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Topics - markstout

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General Stock Discussion / Sad day for photographers
« on: July 31, 2009, 15:19 »
I have noticed disturbing trends among microstock agencies, particularly the trend toward demanding higher professional standards while the prices for licensing photos are in a race for the bottom.  I am attaching a photo that was rejected today by one of the microstock agencies as "not reaching our desired aesthetic level" and essentially telling me it was not worth the 14 cents they are licensing images for.  I'm a bit shocked.  The image is sharp, completely in focus when viewed at 100% and perfectly exposed and composed.  The work involved in creating the image is considerable, lining up the model, packing the tents, backpacking gear and other props and the strobes, battery packs etc up the mountain was not exactly easy. 

I walked away from microstock over a year ago when seeing how utterly futile it is to think it could ever support the costs of doing business.  However, microstock is also eliminating my paying clients at a staggering rate and I found I now have little choice but to spend the time I would otherwise be working for pay shooting microstock.

However, I must say if the aesthetic quality of this image (mind you it was not rejected for technical imperfections such as focus) is not worth 14 cents we are all in serious trouble.  I have posted the image below as well as a copy of the letter I sent to the agency after the rejection.  If the agencies are going to say this image does not meet thier standards, I think it is time we demand a bit of professional pricing and licensing practices from the microstock industry as well.

The letter sent to the agency:
As I get images rejected, the same thought occurs to me over and over.  On the home page of the _____ site it advertises images for as little as 14 cents.  This is not enough to park my car for 5 minutes in the downtown areas where many of my shoots are conducted, it is not enough to pay the credit card transactions fees on a single transaction (hence the requirement to subscribe or buy PACKAGES of credits), you can't even buy a stick of gum or penny candy for that amount anymore.  Yet a photo that required planning, finding locations, or setting up a studio, wardrobe, paying models or finding models to work free in lieu of paying to shoot thier portfolios (which I would make considerably more on) is a fantastic amount of work.  Much more than the computers and the credit card agencies do to have their computers automatically process the transaction at about 30 to 35 cents per transaction, plus interest and other fees charged on to both credit card holders an merchants.

One of the photos rejected today and MANY of the photos rejected in the past have been of exceptional quality.  I am not a newbie.  I am a pro, I have been commissioned by leading national and international magazines, fashion desigers and ad agencies.  To tell me a photo is not worth 14 cents is OFFENSIVE, particularly when these same photos have been accepted on the other microstock sites and are selling well.  I will admit some of the photos deserve rejection... however, even those are worth 14 cents!!!!

Microstock began as a place for amateurs and has raised the bar to demand professional quality.  Instead of raising the price to support the increased quality demands, it is cutting prices trying to edge out the other microstock agencies.  It is also engaging in deals to increase downloads that are highly destructive to the photographers and the microstock industry itself, such as a deal made by one of the agencies in which Microsoft would license images for a one time fee of $20 each and then make these images available FREE to anyone who bought a copy of Microsoft Office.  What is wrong with this?  Well, reverse it.  Does Microsoft allow someone to buy ONE copy of Windows and then provide it to others free?  Hell no!  They know it would destroy thier business.  As a note, they also charge higher fees for larger corporations to license their software than to individuals.  Kind of like the old rights managed stock photo system that the industry has now thrown aside at great cost to us all.  This race to the bottom is one in which we will all lose.

Yes, I know, I could just stop selling microstock.  I did for some time.  However, if you walk through the grocery store and look at the magazine covers, you will flnd an astonishing number of microstock photos gracing the covers of major mags.  Many of the magazines I shoot for are now using microstock in lieu of paying photographers. A court even recently ruled that a major photographers photos of a once in a lifetime event were worth only $7.00.  This absolutely destructive ruling was based on the anticipated earnings the photographer would have made were these sold as microstock!

I know there are many hobbiests on microstock who don't care if they make money and work "day jobs" to pay for their equipment.  However, the industry itself depends on the professionals who make their livings as photographers and maintain the facilities and equipment to do the work the industry needs so badly. 

I am writing this to urge the microstock industry to back up and evaluate the LONG TERM impact of its pricing and distribution methods on the very people who supply you your lifeblood.  Again, microstock pricing and licensing is in a race to the bottom and 14 cents is about as close to the bottom as it gets.  The next step is the free sites ... which is right where it began...   Come to think of it, maybe that would be a good thing.   

If you are going to tell me my images do not reach the desired aesthetic quality, then demand enough money for them to make it worth my while to produce better images for microstock.  Demand enough money to licence the images to support the cost of producing them.  Be as professional yourselves as you are now demanding from your photographers! 

I know this will not go over well.  But I also know that all who read it will see the truth in what I am saying, even the industry execs....
Mark Stout

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