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Steven Tritton

Do you believe there's still a future in microstock?

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Maybe a second question is what do you think microstock might look like in the future?

I only got started in February 2019 so a very short time in the history of stock / microstock photography. But I've read with interest from those who have been around for many years, even before the days of the internet, reflecting on their sales which amounted to hundreds and even thousands of $$$ for a single sale.

Then came digital photography and online sales and I've read from those who were around in the early years that near everything in the port was selling in those days. It looks like it's been a gradual downward trend ever since to where we are now. But how far that descends before contributors en masse call it a day is yet to be seen. What if royalties fall so low that making even double figures in a given month would be seen as a good month? I couldn't imagine too many with even half-decent quality ports having put in years of hard work and financial investment would settle for this. We can see this already beginning. Or maybe individual contributors will be somewhat forced into submitting their images and footage to stock marketplaces like Blackbox and Wirestock to see any decent return.     

Or what if it comes to the point where so many high quality contributors have moved out of microstock altogether, that the balance of power shifts back to contributors whereby stock sites are now forced to compete against one another for those quality contributors? That would be a great outcome. Wishful thinking perhaps but it has and does happen in some industries. Maybe microstock could evolve this way in the future.

The uncertainty of microstock as it stands would seem an impediment to motivation going forward.   

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Interesting thoughts. I don't foresee it as a substantive source of income long-term and I don't see it coming back, but I don't have a lot to go on. I've only been in the game since 2017. One thing I have found is that there are still ways to make money in photography that have nothing to do with microstock.

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It’s difficult to see a future at least for Shutterstock if the other big players are not following lowering their contributor fees. And if they do they are digging their own graves. The 10 cent policy is extremely demotivating for the contributors. I can’t help thinking they have special arrangements with the key supplies, if not they are facing huge troubles imo. One thing are us hobby-suppliers who almost give away the images but It must be quite different for people with lots of equipment making ‘big bucks’ - if any anymore?

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4 minutes ago, jai7678 said:

The root problem is those sites which give free images like unsplash and they are growing in numbers. So this is a huge concern too.

Agree. How in the world do they earn money - by ‘charity’ and ads ...? And is the long term strategy for Shutterstock in reality to become such a player? The whole thing is depressing.

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Steven, I think I am in mourning because every time you ask questions like this, I have this overwhelming sadness come over me that its the end of an era.

But on the positive side (if there is one) you can see from recent results on the Viral thread, that with the right image that is highly topical and you upload it earlier than your competition, or have a specialised niche with very little competition, or get featured on an agencies curated thread, there is still possible hope. 

But Steven, you live a niche market!! Western Australia is so beautiful, with much, much less competition. When the tourism industry starts up again, you should get more sales. Here in South Australia, it was the same. Back in 2016, I bought a GoPro, stuck it on the car, and drove all around the place. I now have hundreds of driving povs, and they have always sold very well, and for higher amounts because buyers use them as establishing shots, and you get more 4k and video ELs. Like I said, hardly any competition (unless Patrick catches up. 😉 LOL). 

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Microstock killed macrostock, freestock will kill microstock. Main problem imo is the way too low price of large subs package where DT and AS sell even cheaper than SS (they give more commission of course). With these, agencies don't make money. That was ok as long as the market was strongly growing, but now that it reach maturity it's getting a big problem for agencies to be profitable.

I don't boycott SS as without them my microstock pf would really bring peanuts but decided to boycott microstock as a whole and upload video exclusive at P5 and photos to Getty (no Istock). Despite all the bad that happens with them, I still have a RPD around 5 usd (was 50 in 2013). Anyway even with them, I see stock photography as a kind of lottery, tons of sales at a few cents price for the chance to sell a full licence once in a while.

While I was very lucky to enter Getty via the flick deal 10 years ago, I don't really understand very talented people here who didn't push to join a more exlusive agency (like stocksy) and concentrated 100% on micro.

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17 minutes ago, Milleflore Images said:

Steven, I think I am in mourning because every time you ask questions like this, I have this overwhelming sadness come over me that its the end of an era.

But on the positive side (if there is one) you can see from recent results on the Viral thread, that with the right image that is highly topical and you upload it earlier than your competition, or have a specialised niche with very little competition, or get featured on an agencies curated thread, there is still possible hope. 

