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Author Topic: Istock troubled waters my opinion  (Read 26487 times)

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« on: December 11, 2006, 05:49 »
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Im not sure if this will be pouring oil on troubled waters or throwing oil on a chip pan fire.

I will admit I am not a fan of iStock and also I am not the greatest photographer in the world.

I believe some micro stockers upload only their very best work so have very tight portfolios with photos that they are proud of (an may sell) and others upload everything they can in the hope that someday a designer will want a photo of a road sign.

If anyone visits my new look website they will see I am very much in the latter category. I made the decision to start sending my best work to Alamy several months ago.

Personally I am in micro stock for the money and I am frustrated by the upload limits, I can live with a 50% acceptance rate (not happy with the 20% pay) but I suspect that with more liberal upload limits I could have double the portfolio and possibly double the earnings. Also my illustrations which are fairly basic but sell reasonably well elsewhere dont reach iStocks standards. So there would be absolutely no point me signing up for being exclusive.

For those of you who report a healthy percentage of your microstock income from iStock when did you sign up? Have you managed to submit most of your photos to iStock?

I signed up in Feb 2006 when there were 10 photos/day limits (oh happy days!) but I didnt have a decent back catalogue to upload.

One point about negative comments about iStock where else can micro stockers express them, on the iStock site?

On a more positive note regarding borderline images being accepted. With the tight upload limits non-exclusives aren't going to waste one of their precious uploads on a "non-pretty" photo that they may think will be rejected whereas exclusives with higher limits can risk sending one in which may get accepted as even though the photo may not be "pretty" it serves a purpose.

I have found for some sites that as my portfolio has grown the reviewers have become less picky.

Shall we start a few self deprecating threads worse photo that has been accepted and worse photo that has sold?


« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2006, 07:06 »
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I agree with Steve on a lot of points.  My approach, however, is the first one he mentions.  I tend to be a bit more picky about my submissions in hopes of getting more downloads.  The reason for this is because it takes a lot of time to do the keywording, categories, etc.. If I invest my time into microstock photo it's because I believe that it will sell.  However, like Steve I had fairly large rejection rate at Istock... mostly because of the "lack of clear focal point" reason.  But I found this reasons rather strange when I submitted a batch of background textures, which were selling really well on FT and DT.  The point of backgrounds is that they don't have a focal point.  And, like Steve, I spend considerable time submitting to Alamy.  Although Steve and I have different strategies when it comes to microstock submissions, the result seems to be the same when it comes to Istock.  I think their strategy involves "weeding out" non-exclusives... to make it frustrating enough so people like Steve and me stop submitting to them altogether, while they can concentrate their resources on the exclusives.  But, from my point of view the whole "exclusive" practice is dodgy.  Almost no stock agency, including RM requires someone to be an exclusive photographer with that stock agency... some do require that the images submitted are exclusive (which makes sense).  I have photos that sell extremely well on one site and have no sales whatsoever on others.  After observing sales for a month, I then decide if I want to grant any one site exclusivity to an image.  But, Istock's practice is predatory, at best.  Essentially, they are playing monopoly with photographers, and if you are not exclusive, you are not an important piece to them.

« Reply #2 on: December 11, 2006, 21:50 »
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I am an exclusive contributor to iStock and make enough there to safely cover my monthly mortgage and bills, so I suppose you could say I am a full time iStocker.  I joined in January of 2003 so I'm coming up on my fourth year next month.  When I first started my acceptance rate was about 45%, it has gradualy improved (as has my work,) since then and it now sits at about 95% Acceptance.  Also when I first started there were no other microstock sites and in fact the microstock industry was only a very tiny blip, barley on the radar in the general stock industry.  I made $3.00 my first month and I was hooked! :)  Last year (November) my earnings were solid to the point that I quit my day job to focus on uploading.

