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Messages - Catastrophe

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General Stock Discussion / tattoos and releases
« on: October 21, 2011, 17:49 »
I did a search, but couldn't find a very good answer to this - if my model has tattoos that are in focus, do I need a property release from the tattoo artist in addition to a model release? What if the tattoo is a flash design - would I need a release from whoever the tattoo parlor bought the design from?


my other advice is to build your site first, THEN buy a domain. It typically takes me 1-2 months to build a site (I do it outside of my regular photography hours), so I don't want to pay for a couple of months hosting while I build the site (although it is only a couple of dollars....)

I had problems with 1&1 also - they use a bait and switch tactic, after your initial period is over (1 yr. maybe?), they hike up the price, and if you don't go with them, they hold your domain hostage for at least 6 months. I will never use them again!

I just used Wix to design my new site - VERY user friendly. I haven't published it yet, but I'm very happy with the way it turned out. There are options for selling, adding a cart, etc. I need to shoot one more image for the front page, and then I will publish - looking into the 'upgrade' options from the free site (which isn't bad at all), using my own domain (I haven't looked to see if they sell domains or not) and removing ads. They also have a way to create mobile (for smartphones and such) versions of your site.

So I recommend: NOT using 1&1, yes on Wix, also had decent experiences in the past with GoDaddy and Yahoo for domains. I built sites initially coding by hand, then using Netscape Gold (if that dates me at all!), then Dreamweaver (which I had to take a class on in order to figure it out), then using 1&1's templates, then Photoshelter (I liked the idea, but never really figured out the system), used Shutterfly to sell prints (was surprised at the high quality and customer service from what I initially thought was a consumer grade service), and finally using Wix's templates/editor. Wix is by far the easiest, and comes close to the power and options of Dreamweaver! (FYI, I'm not an affiliate or anything, I just have had a really good experience with Wix, if you can't tell).

My goal for my new site is to use the site I built on Wix to add the option to buy prints using either shutterfly again, or hopefully photoshelter. I like the idea that people can buy prints and the host prints and mails them, the expense is def. worth it (the prints are pretty cheap), over just having a cart and having to print and mail myself.

General Stock Discussion / Re: August earnings
« on: September 06, 2011, 17:12 »
for me, August was just about even with July, but both were up significantly from the last few months. While most of my sites continue on upward trends, Istock continues to plummet, although Photo+ may have temporarily slowed that.

Overall, I'm making half as much off of twice the portfolio from 2-3 years ago. The salad days of MS seem to be over, and I pretty much missed the boat, seeing as I still only have ~400 images on my largest site :o/

When it comes to going exclusive, I think that it's more about managing risk than supposedly making more money. The advantage to going exclusive is that you don't have to do all that work uploading - so if one has already done the work of uploading thousands of images to multiple sites, going excl. seems like a step backwards. Plus, you would have nearly as much work ahead of you taking down files, as many sites don't make it as easy as it should be.

I've always thought that a co-op microstock site would be the best thing for the industry. It would require some really motivated folks, though, and most of those folks are already building their own individual stock photo sites it seems. The closest thing to this that I've found is Photoshelter - photographers controlling their own prices and sales, but with a single portal that searches all of them.

Perhaps the way to get past the need for a group of people dedicated to organizing the thing is for everyone interested in this idea to agree to use photoshelter, and only promote photoshelter from personal sites, etc., and pull out of the other sites (at least the ones that continue be too greedy) - this last thing not likely to happen. Too many people making too much money still, and the sites tend to protect the main earners.

Alternatively, we would need to find some people dedicated to setting up a stock agency and run it a bit like a credit union or electric co-op: with 'member owners'. But it would need all of the things that other stock sites have to be successful - officers, reviewers, advertising budget, etc. It seems like anyone with the energy/time to do that would, or has already, make some form of their own stock site wherein they are the main profiteer. This level of organization and motivation is rare, but it could be done. I'll say what others have said: you build it, I will join. Hell, I'll even participate as some kind of organizer/worker/whatever in addition to being a contributor.