But Steven, you live a niche market!! Western Australia is so beautiful, with much, much less competition. When the tourism industry starts up again, you should get more sales. Here in South Australia, it was the same. I bought a GoPro, stuck it on the car, and drove all around the place. I now have hundreds of driving povs, and they have always sold very well, and for higher amounts because buyers use them as establishing shots, and you get more 4k and video ELs. Like I said, hardly any competition (unless Patrick catches up. 😉 LOL). 

That's interesting and timely reminder about using a GoPro on the front of a car. I've done a couple of these kinds of videos too, including a driver's view past Australian Parliament House (live in Canberra). There's probably other roads I could capture like this. One of my other goals in life :) is actually to move back to Sydney, my hometown. I miss it as I spent most my life there and only moved to Canberra when I was 37 years old, 12 years ago. It's hard to fit in here anyway, but more to the point, for purposes of building my portfolios, Sydney offers many more places and landmarks that I would love to get photos and footage of. I have a few photos and vids when I have taken brief trips up there but relocating back there would be best I think anyway. Thanks for sharing your ideas, and for your positive views, really appreciate that.    

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11 minutes ago, AsiaTravel said:

Microstock killed macrostock, freestock will kill microstock. Main problem imo is the way too low price of large subs package where DT and AS sell even cheaper than SS (they give more commission of course). With these, agencies don't make money. That was ok as long as the market was strongly growing, but now that it reach maturity it's getting a big problem for agencies to be profitable.

I don't boycott SS as without them my microstock pf would really bring peanuts but decided to boycott microstock as a whole and upload video exclusive at P5 and photos to Getty (no Istock). Despite all the bad that happens with them, I still have a RPD around 5 usd (was 50 in 2013). Anyway even with them, I see stock photography as a kind of lottery, tons of sales at a few cents price for the chance to sell a full licence once in a while.

While I was very lucky to enter Getty via the flick deal 10 years ago, I don't really understand very talented people here who didn't push to join a more exlusive agency (like stocksy) and concentrated 100% on micro.

Interesting points and background AsiaTravel. How have you found P5 exclusive for video? Has it been worth it for you instead of spreading your files across the sites? 

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16 minutes ago, Steven Tritton said:

Interesting points and background AsiaTravel. How have you found P5 exclusive for video? Has it been worth it for you instead of spreading your files across the sites? 

Sorry, can't help here as I have just started a new exclusive account there. Sales were not bad at P5 before the pandemic (I do travel, so I have been hit hard on sales) but SS was still better. Now with both the new structure which will impact me more on video than on photo and their new subscription model, I really expect SS video income to crash, so P5 make sense. For now, while I don't upload anything anymore at SS, I still keeping my port to see how sales goes once the pandemic is over. I believe it's good to wait a bit to see how things move before going too much on exclusive account.

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For the general question people need to look at the opposite side of the scales - there is still high demand for images - in fact as far as I can tell demand for images is still on the up as more and more sites swap images more and more often.
However the qualifier to that that is the what quality of images are demanded - where for large chunks of the market shots taken on a mobile phone suffice the requirement for the expensive equipment is not there, and the need to earn higher amounts is not there, and the result is free stock companies.

6 hours ago, Steven Tritton said:

 

Or what if it comes to the point where so many high quality contributors have moved out of microstock altogether, that the balance of power shifts back to contributors whereby stock sites are now forced to compete against one another for those quality contributors? That would be a great outcome. Wishful thinking perhaps but it has and does happen in some industries. Maybe microstock could evolve this way in the future.

 

As for the specific point above - dont we all consider ourselves to be the quality contributors - and is part of the whole that there is a much smaller group who are even better quality contributors who already have special terms or the bespoke agencies and are making the money?

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2 hours ago, AsiaTravel said:

While I was very lucky to enter Getty via the flick deal 10 years ago, I don't really understand very talented people here who didn't push to join a more exlusive agency (like stocksy) and concentrated 100% on micro

I joined Robert Harding, an exclusive “premium” travel agency and although they were sweethearts, the sales were very low and only slightly better than micros.

I’ve tried Stocksy many times and was not accepted which is fair enough as I don’t work with lifestyle model released.

Been trying to get into Getty via the backdoor of EyeEm but not sales.