I can't honestly say that I tried out any of the other agencies as a contributor, (sometimes as a buyer) though I did always try to research them thouroghly as they came along and consider myself still open minded to my exclusive status should it appear that I have a better opportunity through spreading my portfolio around.  At this time the three largest factors that keep me exclusive are the legal protection (I can easily prove that anyone in violation of a license on my images went through iStock, therefore they fight my legal battles for me,) I save a lot of time by only having to upload images to one site and have more time and energy to learn their standards, and three I genuinley feel that this company is still at the top of the microstock heap, not to say they don't have some solid competition, but I feel I'm betting on the winning horse.

It's a very personal business decision and one that has very real limitations as well as incentives.

As far as my uploading habits, I spend a lot of time researching what is marketable checking out the competiton. I try hard to make sure every image I upload has a good mix of originality and solid stock worth.  I think being an active designer helps alot in this respect as I am always looking for or activley creating imagery for client projects which gives me a wealth of ideas based on actual industry usage. 

With the rise of competing microstock sites, there will emerge diferences in business theory with each agency.  I think iStock's position is becoming more quality over quantity which may be influenced by their new parent company.  We now have stockholders to please so there is a lot more on the line all of a sudden.

I can also tell you that as far as acceptance goes at iStock, I think they have different expectations of different people.  I have discovered that the range of images they will accept from me now is judged by higher standards than 4 years ago.  However I see some of the same type of images being accepted by newer artists.

I honestly feel that they take the teacher/mentor role in trying to help mold a really good stock artist and I have found that if one really wants to succeed there, there are a lot of people who are very willing to help.  While you won't get a great reaction to a thread about a rejected image in the main forum, you will find people more than willing to help you out in the critique forum.  Sure rejections are always irritating (more so as an exclusive with no where else to put them,) but they are a fact of life.

In the end it all comes down to your business theory in microstock.  If you want to have the widest market coverage and learn at your own pace that's certainly a plausible business theory, as it could mean more sales overall in a shorter start up time, but it might mean less success at a more selective agency like iStock.  You definitley have to put a lot of time and effort in there to make a steady income, but it can be done.

« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2006, 05:41 »
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That was an interesting post Indigo. In my opinion Istock has too many non-exclusive Photographers, so it would not do them good to totally weed out the non-exclusives. So I think non-exclusives allways will have a chance at IS. For me the Upload-limit as an non-exclusives is not an hinderance. I never reached the limit. That is because of the time consuming upload process.  So I upload just my best images, but still it is totally worthy. IS is my second best earner. But still only my second best from five main Microstock companies.
I totally understand your point Indigio. I would prefer to upload only to one stocksite. It is much more confortable. But if I will be an exclusive Photographer at IS, I would earn much less. So I believe would everyone. I wish you all the best for your future at IS, however if you consider to go to the other stockagencies, here are my referal links  ;D

« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2006, 08:43 »
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Where do you guys get the idea that istock accepts crap from exclusives, while non-exclusives are rejected? Is see this mentioned repeatedly on this site - this is nothing but a bunch of crap.

I am myself an istock exclusive. I upload images every once in a while and about 60%-70% of these are rejected. I've been with istock for about three years, if you think that is of importance.
To me it sounds like Istock is aiming higher then your other agencies, that they want to have a library stuffed with nice quality images.

If a background is rejected for no focal point it might be a reason to that. I do not agree when you say that "The point of backgrounds is that they don't have a focal point".

« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2006, 08:56 »
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thanks for the post indigo.  I am glad to hear your opinion here.

« Reply #6 on: December 12, 2006, 09:06 »
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When Istock 1st offered exclusivity, I thought about it since, at the time, it was my biggest $$ maker. But I saw how Shutterstock was growing and decided to wait a little bit.

Istock is still (for the moment) my second biggest $$ maker but I now make 2.5x that on Shutterstock! I'm so glad I didn't become exclusive. For the short amount of time it takes to upload to SS I've now more than trippled my Istock earnings. Imagine if Lise Gagn decided to upload to SS! It wouldn't take her long to be a millionaire.  ;)

I also jumped the boat in Sept. and quit my day job to be a fulltime photographer. And my business model it to make as much $$ from microstock as I can.

