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Thomas J. Sebourn

The Cold Hard Truth About Low Sales

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TBH I agree with the OP - we need to face reality, not live in a dream world - however I disagree about his want for gear - that's BS - gear doesn't make you good, only YOU do...

When I got in here a few years back (7 out of 10) it took me two goes, I felt like I had passed a milestone - like I was a professional - other agencies were not as strict... now I am not sure what is happening here, massive images being submitted, lacking QC, LOADS of duplicates, Keyword spamming, diminishing royalties (mine have dropped 50% since last year), theft, etc, etc, etc, - farming third world countries (and the factories)  kind of works for the SS system but not for the PROS... times change I guess, and so does the Internet

....look at what's happening across the other agencies and you can see how the business model is shifting....

The ultimate question is though - HOW do we as photographers value our OWN work? What's it worth to you?? No one else took that image only YOU - you want to play with corporations, then you will get what you deserve!

Moaning about falling sales here doesn't really get much empathy, and rightly so... and for those making a few 0.25/0.33 for selling crap - what do they care? One old fart once told me whats better 1% of $100 dollars or 20% of F*!K all???

Welcome to the land of Digital Photography!

 

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While I somewhat agree with the OP, before you make a blanket statement like "they suck" or "are garbage", say WHY you feel they suck and HOW you feel they could be better.  Be specific.  That would actually be useful information.

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1 hour ago, John Williams RUS said:

One old fart once told me whats better 1% of $100 dollars or 20% of F*!K all???

 

+1 - that is so true - if I wasn't selling at $0.36 or sometimes higher with ODDs or SODs - they'd be sitting on my hard drive making nothing.

I remember being as happy with having an image being accepted, as I was getting a sale - it's still a buzz, but it is true stuff that was rejected at the beginning has since been accepted - and some of it has sold (some very well).  One example was 2 zebras running (blurred motion), rejected for out of focus initially - but since accepted and is downloaded quite regularly.

Quality has dropped (SS fault), and thats the problem, people think accepted = sales - it doesn't unfortunately!

We all learnt from our rejections, but unfortunately as rejections are fewer thee days, newbies aren't able to learn, as they feel there photo's are better than they actually are.

 

 

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10 minutes ago, paula french said:

+1 - that is so true - if I wasn't selling at $0.36 or sometimes higher with ODDs or SODs - they'd be sitting on my hard drive making nothing.

I remember being as happy with having an image being accepted, as I was getting a sale - it's still a buzz, but it is true stuff that was rejected at the beginning has since been accepted - and some of it has sold (some very well).  One example was 2 zebras running (blurred motion), rejected for out of focus initially - but since accepted and is downloaded quite regularly.

Quality has dropped (SS fault), and thats the problem, people think accepted = sales - it doesn't unfortunately!

We all learnt from our rejections, but unfortunately as rejections are fewer thee days, newbies aren't able to learn, as they feel there photo's are better than they actually are.

 

 

It's true, Paula, when it comes to art, any art, what is crap and what is brilliant is truly a matter of opinion, and the opinion that counts here is the buyer, the customer.  The same goes for any business.  Some of the dumbest videos on Youtube have gone viral and some of the dumbest business ideas have made their creators billion(s).  But the important thing is:  Someone HAD an idea, and they didn't keep it to themselves, they patented it so they owned the rights to it, and then they unleashed it into the marketplace.  You just never know what the pulse of the paying customer is.  

Since we have no way of knowing what the buyer, the customer is looking for, all we can do is submit what WE feel is good (and even what we feel ISN'T good).  Submit everything you took the time and effort to shoot!

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9 hours ago, cpaulfell said:

Criticism is not bitterness. If you ask the question expect to get answers.

I agree completely, it's not. But there is no need to criticize WITH bitterness. Although you have to face criticism in order to get better, it doesn't have to be done in a rude and condescending way. And I am not saying you in particular, I've just noticed on the forums in general an attitude towards new people who maybe aren't as good but looking to get better. Maybe that is just the "Canadian" in me...