The third alternative to combating lower commissions (after a union or co-op), would be to go exclusive on one of the big sites and build your portfolio to thousands of images, or tens of thousands. Then, you can earn a 40-60% commission (which is fair), and have a tiny bit of negotiating power when the site tries to pull something you don't like.

But like I said, if enough people will actually get involved, we could start a co-op and see where it goes. I was secretary/treasurer of a co-op art gallery for a few years - it was interesting and fun at times, but in the end a lot of work and not very profitable (but art galleries rarely are).

Message me if you want to do the co-op. If so, we can start a new thread and use it as a home base in the beginning.

6 / just started uploading to Alamy - questions:
« on: July 18, 2011, 23:30 »
Hi all. I know this is a lot to ask, but can someone please explain to me how the RM license at Alamy works regarding copyrighted materials? What I mean is that I see a ton of RM images that have copyright protected content - iphones, logos, even a DVD cover, etc. How is this stuff sold as stock photography? Is it somehow being sold as editorial only? It seems that images like this could not be used without a release except for in very specific journalistic instances. What's the deal?


Almost all of the creative imagery I have ever tried to upload got rejected for 'not suitable for stock' or something similar (of course much of my artwork gets funny looks from the art geeks, as well).

I don't really want to sell it for $2 a pop, anyway.

Maybe some of those photographers you are talking about shoot the more formulaic stuff for microstock and make artwork solely for galleries or personal work or whatever. That is certainly what I decided to do almost right away (but I came from a fine art background first then stock, not vice-versa). Like I said, I don't want to almost give away stuff that comes from the heart, but also can't afford to spend a ton of time on images that have very little use for 99% of microstock customers. And, it just plain keeps me sane to separate the two (commercial & art) portfolios.

I haven't looked enough at other photographers' work (or googled them) enough to tell anything more than if they can make a decent stock image, so maybe they do, and maybe they don't have other styles in different worlds. But the fact that the people you named are so prolific in the stock world makes me wonder if they have time for anything other than stock photography (eating, sleeping, long walks in the park, etc.).

I have seen a few microstockers who have impressed me with more artistic commercial work. It makes me think that there may be a place for more creative work in MS. Because it really does get boring making photos that look like an example in Kodak's old "Taking Better Pictures" guide.

IDK, food for thought. I found the path this thread deviated onto interesting.

I second the notion that you could make a lot doing pet portraits on commission. A friend does this and makes six figures. And hers are not near as nice as yours!

I feel it is important to figure out what you are returning per hour/per year. Start tracking your time, including setup, shooting, uploading, keywording, research, etc. After your port has been online for six months or so, start doing the math. If you spend 10 hours/week for three months, and after all those images have been up for another three months, divide your earnings by 130 (10 hours x 13 weeks), multiply that x 4 (to give you a full year). This will give you $ per hour per year that you earned. It is important to consider that your images only yield returns after they are uploaded and accepted (duh.) - that is why you track the 3 months post instead of the 3 months during which you produced them. As months/years go by, you can get a better feel for how much you are making per hour of work as the ups and downs average out.

Because there are various strategies to microstock (mainly either focusing on quality or quantity - assuming that a better image takes longer to produce on average), the number of files you need to get $1000/mo. could be anywhere from 20 to 10,000. But if you calculate the $/hour/year, you can get a good idea of how well you are spending your time. After you get this initial baseline reading, keep up with what you are making per hour per year - the idea is to make that # go up. So if you find that in the beginning each hour of your work returns you $8/year, then work on getting it up to $10/year and so on. $10/hour doesn't seem like much, but remember that those returns keep coming year after year - the additive and passive income potential over years is what make stock photography so financially rewarding - it is like a retirement plan (kind of).

But in answer to your question, a very rough average for microstock image returns is $2-5/image/year. More calculating, refined photographers will make more per image, "shooters" may make less. So to make $1000/month, you probably need a portfolio of at least 3000 images to make that kind of money, probably more. The more sites you upload those images to, the more you will earn, obviously. But the same image will usually make much more on SS or IS than it will at one of the smaller sites. So you have to decide which sites are worth your time. Uploading and keywording is a not-negligible part of your time working, especially if you lean more towards being a "quantity" contributor.

