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Author Topic: Considering Closing Account in 2008  (Read 39340 times)

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« on: December 25, 2007, 23:52 »
iStock was my top performer my first year in microstock.  So it is with some trepidation I am considering closing my account there in 2008. 

The 80/20 split has been gnawing at me the past few months.  When the money first started rolling in on my images there, I was too excited to consider the implications.  Now, I look at the $350 I have earned in my first months, and compare it to the $1400 they have earned off of me, and I am disgusted.  What was I thinking when I accepted an 80/20 split?

I came down to 2 choices -

1)  Go Exclusive, and get a better share of the profit
2)  Close the account after another payout

After looking at exclusivity more closely, it didn't seem such a great deal after all.  My share of the profit would still be on the low side of the industry average.  Even the Black Diamonds give up 60% of the sale.

I understand the arguments for the 80/20 split - namely the intense marketing iStock puts forth which certainly generates sales for contributors. 

But on the other hand, I am not doing this for a living.  I am a very small time contributor who has found some niche success, nothing else.  So the question is, do I want to earn $150-$200 per month in microstock from my sites, and yield 80% of my commission to iStock?  Or do I want to reduce my current monthly income to $80-$130, and know that I have kept a fair share of the profit for my work?

It's a tough decision.  It won't be made hastily.  But its clearly on my radar for the next 30-60 days. 

Without turning this into a firestorm, I would be interested in opinions from both sides of the aisle.  Thanks!

« Reply #1 on: December 26, 2007, 03:38 »
Given the files are already up there and selling, I would regard 20 per cent of something as a superior alternative to 100 per cent of nothing. But they are your images, and if you want to reduce your income on a point of principle, that's fine. Personally I'm an istock exclusive, because it's less hassle than dealing with multiple sites, and the ego boost of downloads is at least important to me as the $$s -it's a form of vanity publishing that actually pays me. YMMV.
(edited because I've had too much Christmas spirit to spell!)
« Last Edit: December 26, 2007, 04:37 by Susan S. »


« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2007, 03:59 »
Nice point Susan.  I've definitely valued your input in my first months in microstock.

« Reply #3 on: December 26, 2007, 04:21 »
I understand what you're saying but I currently make between 500 and 700 $/month on IS so can't afford to give that up on a matter of principle. Even though IS earn  4 times that out of me it still pays me a lot of bills.


« Reply #4 on: December 26, 2007, 04:58 »
very brave!
But i did exactly the same (with exception of a few files left to have a personal input over the progress over there).
But my reasons are the totally opposite of you. I'm doing this (photography) for a living so i'm very concerned about the long-term-effects of some "deals". So i came to the conclusion that i don't want accept any "deals" under a 30% split. I'm also concerned about the too cheap sites (subscription, Albumo etc.).
I now that i alone can't change the industry. But looking at the development in the industry it's clear that the agencies getting richer and richer while the photographer are forced more and more to accept worse and more worse deals. In the past the normal split was 50/50 but at that time it was much more costly and personnel-intensive/labour intensive on the agency side (printing catalogs, handling sending trannies/slides/prints, the did the keywording in the past, handling financial transfers, calculating prices RM was the standard at the times, etc.)
Now once a website is up it runs nearly "automatically" (of course you have to do some marketing but that was not different in the past).
And the costs are very, very small compared to the past. Also the photographer does now nearly all the work (keywording etc).
I decided that i better say NO to some deals and missing some money in the short-term but hopefully can still make a living of photography in 10 and 20 years.
I learned this behaviour not only from stock i learned it actually by my assignments sometimes it's better to say NO once you accepted a bad deal you never get a chance for a fair deal.
I know that i'm in the minority most people don't care at all :-[
« Last Edit: December 26, 2007, 04:59 by grp_photo »

« Reply #5 on: December 26, 2007, 04:59 »
This thread raises many of the same old questions that have been asked since microstock first reared its ugly head many moons ago.