I do agree that Istock standards ARE higher than the other sites. I pretty much get 95% acceptance on the other sites and about 75% on Istock. But their reasons are legitimate and it helps me become a better stock photographer for it.

I would never become exclusive because, even as an exclusive i find the upload limit quite low. I now have over 200 images backlogged for Istock and that's just bad business for me as it prevents $$ coming in.  DT and FT are slowly creeping up on IS in terms of $$ making and I predict that by July they'll both have surpassed IS due to the upload limit.

just my 2 cents...

« Reply #7 on: December 12, 2006, 09:10 »
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Where do you guys get the idea that istock accepts crap from exclusives, while non-exclusives are rejected? Is see this mentioned repeatedly on this site - this is nothing but a bunch of crap.

I'm not exclusive but I agree with you completely.  I find them fairer than anyone with rejections and on a second look I always agree with them something I can't say about some of the other sites.

« Reply #8 on: December 12, 2006, 18:28 »
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And when we're talking about quality/rejections...

It would be easy for istock to make a profit from selling pictures of lousy (or not optimal) quality - The previews aren't very big and doesn't say much about the quality, so the customers will have to trust the agency in order to buy images.

« Reply #9 on: December 12, 2006, 19:07 »
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And when we're talking about quality/rejections...

It would be easy for istock to make a profit from selling pictures of lousy (or not optimal) quality - The previews aren't very big and doesn't say much about the quality, so the customers will have to trust the agency in order to buy images.

It would be easy to do that, once.  Then the customer would never come back, and word of mouth would kill them.

« Reply #10 on: December 13, 2006, 11:45 »
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Exactly.

Still people are whining about the high rejection rate....

« Reply #11 on: December 13, 2006, 12:42 »
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And when we're talking about quality/rejections...

It would be easy for istock to make a profit from selling pictures of lousy (or not optimal) quality - The previews aren't very big and doesn't say much about the quality, so the customers will have to trust the agency in order to buy images.

I can agree on most of your points , IS has its standards and thats good. But if you are trying to say that all other sites are selling photos of worst technical  quality then you are wrong. I'm ready to bet that SS (for example) rejects more photos with technical problems and demands at least the same quality as IS. The reason that they have higher acceptance is because they don't refuse for too many similar photos on site or we don't  consider thats stockworthy   reasons , and In my opinion thats positive , if the work is technically good then let the buyer decide  if its worth buying or not ,  there can never be too much of good photos.


« Reply #12 on: December 13, 2006, 18:23 »
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You might be right. I'm not familiar with other agencies, so i probably should choose my words with caution.
Please note that my only intention here is to address possible reasons to the high rejection rate at istock. Since this seem to be a big issue here, you know...   

« Reply #13 on: December 14, 2006, 04:37 »
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I have no problem with their rejection rates at all. My view is that in the end it's their business so it's their decision what they accept/reject. Like a writer can't criticize a magazine for accepting/rejecting a piece s/he wrote.

I have also learned a lot from rejections and hope I will continue to learn. I believe that my photography is better for it.

What I do have a big issue with is their terms of exclusivity. Sure ... they can ask that an image is exclusive to them. That's obviously legitimate. But what they want is the photographer to be exclusive to them. That is ... if you become exclusive with iS you must not submit RF images of any sort, anywhere else in the world. Not even if they're totally different to what you have on iS.

What right have they to impose that condition? Who do they think they are?

That's like a magazine saying to a writer "you can only submit your work to us".

Now ... let's follow this logically. If a writer writes articles exclusively for one magazine then s/he is very likely to be an journalist employee of that magazine (assuming s/he can be published elsewhere if s/he wishes) and receiving a regular salary.

Are exclusives employees of iS?

