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Author Topic: Is it a good thing if Shutterstock stays #1?  (Read 12764 times)

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« on: December 16, 2011, 17:20 »
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One of the reasons why I went exclusive on Istockphoto more than 3 years ago was I was tired of getting paid peanuts for my image sales.  Now I see that Shutterstock may be stealing customers from Istockphoto, and I'm thinking why would this be a good thing?

I'm in the gold level on Istockphoto (probably not after this month) and I make about $0.42 to something like $7.8 an image sale, but more like at least $3.5 a sale on average.  Shutterstock only pays like $0.25 to $0.38 a sale.  I know that the on-demand images pay more, but I don't know if they are anywhere as popular as the subscription sales.  It would take more than 10 times the sales that I have on Istockphoto for Shutterstock to match my exclusive Istockphoto sales, and I doubt even half of that is possible.  Is selling full size images for even $0.38 a sale a good thing?  I know there are other websites like Dreamstime that pay more (and especially in royalty rates) but for the photography I do, it doesn't look like Dreamstime has anywhere the level of sales volume compared to IS or SS.

I feel that if Shutterstock stays #1 and further weakens other websites like Istockphoto, that would further dilute and cheapen the stock photography market and seriously damage the ability to produce stock photography for microstock as well as hurt many stock photography careers out there.  I guess microstock did that to traditional stock, but Istockphoto raised prices slowly but surely, and made it more viable to invest in produce stock photography for microstock.  Shutterstock doesn't care with keeping its rock bottom compensation rates. 


« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2011, 17:32 »
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I don't think SS is as much the active cause of iStock's problems but the lucky recipient of the customers as iStock has systematically pissed off group after group of buyers.

I am back as an independent because of my educated guess at where iStock's bad decisions would leave them in a year or two. I'm still no fan of subscriptions but if you look at the November stats thread here you'll see that (a) the SS average per sale is more like $1 these days and (b) SS walloped IS for me

I can't do anything about iStock's choices, so pursuing the best option out there right now - which is independence with SS as the lead earner - is the best I can manage.

« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2011, 17:38 »
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I average about $0.65 per sale at SS. Nowhere near $1 but I am pretty happy considering the massive quantity.

I don't think a clear #1 in any industry has proven to be a good thing for consumers or workers in the last decade. But one thing is clear with regard to IS and FT, and that is if you treat your workers poorly enough for an extended period of time, they will leave you and you will feel the effects eventually. I think if Jon wanted to lower our commissions, he would have done so by now. Afterall Shutterstock has been the #1 seller for most of us for a few years now, long before iStock fell off the cliff.

« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2011, 18:05 »
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To Be Honest, I always wondered why Istockphoto was still #1 the way that there's a cult / yes men like culture there of being blindly positive and not questioning "dear leader", but it seemed to me like the exclusives at Istockphoto were making a lot more money three years ago.

My other issue with Shutterstock is that at least back then, more than three years ago, Shutterstock had these stringent noise standards (of near zero noise but cannot look overfiltered) that I felt was hard to meet.  Istockphoto had a more lenient policy on noise.  Is it still like that in shutterstock?

My third issue was about tracking the hundreds of images on several websites, how do you all here that are non-exclusive do it?

ShadySue

« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2011, 18:09 »
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To Be Honest, I always wondered why Istockphoto was still #1 the way that there's a cult / yes men like culture there of being blindly positive and not questioning "dear leader", but it seemed to me like the exclusives at Istockphoto were making a lot more money three years ago.

Not really that culture, just that many voices which dissent too often and don't stay silent after threats are banned.
However, SuperSean constantly takes them to task and tries to keep them honest (an uphill task).

« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2011, 18:24 »
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I have a portfolio that is available on both SS and IS. On SS it makes far more money for me each month. Therefore, as far as I'm concerned, SS's business model is more successful.

It wasn't always like this. I've been doing microstock for about 7 years and for the first 5-6 years or so IS always made the most money. But then IS's greed eventually became too great, with ever-increasing prices and cuts to commissions, and so they blew it both for themselves and for their contributors. You can't blame SS for Istock's actions.

Istock did not 'raise prices slowly but surely' as you contend. In the time that I've been in microstock they've gone from a maximum image price of $1 (when credits actually cost $1 or less) to nearly $400 now (for an Agency XXL with the minimum credit package needed to buy it). Ask any buyer. Istock weren't doing that 'for the contributor' either as they kept most of the money for themselves although there's no reason why their own costs would have risen so spectacularly.