Are we undervaluing our work? Have we sold ourselves short? How much exploitation should we tolerate before saying is enough is enough?

Everyone will answer those questions differently but no matter how you argue the toss, that few gigs of pixels sitting on your HD is better off earning its keep than doing nothing at all. Or is it?

Personally, I wished I'd never got into MS and for 2008 I'm seriously looking at diversifying and NOT having any more 20c portfolios floating around that will ultimately do me damage over the long term.

« Reply #6 on: December 26, 2007, 05:56 »
Have to say that I agree with you on this point. I am considering closing accounts as well. There are further aggravating points, some specific to an agency and some generalized:

1. With Fotolia: Most of my sales are in Europe, where the client pays 1 Euro per credit, but my earnings are in U$, so they are getting an additional 40% through the exchange rate difference!

2. With few exceptions these sites ignore any complaints and/or suggestions sent to them, and treat contributors as if we were just a necessary evil that they have to live with.

3. Most of these sites seem to be interested in selling their own work. Contributors material seems to be only used for "filling", so that they can advertise the millions of photos they have.

4. The agencies seem to forget (OR MAYBE THEY NEVER KNEW!) that they are merely go-betweens, bringing the client together with the photographer. They really are not arbiters of quality or any thing else, just a marketplace! They should act as such, and charge a commission based on what they provide to the photographer in the way of services.

In conclusion, I think that there is a big shakeout on the horizon. The few agencies that respect the photographer (FP, SnapVillage come to mind) will hopefully come out on top and should be supported by the community. The rest should be relegated to the dust bin until they learn to administer a business and respect both the providers of content and the end client.

« Reply #7 on: December 26, 2007, 10:01 »
There are choices. Like some have said, you can take down your account, which won't get you any money. You wouldn't be the first that thought that IS undervalues your work. There are alternatives like Alamy where many photographers do well there. I'm going to beef up my account and see where that takes me. Other than that, there have been a few attempts to respect the photographer. (Totallyphotos.com comes to mind), but have mostly flopped. Other than that, I'm not sure what choices you have. Either you play the game, or get out...

« Reply #8 on: December 26, 2007, 17:08 »
Well, most of the stuff I upload, is throw away shots from the freelance work I do. Why let it go unused just because a client chose a different pose or went another direction with the product?

It's a no brainer for me.


« Reply #9 on: December 26, 2007, 17:30 »
IS photographer's share is really disgusting. I think however they at least have a reasonable selling price plan, and gladly no subs plan.

I got 25c for an image in S size today.  In CS or CanStockPhoto the same image would have been dld in XL earning me the same 25c.  Who makes the good deal?  Not me.  But I find it more reasonable to receive these 25c from IS. 

Yes, I wished they increased our share - just imagine, mere 30% would mean an increase in 50%!  I do like FP price structure much better, and they're the site I advertise more in my siet (if you can call what I do advertisement...).



« Reply #10 on: December 26, 2007, 18:00 »
Do I hear the beginning of a syndical movement. :D But no kidding, in my point of view it will be great whit a good organisation... Maybe

« Reply #11 on: December 26, 2007, 19:43 »
It is absolutely time to do  some thinking. IS is a tricky case, since they sell well, and generate a decent income for many, in spite of the 20%.

One of my targets for 2008 will be to get rid of all subscriptions sites, and that includes SS. The problem is DT, which does well for me with non-subscription sales, and has no opt out possibility. The way I see it, subscription sales are much more destructive for the business as a whole, than microstock in general. Subscriptions enable customers to build large image archives that reduces the need to download photos in the future and thus our profit potential.

One thing that we can all do to help, is to stop linking to those agencies that pay the lowest, and at the same time use all available means to promote sites where we have a higher cut and/or can choose pricing structure ourselves. FP is an obvious choice, but SV is in my view also a positive contribution, although 30% is too little.