No. The majority of them are still freelancers, at the mercy of 'ebb and flow', but on top of that they've had their hands tied by an unduly restrictive condition. I'm not even sure the restriction couldn't be legally challenged in some countries.

I don't know if anyone has read the novel about rabbits called 'Watership Down'. It's a great story about two wild rabbits seeking a new home because their old warren is about to be destroyed.

At one point the two wanderers come to another rabbit warren where all the rabbits are beautifully fat and sleek, but there's a strange mystery about them. The fat, sleek rabbits won't talk about it, and there's an air of 'not asking too many questions' and 'not rocking the boat' in the warren. The rabbits there are a bit too sycophantic, a bit too 'yeah ... it's great here'.

Then the two wanderers discover the secret. The farmer feeds the rabbits in the warren in order to fatten them up. Then once a week he takes two of them and kills them for the pot. No one knows who is going to be taken next ... and no one talks about it.

For some strange reason, when I was considering iStock's exclusivity deal, that story came into my mind. I wonder why.




« Reply #14 on: December 14, 2006, 09:41 »
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Bateleur, you might not like exclusivity, but apparently some photographers like it. Its good for Istock, Istock has the most photographers who are exclusive that is an advantage regarding other agencies. However, I would not choose to be exclusive. But I would not say it is bad for everyone.
Istock has every right regarding exclusivity. It is a descision of the photographers. The photgraphers who decided to be exclusive to IS gave it to IS.
I cannot see any problem with that. And well if the "Exclusive Rabbits" get "killed" from IS, they still can have a life after that at DT, SS, StockXpert, 123RF, FP, BS, FT, SPM, CS and so on :-)
Out of curiosity, how fast can you gat out of the IS exclusivity deal as an photographer?

« Reply #15 on: December 14, 2006, 09:59 »
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Out of curiosity, how fast can you gat out of the IS exclusivity deal as an photographer?


According to this site:

http://www.istockphoto.com/exclusivity_intro.php

you can cancel your exclusivity with a 30-day notice.

« Reply #16 on: December 14, 2006, 15:50 »
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I think I have been hard on istock because of the image upload limits and high rejection rate.  However, in all fairness they do provide you with a reason and sometimes a personal message from the reviewer, along with snipet of a problematic area.  They do a good marketing jobs and I grossed more on istock in a month with 20 percent of the files I have on DT.  However, I why thinking as to why the new upload limits are such a pain in a butt for me.  I prefer to prepare a big batch once a month and submit it all at once, rather than do it on a weekly basis.  Perhaps, Istock can learn for StockXpert and adopt a similar system.  There you can upload what you want at once, but they will only (no complaints here) let you prepare 50 images per day.  You can also mass edit (assign the same keywords, descriptions, etc) to a series of images and once the images are approved fine tune them.  I think its a much less frustrating system.  It still allows me to do my mass upload, organize my time more efficiently, and let the company review the images at their own convenience.  I would love if Istock introduced the folder feature found on stockxpert... I am beginning to like that system the most because it is most friendly to the way I organize and manage my submissions.  Still, all being said we all know that in the end of the month Istock brings in the cash...

« Reply #17 on: December 14, 2006, 15:51 »
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Bateleur, you might not like exclusivity, but apparently some photographers like it. Its good for Istock, Istock has the most photographers who are exclusive that is an advantage regarding other agencies. However, I would not choose to be exclusive. But I would not say it is bad for everyone.
Istock has every right regarding exclusivity. It is a descision of the photographers. The photgraphers who decided to be exclusive to IS gave it to IS.
I cannot see any problem with that. And well if the "Exclusive Rabbits" get "killed" from IS, they still can have a life after that at DT, SS, StockXpert, 123RF, FP, BS, FT, SPM, CS and so on :-)
Out of curiosity, how fast can you gat out of the IS exclusivity deal as an photographer?

