Jump to content
Steven Tritton

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

Recommended Posts

Microstock has steadily trended downward for years. As long as there are people willing to sell their photos for pennies on the dollar SS will continue to pay slaves' wages. Yesterday it was 38 cents. Today it's 10 cents. Tomorrow 4 cents? Maybe a bowl of soup. I think it's only a matter of time before AS does something similar. Anyway Shutterstock's door is always open for kids with iPhones, beginners, hobbyists, and desperate people from developing countries. I think this is where they're headed in the future. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Steven Tritton said:

The other thing is it is not passive income unlike stock so you need the time outside work hours to do the shoots.

 

For some people, real estate photography shoots are the work hours!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Sharkshock said:

Anyway Shutterstock's door is always open for kids with iPhones, beginners, hobbyists, and desperate people from developing countries. I think this is where they're headed in the future. 

😮

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am now in my third year of MS. 
So I haven't been through the golden ages, nor do I know the insurrection against IS, nor do I know anything about the Dollarphotoclub story. `
As far as the MS "industry" is concerned, I am still a newbie. 

However, the fact that the entire MS industry has no future was taught to me in the first days. 
And already 3 years ago the lyrics in the posts were hardly different from today.
Not only the same arguments, but often even the same words.

But I also see that the latest action of SS has a new quality. It really has what it takes to herald the death of MS. 
In this case, one would still have to distinguish between the death of MS and that of SS. 

If the other agencies follow SS, it will be the death of MS, at least in its present form. 
Amateurs like me, who like to take the money, but do not necessarily need it, will only be marginally affected. 
The whole MS market will then turn into a hobby event.  
I am not sure if I would find that bad.

If the other agencies don't follow SS and, more importantly, if the buyers of SS move away, it will be bad for SS. 
Although this IMO will happen in January, when the real club comes down. 
It will happen quietly, not with the big storm in a teacup that we are experiencing right now. 

But maybe it's exactly what SS wants. A stronger separation of hobby and professionalism.  

We shall see. 


 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, geogif said:

I am now in my third year of MS. 
So I haven't been through the golden ages, nor do I know the insurrection against IS, nor do I know anything about the Dollarphotoclub story. `
As far as the MS "industry" is concerned, I am still a newbie. 

However, the fact that the entire MS industry has no future was taught to me in the first days. 
And already 3 years ago the lyrics in the posts were hardly different from today.
Not only the same arguments, but often even the same words.

But I also see that the latest action of SS has a new quality. It really has what it takes to herald the death of MS. 
In this case, one would still have to distinguish between the death of MS and that of SS. 

If the other agencies follow SS, it will be the death of MS, at least in its present form. 
Amateurs like me, who like to take the money, but do not necessarily need it, will only be marginally affected. 
The whole MS market will then turn into a hobby event.  
I am not sure if I would find that bad.

If the other agencies don't follow SS and, more importantly, if the buyers of SS move away, it will be bad for SS. 
Although this IMO will happen in January, when the real club comes down. 
It will happen quietly, not with the big storm in a teacup that we are experiencing right now. 

But maybe it's exactly what SS wants. A stronger separation of hobby and professionalism.  

We shall see. 


 

 

I agree full heartedly with every word you said above. It makes little to no difference to me if my port here reaches payout level a month or not. No more new effort on my part, that's for certain. If it won't make steady payout say for 2-3 months, I will disable it. I am slowly shifting my port to AS. But review and acceptance is excrutiatingly slow there for me. Perhaps faster for older, established big contributors. Dunno. But other than AS and perhaps Alamy (if I ever figure out what may sell there!), I can't figure any other site that motivates me the slightest (!) that I throw in my existing photos (!) and already existing keywords, etc to try my luck. These other agencies can "st..ck" their 10 cents. That kind of "payment" (regardless of your level or tier) is more irritating than if they had paid nothing!! Seriously!! Just inform me that such and such pic of mine was downloaded (at $3.40 to SS and zero to me) and I would know that it was still useful to somebody. And maybe they pay 10 cents to charity from that!?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So here's what I think and I'm being somewhat hopeful (maybe even unrealistically so) in this entire "Doom and Gloom" scenario.