« Reply #12 on: December 26, 2007, 20:17 »
Understand your point(s) prefectly well and this topic comes up every few months. 

The last time it raised it's head I asked if there was a start-up MS site today offering you 50% up front, would you support it?   Everyone comes back with questions of funding, staffing, marketing plans etc.. AND we'll wait to see how it goes!

You can't have it both ways...  start ups need your support to get going, but you make more money from ISP & SS.  At some stage you'll have to understand... the terms and conditions have been set BEFORE you began submitting.. you agreed (like everyone else) to the 20% commission...  simple as that.  Would love to see everyone find a start-up and truly support them..  but money will always talk.

Walk if you will... McGetty won't care

« Reply #13 on: December 26, 2007, 21:31 »
The question is if we as photographers could do a more coordinated effort to promote FP. It would be in everybody's interest, even those who don't submit to them, since success for FP would put a pressure on commissions.

I agree that McGetty won't care though, and that probably goes for McCorbis as well. As much  as I like the system at SV, they are surprisingly unresponsive to feedback.


« Reply #14 on: December 26, 2007, 23:25 »
Really great feedback folks.  I've been reading with interest.

Featurepics is my next site to contribute to.  I haven't read much to suggest sales there are worth mentioning yet, but - as was brought up JC-SL - the new sites need our support to have a fighting chance.  And their structure clearly favors the photographer much better than iSP.

Absolutely - McGetty would never miss me.  At my port size, I doubt they know I exist.


« Reply #15 on: December 27, 2007, 04:10 »

One thing that we can all do to help, is to stop linking to those agencies that pay the lowest, and at the same time use all available means to promote sites where we have a higher cut and/or can choose pricing structure ourselves. FP is an obvious choice, but SV is in my view also a positive contribution, although 30% is too little.
Yes very good idea! I also decided to support new sites if they have a reasonable pricing scheme and a fair deal (like zymmetrical for example).
Istock not only became so strong because they have been the first they also become so strong because of their Designer-Community that still support the site and do heavy free marketing for them. If we Photographers can create some kind of Community for "fair deals" we may able to change the current state of Microstock.
In general i like the idea of Microstock. What i don't like is the current state that the worst and most greedy agencies rule the business while the fair agencies lack behind. If we start to support more and more the fair agencies and at least don't let the unfair to be the first to have our new pics i really think we can change something in the business in the long-term. It would also a good idea to give the fair agencies some kind of specialties that you don't give the greedy and outseller ones.

« Reply #16 on: December 27, 2007, 04:30 »
One thing those of us who are designers can do, is quite obvious: buy from FP whenever possible. There's a lot to choose from, also photos that can't be found elsewhere, since they accept most of what many of us upload, and editorial photos as well.

« Reply #17 on: December 27, 2007, 09:15 »
i think u should just leave ur photos in istock. Dont close it. If you really must, then just dont load any more photos to istock. Who knows what decisions u may need to make in future? the microstock market is constantly evolving, at least in the short 2 years that i have been here and i believe it will continue to evolve over the next few years. It has not reach that stability yet and is still finding its place...who knows istock may move mid-market in future????


« Reply #18 on: January 01, 2008, 05:20 »
To come full circle with this thread, I have indeed officially requested my account be closed at iStock.  I don't expect them to get to it anytime soon, due to the holidays, and the fact that CR is notoriously slow.  In the meantime I have deactivated all of my strong selling images.  I don't have the patience to go through the rest.

It was a tough decision, and I appreciate everyone who chimed in.

Ironically, I want to thank iStock for giving me my first taste of microstock success.  In particular, I want to thank iStock for recently featuring one of my images as part of their "Featured Contributor" section.  For someone who just started shooting stock in June, to be featured by the industry leader is not something I would have dreamed possible in 2007.

