfolio grows bigger - but it's not impossible for now. But a time may come when there's simply not enough time to shot-keyword-upload enough pictures.

« Reply #19 on: March 20, 2010, 13:36 »
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subject matter is more important than freshness - i do travel, nature, etc which is overcrowded and slow, but my sales have increased steadily over the past 3 years

i took a big hit in fall of 2008, and sales were flat for a few months, but since last summer, sales shot up, and basically hit the same point they were aiming at before  the recession.  slope of recent months is steeper than that for previous years.

but who knows?  there's nothing to compare to - the field is constantly changing

one thing i've found is it doesnt matter whether i upload or not - my sales move about the same - i was gone for 6 wks last fall, then another 3 wks in jan, and neither had any real effect on sales.

steve

« Reply #20 on: March 20, 2010, 14:26 »
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'I have been at this for 5 years and seem to have hit that wall. I upload roughly 30 images a week. '

Lisa, I was wondering whether when you hit the wall you tried to change sector, (sorry as a relative newbie Im not sure what you shoot), or have you covered off all the major sectors with that 5000...? Also you seem to me one of the pro's here, so one other question if I may, if you submit to macro/midstock have you found the same to be the case there (albeit with a different portfolio)

Thank you Lisa

Jo

« Reply #21 on: April 12, 2010, 19:38 »
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uploading since 22 month, 2.300 $ earnings last month. Don't see any problem to increase earnings.
Still learning.

« Reply #22 on: April 12, 2010, 20:29 »
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(We can probably agree that the age effect likely has less impact on illustrations, where you don't have to worry about things like a model's clothes or computer equipment looking dated.)
Actually, I would disagree with that. Trendy illustration styles go out of fad. I've often wondered about this with the people with small illustration portfolios filled with a trendy style. Will their sales start to vanish as people transition to the next hip style?

« Reply #23 on: April 12, 2010, 22:17 »
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(We can probably agree that the age effect likely has less impact on illustrations, where you don't have to worry about things like a model's clothes or computer equipment looking dated.)
Actually, I would disagree with that. Trendy illustration styles go out of fad. I've often wondered about this with the people with small illustration portfolios filled with a trendy style. Will their sales start to vanish as people transition to the next hip style?
Both of these are intelligent insights. How an illustration ages will depend partly on the style and content.

As far as style goes, if somebody doing wavy abstracts or grunge designs or shiny icons expects their images to sell in 3 years, they will probably be disappointed. Those images will have to wait 20 years to sell again when they are 'retro'. :D

Content matters partly because of how images are found by keywords. If your images can be found by people using niche keywords, as opposed to 'abstract, business, people', your images will turn up high in searches for years to come.

« Reply #24 on: April 13, 2010, 06:59 »
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I believe all businesses need to replace at least 20% of their product line every year to maintain status Que..  It doesn't matter if it's cars, clothes, photos or widgets.  Buyers expect newer, snazzier, more technically advanced products. 

The difference with stock photography is the shelf space is endless.  The argument that time spent deleting non sellers / destroying content is better spent creating content, is a valid one.  Personally, I don't see the point in leaving non sellers online.  I'm only in my second year but I've already begun weeding out some of my newbie mistakes.   Eventually everyone hits a plateau.  Hopefully it's a nice one.  With a view. 


 

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