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Microstock. Is it so bad?

pj.morley 18 947 United Kingdom
16 Aug 2005 2:36PM
I'm curious what others think. I have an idea that some of tyou will be so disgusted that you'll simply refuse to respond to this thread Wink

Microstock? Good or bad?

For those that don't know. Microstock is a term that is being used to describe the business model used by some relatively new stock agencies that sell your photos on your behalf.

So what's so bad about that then?

Well, unlike the big companies like Alamy that sell your pics for a couple of hundred dollars and usually give you more than half of that as your commission, microstock libraries sell your pictures for as little as $1.00..

yes that's right, $1.00 or about 54p.

Of that, you get typically somewhere between 20 cents PER SALE..

Not only that but your images are sold as Royalty Free...

So you've just sold a picture for a commission of 10p..

The theory is that because they sell for so little, you will sell in volume, maybe 5 or 6 sales per day for the same picture which all adds up.

Big traditional libraries may make you a couple of hundred dollars per sale but then sales may be very infrequent. Maybe 1 sale per year for every 100 photos you have in the library on average..

So is this a flash in the pan or is the world of stock undergoing a paradigm shift, especially where royalty free images are concerned.
Orrill 15 28
16 Aug 2005 2:45PM

I agree with everything in the above link.
pj.morley 18 947 United Kingdom
16 Aug 2005 5:10PM
But maybe the market is changing. After all, there was a similar backlash against royalty free v rights managed.

The reality is that with the advent of digital cameras (everyone is a photographer) and the fact that there is a massive population of small business designers that can't or won't pay the high prices charged normally for stock photography then this is the way it will go, for royalty free at least.

There will probably always be a market for high priced exclusive photos but a large proportion of publishing in the world is small scale brochures, leaflets, even church flyers etc. Those people aren't going to pay 200 for limited use of a photo.

I guess what will happen is that there will be a small percentage of people that refuse to become part of the microstock culture claiming that their pictures are on sale for 200 . But what use is a picture with a 200 price tag if it doesn't sell. Isn't a 1.00 picture with several sales worth more?

I'm not taking sides here. Just playing devils advocate although I have dabbled a little in microstock and to be honest, have made more money in 3 months selling that way than I have in the last 2 years with traditional stock sales.

Ahem..ready for the onslaught Wink
Orrill 15 28
16 Aug 2005 8:50PM
All I can say is, you think your sales were infequent before, imagine if everyone went to microstock because people such as yourself end up killing the current market, with all those millions of images your gonna get even more infequent sales and its not gonna be 50 - 200 your getting infrequently, its gonna be 50p - 1.

Sounds sh*t doesn't it.
Fujiconvert 16 1.3k England
16 Aug 2005 9:26PM
I totally agree with Gareth.
BradUK 16 553 3 England
16 Aug 2005 10:36PM
If you were never going to consider trying 'proper' stock photography work (lack of time, equipment or inclination to produce 50mb+ files etc), would say it could be a useful way of making a small amount of money.

However, it is unlikely ever to change the current market as for a company that uses the big boys now can't afford to use the cheap systems as they will be flooded with photos not of the quality required and the time taken to find something suitable will end up costing more them more in the long run.
User_Removed 17 17.9k 8 Norway
16 Aug 2005 10:46PM
SixGunZ 16 71
19 Aug 2005 2:01AM
I was looking into using a stock library for some of my shots....

The larger companies ask you to send a CD, with "unedited" shots.

The reason for this is the onus is on the buyer to do any tweaking themselves, and can always refer back to an original. Also, holding the original means you can prove the shot is yours.

The larger companies will scrutinise your shots for any defects (modifications, quality of shot, proper dimensions, etc) and if any are found, they return the whole CD to you saying they cant use it!!

I would think the smaller companies would let you send anything, would probably allow smaller sizes and have an upload facility rather than sending a CD. They probably wouldn't quality test your shots, so you get less of a service and less back on your end result.

The larger companies offer a service to their customers ensuring they only have the finest shots and for that their customers pay a higher price. That is fair I think.

If you are a pro this is probably the way to go, but if you're just looking to make some quick money on some shots, then the MS is the way to go...
joolsb 16 27.1k 38 Switzerland
19 Aug 2005 3:44AM
I've made my views known on this subject in the past so I'll try not to go over well-trodden ground. Basically, my feeling is that there is space in the marketplace for both business models and I see no reason why people should take such polarised viewpoints.

Imagine you're a web designer. You need maybe a 50 * 150 pixel image at 72dpi to fill a space, create a mood, emphasise a point, etc., etc. How would you feel if all you could get were beautifully presented 50Mb images at 100 a throw? All that resolution is totally wasted on the Web.

Now imagine you're prepaparing a textbook on say Mongolian table etiquette and need some top-quality A4 images to use as illustrations. You aren't going to go to a micropayment site as you can't guarantee the quality. However, you could go to a site like PD, put up a request for a shot of some Mongolians eating supper, and pretty soon you'll have a dozen high-quality images delivered to you...

Like it or not, the stock marketplace is evolving and there are new media out there with much lower quality requirements which are not well served by the traditional model. This is where the microsites score. Why should this imply that more established sites will suffer? Are the likes of Getty and Corbis thinking of shutting up shop? I very much doubt it.
UserRemoved 17 4.2k
19 Aug 2005 4:01AM
Then of course Julian you get emails like...

How much for photo x of yours.

*quotes licence fee with a bit of discount*

Oh. Thats wayy too much.

Well what were you thinking of.

Well I can get similar shots to yours for about $2.

Similar? Or the one you want?

Or even worse...

Can you go out and get us a photo of x, y and z.

Certainly that will be a half day.

Oh. We were thinking more about 30 the lot as we can get similar shots of different places for 10 and thought 20 for petrol money.

I think not.
If anyone thinks they can make money from microstock sites, they really need their head read. Have a look at the T+Cs for some sites. They wont pay unless your account reaches 100 or $100 dollars. Thats an awful lot of 10p sales. 1000 to be precise. 1 sale on Alamy or thereabouts.
If your shots are good enough to sell, they are good enough to sell full stop. If you 'sell' 900 you are giving your pics away and will never see a penny.

Dont just think web sales are the start of it, It has been shown that a 500 pixel full quality jpeg can be printed out 14cm wide quite reasonably with the right software.
joolsb 16 27.1k 38 Switzerland
19 Aug 2005 5:06AM
Thanks Joe. I appreciate your point of view as a working pro and I agree... to a point.

There will always be a market for those who want precisely the right image to fit their requirements and who are willing to pay for quality and exclusivity. There is also a market for people who are looking to fill a corner of a website cheaply or who need to put out a small flyer, say, and do not wish to pay a large sum of money for resolution they do not need or, indeed, perfect photography.

You, and many pros, are worried about losing this segment of the stock market. My argument is that this is a segment that never really existed before the advent of the Net...

Over on the print side, designers who put together advertising at the lower end of the market would perviously have used stock, royalty-free, artwork, supplied cheaply by artists in much the same way as photographers are now able to do.

At the top-end, advertisers have always commissioned photographers to provide exclusive images.

I do not see a problem here.

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