Question for Microstock Photographers.

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by mormegil, Sep 6, 2005.

  1. I've recently signed up for 3 microstock sites: Shutterstock, iStockPhoto, and BigStockPhoto.
    Are these pretty much the big three that I should bother with? I know other sites may pay more per picture, but if they barely get any downloads, then it doens't even out.
    Right now on ShutterStock, I'm getting about $2/100 pics per day. I'm pretty happy with that (no model release pics).
    So I'd like to know which sites net you something comparable ($1/100 pics a day?)
    BTW: If someone is interested in ShutterStock, please use this link, as it'll give me a refferal (what I did from a different forum user): (thanks!)
  2. Talk about low expectations-

    If you value yourself and your work at 20 cents a download or $2 a day
    you might want to think about shooting a little higher.

    Honestly I find this offensive-

    Ok go ahead and tell me now that everyone is free to do what they want and $2 a day is better than $0 a day and it's greedy and immoral to expect money for your work, ect.

    But this is the Business Forum and this is Bad Business (for Photographers)
  3. Sorry to offend you. I'm just a hobbyist, and I didn't even post this onto the Business forum. It got moved here.

    I understand that traditional stock photography nets about $1/picture per year. So on a per photo basis, this makes sense to me. Plus, I don't have a huge portfolio, and can't break into the traditional stock photo houses.
  4. FYI, the average annual return of a photo at Getty Images is over $500 (both RM and RF). As for microstock, it does contribute to ruin photographers, so I would ask myself if it's worth doing for the amounts of money I would be getting from it. Of course, it is a personnal question that only you can answer. Terra Galleria Stock Photography.
  5. I figured this would be an okay subject to bring up, especially since it's listed as a featured site on

    I don't think $500/year return is realistic for me for 98% of the photos I've put up on ShutterStock. I'm not that good a photographer.

    But in case I actually am, how do I go about submitting images to GettyImages? I couldn't find a submission page on their website.

    Secondly, I only have about 5-10 really good images that I can legally put up, due to lack of model releases or license issues. Could I realistically get onto a website of that caliber?
  6. No. You also need to work on your web surfing skills :)
  7. So, if I'm not good enough for GettyImages (or have a robust enough portfolio), what's the beef if I go for a microstock site?

    I'm obviously not taking away business from you good photographers.

    As to my web surfing skills, I found no obvious submission area at (the US site). So perhaps they need a new web designer, or do not have or care for web based submission.
  8. I forgot to mention something.

    Concerning Microstock contributing to ruining photographers...that's a paradigm shift brought on by the Internet and prevalence of digital cameras. Designers will obviously want to pay $5 an image rather than $200. Unless you can change their minds, I doubt Microstock will dissapear.

    By the same token, Digital Photography is contributing to the ruin of people who work in film factories, enlarger manufacterers, dark room suppliers, and the entire film industry.

    I hope to God you don't dare shoot digital, and contribute to their ruin.
  9. So now your getting upset. Well that's good, at least you're thinking about it.

    Places like that are bad for so many reasons I don't have time to type what I think. One reason is they have so lowered standards it's horrible. Let;s be honest, I browsed around on that site and it;s full of the most mediocre to bad photography that could be passable as marketable. Now before you argue that everyone has the right to take photos and market them I totally agree with that. But as a person with any pride in what you do, wouldn't you rather go from being a bad photographer to being a better photographer? If the standards were higher wouldn't you have to try a little harder to improve your abilities to compete? Instead your told your great and $1 an image is perfectly acceptable for your work in this world. The guys at the top of that food chain are laughing their asses off, all the way to the bank. I realize this is a hobby for you and that;s great- If you're happy with $2 a day I guess that's fine but you're being played, and you're happy about it.

    I have many thoughts on this but no time this morning. I love the internet, it has allowed me to market myself like I never could 10 years ago. I don't feel threatened in any way by sites like this, they cater to a market I have no interest in being a part of.

