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Messages - EmberMike

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What about these small business loans that are part of the US economic aid package?

From that article:

"Who is eligible to apply?
Generally, any small business with 500 or fewer employees is eligible.
That includes sole proprietorships and independent contractors. It also includes nonprofits, veterans organizations and tribal businesses.
In certain circumstances, businesses with more than 500 employees also may qualify.
Applications will be accepted up to June 30. But the program is on a first come, first serve basis."

You had to be paying in to unemployment in order to collect the benefits of it. As I understand it, that comes from w2 pay deductions, 1099 earnings aren't subject to the deductions.

However if you were employed while also earning via 1099s, if your employment ended you could collect unemployment, minus what you earn via 1099. At least that's how it worked for me some years ago. I would have to fill out a web form every 2 weeks to get my unemployment check, and in that form I had to enter how much money I had earned from stock, freelancing, etc. They would deduct that amount from my unemployment pay.

This happened to me once, and it was a fairly easy fix of just having to show the duplicate income. I just matched up the earnings for each agency with the reportings in the 1099s and 1099k and the IRS cleared it.

As others have mentioned, try to stay below the threshold of PayPal's 1099k. I started using Skrill a lot more after my run-in the the IRS over this.

I quit Envato when they adopted a policy of treating every transaction as being directly between the buyer and the contributor, and asked us to take on the burden of tracking and reporting each and every sale by invoice. They wanted all of the tax benefits of removing themselves from the transaction, acting like they're not an agency, but then months later they announced that they're issuing 1099s as if they are an agency, leaving US contributors in a precarious situation of potential reporting discrepancies. The reward for years of contributing images and helping them grow their business was a slap in the face in the form of this convoluted tax scheme that dumped more work on us and put us at risk with the IRS.

They've always been all about themselves, everyone else is just a cog in their machine that they'll squeeze as hard as they can for every last penny. It's not surprising that they are also pretty terrible to new moms on maternity leave.

Lots of failures here. Failure of the "photographer" to take responsibility, to act honestly as an artist, to control their Alamy account (his wife was uploading to it), failure of Alamy to recognize an image that shouldn't have been available for commercial use without questioning its origin (it looked like a gallery image with wall placard), failure of the publication (what art director approved this without questioning the uncropped image), etc. What a mess.

Not too surprisingly, I have not yet received a reply to my email.  ;D

General Stock Discussion / We don't owe these companies anything
« on: October 31, 2018, 16:14 »
I sometimes get emails from random companies looking for new contributors. Some new company thinking they can break into the stock business (you can't, unless you have millions of dollars to invest in acquiring an existing company), or they're an existing company looking to expand or branch into a new market. This is about the latter.

I got 2 emails from a guy at a free stock image company (which is looking to expand into paid stock), followed by this third email (his name and the company name have been changed):


This is my third and final attempt to contact you about selling your vectors on "Garbage Stock". It appears like you may be ignoring me... I hope that is not the case.

We are only selecting a few artists right now to join this program. We choose you and your portfolio because it is high-quality and you have a very high earnings potential from the data we are looking at. If we don't get you on board this week, we are going to have to go elsewhere. Please respond let me know if you wanted to be included asap.


I ignore these emails because, well, why bother. It's just another dead-end that will earn me nothing. Or, worse, will earn me almost nothing and earn the company a lot.

Now this email struck a nerve because of the attitude of "Steve", apparently being so bothered that I'm ignoring him and his enticing invitation that he sent to just a few people (yeah, right) to join his free-stock company that is now looking to sell images and cash in on their high traffic volume. So, for once, I decided to reply:

Hi Steve,

I was ignoring you, as I tend to do with the numerous offers I receive to join websites like Garbage Stock, but since you insist on pushing the matter, allow me to explain my choice to ignore your earlier emails.