The fault for the current terrible state of stock photography partly lies with "Buyers", because they are the ones going to agencies that give them the cheapest rates. But there's going to come a point when these cheap rates are going to become unsustainable for agencies, especially the big agencies who need to pay six figure salaries to CEOs and pay dividends to stock holders. So the ecosystem is inevitably going to collapse at some point and they're all going to die. The free stock agencies aren't going to survive for too long either (sites like pixabay are already struggling) because they're going to realise that they need money to pay for the rising costs of backend and storage and they have lost out on all the microstock sponsorship money. So very few players would be left standing.

But... "Buyers" are still going to need images, especially cheap images. This would create demand and the few that are still left standing would have the golden opportunity to raise their prices because of lack of competition and increase in demand. This might lead to future photographers making more money. This might happen next year or might take a few years but this is how I see events unfold in the future.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Times change, industries change, companies change, technologies change, nothing stays the same and that is as true of microstock as it is of everything else. Remember when Kodak was an industrial colossus? Remember when film processing labs handled tens of thousands of films every day? Remember when you had to go to a travel agent to book a flight or a hotel? Remember when you had to go to a bank or post office to pay your bills?

I'm sure there is a future in microstock but I don't think we can predict what that future is.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've always thought that reward in $$$ for effort/energy expended should be proportional and now there is insufficient reward for any new effort invested. I basically stopped uploading 2 years ago and my monthly earnings have hardly changed since then. When, due to whatever changes SS made to algorithms/huge increase in database and contributors, I saw my earnings drop from ~$300+/month (2015 with 500-600 images) to around $100/now (with 900 images) I decided that any new effort was not being sufficiently  rewarded and stopped feeding the beast.

I started in 2012 when SS had around 30K? contributors and 30 million images. It now has 1 million contributors and 300+ million images. In order to compete/stand still, I would have had to (theoretically) increase my portfolio size between 10 and 30-fold. Now that's a lot of (too much for me) work just to stand still. For SS this is, of course, fantastic. This is 'crowdfunding' using images instead of penny amounts. Even one-hit wonders make some money whilst SS makes out like a tech company was intended to do when they can garner 10K one-hit-wonders to their fold. The only problem for us 'oldies' is that for every 'great' image that SS gathers to its collection, they let in hundreds or thousands of pretty much useless images which dilute the collection and make it almost impossible for new images to get traction (no matter how good they may be). In 2012 when I got into SS, I first looked at macro-stock images and decided that if I could produce similar quality but at SS prices I could do OK. In those days, images even in the most popular categories stayed on the first few pages of 'NEW' for a number of days which gave my new images a fair chance of being seen. A fast sale in 'NEW' led to more sales and pretty soon you were in the first pages of 'POPULAR'. Now, your image in 'NEW' is may be only on the first page for minutes and is down below page 5 within a day. You need a buyer looking for new, fresh images in that category every hour or less on that one day in order to stand a chance of making a sale.......seems more like a lottery to me than a business.

When I started, I did well with food but that too has been done to death with the advent of the smartphone (which I don't own)! Fortunately, I have a couple of old clients with commissioned work every year. A couple of hours Photoshopping for them brings in more than a month at SS and actual photography for them is even better paid than that. I have to do a sort-of popup studio on location and lugging heavy gear and studio strobe is getting 'heavier' by the year but I will continue to do it as long as I'm physically capable and as long as they're happy with the result because the $$$$ reward is sufficient compensation for the effort (even though my hourly rate has remained the same since 2007). That work makes me feel 'valued' as a photographer and it's all I've know since the mid 80's whereas microstock is now starting to feel like abuse and sacrifice to the corporate Mammon. 

