Opinions about microstock business

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by karolina_nowosielska, May 17, 2009.

  1. I'm searching for opinions about microstock business.
    I have started submitting my pics to a few microstock websites a few months ago and I'm still very enthusiastic about my new "activity".
    But I have come across some very negative opinions about microstock's influence on the photography market. Some photographers believe that microstock will eventually destroy photo-market, since there is going to be a flood of extremely cheap pics.
    What do you, guys, think about that?
     
  2. The answer is pretty obvious when you think about it. The crowd-sourcing of a vast and rapidly increasing supply of "good-enough" images isn't going to help the value of photography, is it?
    Microstock is just one of many hare-brained business models that has tried to monetize the oversupply of nominally publishable images since the mid 1990s. Destroy the photo market? No, but in the opinion of many, participating in microstock is demeaning, counterproductive, and it announces to the world very clearly how little you think your creative work is worth. It is appealing to those who have a dream to be published, but who seem to profoundly lack the dream of making a respectable living from their stock photography.
     
  3. It is appealing to those who have a dream to be published, but who seem to profoundly lack the dream of making a respectable living from their stock photography.​
    Exactly. Microstock isn't for professionals/semi-pro's, but nor is it meant for them. It's aimed at amateurs for whom the satisfaction of 'getting published' is probably sufficient reward in itself. Why they don't just submit their photo to the Wikipedia article about the subject I'll never know - more people are going to read a Wikipedia article than will ever visit a microstock site!
     
  4. Karolina:
    Look at it this way. You have two gas stations in your town. One pays their workers well, give them health insurance, paid leave etc. They conform to "industry standard" pricing on gas.
    The other one pays their workers $1/hour, no health insurance, no job security, no paid leave, no sick pay etc. That would be the Microstock model.
    Now, as a caring individual in your local community, who would you give your business to? If all you're constantly eyeing is the bottom line, well the choice is clear I guess.
     
  5. I would say, "go for it".
    Don't let people insult you by drawing inferences about what you think your work is worth. Those people are afraid of what their work is really worth. Professionals in any business hate competition, especially from amateurs who don't have to conduct business in an economically rational manner. They try like heck to keep such competitors out of the market by locking up distribution channels, promoting adherence to "industry standards," or just through social disapproval like you're seeing here. If those don't work, because amateurs can use new technology to circumvent their control over distribution and don't care what pros think, they have to fall back on the superior quality of their product. And for many of them, that does not provide much comfort. For some types of photography, a customer would be crazy not to use a pro. For others, he would be crazy to use one, at least until he had checked out the lower cost options.
    Stock images of subjects that are not very difficult or dangerous to capture are one area that the pros are going to have to cede to the crowd, if they have not already done so. Empty arguments that crowdsourced images are just "good enough" and pros' images are somehow better are not going to stop the tide of crowdsourcing, so you may as well join it. There will be some residual bellyaching for a while, but it will die down in time.
     
  6. August:
    Sorry, but as far as this "pro" you have it all wrong. I couldn't care less if people decide to sign up for micros. All I want is for the people signing up is to make an informed choice. I don't want a skilled photographer missing out on licensing images for several hundred $ per licensing just because they have decided to sign up for micros rather than traditional agencies because they didn't have enough information about both.
    Aspiring photographers need to know what they stand to lose, and win, by signing up with a micro or traditional agency. I'm not in either camp. I do what works for me and I certainly wouldn't belittle anybody because they sign up for a micro.
    Hope that helps clear things up.
     
  7. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator Staff Member

    The gas station example is completely inappropriate. How you buy has nothing to do with how you sell. You can buy anywhere you want as long as you have enough money and access. You can sell only where someone wants what you have to sell. Two completely different sets of criteria for making a decision.
    Now unless you have a very large body of extremely good work that is unique enough to not replicate what is out there in all the libraries, you probably aren't going to have opportunities other than microstock. That's just the way the business is now.
    Why they don't just submit their photo...​

    Why don't they just do what they want and not worry about what other people think.
    I don't want a skilled photographer missing out on licensing images​
    It takes a whole lot more than skill to make a lot of money licensing images.
     
  8. the microtards will say that the market is king and the market decides what price your pictures are worth.
    instead we macros will keep selling macrostock and getting paid the way it should be, that means at the very very least 40-50$/photo.
    personally i couldn't make a dime with micros anyway as i mainly shoot editorial and travel, but apart this is simply crazy the amount of time i would waste just in keywording all my 1000s of images to get back few pennies if i'm lucky and do it all again in other 4-5 micro sites as well.
    and this is still not the main point :
    micros' market is completely DIFFERENT from macro market.
    my editorial pictures sell well on macros but would be probably reject at IStock or Fotolia
    and they wouldnt sell well, i can see it by myself sorting their pics by downloading ... i see nothing similar to my stuff there and the few ones display no more than 50-100 downloads while on the other side their best selling are business images, patterns, cut-out widgets, flowers, and other *X&$#**X&$#**X&$#**X&$#* i would never even care about.
    so, if you shoot crap worth 1$/download, by all means go for micros and dont look back, as in any case you'll never join Getty or Corbis or Alamy in the first place so your chance are only in the micro mud.
     