Garbage Stock has been a haven for rip-offs of my work (and many other artists' work as well) for years. Cheap knock-offs of my designs are available for free on Garbage Stock as I write this. Garbage Stock also freely gives away copyrighted material, designs owned by companies, organizations, and, as mentioned, many other artists. Surely you are aware of this, it doesn't take much searching to find plenty of material on Garbage Stock that you have no right to sell or give away.

Sites like Garbage Stock have no real interest in helping artists, nor do you apparently care about the people who download stuff from your site (people think they're getting a license to use content but it doesn't apply if you had no right to offer than content in the first place).

To be fair, this is a common problem in the stock image industry. However most other companies do far more to combat it, including banning contributors from the site (something it appears Garbage Stock doesn't do, as "artists" found to be ripping off content might only get a few offending images removed from their portfolios, while being allowed to continue contributing content still today).

Lastly, I don't support sites built on a "free" model as the primary focus of distribution. All of that traffic you've built up has been on the backs of artists' free content, and the implied value (or lack thereof) of vectors to be something that should be available for free. Now that you've built up all of that site traffic from free content, you want to cash in. I won't be a part of that, nor will I provide the original work that Garbage Stock "artists" have been ripping off for years and giving away for free.

For all of these reasons, I am unable to support a site like Garbage Stock and I have no interest in being affiliated with the company at all. Garbage Stock has done plenty to damage the stock image business and I have no desire to reward your sh***y business model by contributing my work to your collection.

So yes, I was ignoring you, and trying really hard not to have to send this email to you. But since you appear to have been so hurt by my lack of enthusiasm to be a part of Garbage Stock, I figured I could at least explain why.

Thanks for the offer, but my answer is 'no'.


I'm posting this just to shed some light on a sentiment that I think has been common in the stock image business for a while and should have been killed off long ago. This idea is one that many of these agencies share, one that basically takes the position that they are offering us something wondrous and special, and we should feel privileged to even be considered as a possible contributor to these agencies.

I think it's about time we call this stuff what it is: a scam. Companies like this one will make it sound like such a wonderful deal, they'll entice you with their website traffic and promises of "earnings potential". But they've built their business on free content, so what kind of earnings potential could they possibly be concerned with when it comes to what the contributor gets?

Sure this is a rant. But I hope it's also a bit of a cautionary tale for anyone here who is maybe somewhat new to this business and gets these emails and offers. There a lot of snakes in the stock image world. You don't owe them anything, not your images, not your support, not even a reply email.

But if you do send them a reply, post it up here, I'd love to read it.  ;)

Just so I understand the logic...

At Pond5 you can set your own prices, as long as they conform to some standard that they have determined. They want to remain "artist-friendly" by allowing you to set your own prices, but not so friendly that they really support the option to set your own prices.

Fixed pricing or artist-adjustable pricing. Pick one, Pond5. I don't even care which way you go, but giving people grief for using the pricing features you built into your system is dumb.

If it's that big of a problem for you, set fixed prices and be done with it.

GraphicRiver is garbage. I deleted all of my stuff over there.

Creative Market is better for this kind of stuff.

What a horrendous precedent to set. Anyone can now use any photo they want, and simply claim "I didn't know it was copyrighted," as a legitimate legal defense. I have no doubt people will be doing exactly that more often now, and citing this court case in their defense if they get sued.

Off Topic / Re: Not applauding is treason?
« on: February 06, 2018, 19:37 »
You must stand for the National Anthem. You must applaud for the President when he speaks.

Welcome to the Democratic People's Republic of America.

And in today's news, he wants military parades.

It's just a matter of time before we are issued a list of acceptable haircuts for all men in the country. Considering the source, I can only imagine they'd be heavy on the comb-over and recommended paired with an orange spray-tan.

Off Topic / Re: Not applauding is treason?
« on: February 06, 2018, 10:00 »
You must stand for the National Anthem. You must applaud for the President when he speaks.

Welcome to the Democratic People's Republic of America.