As you go, you'll get more efficient at shooting, selecting better subjects and style, keywording, etc. - which will make you more efficient overall, and give you higher returns in the long run for each hour you spend working.

But before you worry too much about all this, if you are just beginning then just start learning, shooting, and uploading. See how much you like it. MS certainly isn't a get-rich-quick method. But it can be a get-rich-slow method if you hammer away for years (I have regrettably missed out on a lot by hardly working on my portfolio over the 6 years or so I've been doing this. Some years I only uploaded a few images). You can focus on maxing out the upload limits each week for whatever sites you are using (like IS is 24 photos/week for non-exclusives I think) - that way you know that you are doing as much as you can. As you continue, make those 24 images/week (or whatever # it is) better and better, or take less time - you can increase your yield per hour of work either way: get more done in an hour or get more money for the work you do. But focusing on filling those queue limits can give you a good goal. That kind of assumes that you are going to go at it full force.

One way to maximize your efficiency is to go exclusive with a site. You probably can make more money being independent overall than being an exclusive, but being exclusive is a LOT less work - so you can probably make more money per hour of work being exclusive than being independent (results may vary). But being exclusive carries more risk - what if, say, your exclusive site decides to cut commissions in half? Or, if they go under? Being independent is like having a diversified investment portfolio. Also, each site has their particular pros and cons, and 'types' of images that sell well, etc. I'm sure that IS exclusives make the most money out of the microstock site-exclusive contributors, but you may decide that the benefits of another site work better for you - or that being independent is a better fit. I do several sites just out of principle and so that all my eggs aren't in one basket. But I only upload to 5 sites, so I would probably do better by going to IS exclusively - but I don't like their practices so I won't.

It is good that you are thinking about these issues and asking questions, but the best way to learn is to just browse the collections and get an idea of what kind of images are needed, and start making and uploading those types of images ASAP. You will naturally figure out what works for you as you go - and keep asking questions and reading forums!

Also, take note that this advice is coming from someone who has just a few small ports - so take it with a grain of salt. This is just the way I think about microstock. People doing it full-time have a lot more at stake, and so may have thought harder about these issues. 

Off Topic / Re: Million Dollar Photo
« on: May 01, 2011, 14:21 »
I had never heard of him, so I googled his name. I'm surprised to see what looks to me like pretty standard art-fair type landscape images. I get it when Andreas Gursky sells a print for $1M, but this was a total surprise! I gotta get back in the art market!

Agreed with above comment - the artists who sell the most are definitely the good marketers, not necessarily the good artists. In fact, the quality of the art has almost no bearing on price or sales or getting into galleries - it's all marketing. That is due to the fact that art appreciation is so subjective. If you are good at talking yourself up and selling, you can always find someone who will like your work (or be talked into thinking that they like it).

Yeah, things have changed a little at SS. They seem to be accepting more of a certain type of files, and rejecting all of other types. For example, I can't seem to get them to accept any 'texture' photos anymore.

Off Topic / Re: Photo - 81,471 pixels by 14,154 pixels
« on: May 01, 2011, 14:07 »
That would be touch to put together (besides just processor time) because you know those people were moving in between shots. You would have to go in and do all of the borders by hand. I've done a few of these merged photos from a large group of shots, to make huge prints from. It takes forever, especially once you notice while stitching shot 37 or so that the sky has been getting about 0.5% lighter in each consecutive merge across the image :o/ Making them has taught me what NOT to do, though, so the next time I feel inclined, I should be able to get a mistake free one.

Or maybe just find some color film for the old 11x14 camera instead...

I meant the T2i - there's no reason for me to pay more for the T3i, in relation to what I use a camera for, if I go that route.

But I'm pretty sure that I'm going to wait a little while and see what the 5D MKIII looks like. I'll either buy that or the MKII after the III comes out, depending on prices. Thanks for all the valuable input!

what do you shoot, primarily?