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16 minutes ago, SamaraHeisz5 said:

I agree completely, it's not. But there is no need to criticize WITH bitterness. Although you have to face criticism in order to get better, it doesn't have to be done in a rude and condescending way. And I am not saying you in particular, I've just noticed on the forums in general an attitude towards new people who maybe aren't as good but looking to get better. Maybe that is just the "Canadian" in me...

I agree.  I don't want to name names, but one "elder statesman" (a nice way of saying irritated old fart) felt ripping me a new one was the way to help me get better, because that's what his mentor did to him and that's how he got better.  This dumping of abuse from generation to generation, or from experienced to newcomer, is BS.  

Constructive criticism, followed by a positive, "this is how these could be better" and then an explanation, is the way to administer this information.  

It's always easier to be negative than to be positive, to tear down rather than to create, but we're all here because we're creative people, so criticizers, I know it's hard, but think, use your brains, create!  Be specific in your criticism and in positive ideas for how to improve!

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Paul, it's funny you wrote this because I was dining at Jimmy John's the other day and they have a set of RULES in their sandwich establishment. The last rule (about nerds) was on their list, too! :) LOL! 

10 hours ago, cpaulfell said:

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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Think more. Shoot less. Everyone says shoot as much as possible but thats just a lottery, IMO. I could delete 75% of my tiny port and still make the same sales. Many shots are a strategic test to see what new niche may work that others dont do much or very well. My best sellers are the ones with the best technique and are the most commercially relevant to the widest audience over any period of time. Be a customer when you plan the shot, be a photographer when you take the shot.

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7 hours ago, Phil Lowe said:

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.

+100

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22 hours ago, D. Pimborough said:

Your images suck big time too :D

 

I know mine did even worse when I started! I think of the first ten accepted, there are four that have never had a sale - every since 2008. I will say that one of that group is also a top ten best seller, all time. Lucky snap? AT times I have gone back and added, removed or changed the keywords and description. Some of those are horrid and lacking. My best advise, for people over five years, is think about going back to the first year images and reviewing the keywords?

 

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Re: The Cold Hard Truth About Low Sales

 

  • Low Shutterstock sales is a myth.
  • Sales are very robust.
  • There is more money to be made now than ever before.

 

  • Shoot cityscape  images.
  • They sell like hotcakes.

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7 minutes ago, Leonard Whistler said:

Re: The Cold Hard Truth About Low Sales

 

  • Low Shutterstock sales is a myth.
  • Sales are very robust.
  • There is more money to be made now than ever before.

 

  • Shoot cityscape  images.
  • They sell like hotcakes.

Really?

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43 minutes ago, Leonard Whistler said:

Re: The Cold Hard Truth About Low Sales

 

  • Low Shutterstock sales is a myth.
  • Sales are very robust.
  • There is more money to be made now than ever before.

 

  • Shoot cityscape  images.
  • They sell like hotcakes.

-1 - All depends what the buyer wants - there is no sure way of making $'s

Skill comes into it - but luck and demand is 100%

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14 hours ago, martin bowra said:

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

Haha, I was totally joking! My best seller was taken with a Sony a700 and a $100 lens. 

 

My lifetime sales would buy me 1/2 a medium frame camera body, and I started in 2009. 

 

That doesnt mean that im not actively lusting for a Leica Monochrome.

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11 hours ago, John Williams RUS said:

TBH I agree with the OP - we need to face reality, not live in a dream world - however I disagree about his want for gear - that's BS - gear doesn't make you good, only YOU do...

When I got in here a few years back (7 out of 10) it took me two goes, I felt like I had passed a milestone - like I was a professional - other agencies were not as strict... now I am not sure what is happening here, massive images being submitted, lacking QC, LOADS of duplicates, Keyword spamming, diminishing royalties (mine have dropped 50% since last year), theft, etc, etc, etc, - farming third world countries (and the factories)  kind of works for the SS system but not for the PROS... times change I guess, and so does the Internet

....look at what's happening across the other agencies and you can see how the business model is shifting....