General Stock Discussion / Re: Zack Arias on unsplash
« on: February 06, 2018, 09:57 »
Zack is the man. I got hooked on his whole vibe towards creativity, art, photography, etc., from some videos he did a bunch of years back and an interview he did with Chase Jarvis. Super cool guy, and right on with his views on Unsplash.

How long do you think it will be before some opportunistic model figures out that they can troll photographers just like copyright trolls? Find a local photographer on Unsplash, offer free modeling services, agree to have photos posted on Unsplash (just make sure you don't sign a release), wait until the photos get used commercially, then sue photographer and the end user.


I know this isn't necessarily what happened here but as a related FYI, Shutterstock does have many ways of detecting suspicious activity and will close accounts without warning. I started out on SS as a vector contributor but later wanted to purchase a subscription to license photos for various design projects. I reached out to SS about it just to make sure I wasn't crossing any lines by being a contributor and a buyer at the same time. They warned me then that if I used my subscription to download any of my own images, my account would be closed.

They take this stuff very seriously. There's too much real fraud going on every day, so their zero-tolerance policy may seem harsh but it is there for a reason.

When in doubt about anything you're doing, just reach out to them and ask before you do something that could jeopardize your account. SS is very willing to answer questions before you do anything risky, but they won't be forgiving if you just go ahead with some scheme to increase sales without checking with them first to see if it's ok to do.

The business has kind of gone full-circle for me. Stock was a cheaper answer for people looking for vector graphics, icons, logos, badges, etc. Now stock is so common-place and recognizable, people don't want stock because they see the same stuff everywhere. I have clients who I design trade show graphics for who are coming to me saying "We need to do a custom photo shoot, we can't show up and have the same image as one of our competitors." 10 years ago it was "Custom shoots are dead, stock is great!"

I expect that trend of more custom work and less stock income to continue. I still submit to stock a little, but at some point (maybe within the next year), I'll have to just stop altogether because it's not worth it anymore. Being a vector guy, the cost of production for me is minimal. I use the same hardware and software I'd need to have for custom design work, so there's no added expense there. But if I were a photographer, and I had to invest in shoots for microstock, I'd have quit by now for sure. I can't imagine it's cost-effective for very many people anymore to sink money into this and have high hopes of a return on that investment.

The hatred towards Getty started long before microstock. Microstock just created a new opportunity for Getty to show their true colors to a new audience. In the traditional stock world, there are plenty of people who regard Getty with the same contempt that many microstock artists do, and plenty who left Getty because of the mistreatment they received.

Microstock was better off without Getty getting involved. Everything they touched here turned to garbage. They wrecked istock and closed great sites like StockXpert, sites where contributors used to make good money. When they have this history of doing things that almost always hurt contributors far more than they help us, it's not hard to see why there is such negativity directed towards them.

Add in the disparaging comments they've made over the years, as well as perpetuating lies and myths about the industry to keep contributors earning as little as possible (like the myth that paying contributors more than 20% is impossible), and you've got a pretty good picture of a culture of greed and deception that has done nothing but hurt the stock image industry as a whole.

Great read! Creative market is a different kind of place. After the new licensing update, I doubled my prices and don't see many sales now... plus I don't like how they include "their" cut in your MISC 1099. That is not right ..

I thought the same thing at first. I was coming off of the Envato thing and it felt like CM was doing the same move. But it's pretty different. CM still considers all of your income from them one big number for the year, where as Envato regards it all as individual invoices between the contributor and the customer.

I talked to my accountant about how CM does it, and he said it's surprisingly common in many industries to do that kind of reporting. It's an easy enough work-around, and just means a few extra minutes of bookkeeping work to track it.

I still think it's weird, because it's money that never actually reached me and yet I'm supposed to say that it did. But apparently it's an extremely common practice and not nearly as big a deal as I originally thought.