  9. August Horvath [​IMG], May 19, 2009; 01:59 p.m.
    I would say, "go for it".
    Don't let people insult you by drawing inferences about what you think your work is worth. Those people are afraid of what their work is really worth. Professionals in any business hate competition, especially from amateurs who don't have to conduct business in an economically rational manner. They try like heck to keep such competitors out of the market by locking up distribution channels, promoting adherence to "industry standards," or just through social disapproval like you're seeing here. If those don't work, because amateurs can use new technology to circumvent their control over distribution and don't care what pros think, they have to fall back on the superior quality of their product. And for many of them, that does not provide much comfort. For some types of photography, a customer would be crazy not to use a pro. For others, he would be crazy to use one, at least until he had checked out the lower cost options.
    Stock images of subjects that are not very difficult or dangerous to capture are one area that the pros are going to have to cede to the crowd, if they have not already done so. Empty arguments that crowdsourced images are just "good enough" and pros' images are somehow better are not going to stop the tide of crowdsourcing, so you may as well join it. There will be some residual bellyaching for a while, but it will die down in time.​
    You're effectively saying that the justification for going into microstock is to explicitly undermine the value of photographs, or, more specifically, to undermine the rates available to people who rely on licensing for the bulk of their income. How about instead making the positive argument that microstock is actually worthwhile in practical terms (rather than simply satisfying the ego on some base level), or in otherwords, that it will enable contributors to actually earn a decent living, save for retirement, put the kids through university, or god forbid buy a house? At minimum, make the argument that amateur photographers who choose microstock over the rights managed model can at least expect to break even when considering all related expenses and their time.
    The reality is that most people who contribute to microstock take a massive net loss on their photography activities.
     
  10. Jeff:
    Sorry, I must have been unclear in my post about the gas-station. Or mayhap I'm just an old pinkie-commie who actually gives a d**n about the working conditions of the people putting together whatever it is I want to purchase. If I have my eyes on a specific sneaker and I get proof that they're put together by kids that gets paid a mere pittance, I'd go for some other brand. Maybe that's just me though.
    I'm all for people doing whatever they want to do as long as it's legal. I couldn't care less if all of Getty and Corbis went microstock tomorrow. Not my problem. All I wanted to get across that as a photographer, I'd like people to make an informed choice. If that's wrong somehow in your world-view, I can but humbly apologize.
    Mike
     
  11. Here's the thing that gets me about microstock and nobody has yet given me an answer that makes sense. I can understand the concept of needing some kind of micro-pricing. Small uses, limited amount of time etc. What I can't understand is why you would then take that micro-price and let somebody use the picture however they want.
    If somebody has a budget to pay hundreds if not thousands for a photo why would you give it to them for $1? I recently received a copy of a popular magazine, my oldest client in fact, and found a couple of microstock pictures used in large double page spreads. Something that would normally get in the $300 range. So would you rather get a $300 paycheck, and then get paid again and again every time somebody used the picture, or would you rather get $1 and hope that another 299 people liked your photo enough to use it, because once that one client has paid you that $1 they can use it again and again as many times as they like for free. It just doesn't make financial sense to me. I understand the concept of making it up in volume, but the idea of undercutting the entire photographic industry just to make a few dollars for yourself is just too selfish for me to comprehend.
     
  12. For me as a medium format pro, I look at stock agencies as a middle-man that skims money off my bottom line. To be successful in this envoronment of reduced pay rates by several of my clients, I must do my own marketing. This is an essential part of any photo business. If you opt to have the marketing part outsourced via micro or macro stock, you not only lose control of the marketing process but you end up with less money in the end (at least that's my experience).
     
  13. I will not pretend to know a lot about Stock Photography and therefore will not insult you or myself with advice.
    That being said, I did just pick up the June 2009 Shutterbug Magazine and they had an article that talked about some of the pros/cons of the different models for stock photography. It might be helpful to read if you haven't already.
     
  14. Hi,
    Very interesting debate with very valid arguments from both sides.
    I don't have much to add apart from that I am a semi-professional photographer and I do submit some of my work to certain stock agencies. While I agree they're a bunch of sharks cajoling the ego of beginners and wannabes it's also a great way to learn (through a lot of rejection) to strengthen one's photography. It certainly isn't for everyone and if I had a solid base of clients I would stop submitting them images. On the other hand some professional photographers who can separate "commercial" and "fine art" photography are doing very well with stock (see Yuri Arcurs).
     
  15. Thank you all for your comments, I deeply appreciate your opinions.
    Mikael, both Getty and Corbis "went microstock" (istockphoto, SnapVillage). Kindly click:
    http://www.stockphototalk.com/phototalk/2006/02/my_prediction_w.html .
    This website has recently become a good source of knowledge for me about this market.
    I wish I could offer a nice summary for our discussion, but still feel ambivalent about this issue.
    At work I often deal with people from advertising industry, so I performed an informal research :)
    The conclusion is that whenever possible, they would buy pics from microstock websites. But still, those images are often not "premium" enough, so one has to buy image from a macrostock website.
    Microstock has got a huge potential when it comes to generic themes like: nature, landscape, still life etc.
    But in demand are actually classy, stylish images of people.
    According to my interviewees these are images that are most desirable.
    They are not so likely to be found on for example Dreamstime.
    In order to take such images one needs to have a lot of visual experience, one needs to find suitable models (not your mum or girlfriend) and perform a photo session that will result in convincing and natural images. After such an effort a photographer would not be so willing to submit them to a microstock website, he/she would opt for a macrostock agency.
     

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