Having good results with a Arcangel on the book cover market and investing heavily on there.

Overall, I think there’s a future with micros but it means that the pie is divided between increasingly more contributors. Depending on one’s life circumstances, it may make sense to continue or not. Working with clients on commissioned work is much more profitable and glad that submitting to micros has given me skills to offer my services in that segment.

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11 minutes ago, Alexandre Rotenberg said:

Working with clients on commissioned work is much more profitable

Almost everything is more profitable ..! 🤣

11 minutes ago, Alexandre Rotenberg said:

submitting to micros has given me skills to offer my services in that

Agree 👍

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There never was a sustainable future. This industry was dying since the day the subscription model was introduced. 

The reason SS survived this long is because they knew and know how to sell better than anyone and diversity in their businesses. Especially not in the beginning, they were not a media company, there were a tech company. They still are. This thirst for new technology, ,marketing, and diversity kept kept them ahead of the competition 

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1 hour ago, Alexandre Rotenberg said:

I’ve tried Stocksy many times and was not accepted which is fair enough as I don’t work with lifestyle model released.

Well, why not starting then? I believe if someone bet on stock photography to be a significant part of their income in the future, they really have to get out of the "low hanging fruits" of travel and secondary editorial where tons of people can compete. Have to keep cost low of course. I should start to follow my own advice ;)

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Lifestyle model released photos makes lots of sales and $$$ - from what I have read. I was wondering if it was a typo when View Apart posted $2.1k for one month earnings early this year with a port of about 2500 lifestyle images - and that was just on Shutterstock. But how to get a few or more people to model for photos when you live in an area with no close friends or family? It isn't easy or it's otherwise costly and I'm not good at asking people for such favors even if I know them, such as work colleagues for example, Maybe some young local beginner models or something and pay $50 each for one hour and have everything ready to go including concept, props, location and lighting etc. I could drop a couple of hundred dollars on photography shoots like this if I knew there was some traction on sales. 

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I don't see much of a future in microstock, except some extra pocket money.  Even before the commission change, my images and videos were only making double-digits $$ per month, enough to pay one of my smaller bills or buy some of my groceries every 2 months.  I pretty much bailed out of contributing a year ago. 

Every now and then I get lucky:  I had one single image sell for $103.17 back in March 2020!  That was nice, a welcome surprise!  It's like winning the lottery, as another said.

As far as other ways to make money with photography and video, the closest I've come has been in family events like weddings.  Family events are extremely rushed, disorganized, people get drunk, they expect the moon and want to pay bottom dollar for it.  The promise of stock photography, aside from substantial residual income, was NO CLIENTS to deal with! 

Commercial photography seems sewed up, impossible to get into, and real estate photography involves going thou$and$ into equipment debt to get maybe $200 per shoot.

Now that there doesn't seem to be any money in photography and video, what the hell do we do, sell insurance?  I'm working for very low wages as a security guard, in weird locations in haphazard hours that are subject to change on a moment's notice on very little sleep sometimes.  There's got to be a better way to make money...

In the world of stock, I definitely see contributors selling on our own websites as the future.  It's all a question of how much money web hosting and marketing costs versus what the monetary returns are.  We as individuals are not going to have the vast market reach these large agencies have, but if several of our images or videos are selling for $100 a pop or more per month, the money will add up.

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4 hours ago, Steven Tritton said:

Lifestyle model released photos makes lots of sales and $$$ - from what I have read. I was wondering if it was a typo when View Apart posted $2.1k for one month earnings early this year with a port of about 2500 lifestyle images - and that was just on Shutterstock. But how to get a few or more people to model for photos when you live in an area with no close friends or family? It isn't easy or it's otherwise costly and I'm not good at asking people for such favors even if I know them, such as work colleagues for example, Maybe some young local beginner models or something and pay $50 each for one hour and have everything ready to go including concept, props, location and lighting etc. I could drop a couple of hundred dollars on photography shoots like this if I knew there was some traction on sales. 

Not my area, but it would seem logical to offer photos for their portfolios in exchange, rather than paying cash - for beginner models and actors etc. I'm sure there are ways of getting around costly shoots if it benefits both party's. Just a thought.