Great post!  Until the promotion of CM.  After their licensing terms fiasco coupled with their inability to understand copyrighted/trademarked content, I pulled everything from there.  But glad to see your success.  I think these kind of connections come easier to illustrators than photographers, just because of the flexibility in working with the content.  Wish I could draw :)

Thanks, Sean. I know CM has been kind of unpopular around here. They've had some missteps, but they do make efforts to respond to concerns. Extended Licensing only came about because of contributor requests. And sure they could do better with trademark enforcement, but I don't see that as a reason not to participate myself. It doesn't affect me or my work. And I think eventually they'll have to do better in that area of the business.

Their positive attributes far outweigh the negatives. The 70% non-exclusive commission rate goes a long way in making up for licensing terms that lean a little more generously towards the buyer than is typical in microstock.

CM does things very differently, in a lot of ways. They're not microstock, really, so I never expected to see the exact same model and licensing that we get from microstock. It's got some good and some not so good. It's different, which is exactly what everyone around her is always asking for. It's not for everyone, but it's worked really well for me and for a lot of people. Things aren't going great at most places in stock these days. CM coming along and trying something different I think is exactly what we need, even if it's not always entirely what we want.

At the very least, companies like CM are proving that you can pay contributors well and still run a profitable business doing it. To me, they've been a big part of flipping the old microstock mentality that contributors should get the minority share of each sale.

I know there are plenty of folks around here with more years in the business than me. But with 10 years in the books, its been interesting to do a little reflecting on how things were when I started, what happened along the way, and what the state of the business seems to be (in my opinion). So heres a little of what Ive been thinking about:

I started selling stock images (mostly vector icons and illustrations) with StockXpert in May 2007. I got into selling after being a buyer for years and finally realizing that I could probably make things of a similar quality level as the stuff I was buying. A few icon sets later, I was pulling in some coffee money every month.

Some of my early stock stuff from May 2007

Back then the big discussion was Should I go exclusive with iStock? Probably the worst thing I could have done would have been to go exclusive, and fortunately I resisted the temptation. But believe me, the temptation was there. Back then, iStock was still a mostly reputable company, and financially speaking, exclusivity still made sense for a lot of people. Crunching the numbers and trying to guess what might happen if I went exclusive, I was sort of on the fence about it. It was possible that I could make more money working only with iStock. I didnt go for it, though. I liked spreading my work out to as many places as possible, and I bet on the long-term profitability of that strategy.

By 2008, after shutting down a failed business I was running and getting back into full-time graphic design work, stock was the perfect side-gig for me. I worked at a local ad agency during the day, and could make stock images at night. I got married that year, but didnt have any kids yet so there was plenty of time to create new stuff to sell and things kind of took off from there.

By 2010 I was out of the agency job and on my own, freelancing as a graphic designer but largely supported by my income from stock image sales.

Between 2010 and 2013 I saw the best financial times in my stock image career. In my best year, I pulled in around $70,000. Nearly half of that came from Shutterstock.

2010-2013 - This was the kind of stuff that really kicked my earnings up.

During these years, I also saw the most change in the stock image business. The feeling that we are a commodity to agencies became less a theory and more a reality. Getty definitely showed that, and said as much with their comments about money not being what should make us happy. These years marked a pivotal moment for me in this business, when I really felt that stock image licensing as I knew it up to that point had a definite expiration date on it, and I would not be able to do this in the same way for long. As good as things had been going, there was also this looming doubt in my mind that this wouldnt last long.

Of course we all know how that went. Since 2014 its been much harder to make a living at this. Impossible, in fact, for me and many others. I dont make anywhere near what I used to, and this is fully a side-gig income again for me. To be fair, I had a hand in that shift to some extent. I was skeptical about the future prospects of stock and I pulled away a bit. I didnt upload as much as I used to, and I started looking for other things to do. But it was always a part of my life and I still had hopes that either things would turn around or Id figure out some way to get things moving again.

Through the years, some unexpected and really cool things landed at my doorstep because of stock, and some of these things helped fill the gap of the declining income.