    Go check out Alamy. You can get with them with just a few images, but thay have standards. Look around that site and see the difference in the quality of images. Perhaps it will motivate you to create better images, then when your first image sells for $200 instead of 20 cents you'll realize what I'm talking about,

    Good Luck and always work towards improving yourself.
  10. Thanks for the advice. I'll check out Alamy. I understand that I have to send in a CD, but if they'll take a few high quality images (instead of requiring a large portfolio), then that sounds resonable.

    As for the $2 a day, these images are just collecting dust on my harddrive. From my perspective, I don't mind putting them up on a site, and letting them sit there and collect "interest" ($2 / day is alot better than my savings account is doing right now). Perhaps in a year, It'll have paid for a lens without me doing much extra work.
  11. Jose, I hate to say this but you've totally undersold and undervalued yourself. I checked out your images on the Photonet portfolio, and you have some really nice images - some of which would have been perfect for RM Sales, and could have earned you some big money with the right buyer. A perfect expression shot could be worth thousands, or even 10's of thousands of dollars with the right use and right buyer. Instead you've basically decided that your images are worthless. Frankly, it's a shame. The big money comes from being able to offer a company exclusive rights - and especially for if you ever want to see your work published as cards & posters. However, once you've sold an image once for $0.20, you'll NEVER be able to offer the exlusive rights to that image - ever. It's almost sickening to see a photographer think so little of thier own worth, and the value of their art. Hobbiest or not - some of the best photographers on the planet are hobbiests - it doesn't mean your work should only be worth pennies. A Disgusting shame if you ask me...

    Gary Crabbe
    Enlightened Images
  12. Thanks for the complement... I guess.

    Unfortunately, my best images are taken at the San Diego Zoo or Wild Animal Park (which prohibits profitting from photos taken at their location) or I don't have model releases.

    So basically, I've got maybe 5-10 really marketable images. Unfortunately that's not enough to get into a traditional stock photo house. I also don't have the time (full time grad student) to pursue photography enough to build that kind of portfolio.

    And about undervaluing my work. Yes, they are undervalued on a per sale basis. But from a business standpoint, it might not be too bad if it evens out in payments over a year.

    So basically there are two ways to look at it for me - business and artist.

    As an artist I get more pride if my images sell for hundreds of dollars each sale. But realistically, I can't get into a tradtional stock house (due to my limited portfolio). I've also heard that the rule of thumb of stock is $1 per image per year.

    From the other standpoint, if I make only $0.20 per sale, but I'm selling each image 20 times a year, then I'm making $4 per image per year (4 times more). Since I don't have a way into traditional stock houses, I don't have a choice (I'll see how this goes with Alamy, since they'll take small portfolios).

    This is how I've been looking at this microstock situation:

    Yes it contributes to a flood of images available at a lower price. So each image is now "worth" less. But they may net more per year (not per sale). So theoretically, any stock photographer averaging $1 / image per year would do better with this model. The stock houses make a lot of profit, since they're now taking 80% commission instead of 20% (but have higher operating cost percentage per image). Designers are the real winners as they can now buy pics for super cheap.

    So it appears to me the people who lose the most are the traditional stock photographers and traditional stock houses.

    Of course this is all based on the "rule of thumb" of $1 per image per year. Quang-Tuan stated earlier in the thread that Getty Images pays an average of $500 per image per year. That's 500 times what I expected. If that number is typical, then all photographers are the real losers.

    Incidentally, at $500 per image per year, one could make $50,000 only 100 images alone!
  13. To be precise, the number I gave is the gross sales (it's actually closer to $700) before deduction of the agency's commission. Also, the return on Getty is higher than in other agencies. I gave this number only to show that the $1/year figure is grossly outdated.
    To submit to Getty, click on "About us" and then "Contributors". Surprising ? I hear it is common for photographers with a track record to submit thousands (strong) images and have only a few accepted.
    One of the main problems I have with RF is that the commissions are unfair to the photographers. It used to be that overhead was higher, but these days, most of RF images are licensed the same way as RM, with the same search engine and e-commerce mechanics, and they never require human intervention.
    Jose, personally, I prefer approaches that do not give me the feeling that I am devaluating myself, but there is some rationality in your calculations, and, contrarily to what you read, I am not blaming you for what is your personal choice, esp. if you are in grad school :).
    Terra Galleria Stock photography.
  14. QUOTE
    And about undervaluing my work. Yes, they are undervalued on a per sale basis. But from a business standpoint, it might not be too bad if it evens out in payments over a year. END QUOTE