I'm waiting to see how things go until the end of the year (@30%) but unless there's compensation for the teenie subs with larger subs and decent ODDs/SODs, I'll be out before Jan 2021 when I'll be out anyway (no reset for me).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First started in micros with iS in 2007 but only had a hundred or so images there. Quite a few shots were even digitized from slide film that I had taken from the late 70's on. Sold a few but then discovered FT at which I could get exclusivity with better pay (with hindsight a mistake). That was going quite well considering the fact that I only had perhaps 500 images there. Then they introduced Dollar Photo club and I opted out. I had a couple of good sellers at FT that sudden dropped to zero within a couple of weeks of opting out. In disgust, I dropped exclusivity, deleted my previous best-sellers and applied to SS which I thought at the time was 'too high' for me! Submitted my 10 shots and all were accepted first time and one best-seller I deleted from FT has now sold almost 4,000 times here. Just goes to show what algo tinkering can do to an individual contributor because it certainly wasn't a problem with the commercial value of the photo.

I'm very lucky to gotten started in photography when I did (mid '80s last century!!). Then, there were two main barriers to entry. One was simply the price of equipment especially as a studio photographer. Without always buying new and the top makes of gear (Hensel strobe instead of Broncolor and Mamiya RB instead of Hasselblad and second-hand Sinar) my studio inventory was still around $100K plus $1K/month rental for the premises. The second was finding a client who could trust you enough from viewing your portfolio to give you a first chance. There, I was really lucky as a Brit in NL. as, unbeknown to me, British photographers were 'IN' and I just happened to come across an art director at a provincial ad agency who was also an Anglophile. He was  sort of freelance, moved around a lot and brought me a load of clients. I was still a bit of a cheapo studio photographer (my day-rate then converted to euro would be around €600/day) but I made a lot of money in those early years despite being provincial with provincial clients and corresponding rate per hour. The top photographers in Amsterdam were charging €1500-2000/day and nobody was called 'artist' either! Still, I made the fatal mistake of becoming too dependent on one ad agency client who offered me an in-house photo-studio within his agency and when I declined (because he loved having power over his minions) he never gave me another commission! Just as well I didn't do his bidding as he went belly up a couple of years later!

Another great stroke of luck is that I'm retired and that any income over and above my state pension is a nice bonus but which does not mean that I'll allow myself to be sacrificed on the altar of corporate greed. Like others I have also tried the more exclusive agencies but so far without success. Trouble is, I just can't stop shooting but it would be nice to have an 'appreciative' outlet and until such time that I find one the work will just pile up on the hard drive! The vanity of it all!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 6/20/2020 at 3:00 PM, AsiaTravel said:

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 ;)

I don't bet on stock photography to be a significant part of my income in the future

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know what has happened to my portfolio, it is almost as if a switch has been flicked as I have had no downloads since holding off from uploading new images earlier this month. Anyhow, I have looked at other sites but I cannot really summon up the energy to upload everything again, my enjoyment has gone. I am also on Alamy which has so few downloads I have never reached a payment, and AS which is better but with only half my portfolio as they don't take Editorial. The income is pocket money but I won't put in the effort for someone else to profit at my expense. Apart from seeing downloads and where they were made I enjoyed researching photos such as plant names and data and have learned rather a lot as a result, and even bought a small pocket camera specifically for impromptu stock photos when out and about. Will I bother any more? Not at the present time but maybe later.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm SS contributor since 2006. I've seen ups and downs, lows and highs and everything in between. The overall long-term trend is unfortunately heading south. This is totally normal due to various factors but most importantly market saturation & massive competition. I said back in 2010-2011, the future of macrostock lies in video and animation content. If you were good in these two segments, the sales numbers didn't suffer that much. Fast forward to 2020 and we can see that even this production went through substantial decline which is once again totally normal. The future of microstock doesn't look so bright ... at least for artists who make living out of it. I've seen way too many contributors who tried to boost sales with increased production efforts....inevitably, everybody reaches the point where their highest possible output is not sufficient enough to keep that income somewhat flat & steady.