For example, I got an email from Shutterstock years back saying that someone was interested in buying exclusive rights to one of my images. Actually they wanted one badge design from a single image (a set of 9 badges). It was a set of college logos/emblems, and apparently some design company that was hired to design a new logo for a university took one of my stock images and passed it off as their own custom work. The school used the logo on banners, signs, books, all over the campus before finding out that their logo was a stock image. It was too late to re-do it, and too costly to tear down everything that already had the new logo on it, so they reached out to Shutterstock to find out about buying the rights to the image. I got a few thousand dollars in the deal, and the school got to keep their logo. From what I heard afterward, it was kind of a local controversy when the whole stock logo thing became known. Not just because of the drama with the design agency, but with the fact that the logo they were now fully committed to came from outside the community (outside the country for that matter).

A few similar stories came up over the years. I had a buyout request from a guy who, like the university, thought he got a custom logo design but it was one of my stock images instead. He actually loved his new custom logo so much that he got it tattooed on his arm. I felt bad for the guy, I couldnt even sell him the rights. It was my top-selling image at the time, sold over 10,000 times. After years of sales there was just no real value in having exclusive rights to the design, no way to really own it when so many people already had valid licenses to it. Last I heard, he was getting a new logo done and planned a cover-up for his tattoo. Thats one of 2 people I know about that have had my stock work tattooed on them. 

Band t-shirts and tattoos.

Ive had quite a few buy-out requests because of designers passing off my work as their own custom design. One was the Kabbage logo (the leaf graphic part of the logo). I was able to work out a deal with them to give them ownership of the leaf graphic.

Probably the weirdest one was from a designer who told me she "accidentally" designed a logo that looked exactly like one of my stock designs, the client saw the stock image, and now the designer wants me to stop selling it so her client doesn't sue her. Oh, and she didn't want to pay more than $20 in the buyout. The best part? This was somehow partially my fault, and I should "do the right thing" and sign over rights to the image to get her out of this messy situation.

Stock also brought some awesome clients to me for custom design work. I got an email from a guy who saw my work on Shutterstock and wanted to hire me to do some designs for his skateboard company. Within a few hours I was on the phone to an office in France, talking to the founder of Element skateboards, one of the largest skate companies globally. Ive done over 20 custom designs for them since, and my work is on t-shirts, hats, and decks in skate shops around the world.

Custom work for a skateboard company.

Ive done a ton of logo and t-shirt design work as a direct result of my stock portfolio. I have a steady gig with a clothing company doing around 10 t-shirt designs each month. Ive worked on graphics for apps, product logos, murals, even branding for a big marijuana and music festival, all the direct result of people finding me through stock site portfolios.

Ive seen my stock images used in some interesting places. On products and packaging in stores like Target, in ads, tv commercials for Verizon and Kayak, on news websites, on band merchandise, as the background artwork on a Shell gasoline card, on products and store graphics for Olan Rogers Supply, in graphics for shows on the TWiT network, in poster art on the walls of the high school in the Fox tv show Glee, and in print materials for the Boy Scouts of America.

Stock image sightings.

Along with the good, there is also the bad side of putting your work out there. Ive had countless cases of people stealing my work, reselling it, taking credit for it, putting it on products for sale without a proper license, I even had one guy who tried to sell the rights to one of my images to another company. He signed a contract and everything, and I had to inform the company that their contract with him was invalid.

I had to deal with the IRS thinking I drastically underreported my earnings one year, and get my accountant to fix the issue and make that $18,000 IRS invoice go away. It was that PayPal 1099-K form making it look like I earned twice as much as I actually did.

Still, the good has far outweighed the bad, and the 10 years Ive been doing this have been worth the hassles, the ups and downs, and the sometimes chaotic environment that the stock image business can be. This business gave me the freedom to be my own boss for 6 years, and it was a great side-gig during the other 4 years. It helped me hone my skills creating vector graphics, logos, badges, illustrations, and other designs, and build a portfolio that landed me projects I couldnt have gotten otherwise.