The ultimate question is though - HOW do we as photographers value our OWN work? What's it worth to you?? No one else took that image only YOU - you want to play with corporations, then you will get what you deserve!

Moaning about falling sales here doesn't really get much empathy, and rightly so... and for those making a few 0.25/0.33 for selling crap - what do they care? One old fart once told me whats better 1% of $100 dollars or 20% of F*!K all???

Welcome to the land of Digital Photography!

 

I was being sarcastic about the gear. A year ago I posted about my excitement that digital medium formats were becoming “affordable” in the “Gear” forum. Caught almost as much flak as I did for this post.

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9 hours ago, Mike Kuhlman said:

While I somewhat agree with the OP, before you make a blanket statement like "they suck" or "are garbage", say WHY you feel they suck and HOW you feel they could be better.  Be specific.  That would actually be useful information.

You are right that it would be more productive if I made specific suggestions, but I would never single out someone (unless they asked for my opinion.) My comment was meant to make people think critically about their submissions.

 

 

 

 

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7 hours ago, Jason Dudley said:

Think more. Shoot less. Everyone says shoot as much as possible but thats just a lottery, IMO. I could delete 75% of my tiny port and still make the same sales. Many shots are a strategic test to see what new niche may work that others dont do much or very well. My best sellers are the ones with the best technique and are the most commercially relevant to the widest audience over any period of time. Be a customer when you plan the shot, be a photographer when you take the shot.

10% of my port creates 95% of my meager revenues. #ParetoPrinciple

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4 hours ago, Leonard Whistler said:

Re: The Cold Hard Truth About Low Sales

 

  • Low Shutterstock sales is a myth.
  • Sales are very robust.
  • There is more money to be made now than ever before.

 

  • Shoot cityscape  images.
  • They sell like hotcakes.

My sales are still decent. Thank god people need images of piers. 

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On 10/7/2017 at 6:06 AM, martin bowra said:

Spend the 10k on photography lessons might be a better investment

Whoa!

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  • I wonder which individual contributor  has the most sales?
  • I don't think Shutterstock lists the top selling contributors.

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As noted, there are a lot of newcomers to SS whose photos could be described as snapshots. And I am seeing plenty of this here and on another stock site that I contribute to. Though I think it's a broad generalisation to paint all newcomers with the same brush. I'm sure there are some newcomers who are experienced and talented photographers in their own right and are doing reasonably well with regards to early sales. Just because someone is new to SS doesn't necessarily mean that they are new to photography. Perhaps some of those folks don't post on the forums so their work is more or less invisible to us.

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23 hours ago, Thomas J. Sebourn said:

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

Yes, I've come a long way in 10 years when it comes to photography, and still have a lot to learn. I look back at photos I took a while back and think about how terrible they look and at the time I thought they were great! Maybe that means in another 5-10 years they will be even better. Photography is one of my hobbies and if I can make a little passive income from it, that's great. :)

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2 hours ago, Patrick Cooper said:

As noted, there are a lot of newcomers to SS whose photos could be described as snapshots. And I am seeing plenty of this here and on another stock site that I contribute to. Though I think it's a broad generalisation to paint all newcomers with the same brush. I'm sure there are some newcomers who are experienced and talented photographers in their own right and are doing reasonably well with regards to early sales. Just because someone is new to SS doesn't necessarily mean that they are new to photography. Perhaps some of those folks don't post on the forums so their work is more or less invisible to us.

"Snapshots" of newcomers don't bother me.  If they're quality images with commercial value, they will sell, and good for them.  What I don't like is when someone "spams" a category with 10's or 100's of similar images, and clog up the search results.  The blame isn't just on the spammers, but also the reviewers, for letting this happen.  

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