For me, it was a great run. I sold a lot of content on SS and I'm definitely thankful for that. Now, it's time to move on and find other business venues and opportunities.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 6/21/2020 at 1:29 AM, Blue Corner Studio said:

I am slowly shifting my port to AS. But review and acceptance is excrutiatingly slow there for me. Perhaps faster for older, established big contributors. Dunno.

I and another contributor have been seeing long review times on AS. (And both of us have been with them for some time.) Small batches of mine have taken at least 10 days.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I do see a future for microstock, but it's going to look very different than what a lot of you are used too.

I'm seeing more and more illustrators and photographers sell their work as digital bundles on website like CreativeMarket and TheHungryJPEG. I honestly think that's the way to go.

Not sure about clips. But I do know that unless you're willing to adapt and try new things, you're going to fail. 

I still sell my work on AS because they pay far better than SS and I've always done well on FT/AS anyways. But should they ever follow SS's example and lower payments, I'll happily remove my 1k+ illustrations off of AS.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was here talking about the future in micro is one image = one sale. Six months ago, I was talking about that SS earning model will be changed as IS in the next two years. Now I'm gonna say that there is no future. This business model is outdated.

The aggregators affiliated with search engines and media will replace them.  Based on blockchain or more traditional.  It's easy to do when you have money.  Who's is first I don't know...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 6/21/2020 at 1:00 AM, geogif said:

I am now in my third year of MS. 
So I haven't been through the golden ages, nor do I know the insurrection against IS, nor do I know anything about the Dollarphotoclub story. `
As far as the MS "industry" is concerned, I am still a newbie. 

However, the fact that the entire MS industry has no future was taught to me in the first days. 
And already 3 years ago the lyrics in the posts were hardly different from today.
Not only the same arguments, but often even the same words.

But I also see that the latest action of SS has a new quality. It really has what it takes to herald the death of MS. 
In this case, one would still have to distinguish between the death of MS and that of SS. 

If the other agencies follow SS, it will be the death of MS, at least in its present form. 
Amateurs like me, who like to take the money, but do not necessarily need it, will only be marginally affected. 
The whole MS market will then turn into a hobby event.  
I am not sure if I would find that bad.

If the other agencies don't follow SS and, more importantly, if the buyers of SS move away, it will be bad for SS. 
Although this IMO will happen in January, when the real club comes down. 
It will happen quietly, not with the big storm in a teacup that we are experiencing right now. 

But maybe it's exactly what SS wants. A stronger separation of hobby and professionalism.  

We shall see. 


 

 

Since you´re new you haven´t figured out that there are very smart people out there, and those people figured out around 2007 that the way to make it big is to gather a group of talented people and start a production company like the case of monkey business in the UK. They produce high quality video and photo content on a mass scale so for them sales under the new structure keep them going. It´s the amateur and lone photographers like me that are in trouble. Then theres other smart guys like the black box guys that create a bigger filter of content for MS. I thought of joining but they only work with paypal. The big picture if for high quality mass content maintenance and constant creation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 minutes ago, Cappelletti_pictures said:

Since you´re new you haven´t figured out that there are very smart people out there, and those people figured out around 2007 that the way to make it big is to gather a group of talented people and start a production company like the case of monkey business in the UK. They produce high quality video and photo content on a mass scale so for them sales under the new structure keep them going. It´s the amateur and lone photographers like me that are in trouble. Then theres other smart guys like the black box guys that create a bigger filter of content for MS. I thought of joining but they only work with paypal.