Well, I am an artist primarily - I have two sets of work that I focus on: social landscapes and abstract nudes (studio). But I pay the bills by shooting commercial stuff, mostly product, some editorial, a few portraits, and an occasional architectural gig. I am hoping to get away from shooting assignments and just concentrate on stock photography. The stock photography I do is almost all tabletop stuff - objects on white backgrounds w/strobes, etc., but I also like to break the monotony of that studio work and get out to photograph people, textures, or anything I come across that seems worthy. I would say that 80% of my stock work is tabletop in the studio and 20% is random out in the world stuff, if that makes any sense.

Ideally I would have something like a Hasselblad H4D, but that will have to wait until I get a lot more capital together. I took a big hit last summer and had to leave Phoenix AZ, where my studio and gallery were - now I'm back in SC living with family and shooting in an extra room that is half storage and about 50 sq ft for my "studio". I've yet to work on setting up any gigs here - I want to focus on building up my stock portfolio, which I haven't done anything with in almost 2 years.

The nice thing about it is that I'm really free right now to do whatever I want - I don't have much income, but don't have many bills either. I'm basically starting over. I want to be smart about it though. I'm lucky that I have a big collection of nice lenses, and all the studio gear I need. I just need a better camera and some more space. I am going to part with a couple/few lenses to get the $ for a camera. If I could get away with just using the 550D for now, it would make it easier - but if the 5D mkII will save me the ~$1900 difference in hours of work, fewer rejections, and better sales (I haven't looked, but I'm guessing that the 21mp file can sell at a larger size than the 18mp file) in the space of 1-2 years, then it makes financial sense to go ahead and get the right gear.

Thanks for the words, tubed. I am thinking the same. I grew up on film, and always owned a Hasselblad, Mamiya, or Sinar - it's been difficult going from that aesthetic to the teensy-tiny viewfinder in these DSLR's. That is one of the reasons I want a new camera - I find it much nicer to compose images with the live-view on the display than through a itty bitty viewfinder. I've been a professional photographer for years, but have avoided putting the money into a real digital camera because of the resell factor. DSLR's just haven't seemed like lasting investments until recently. But I am beginning to realize that a few grand is a small investment compared to the time I spend cleaning up files. Probably should go ahead and bite the bullet - but still would love to hear more input.

General Photography Discussion / camera ? for the tech gurus
« on: March 25, 2011, 14:58 »
I'm weighing options in a new camera. I've been using a Canon 400D (Xti) for years, but there have been so many advances that I think it's worth upgrading. A 550D (T3i) runs around $700. The 5D MkII is around $2500. I wouldn't pay the extra $ for a 70D compared to a 550D - there aren't any functions that I need on a 70D that aren't available on the 550D (I shoot almost exclusively in manual mode, occasionally in Av). If I go with a small sensor camera, I would just go with that 550.

The ?'s I  have are about the IQ difference between the 5D mkII and the 550D - 21mp on a 1x1.5" sensor vs. 18mp on a 22.3x14.9mm size sensor. I'm unsatisfied with the noise levels on my 400D. Most of my stock photography is done with strobe lights, but even with good exposures and ISO 100, there is a bit of noise in the shadows. I would also enjoy a larger file size and the ability to shoot outdoors with a higher ISO. I don't feel like I can shoot any stock on a higher ISO than 100 with my current camera.

Opinions on the IQ on the 5D vs. 550D (or cameras with same sensors) as related to microstock? Would the 550D be able to produce good quality files on any ISO's higher than 100 without having to use noise-reducing editing software? More editing means more time, which means less money :o/ What is the highest ISO you've been able to use without getting problematic noise (without post processing or using multiple exposure techniques) on cameras with these two sized sensors?

Either camera will be a significant improvement over my current 400D, according to tests I've seen on review sites. But I wanted to get your views based on real-world experiences shooting stock.

So my main questions are how much quality improvement will I see with a 5D over a 550D, and how much faster of an ISO can I shoot with on the two cameras? Of course I would have to change a few lenses if I move up to the larger sensor size, but that isn't a real big concern for me.

If I'm lucky, a 5D mkIII will show up before I make a purchase - I'll probably be making a purchase in 2-4 months.

thanks in advance for your advice!!!