I am not dependent at all on microstock earnings.  Therefore I can afford to make a choice that a lot of others cannot afford to make.  I have no ill-feelings toward iStock.  This is a personal decision, and one which I will of course revisit should the commission structure change.  Once more, I will not be missed regardless.

« Reply #19 on: January 01, 2008, 05:54 »
I do not know was it a right or wrong choice. But being decisive helps in life.


« Reply #20 on: January 01, 2008, 05:59 »
I have thought about leaving istock it is hard to know if the 20% I make there is worth the extra effort of their tedious upload procedure.  I have to go through every single keyword with them and it can take a lot of time.  That time could be used to produce more images for the other sites.

I hope that sites like StockXpert will give them strong competition in years to come and force them to raise commissions.  Exclusives should also get more.

They have paid me more in referral fees than some sites paying high commission, so I don't think I will leave.

It would be great if all the buyers went to featurepics as we could all get a better deal but unfortunately that doesn't seem to be happening.

« Reply #21 on: January 01, 2008, 07:13 »
As a newcomer here I don't have any account to close. But I realised that it would take a lot of time and efforts to upload to several agencies (my broadband is not that broad and certain agencies - snapvillage and fotolia for example - are really hard to load upon with a lot of uploading lost somewhere in the Internet limbo). So I decided to try Alamy (my four pictures are on reviewing there at this moment) and Featurepics which already accepted five of my photos (my first five, in fact). So, from now on (and until my access provider can provide me with a serious access) I'll try to be exclusive with agencies which can provide a nice return for the photographer.

« Reply #22 on: January 01, 2008, 07:24 »
I understand your point completely but walking away is not the answer. I have a few years
experience and I am certain these agencies need us a lot more than we need them.
I haven't got the answer yet but I am looking for one just want to let you know that there are many of us with similar views.
All the best
PS What share did the photographers get of the 50 million recently paid for their photos?

« Reply #23 on: January 01, 2008, 14:17 »
It would be great if all the buyers went to featurepics as we could all get a better deal but unfortunately that doesn't seem to be happening.

 I've been studying FeaturePics very seriously, studying, studying, studying, and finally uploading.  Sharpshot's statement above is so true.  One recurring theme that I've been finding is this:  WE (the SUBMITTERS) need to promote Featurepics and our portfolios there in every way, shape, form, fashion, and size imaginable, and not give up even when we're tired of doing it.  What kind of promotion? You name it!!  Websites, e-mail signature links to your portfolio, talking to everyone you think might have an interest in downloading quality photos, and any other way you can find to do it.  I think we're only limited by our own imaginations, so use your imaginations, your contacts, the WWW, and whatever else!!.  With FP, the sky really is the limit.  We do the footwork for FP and ourselves, and we pocket the 70% commission, simple as that.  FP in turn provides the server space, customer relations, etc.   If you're really good with websites, you could build your own and do the same thing for your own pictures and keep even more %.  However, many of the rest of us are not so tech-savvy or don't have the time to learn, plus having a large collection of pics in one place will probably tend to draw more customers than a single individual's website, methinks.  The key to just about any business success is active promotion and marketing, not just one time of setting your sign out front and sitting and waiting for the customers to come in---you've got to keep trying to find them.   Istock does a huge amount of marketing and it costs them a lot and they pay us 20% or so.  Apparently, FP doesn't do a lot of self-promotion yet, but they pay you 70% and let you adjust your prices as you will.  Hmmm.  You figure out where that extra 50% comes from.  It's your choice.

« Reply #24 on: January 01, 2008, 14:34 »
Ha!  I guess this has morphed into a FeaturePics thread.  Anyway, in keeping with my previous post, I was cruising another micro forum and found this:

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aygodbI4Dr4" target="_blank" class="aeva_link bbc_link new_win">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aygodbI4Dr4</a>

Pete Baxter promoting his Bigstock portfolio as a video on YouTube.  Submit a video or 2 promoting your FP port, and right there is instant worldwide promotion!!


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