    Oh My GOD! That is So disgustinglty Sad. "I lose money on each Sale, but hope to make it up in volume." - What a DUMB Business Premise. I have to go throw up now.

    Gary Crabbe
    Enlightened Images
  15. Here's Another one: Would you rather make 100 sales in a year and buy yourself half a tank of gas, or make one sale in a year and buy yourself a new camera lens? - This thread is a SHINING EXAMPLE of why so many artists are such DUMB Businesspeople.

    Gary Crabbe
    Enlightened Images
  16. "Here's Another one: Would you rather make 100 sales in a year and buy yourself half a tank of gas, or make one sale in a year and buy yourself a new camera lens? - This thread is a SHINING EXAMPLE of why so many artists are such DUMB Businesspeople."

    Obviously I would RATHER make one sale in a year and buy myself a new lens than $20.

    Realistically, can you guarantee that EACH and EVERY image I will sell at least once a year for the price of a lens?

    If so, sign me up. I'll put up my 100 picture portfolio, and expect to be able to buy 100 lenses in one year.

    Right now, I've got 100 pics up, and at this rate will net about $700 in a year from one site.

    You're right, I'm no businessman. I'm not even a professional photographer, I'm a full time student (I typically have enough time to spend 1 day a month shooting). But from what I understand about business, making $7 per image per year is better than $1 per image per year, which I understand is about average for stock photography.

    Plus, I can't get into a regular stock house because I only have 100 pictures in my portfolio.

    So, here's my new questions:
    1) What is the average return per picture per year on a traditional stock house?

    2) What size portfolio is typically required to sign on?

    3) What is the average selling price of a picture?

    4) How many times a year does a photo at a traditional stock house sell per year? Or per 5 years?
  17. The only stock house that is a public company is Getty. Privately owned companies do not publish their business results, but I suspect there is a huge variation.
  18. I think what Jose is trying to say is that he is of no competition to the pros when it comes to image quality, and certainly not when it comes quantity. If Galen Rowell, Gary or any other really talented photographer with a nice stock library decided to go this route then it'd be a cause for concern, but I don't think Jose is really doing anything wrong ethically considering where he says he is photographically and what his priorities in life are. It's a free market, capitalistic society and we each do what we do. Bottom line: Unless his work makes you jealous, then I wouldn't lose sleep over this.
  19. I'd also like to add, I've never seen RF work that truly was special. Go to any stock website that sells both, and you can see side by side which images are RM v.s. RF. You can usually spot the RF's without even seeing the label.

    Playing devil's advocate is pretty fun... That's why I like these boards better than the other photography board I'm on. There isn't pressure to be positive all the time, and it gets vicious on here sometimes.
  20. All other comment aside. If you've decide to go with microstock agencies and If you want to know more about it i.e which sites perform best etc. then try this site. You will see other peoples experience and they are more than happy to tell you how much they earn with how many pics etc.<p>