Looking forward, I dont see it being possible for anyone to make the kind of living at this in the same way and at the same level that was previously possible. Thats been true for years now, and will only become more real for us all in the years ahead. Its why guys like Yuri cut deals with agencies, they know as well (or better) than all of us that they cant maintain earnings rates.

The only constant in this business is change, and we need to change with it. For me, that change is what led me to Creative Market and why CM outperforms all of the stock sites I work with except Shutterstock. Although I can see the day coming soon when it does surpass Shutterstock. Creative Market never tried to match what microstock companies were doing. Its why they never really gained much popularity with the microstock contributor community, but its also why they have outperformed many microstock companies for many contributors. Its a different market, with a different buyer mindset and different paths to success. Trying to apply the same ideas and strategies to that platform doesn't work.

2017 new work. Definitely on a roll with camping-themed stuff lately.

I believe that marketplaces like Creative Market are the future of this business, at least for people like me who do vector design and sell customizable design elements. The best version of the product I sell isnt the flattened font-less EPS file buyers get at Shutterstock, its the fully editable, easily customizable, feature-rich product that gives buyers the tools to make something awesome. Sure its more work for me to make that kind of product, but its worth it. And the sales results prove it, for me and especially for the top earners who see six-figure or even seven-figure earnings.

In another 10 years Ill still be doing this, but it likely wont be with all the same companies. Probably half of the companies I currently work with wont even be around in 5 years. The market for pre-made visuals will still be as necessary in another decade as it is now, maybe even more so. But well have to better meet the customer where they are and not expect them to just take whatever we throw out into the market. We need to respond better to what they want, give them products that fit their needs and not just give them the products we want to make and expect them to be satisfied with that. Adobe will be an interesting company to follow in this. They are already are offering more than photos and vector icons.

When I look around my office, Ive got skateboards and prints hanging on the wall that show work I did because of connections I made through microstock. Ive got sketchbooks and folders on the bookshelf full of ideas for new stock graphics and illustrations. I'm wearing a t-shirt that someone sent me with a sea turtle mascot on the front, one of my stock designs. And Ive got a whiteboard with a list of projects I need to do, many of them for people who clicked around on Shutterstock or Creative Market and found me through those sites. What started out as me selling vector icons to pay for breakfast turned into something that has defined my career. No matter what happens from here, my path is forever changed because of this business. I think thats pretty awesome.

Thanks for 10 years, microstock, and thanks to everyone Ive met on this crazy journey.

General Stock Discussion / Re: Dealing with copycats
« on: March 27, 2017, 21:20 »

I had once incident where someone purchased my work with an EL and then made the argument that the EL allowed them resale rights. As weird as it sounds, there are some people who legitimately believe that they have the right to sell someone else's work sometimes.

General Stock Discussion / Re: Dealing with copycats
« on: March 27, 2017, 13:49 »
I used to report them but not as much lately. If it's someone taking my work and re-uploading it, then for sure I'll report that.

I had 2 bad experiences with reporting infringements that kind of put me off of it. One was I reported someone who was truly remorseful and because of the harsh policies of the agencies, the guy was essentially black-balled from microstock for life. I understand the need for policies to be strict in this matter. But there are always cases where an honest mistake or just plain ignorance about copyright leads someone to do something unintentionally nefarious. That incident left me feeling kind of crappy about reporting people and, in this one case, taking away any chance this guy had at pursuing microstock further.

The other bad experience was a reporting of an obvious infringement that was removed from a site, and then later overturned and the infringing images re-instated. They're still up for sale today. That one just left me feeling like "Why bother."

For the most part, infringements are sub-par copies and I don't view them as taking anything away from me. The better images often get better search placement, and even if my image is side-by-side with a copy, buyers will probably go for the better image every time.

I think the agencies have more to lose by not taking infringements more seriously. The collection doesn't benefit from lesser-quality copies.