I've never felt uncomfortable with SS's subs model anyway and nor do I feel I'm 'being paid peanuts' for my work. I think it is very likely with the subs model that 3 or 4 images are downloaded for every one that is actually used (in the early days it was like that on IS too but images became too expensive). Sub images can only be used during the period of the subscription and, unlike with IS, cannot be hoarded and used forever and a day with the original license.

Btw, if I was exclusive on IS now and I was receiving the same average of $3.50 per image that you and others have quoted, then my income over the last few months would have been barely more than half what I actually earned in total. I know, as an exclusive, my images would have had better positioning in the best match __ but would that have doubled my sales? I doubt it.

ShadySue

« Reply #6 on: December 16, 2011, 18:34 »
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Sub images can only be used during the period of the subscription and, unlike with IS, cannot be hoarded and used forever and a day with the original license.
True, but how many buyers know that, and how could it ever be policed?

« Reply #7 on: December 16, 2011, 18:44 »
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we all love money. Yes it does bring some of us happiness. Istock was doing that for many. Exclusives mostly. Often with royalty rates that were unsustainable. It changed that and now most are not so happy. Because of the poor relations with everybody (except a few fan club members) it lost business. To help exclusives stay loyal it pushed their images to the front of searches. So some are not so unhappy.

For independents old files sell if the customer searches by "downloads". New ones are now buried. Whilst it is self destructive to remove images from IS it probably is no longer worth the effort to put new images up (unless they are in  a very small niche category). best match strongly favours exclusives.

If you are exclusive and leave you will lose from IS big time. This is a penalty for dropping exclusivity rather than a reward for staying. The wrong sort of motivation in business long term. SS meantime has made it harder to get images accepted. Many exclusives would find that old favourites with good search positioning would not be accepted into SS.

It is not that Shutterstock is great it that IS has been self destructive. You can quote rubbish figures all you want about average sales amount at IS but for most of us it will end up being 25 cents per image at IS. Most will be sold through TS not IS itself. An increasing percentage are being sold through partner program. Customers may at times be dumb but they are not stupid. They will buy of TS or try to buy using "downloads" to search. Dodgey price sliders and other reluctly introduced search features do little to appease customers. Long term it looks bleak the longer it takes to drop excusivity the more it will cost you and the longer you wait the lower your rewards will be at IS. They have gone as far as they can to milk money with higher prices to compensate for lower sales..

« Reply #8 on: December 16, 2011, 18:54 »
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I often wonder if sub's never came to be, what would we b making?

Would we be selling the same amt (quantity) as we do at SS but @ non sub prices?!
That would b nice.

Or are we selling allot more volume at SS BECAUSE of the sub model??

Have we all shot ourselves in the foot participating in the sub scheme or should i say scam?
Just looking at immediate gratification NOW and ignoring the tomorrow?
I say that cause prices can only go down...thats scarry.

« Reply #9 on: December 16, 2011, 19:00 »
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You can not change what is. Just deal with it. Exclusives at IS should try to get accepted at SS. You do not have to put images for sale, just get accepted. I believe most may get a shock. Many if they put up their best ten by downloads would not get in. Standards have lifted.

« Reply #10 on: December 16, 2011, 19:26 »
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You can not change what is. Just deal with it. Exclusives at IS should try to get accepted at SS. You do not have to put images for sale, just get accepted. I believe most may get a shock. Many if they put up their best ten by downloads would not get in. Standards have lifted.

Being accepted at SS or elsewhere is not the problem. Having one ex-exclusive that has been rejected is just anecdotal; actually SS has made things easy from exclusives to be there and open accounts, and thet wouldn't have done it if not interested. Just imagine sodafish or Aldra not accepted. The real problem is the change of model, passing from 3,5 or more than 5 (my average per download at IS) to subscription cents. I can't avoid thinking that at least two (or three) subs agencies with the selling power of SS would be needed to match earnings as exclusive. And there's just one SS.
(And making the same, more or least at one site than another only have some meaning if you have the same number of photos at the sites compared. If not, it's meaningless)
« Last Edit: December 16, 2011, 19:56 by loop »

« Reply #11 on: December 16, 2011, 19:33 »
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I say that cause prices can only go down...thats scarry.

