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Thomas J. Sebourn

The Cold Hard Truth About Low Sales

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I’m probably going to catch some flak for this post, but whatever, the truth should be heard: THE REASON YOUR IMAGES AREN'T SELLING IS BECAUSE THEY SUCK. 

 

I’ve been checking out a lot of newer profiles, and I am shocked at how low quality the images are. I wouldn’t even upload most of the images I’m seeing to my Flckr page. In no way, shape, or form am I claiming to be a great photographer; there are some real clunkers in my port that I somehow snuck by the submissions people, BUT WOW, some of these recent images are total trash. I literally can’t understand why SS wastes their bandwidth on this garbage.

 

30% of the posts in this forum are about low sales or how to increase sales. The reason your stuff isn’t selling is because it is a worthless snap shot of some random plant that you poorly keyworded.  You want to increase sales? Make a high quality image that an actual buyer would want to use on their website or in a publication.  You have to take some pride in what you are putting out to the world.

 

I’m sure someone felt this way about my images in 2010, so I guess its come full circle.  

 

Troll away!!!

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Disagree with that.  There are simply so many images being added now of the same topic "quality" doesn't matter in the slightest.  Its about quantity.  It's about having so many images on a specific topic you outnumber the others and don't get buried in the mass of new images added on the same subject each week.

The SS engine doesn't prioritise quality or even sales anywhere near enough to overcome the quantity.

There's no point having the best quality image if its buried on the 5th page of a search.  Most customers search, pick the first or near the first image they see, download it, move on.  They have deadlines to meet.

 

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I’ve been checking out a lot of newer profiles, and I am shocked at how low quality the images are.

I agree that QC standards have dropped. I tested some of my images that were rejected as little as one year ago and they got through no problem this time around with no edits. 

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Reading most of the posts, I thought people were complaining about a decrease in sales ... not for newcomers who complain because they do not sell, indeed they ask for advice. I missed  something?

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I'm done trying to figure it out. Just doing the best I can with the cards I've been dealt. Will let the sales or lack thereof take care of itself. Too tired to care much anymore.

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Wow talk about arrogant.

Talk about self denying the real issues but that's alright. Lots of competition, crazy uploading because of "gold fever" and lots of cheating via stealing. Not to mention most standards removed by SS thus promoting a flood of images. Lots of factors here.

No reason to be unprofessional about it. <_<

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4 hours ago, D. Pimborough said:

Your images suck big time too :D

 

I agree! Great images are hard to capture. I just need a $10k medium format camera and a matching lens and i’ll be good to go.

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4 hours ago, k_t_graphics said:

Wow talk about arrogant.

Talk about self denying the real issues but that's alright. Lots of competition, crazy uploading because of "gold fever" and lots of cheating via stealing. Not to mention most standards removed by SS thus promoting a flood of images. Lots of factors here.

No reason to be unprofessional about it. <_<

I’ll own my post as arrogant and unprofessional.

 

But what I said is the absolute truth.

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1 hour ago, AsiaTravel said:

Agree 100%. Cant understand why SS diluted a good collection with so much @#@*#*... And no, investors are not stupid, stock price isn't up because of the massive collection, it has lost 70% of its value in the last 2 years.

I made $800 earlier this year shorting $SSTK. That’s double what I made in royalties.

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I kind of disagree too.  It's the 10 million friends on Facebook economy.  You can have the best image, but if you only have 10 friends, it will never get noticed.  Whereas, if you have 10 million friends, even the worst image gets showered with praise.

I do agree that SS standards seem quite low. I've also seen images on here that I wouldn't have even uploaded to Flickr.  Not sure what those people are thinking.  Well, it's not easy!

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I also disagree somewhat. Honestly, the images that sell the most for me are the ones I always second guess myself on posting. The images that I feel will sell less sell the most, and the ones I think will be awesome end up with 0-low sales. 