Print on Demand Forum / Re: who sells prints on Redbubble?
« on: March 27, 2017, 11:22 »

I sell a lot of stickers at redbubble, and the occasional t-shirt. That's about it. Wall art doesn't sell well for me.

Keep in mind I'm a vector illustrator, so maybe my work isn't as appealing for being framed and hung on a wall.

23 / Re: Is iStock worth it?
« on: March 27, 2017, 11:18 »
Companies like Getty will still say that they can't afford to pay more, but it's B.S.
Not necessarily. Remember that they have piled up gigantic debts in the vulture capitalist merry-go-round of buying the company, borrowing in the market to repay the people who bought it all charged against (our) future earnings, then selling it on to somebody else who repeats the process. They've piled up so much debt to line the pockets of the "investors" that the rating agencies were starting to downgrade them the last I heard of it.

I was thinking more historically, from back in the beginning up to the years around the Getty deal. More recent events have certainly made it impossible for them to raise royalty rates to anything even close to 50%. But in 2010 and prior, they could have done it. Back when they called it "unsustainable" to continue paying rates on the system before the redeemed credit scheme, I think that was kind of a dishonest statement. Maybe at the time it was becoming unsustainable, but it certainly wasn't always that way and we now know that 50% and above is sustainable if a company operates in a way that views contributors as valuable (and critical) asset.

Today, sure, it is unsustainable to pay more. It's impossible, actually, and really it's kind of amazing that they survive at all considering how many hooks investors have in the company and how bad things are over there financially.

24 / Re: Is iStock worth it?
« on: March 24, 2017, 21:03 »

Years ago, there was some debate about what a decent royalty rate was. And certainly it's still debatable today. But what has changed in the last few years is that the myth that higher rates were impossible for companies to pay while sustaining their own business has been debunked.

Companies like Getty will still say that they can't afford to pay more, but it's B.S. We've seen other companies come along that pay a reversed royalty rate, instead of keeping the majority, they pay out the majority percentage. Companies like Creative Market are paying 70%. And not going out of business while doing it. In fact, they're thriving, and so are contributors.

It's been said in this forum by myself and many others that no company jumping into this business today should offer anything less than a 50% royalty at minimum. We all know too well that 50% or more is not only sustainable, but it's the only truly fair starting point.

So by today's standards, istock's rates are sub-standard, by a lot. Add in the deceit they've become famous for over the years, the shady subscription deals, the condescending attitudes and treating contributors like garbage, it's just too much.

I still have images at iStock but I haven't uploaded there in a long time, and won't ever again. I'm ok with my older stuff getting low subs royalties and the occasional 20% on a credit sale. But I wouldn't lift a finger to give them anything new or help them grow in any way. If I were new to this, I'd have zero images there and I'd leave it that way.

your holidays snaps probably wont have commercial value, you only have 100 images, they are average, and then consider competing against 100 million other images...

I'd remove "probably" from that statement and then fully agree with it. To be honest, none of your images are commercially valuable. Snapshots just don't work as stock anymore, not when there are high-end photos of the same subjects shot with a lot more intent, effort, and setup. The casual "Hey I bought a latte so let me take a quick shot of it" photos don't cut it for the typical buyer these days.

This is a business that looks like it's just that simple, that you could take a picture of the plate of food in front of you with a DSLR and you're on your way to making money. The reality is that those simple-looking shots are staged, prepared, composed, lit, and edited to look the way they do. There's nothing casual about them.

Your latte photo is up against hundreds or thousands of other latte photos, many of them part of a shoot that might have taken hours to set up. I know a stock photographer who shoots in a restaurant, has chef-prepared meals plated and served and he has a full light kit around a meticulously set up table. And it's not when he's sitting down to eat dinner. He goes there when the restaurant is closed specifically to do a photo shoot.

That's how you have to treat this to make it work. It's a job, like any other, and one that requires effort and hard work. Companies used to market this as a "sell your home snapshots" business, and for a time, it was. But that was almost a decade ago.

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