Everyone has been saying that for several years, and prices continue to go UP. Even the cost of subscriptions have gone up (which has raised concerns for SS contributors since our commissions have been frozen). At some point you have to look at the facts, which show that prices have been going up. Dreamstime raises their rates every year. At Warmpicture, we don't try to under cut anyone. The buyers we do have seem more than willing to pay for quality. Our average selling price is over $6 per image, with 50% going to the photographer.

What we need are some of these smaller agencies (which many of us champion) to start raising their prices.

« Reply #12 on: December 16, 2011, 19:44 »
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You can not change what is. Just deal with it. Exclusives at IS should try to get accepted at SS. You do not have to put images for sale, just get accepted. I believe most may get a shock. Many if they put up their best ten by downloads would not get in. Standards have lifted.

I cannot afford a potential 75% decrease in my sales (due to many of my sales being from images that rank at the top) just for going nonexclusive, and the unpredictable time to upload hundreds of images to at least 4 other websites (which could be tens to hundreds of hours).  I don't have another job and I have bills to pay.  I thus can't take such a decision lightly.

BTW I need an answer about the noise issue.  Is SS still extra picky about noise?
« Last Edit: December 16, 2011, 19:50 by Skylinehunter »

« Reply #13 on: December 16, 2011, 20:00 »
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Neither are necessarily a good thing, but they both have strong sales. You can just accept it as "that's the way it is" or you can try something else to see if it works for you.

I've been trying to reward the the fair paying sites with my newest work. Everyone else gets old stuff or nothing. The main places I upload to now are MyStcokVectors (my own site), Clipartof and Graphic Leftovers. I've been thinking of adding Cutcaster to that list and maybe experimenting with some of these new smaller sites that keep popping up.

I have to admit my monthly earnings look less and less like the chart to the right every month and I think that's a good thing.

« Reply #14 on: December 16, 2011, 20:01 »
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BTW I need an answer about the noise issue.  Is SS still extra picky about noise?

I never noticed SS as being particular about noise any more than IS was, but I'm sure others have their own opinions. In my experience SS is very particular about selective focus.

SNP

  • Canadian Photographer
« Reply #15 on: December 16, 2011, 20:09 »
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You can not change what is. Just deal with it. Exclusives at IS should try to get accepted at SS. You do not have to put images for sale, just get accepted. I believe most may get a shock. Many if they put up their best ten by downloads would not get in. Standards have lifted.

all ten of my images were accepted on the first try at SS. I am an iS exclusive but thought it prudent to set up accounts everywhere else just in case. conversely, it took me five months and six tries to be accepted at iStock. granted there were two years in between but still.

« Reply #16 on: December 16, 2011, 20:12 »
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IST was once the No1? really...i'm not kidding....just online since three years.
SS will roll over the market in the next two years...they never misbehaved to contributors and not to customers.
Since i joined there i ask myself each month when i can close any other accounts...
especial FT who is engaged in making themselves dispensable.

By the way...I realize much higher earnings than in this thread manifested.


« Reply #17 on: December 16, 2011, 20:18 »
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Insert Quote

You can not change what is. Just deal with it.

I agree, too late now.
If when subs had just started, we all (or most) said "heck no, i will not upload to your site for sub prices". Then mabey something would be diffrent now.

BUT yes "You can not change what is. Just deal with it"- i agree.
What is the best thing to do now i think, is get as much out of every co. as we can. while this boat is still afloat.

I say that cause prices can only go down...thats scarry.

Everyone has been saying that for several years, and prices continue to go UP. Even the cost of subscriptions have gone up (which has raised concerns for SS contributors since our commissions have been frozen). At some point you have to look at the facts, which show that prices have been going up. Dreamstime raises their rates every year. At Warmpicture, we don't try to under cut anyone. The buyers we do have seem more than willing to pay for quality. Our average selling price is over $6 per image, with 50% going to the photographer.

What we need are some of these smaller agencies (which many of us champion) to start raising their prices.

i dont know about that (I might b wrong?) but i dont recal any raises lately.
maybe some co's. have increased the cost to the customer (charging more) but they have kept the diffrence for themselves.

lets just ride this (watered down) gravy train till the end of the line.
and see where we end up.

« Reply #18 on: December 16, 2011, 20:28 »
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My sales have dropped about 25% to 38% (depending on the month) this year compared to last year.  Last year was really great so this year's sales drop didn't sting that much.  Still, I'm still trying to figure how much of a sting it would really be, at least at first.  And then I have to evaluate the long term viability of microstock photography.