General Stock Discussion / Re: Poll: What is your Day Job?
« on: August 31, 2009, 23:01 »
FT photographer.

18 / every single post on the istock forum:
« on: May 21, 2009, 17:10 »
RelativelyNewSubmitter: I went to upload some images on Istock, and this is what happened - the categories would not work, the disambiguation was illogical, and I had to do 10x as much work as any other stock site to upload because of arbitrary limits and unneccessary hoops to jump through. Then my image of a grizzly bear was rejected because the keywords "furry" and "animal" are apparently not acceptable. My image of a rock was rejected for "copyrighted material" and my image shot on ISO 100 with strobes and a perfect exposure was rejected for "noise". I searched for the images that were accepted, and they were found on page 1032 of 1050 results, with lots of images that did not have anything to do with my search term on pages 1, 2, and 3. Any ideas on how I can improve my results?

BrownNoser: Why are you so upset?!!! I find it a privilege to be rejected by iStock's wonderful, talented, genius, and good looking image reviewers! They are sooooo nice to me when they reject my images for illogical reasons, once they even gave me the suggestion that I should make my photos "better" - where else on earth can you get that loving kind of thoughtful feedback? Istock is #1 at everything!!!!!

CluelessNoob: The picture I took with my cellphone in a dark bar where I cut off my friend's head and used the wrong color balance was rejected too! Apparently the keywords "rocketship" and "atom bomb" are not acceptable for a picture of a guy drinking beer! This sucks! I'm quitting!

SJLocke: 200% of my pictures are accepted and featured on page 1 of best match. You are non-exclusive and therefore do not exist.

SoccerMom: I LOVE ISTOCK!!! ISTOCK #1!!!!

I<3Nikon: You people complain so much. I remember back in 1932 when Istock just started. We had to pay THEM to use our images! And they flogged us with barbed wire, and we loved it! Why don't you just bask in the glory of being in the best stock site EVAR! Who cares if your income takes a giant hit because istock refuses to fix simple problems. They are doing you a giant favor by hosting your files! All they get out of it is millions of dollars from other people's work. You should thank them for even taking the time to acknowledge you - all you do is supply their product. They are the supreme beings. You think that just because you do most of the work, that you deserve credit, or fair treatment? BAH!

RandomSubmitter: I don't post here much, but I have had the same problems. Does anyone have anything of value to offer?

IStockDiamond: you are not exclusive, so why should anyone care about your problems. If you want to be treated fairly, then all you have to do is sell your soul to Istock. It's easy. I did it, and the only problems I have are silly things like my income dropping by 80% on occasion when they randomly change everything.

: I just went exclusive, and I can tell you, it's the best thing that ever happened to me in my whole life! My sales went from $1.50/month to over $2.00 a month! I am so happy and fulfilled now! I'm going to save up for that (whatever the most expensive Canon is) camera now!

IStockSilver: Lisa Gagne's photos have lots of blue in them. So obviously you should have more blue in your photos. And goldfish. At least half of your photos should have goldfish, because Lisa's do. Everything anyone who has 1000+ images on Istock does is to be idolized. I love IStock!

IStockGold: You only have 200 images in your portfolio. Why do you bother asking for your images to be considered in a fair manner, when the real answer is to work harder, shoot more, and post on this forum at least 100 times a day? If 75% of your submissions are rejected for stupid and illogical reasons, all you have to do is shoot and submit 4x as many images. The answer is not to seek fair treatment, or a system that works well - the answer is to shoot more! why are you reading this, when you could be shooting right now?

SomeIdiot: ebbbbb......

AnotherIdiot: OMG. Not another thread about this. We've had four threads in the last 12 months about this very topic. Have you not read and memorized every single post on this board? What, do you actually visit sites other than Istock, or actually turn the computer off sometimes?! What is wrong with you?

FirstAdminToSeePost: thread locked.

19 / Re: Current IS review time
« on: April 05, 2009, 14:37 »
Most of mine are around a week, but I have three images that have been waiting over 2 months to be reviewed.