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At least for the most part if newbies are posting on the forum it is because they are looking for advice to get better. Everyone has to start somewhere. I understand maybe that means a little more competition for everyone who has been around longer but quality is subjective and you never know what might sell. If the images are honestly not good quality, then they will never make sales and get lost in the millions of images like you say. As a new contributor myself, sometimes I'm shocked at how bitter everyone is to new photographers who are aspiring to become better, and find it so much nicer when everyone puts aside their ego and works to inspire each other to do better

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15 minutes ago, SamaraHeisz5 said:

At least for the most part if newbies are posting on the forum it is because they are looking for advice to get better. Everyone has to start somewhere. I understand maybe that means a little more competition for everyone who has been around longer but quality is subjective and you never know what might sell. If the images are honestly not good quality, then they will never make sales and get lost in the millions of images like you say. As a new contributor myself, sometimes I'm shocked at how bitter everyone is to new photographers who are aspiring to become better, and find it so much nicer when everyone puts aside their ego and works to inspire each other to do better

I’m not bitter towards new photographers or new contributors per se. I learned more about photography from my rejections here than anywhere else. The reviewers scrutinized every aspect of each of my submissions, and I was rejected constantly.

 

This forced me to get better and to harshly criticize my own work. Guess what? Every aspect of my work improved because I was forced to think critically before I pressed the shutter. Rejections don’t seem to exist anymore?

 

When I first began to post in the forums, I searched to see if the topic had been covered, because the old schoolers were unrelenting if you wasted their time asking about something that had been covered in a previous post. All the old timers I learned from are gone because people stopped respecting their tried and true advice (this includes those in the highest level management of SS.) 

The “first ten” turned into a one and done. Now we have ports of garbage because all standards have been thrown to the wind. I welcome additional competition, so long as it raises the bar of what is expected of my submissions.

 

 

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34 minutes ago, bscmediallc said:

I also disagree somewhat. Honestly, the images that sell the most for me are the ones I always second guess myself on posting. The images that I feel will sell less sell the most, and the ones I think will be awesome end up with 0-low sales. 

If you are second guessing yourself, at least you are thinking critically about what you are posting.

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1 hour ago, indisPC said:

I kind of disagree too.  It's the 10 million friends on Facebook economy.  You can have the best image, but if you only have 10 friends, it will never get noticed.  Whereas, if you have 10 million friends, even the worst image gets showered with praise.

I do agree that SS standards seem quite low. I've also seen images on here that I wouldn't have even uploaded to Flickr.  Not sure what those people are thinking.  Well, it's not easy!

There are plenty of other obstacles that contributors face too, but I was trying to make a provocative statement about the current state of microstock.

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2 hours ago, SamaraHeisz5 said:

As a new contributor myself, sometimes I'm shocked at how bitter everyone is to new photographers who are aspiring to become better, and find it so much nicer when everyone puts aside their ego and works to inspire each other to do better

Criticism is not bitterness. If you ask the question expect to get answers. People have been brought up (especially in North America) with a "good joooob" for mediocre attempts and medals for participation, but that unfortunately has not prepared them very well for life. From my experience, don't expect to get "inspiration" from the forum. You have probably read this before but I like to read it every now and as a reminder to myself...

RULE 1 ... Life is not fair; get used to it.

RULE 2 ... The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

RULE 3 ... You will NOT make 40 thousand dollars a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice president with a car phone, until you earn both.

RULE 4 ... If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss. He doesn't have tenure.

RULE 5 .. .Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping; they called it opportunity.

RULE 6 ... If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

RULE 7 ... Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parents' generation, try "delousing" the closet in your own room.

RULE 8 ... Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades; they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

RULE 9 ... Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summer off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.

RULE 10 ... Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

RULE 11 ... Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.

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I'm afraid I agree with Thomas. I'm one of the ones who learnt most of what they know about photography by studying the advice given by SS old timers, and a lot of the stuff that's accepted  nowadays would have been laughed off the forum in those days. Images back then had to be nearly perfect technically before SS reviewers would pass them, but at least we knew that if something was good enough to be accepted, it was pretty much bound to sell sooner or later.

The thing is, buyers still prefer 'good', i.e. technically sound, images, even if they have to search harder to find them, so a port full of snapshots shouldn't expect to get many downloads. There'll always be exceptions of course, where even a poor image will be downloaded simply because the subject meets a buyer's needs, but that's just luck.

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I also agree with Thomas.

When I started out I had too many people telling me that my pics were great and beautiful (usually when I posted them in social media where it doesn't take much to get some likes). I knew most of them were nothing special and people were just trying to be nice. Many times, I asked directly for feedback, some friends/family and even photographers didn't want to hurt my feelings. 