Yes. Obviously some photographers like it, otherwise they wouldn't have any exclusives.   :)

And I agree ... it's not bad for everyone. If you're someone who doesn't have time, inclination or ambition to sell through other agencies, exclusivity is a great deal.

But there's the rub ... if you're not like that ... if you're someone who wants to retain the freedom to do with your images what you want (even ones which are not on iStock) then iStock's exclusivity deal stands right in your way. They're saying, "either you get completely into bed with us, or you take an inferior position".

That's forcing a photographer's hand, and I don't like it. I think it's unethical.

I'd have no problems with individual images being exclusive to them ... I'd submit loads, like a shot, if that was the deal.

It's the ... No RF images ... Anywhere else ... With anyone else ... At all ... that gets up my nose.


« Reply #18 on: December 14, 2006, 18:52 »
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i dont like istock ... i am from germany my first problem there was that they want model-release in english...ok.. i organize it.. but most of my pictures are rejected ... because the release was not ok.. they want the phone-number of my model or something like this... idiots... in germany we need no witness for a contract.. that was my first problem...

why they dont work like german agencies... only i klick to i am the preducer of this picture... and ok is....

i dont like to give my modell 10,000 different releases befor we shoot... i have 18 images online there.. 21 downloads and i think i have enough other thinks to do... my downloadrate at fotolia as example 250 euros per month.. so i can laugh about istock...

PS... sorry my english is awfull

« Reply #19 on: December 15, 2006, 07:23 »
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i dont like istock ... i am from germany my first problem there was that they want model-release in english...ok.. i organize it.. but most of my pictures are rejected ... because the release was not ok.. they want the phone-number of my model or something like this... idiots... in germany we need no witness for a contract.. that was my first problem...

why they dont work like german agencies... only i klick to i am the preducer of this picture... and ok is....

i dont like to give my modell 10,000 different releases befor we shoot... i have 18 images online there.. 21 downloads and i think i have enough other thinks to do... my downloadrate at fotolia as example 250 euros per month.. so i can laugh about istock...

PS... sorry my english is awfull

Thats true about Istocks model releases.  Another annoying thing is that if you shoot a scene involving more than one person they want all the model releases merged into an individual jpeg file.  As far as witness is concerned, it is not required by US law to have a witness in order to form a contract.  A lot of travel photographers that I know carry model releases with them in language of the country they are visting.  Are you sure that its only available in English on istock.  With fotolia, I could even download one in Dutch.  Most agencies, including FT and DT, accept generic model releases as well.  Istock will only accept its own.

« Reply #20 on: December 15, 2006, 09:15 »
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Istock will only accept its own.
It will accept a generic one as long as it includes all the information that they require.  Most people I think just remove the istock logo, then use that MR for all sites, since it encompasses all terms included in any of the other sites MR>

« Reply #21 on: December 15, 2006, 10:49 »
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Istock will only accept its own.
It will accept a generic one as long as it includes all the information that they require.  Most people I think just remove the istock logo, then use that MR for all sites, since it encompasses all terms included in any of the other sites MR>

yeah that is true.

If you have a generic release with all the info that is allright.
I have used the istock release and just cropped the image of the release tight enough not to show the istock logo.

« Reply #22 on: December 15, 2006, 10:50 »
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on another note.  The istock (as well as the dreamstime) release is available in the downloads section of this site (if you don't want to try and navigate on istock to find it)

« Reply #23 on: December 15, 2006, 13:42 »
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Istock will only accept its own.
It will accept a generic one as long as it includes all the information that they require.  Most people I think just remove the istock logo, then use that MR for all sites, since it encompasses all terms included in any of the other sites MR>
I actually did that.  Got an entire batch rejected from DT with a message, this MR was designed for another agency please use our own or a generic one

« Reply #24 on: December 15, 2006, 15:59 »
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I Had the same rejection but then I noticed that I had deleted the logo from the top of the release but had forgotten to take the istock name off the bottom of the release.


 

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