One thing to note in this whole discussion that Africa Studios (the largest contributor on SS) with over a 1,000,000 images have disabled their port. It seems to me that SS is purposely trying to drive 'small' ports away and rely on the large ports, but this might just bite them in the ass. You make such a statement while you have 816 images and say some one is 'new' and don't know  what they are talking about. Get real FFS.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, MJD Graphics said:

One thing to note in this whole discussion that Africa Studios (the largest contributor on SS) with over a 1,000,000 images have disabled their port. It seems to me that SS is purposely trying to drive 'small' ports away and rely on the large ports, but this might just bite them in the ass.

That might be a negotiating tactic to get a bespoke deal from SS or maybe they got an excellent exclusivity deal from one of the other agencies.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 minutes ago, MJD Graphics said:

One thing to note in this whole discussion that Africa Studios (the largest contributor on SS) with over a 1,000,000 images have disabled their port. It seems to me that SS is purposely trying to drive 'small' ports away and rely on the large ports, but this might just bite them in the ass. You make such a statement while you have 316 images and say some one is 'new' and don't know  what they are talking about. Get real FFS.

Interesting but I have close to 900 images and been a photographer for 10 years plus. But I won´t reply to anymore of your comments since you just out to pick people.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 minutes ago, Charles Lewis said:

That might be a negotiating tactic to get a bespoke deal from SS or maybe they got an excellent exclusivity deal from one of the other agencies.

For someone that big, they probably merged they´re content with some other big company or like you say went exclusive.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, MJD Graphics said:

If the the large subscribers where already in a position to negotiate special deal with SS the would already have done so, they would already be informed of this new scheme. That the largest contributor on SS have disables sales speaks a hell of a lot.

Indeed. But as we don't know the back story we don't know what it speaks about. We can only speculate.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 6/21/2020 at 3:29 AM, balajisrinivasan said:

So here's what I think and I'm being somewhat hopeful (maybe even unrealistically so) in this entire "Doom and Gloom" scenario.

The fault for the current terrible state of stock photography partly lies with "Buyers", because they are the ones going to agencies that give them the cheapest rates. But there's going to come a point when these cheap rates are going to become unsustainable for agencies, especially the big agencies who need to pay six figure salaries to CEOs and pay dividends to stock holders. So the ecosystem is inevitably going to collapse at some point and they're all going to die. The free stock agencies aren't going to survive for too long either (sites like pixabay are already struggling) because they're going to realise that they need money to pay for the rising costs of backend and storage and they have lost out on all the microstock sponsorship money. So very few players would be left standing.

But... "Buyers" are still going to need images, especially cheap images. This would create demand and the few that are still left standing would have the golden opportunity to raise their prices because of lack of competition and increase in demand. This might lead to future photographers making more money. This might happen next year or might take a few years but this is how I see events unfold in the future.

Interesting theory. The one variable I would add is the increasing lack of appreciation of what is involved in producing quality content. Unless and until there is a generalized return to the understanding that quality content takes time, energy, and money to produce and bring to market.

But if an image only costs 10 cents to produce and bring to market (that's the compensation SS contributors are accepting, right?), and a video only takes 26 cents to produce, why should I pay more? Aren't the agencies with the lowest prices set at $5 price-gouging?

As long as this attitude is prevalent, I suspect many people will resort to anything other than paying a substantive price - even piracy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I guess that's what you get when you contribute to ruining the photography market. So really, you shouldn't moan. Microstockers have COMPLETELY ruined the photography business by working for less than 1/100th of the normal price. You get now what you bloody well deserved. For crying out loud, a correct price for a magazine cover should be 250$ but you short-term-thinking idiots were perfectly happy with 0.25$ and now - o horror - you all panic because you gonna loose half a peanut. What's the saying in English? "One must lie in the bed one has made".

I'm with SS mainly for video footage and I run a little experiment with images so I know what I'm talking about when I criticize those who are responsible for this "carnage".

PS: I'm a fulltime pro photographer (started in 2002) who lives solely from stock and I do NOT need MS for doing so. 98% of my images are RM.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...