It was only when I started submitting to Micros that I learned the hard truth that my pics really "sucked" as Thomas put it. This was confusing since I thought they were OK and perhaps even good as others told me. I wish I had learned my mistakes earlier to make the required changes to speed up my learning curve. 

We generally live in a politically correct society and have been conditioned that we must be careful not to hurt other peoples' feelings and vice versa. In my opinion, this is bu**sh**, if your pics suck and you don't know it yet, you better know it soon or you'll be left behind. All these threads going on about "Oh i've been here for 6 months with 80 images and none have sold"...these people probably earned medals for coming in 4th place in school and have some sort of sense of entitlement.

We need to be harsh with each others' work and be even harsher with our own work. If someone gets offended, go work in a comfortable public sector job 9-5 and save up for a pension. This is a tough game and being good isn't good enough. You need to be excellent. 

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5 hours ago, Thomas J. Sebourn said:

The “first ten” turned into a one and done. Now we have ports of garbage because all standards have been thrown to the wind.

I can't believe some of the $#!t that gets accepted.

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There was a day when being accepted here meant you had "crossed the Rubicon": you were set on a path - if not to glory - at least to decent sales. It was hard to get in because you had to demonstrate both technical proficiency with a camera, and an artistic eye, with at least seven-out-of-ten different subjects. I failed my first time trying to get accepted here in September of 2013, having only one image of my initial ten approved. It wasn't enough to get me in the door. I spent the next month improving my gear and my technique, and was finally accepted in October of that year with eight of ten approved. I felt as though I had achieved something special, and every time I got an image accepted, I felt a sense of accomplishment that drove me on to keep that feeling alive.

When the bar is set high and you overcome it, it's hard not to feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in what you've done. It's a powerful motivator. 

When SS lowered the acceptance standard to one-out-of-ten (in 2016, I believe), it didn't just hurt the database: it hurt new contributors. When you set the bar so low that virtually anyone with a single "lucky" shot can get in, and then the review standards sink to meet the new acceptance standards, you're not pushing people to do better or to be better. You're essentially accepting them where they are. The problem is, these new folks are expecting the same kind of sales performance that older contributors have, with images that - more often than not - don't meet (or even approach) the old standards.

So now we have a two-tiered "caste" system here: those who came in before the standards were lowered and those who have come in since.  Is it any wonder that there's such a huge disparity in the overall quality of the work since 2016? Is it any wonder that new contributors - who were done a disservice by SS when acceptance and approval standards were lowered - feel frustrated that their work, no less accepted than an old timer's, doesn't sell as well as an old timer's?

Yes, some of us old standard folks get disappointed and discouraged when our work doesn't sell. It's human nature to get down when things don't go as expected. But here's the difference: if you have technically sound and clean images of good subjects - even niche subjects - there's always hope that your good images can sell and things will eventually improve.

But if your images are subpar, and you've never been pushed to do better, you may be lucky to sell an occasional image here and there, and that's all you should realistically expect. The problem is perception versus reality. Just getting accepted here and getting images approved isn't enough anymore. It doesn't mean anywhere near what it used to. While new people may perceive their work to be on a par with old timers, the reality in many cases is that it simply isn't, and that isn't necessarily all the new guy's fault.  SS has created this situation, and it should be up to SS to fix it. They could start by reinstating the old standards.

IMHO.

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8 hours ago, Thomas J. Sebourn said:

I agree! Great images are hard to capture. I just need a $10k medium format camera and a matching lens and i’ll be good to go.

No you don't. Some of my current best sellers were made using a D3200 and a nikon 28-80g. Spend the 10k on photography lessons might be a better investment

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I failed my first time trying to get accepted here in September of 2013, having only one image of my initial ten approved.

I failed once in 2009 and then again in 2012. Got in only in my 3rd attempt after trying to really improve. Now it's become a joke. 

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SS has created this situation, and it should be up to SS to fix it. They could start by reinstating the old standards.

That's not going to happen. The Microstock industry is going down the drain due to oversupply. If you want standards you need to apply to boutique Midstock agencies. I work with one such agency and they reject 80% of my images on a good day, while 100% would be accepted on here. I welcome the rejections on there to be honest. 

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