The MicroStock Debate Rages On!
The MicroStock debate rages on. Time Magazine recently purchased this image from iStockphoto for $150 and paid the photographer a $30 commission (corrected 9/12), when they would normally budget $3,000 for the cover. Who loses?
This is the big debate over MicroStock sites where you can sell your images for as little as $1. Is this the future of Stock Photography? Or a thorn in the side of the photography business.
As Time Magazine proves – everything is different in business now. Budgets are being cut, timelines are being squeezed and everyone is shopping for the best quality products for the lowest prices.
Read more on the debate online. Many “professional” photographers are against MicroStock sites because they’re cutting into their business profits. And I agree with the main idea – why would you sell your creative work for $1 (and earn a commission of $0.30)? But how else can a photographer, new to the game or a seasoned pro, sell their images online. Build a shopping photo gallery website, then market, advertise and sell yourself to get customers. Believe me, people sell images online all-the-time, and thousands of people make a living at photography every day (like my friend Anthony), with a book of regular clients and a reputation that keeps their business cranking along. But how does a photographer compete online – against $1 photograph sales on the MicroStock websites.
And who is buying images today? Advertisers, Marketers, Bloggers, Web Developers? Yes, and where are they buying from? Photo buyers are flocking to MicroStock websites like iStockphoto, StockXpert, Fotolia, BigStockPhoto and Dreamstime by the thousands. And photography download subscriptions like Shutterstock and jiUnlimited are fast growing in popularity.
So as a photographer – why not service the growing need for small, affordable images – available for fast and easy download online?
Who knows, but I’ve started to embrace this new trend and so far I’ve been successful at MicroStock online (well … successful as MicroStock goes). Its a quantity sales game and that is the argument against Micro sales. Why devalue your craft? Why sell an image for $1? There are many resources online that say you may wait months, even years before your images start to “cut through” and start making stock photo sales — but its QUALITY, CONCEPT and KEYWORDS that will bring you success in the ultra-over-crowded online world of stock photography. Sub-par images will sit for months of years. Good images will sell.
As a photographer, I’d have been excited if my image was “good enough” to make the cover of Time Magazine. And something I think the BLOG-heads on the web might be missing … TIME is making a point about the New Frugality and the current state of our economy. I might think they might have purchased the image from iStockphoto to help make a point.
Lee Torrens says:
$30 was the photographer’s commission, not the sale price. The real sale price was $150. It’s a fact that many conveniently forget in their argumentative articles, so it’s no surprise that it’s the figure you heard.
How cheeky that you outline the arguments against microstock yet include your microstock affiliate links! 😉 Fan those flames.
Is MicroStock the future of our business? I just asking the questions. I don’t mean to fan the flames, I mention that I’ve started participating at this level, I’m trying to get a perspective. As someone who’s worked in the creative business many years, I ask is THIS the future? Just as Royalty Free shook up the photography business 15 years ago, so do the micro sites.
Maybe we shouldn’t blame the MicroStock sites or the photographers – but the designers and photo editors/buyers that frequent these sites.
Lee Torrens says:
There’s only a need to “blame” if you think there’s something “wrong”. Microstock is the logical conclusion of digital photography and Internet distribution technological advances. It’s an effect, not a cause. A small number of photographers are upset because their profits are shrinking, but a massive number of photographers are benefiting from the open opportunities. If you stand beside those few upset photographers, your perspective is “who do we blame?”. Stand beside the large group of photographers (along with photo buyers) and your perspective is “who do we thank?”. We each choose where to stand.
Jacques Jangoux says:
I sell only RM (Rights Managed). Some agencies are still doing quite well. Useful is to have niche subjects that few other photographers or even nobody else has, and always attempt to improve, improve, improve the quality of your pictures. Many picture researchers, editors, even authors who use pictures don´t know of the existence of some niches, so market, market, market. It was difficult; I am beginning exploring social/business networks, and I see in them an opportunity to have people you would never have reached before know your work. Remember: if your picture is unique and the buyer badly needs it, they will pay any price for it.