How do you guys deal with so many images?   Are there services that help you prepare or upload lots of images?

« Reply #19 on: December 16, 2011, 20:32 »
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BUT yes "You can not change what is. Just deal with it"- i agree.

The same could be said about outsourced labor and people working for cents in third world countries.

lisafx

« Reply #20 on: December 16, 2011, 20:38 »
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Just as a point of interest, I just compared my $ per download on Istock (including PP sales) and Shutterstock.  On Istock/PP I averaged .95 per image sold, and on SS it was .84.  

Not much difference, as you can see.  Individual, on-demand, and EL sales on Shutterstock have grown each month, while TS sold over 1k more of my pictures in October than Istock did, at .25.  End result is that the royalty gap between the two sites is practically nonexistent anymore.  

« Reply #21 on: December 16, 2011, 20:41 »
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I haven't had an SS rejection for noise in ages - either I have figured out how to avoid it or they don't care so much. A lot of this was when I switched from a p&s to dslr, but I think I still had noise rejections for a while after that. I also used to get "distorted pixel" rejections from IS - I never really did figure out what made the pixels anything other than square though.

SS seems to have tightened acceptance lately, I have no idea about IS, but back when I was submitting to both it often felt like what IS accepted SS would reject and vice versa. In general SS liked saturated colors and IS liked it less so. SS has always been tough on shallow depth of field.

I would have preferred customers pay IS prices and I get 50% of that, but that doesn't seem to be happening much, so I'll accept subs at SS and others and hope that customers avoid the sites that seem to be primarily concerned with skimming as much as they possibly can from each sale while moving the goalposts whenever they feel like it <cough>IS FT </cough>

If you are stuck in the IS basket with all your eggs you still might be making more than you would outside, but if the trends continue eventually that will not be the case.

I think that the dropping contributor commissions has been a much more damaging trend in the last 2 years than dropping prices - we aren't in a race to the bottom price war, we are in a race to the bottom commission war and contributors appear to be losing.

lisafx

« Reply #22 on: December 16, 2011, 20:42 »
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You can not change what is. Just deal with it. Exclusives at IS should try to get accepted at SS. You do not have to put images for sale, just get accepted. I believe most may get a shock. Many if they put up their best ten by downloads would not get in. Standards have lifted.

all ten of my images were accepted on the first try at SS. I am an iS exclusive but thought it prudent to set up accounts everywhere else just in case. conversely, it took me five months and six tries to be accepted at iStock. granted there were two years in between but still.

I think that's more an indication of how your skill and quality have grown than that SS standards are lower than IS :)

SNP

  • Canadian Photographer
« Reply #23 on: December 16, 2011, 20:47 »
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You can not change what is. Just deal with it. Exclusives at IS should try to get accepted at SS. You do not have to put images for sale, just get accepted. I believe most may get a shock. Many if they put up their best ten by downloads would not get in. Standards have lifted.

all ten of my images were accepted on the first try at SS. I am an iS exclusive but thought it prudent to set up accounts everywhere else just in case. conversely, it took me five months and six tries to be accepted at iStock. granted there were two years in between but still.

I think that's more an indication of how your skill and quality have grown than that SS standards are lower than IS :)

thanks Lisa, but actually I don't think that is the case. Obviously I can't comment based on any great deal of experience, since I have only literally submitted to SS once. but from much of what I read on their forums, and from what i see in their newest acceptances, SS is still accepting a lot of work that would never meet iStock criteria for acceptance. despite what some say here, it seems feeding the beast is a constant necessity still at SS....whether you're feeding it processed food, gourmet or utter crap doesn't always seem to matter

« Reply #24 on: December 16, 2011, 20:51 »
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Subscription prices and royalties don't bother me.  I really don't care how much I make for one sale; it's the total that interests me.  If Shutterstock could bring me a million sales a month, they could pay me a penny each and I wouldn't squawk.  And Shutterstock does bring me a heck of a lot more sales than anyone else, so many that in pure revenue terms they often beat my #5 by a factor of five.

As for rejections, I don't have much trouble with them at Shutterstock.  That may just mean that I've figured out what they want and know how to deliver it.  I remember getting a lot of rejections at iStock for images that were accepted at Shutterstock.  Can't tell if the opposite was true, as I submitted new content to Shutterstock first and generally didn't take any rejections to any other sites.  And I submit a lot, so many that iStock never had more than a third of my portfolio even before I stopped uploading and started deleting.

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