20 / Re: Exclusively everywhere but IStock
« on: April 05, 2009, 12:56 »
Well, each site has their own way of trying to make the most money. In business you have to have an advantage, pick your niche - or you are just another noname site. IS tries to do that by having unique content, SS by having the most. Others are probably the cheapest. Some go for the highest quality, etc.

Those "sh*te" images may be useful to someone - I am absolutely AMAZED at some of the images that have 100+ downloads on lots of sites.

And it shows. Each of the top sites has their own flavor. People buy from different sites for different kinds of images. Everyone knows that lots of images rejected at one site often end up best sellers at another site.

I don't only upload my best to IS. I upload a little bit of everything and see what sells. If one image sells well, I do tend to upload more like that. But it's not a quality thing - it's more of a business images sell well on IS, creative images better on SS, etc...

It does seem like the IS forum admins are very eager to censor anything less than "Istock is #1, I love Istock, or (name top ten exclusive here) is the best EVAR!"

In the posts I have read, it seems like there are two groups of people who talk on those forums a lot: IS exclusives with lots of images on the site who think that makes them them important, and newbie photographers who kiss their butts.

I don't care - I just don't hang out on that forum. It is more entertaining and useful to talk places where proving you are a big shot isn't the point.

But pieman is right. I'm still more than happy to take their money.

22 / Re: TIFF vs JPEG
« on: October 07, 2008, 14:55 »
I've never understood this. What is the point of downloading a TIFF file converted from a jpeg? It will just increase the download time - the same result could be achieved by downloading a jpeg and converting it to TIFF. I'm sure that any designer who buys an image is going to know to save it as an uncompressed format if they edit the file. I wish there was a way to upload uncompressed files and sell them without ever being compressed. Even at max quality, a jpeg flattens the image, and some quality is lost. I guess it would take up too much server space, with SS's gigantic library.

23 / Re: Keyword related rejections
« on: October 06, 2008, 18:41 »
You might have a point regarding the term 'indoors' but shouldn't 'school' and 'education' be essential keywords for a textbook shot?

No.  "textbook" would be an essential keyword.  The rest are spam.
They aren't spam. They are relevant conceptual keywords. Just like "new year's" is relevant to your picture of a cake with 2009 on it. Things don't have to be physically present in an image to be relevant. Otherwise, "white", "cake", and "2009" would be the only keywords you could use for that image, and * near no one would find the image because they probably weren't searching specifically for a cake - they just were searching for something relevant to the new year. A lot of searches are done with that frame of mind - a general search term, hoping to find a good idea to use in a design.

Depending on the actual photo of the textbook, they may be very relevant. Since Istock turned Draconian in their keyword rejections for non-exclusives, it would have been nice to make their expectations a little clearer. I know there was an article written about it that I only found after a long search. If they just said what they are looking is losing a lot of great images due to the silliness of their reviewers, who seem to both try to find any reason to reject an image yet often do not seem to understand some really obvious things about stock, microstock, and photography in general. Istock only hurts itself by trying to muscle photographers into exclusivity by doing things like myopic keyword rejections for non-exclusives. I find it hard to believe that anyone would want to dedicate themselves to an agency that openly disrespects their contributors so badly. Things like purposefully making the upload process inefficient, rejecting images outright, just for keywords that really are relevant,  and setting ridiculous upload limits in the hopes that then people will only contribute their best images - these things just make it harder to earn money as a contributor. There are better ways to encourage quality - ways that don't punish the contributors that are the basis for every cent that the company has made, but Istock chooses the short term gain over building a good relationship with their contributors. That is why so many of us refuse to go exclusive, and never will. Too bad for them.

Frankly, if we as contributors did not put up with Istock, they wouldn't get away with this crap. I personally don't put much effort into my portfolio at that site, because I can make lots more money quicker at other sites more efficiently. Istock's loss, the other sites' gains.

Although a lot of the keyword rejections are BS, the guy above was right - just keyword the stupidly obvious things and add the rest later. If it isn't giant and centered, the reviewers can't understand it, but your image will not get rejected if you add some conceptual ones after approval.

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