    With SS I'm getting around $3 per 100 pics per day

  21. Forgot the html for the link ;-) I just thought I'd add to this. I have around 380 images online with microstock agencies. My earnings for Septmember up to today 22nd are $165.00. That projects to $2,800.00 in a year for only 380 images. A traditional route through a standard stock library would earn me around $400.00 I believe based on average returns per image for traditional stock. Regards
  22. You know what, I changed my mind. I looked at this one guy's site linked from that microstock site named Roberto Brown and he's totally selling himself short with this micro stuff. Just like what Gary was saying. I'm sure Roberto is not the only talented photographer doing this sort of thing.
  23. In regards to iStockphoto paying out a 20 commission per download, it?s even worse than
    that. When they raised the rates on 1/05, they offered buyers a deal where they could buy
    credits at the old rate of .50 a credit?as many as they wanted and they are good for a
    year. This is great for the buyers, but the photographers get screwed on this one. They
    are unwittingly selling their photographs at half-price, without their consent. Nothing
    about this is mentioned in the agreements the photographers/designers sign on to.
    Fortunately for the people involved, this will end on 1/06.
  24. Maybe there should be Photographers' Union. And, unless you join the Union and obtain a Photographer's license, it should be illegal to sell any photos you might take. Also, the Union could set "minimum" or "floor" prices, so every photographer can have a "living" wage.

    I wonder how many of the purchasers on the "microstock" agencies actually used to purchase from the big, "macrostock" agencies? This whole thing sort of reminds me of the old argument that VCRs would kill the movie industry - that people would stop going to the movies and instead just pirate copies of VHS tapes. Well, it turned out that people still go to the movies and not only that, they rent and buy marginal movies, as well as the good ones. Sure, the market has changed, unless it's a good movie people tend to wait for the video. But, in the end, it seems the studios, actors, and consumers all have done better. Maybe the theaters suffer when the movies stink, but we now have video rental places, cable and satellite, and video retailers doing very well. Such is progress and a free market economy.

    Digital has changed the photography market, "microstock" is an example. Professional Photogs - wake up! I'm guessing the photography sales model will continue to change and evolve. Don't expect "microstock" to go away - expect to see more of them. So either figure out how to compete in this new model or find a new line of work.
  25. The real problem is that the regular guy, the one that is begining just don�t have either the portfolio or the quality to join Corbis, Getty or any other agency of the old guard. Even with high quality Getty still refuses many photographers each day. And the schemes of production and requirements are extremely high for the regular guy.

    I'm a MD and photography is just a hobby, for stress control. I shoot every day, just about anything I can get my hands on... Well...Since just one month ago I started in various fronts. Some RM type stuff sent for QC at Alamy (still waiting) some medium quality (at least by my standards) on medium agencies (not microstock, but not high paying) and regular stuff of RF nature on microstock. With a limited portfolio I am earning about $3 a day. It seems little, but if you extrapolate and calculate earning per foto per month and just keep adding up more pics then you set the daily return by yourself and even in a worst case scenario the returns are not bad. It is a volume business. It's not ideal, but the same amount of photos in a couple of medium agencies has produced me $0. I think Alamy is for my RM stuff, but for RF micros are where I find the best return.

    By the way different sites have different returns per photo. Its true the least is 20 cents, but there are sites of 50, 60 an more per photo. None is exclusive so there is no problem with same pics on different sites....
  26. I'm new to this, so this may have been asked & answered already, but here goes ...

    Can you list the same photos at multiple agencies/sites?
  27. My 2 Credits Worth

    I have recently joined iStockphoto after hearing about it from one of many podcasts and articles about it.

    Whilst I am very happy to include some shots that I have put together quickly specially for the site, or are shots where I am trying to learn something. I now feel that 20% is far too little for some shots where I have spend time and effort working on creating a great shot only to have it sold and I make 20 cents a time (and the exchange rate on the $ >> ? at the moment is rubbish).

    In the near future I will be putting together a collection of images that I feel represent good quality work for a RM agency. I will continue selling the less good quality work on to iStock (or images where I think that I will make more money with the on iStock).

    iStock offer an "exclusive photographer" program where the rate can"go up to 40% - but this is again not something I that I would say that something a photographer should be thinking about, You need to sell 500+ images to improve the rate - if you can sell 500 images I think you can upgrade to selling better quality stock. I look at it in terms of an hourly rate - if a photo took 1 hour to create and upload, I want at least $10 back from that image.

    The sad thing about iStock is that the isolation shots that I can knock up quickly sell for the same amount as the shot I got up at 4am and took ages working on.

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