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10 hours ago, Mike Kuhlman said:

I don't see much of a future in microstock, except some extra pocket money.  Even before the commission change, my images and videos were only making double-digits $$ per month, enough to pay one of my smaller bills or buy some of my groceries every 2 months.  I pretty much bailed out of contributing a year ago. 

Every now and then I get lucky:  I had one single image sell for $103.17 back in March 2020!  That was nice, a welcome surprise!  It's like winning the lottery, as another said.

As far as other ways to make money with photography and video, the closest I've come has been in family events like weddings.  Family events are extremely rushed, disorganized, people get drunk, they expect the moon and want to pay bottom dollar for it.  The promise of stock photography, aside from substantial residual income, was NO CLIENTS to deal with! 

Commercial photography seems sewed up, impossible to get into, and real estate photography involves going thou$and$ into equipment debt to get maybe $200 per shoot.

Now that there doesn't seem to be any money in photography and video, what the hell do we do, sell insurance?  I'm working for very low wages as a security guard, in weird locations in haphazard hours that are subject to change on a moment's notice on very little sleep sometimes.  There's got to be a better way to make money...

In the world of stock, I definitely see contributors selling on our own websites as the future.  It's all a question of how much money web hosting and marketing costs versus what the monetary returns are.  We as individuals are not going to have the vast market reach these large agencies have, but if several of our images or videos are selling for $100 a pop or more per month, the money will add up.

Appreciate your thoughts Mike! I tried real estate photography too and while I haven't given it up I had put it on the shelf for the time being when I discovered microstock. The market I am in for real estate photography (Canberra Australia) is highly competitive and a lot of talent in a smallish population so hard to break in to.

Yet, I know someone down Batemans Bay in  a population of just 17,500 who is making six figures in this business. It took him about 4 years to build up to it. Real estate photography can be good because you don't have to photograph people but... I agree with you that you still have to deal with clients, market to people and deal with them on the business side of things.

The other thing is it is not passive income unlike stock so you need the time outside work hours to do the shoots. But for someone who has a bit of ambition, some spare time and energy, and can market effectively, this is one genre of photography I think is easier than weddings. Also, you can do some good quality shots of real estate with just a few techniques without expensive equipment and just a good camera and tripod, Lightroom and Photoshop. I see quite a few people on real estate photography Facebook groups do well in this too. But for me I am not great at marketing and in a highly competitive saturated market it is difficult at best to get into. The few jobs I got were from those I did one free shoot for to get a portfolio for my website but hadn't got one client from marketing cold, albeit by email or mailchimp.

I also agree there has to be a better way to make money. I been experimenting with things for years and so far, if even sadly, microstock (even with my mediocre results) has turned out to be the best of them all. Blogging and freelance writing were pitiful, even large companies didn't want to pay you anything. I was published in a few magazines and the Sydney Morning Herald on one occasion (https://www.clippings.me/users/steve). Website building might be okay if you have the technical skill which I don't. I've built a couple of basic websites (example http://www.stphotography.net.au/) but nothing I feel confident with charging sufficient rates to make it worthwhile.     

 

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7 hours ago, Linda Bestwick said:

Not my area, but it would seem logical to offer photos for their portfolios in exchange, rather than paying cash - for beginner models and actors etc. I'm sure there are ways of getting around costly shoots if it benefits both party's. Just a thought.

Yes thanks Linda. You reminded me of something there. In my area we call it Trade For Print (TFP). I guess that would be one way though I usually see these with more modelling type photo shoots in exchange for photos rather than lifestyle. 

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7 hours ago, Linda Bestwick said:

Not my area, but it would seem logical to offer photos for their portfolios in exchange, rather than paying cash - for beginner models and actors etc. I'm sure there are ways of getting around costly shoots if it benefits both party's. Just a thought.

Yes Linda, I believe that's very commonly done - especially when aspiring models and photographers are starting out. Indeed, they both benefit in that both photographer and model get to build up their experience and their portfolio and there is no exchange of cash. It's a nice arrangement and I'm thinking of doing this myself one day. However, if you're doing the photo shoot for stock photography in which the goal is to make money from the images, the model may view this differently. I may well be wrong but it might be harder to get a model to go the TFP route if this is a commercial venture. He or she may expect payment in such instances. Though I guess it wouldn't hurt to at least ask if the model is happy to do TFP for a photo shoot for stock. 

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