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Thomas J. Sebourn

The Cold Hard Truth About Low Sales

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Saying that microstock is going down is very brave to say. Numbers say different thing. Ss paid to contributors in 2013 65 million. In 2016 it was 115 million. Almost two times more then 3 years ago and 11 times more then a well known midstock agency. 

 

There is no collapsing microstock numbers show. It is rather more contributors that means more images that means smaller part of cake. Thats all. In the microstock itself is more money. Customers are buying more every year.

 

Mirco

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9 hours ago, bscmediallc said:

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. :)

Snap!

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52 minutes ago, paula french said:

Snap!

 

5 minutes ago, Patrick Cooper said:

Crackle! Pop!

Intellectual Property -- Image potentially infringes on another person's intellectual property rights (e.g., image contains artwork, writing, sheet music, or objects protected by copyright).

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23 minutes ago, cpaulfell said:

 

Intellectual Property -- Image potentially infringes on another person's intellectual property rights (e.g., image contains artwork, writing, sheet music, or objects protected by copyright).

Do they still use that slogan? :D

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Ss paid to contributors in 2013 65 million. In 2016 it was 115 million. Almost two times more then 3 years ago and 11 times more then a well known midstock agency. 

According to SS earnings report, they indeed paid out 115 million in 2016 (see screenshot).

According to their stats, they have 250,000 contributors with more than 1 image, but probably less. According to Microstock.top (http://www.microstock.top/blog20170123.html), at the end of 2016, there were 164,900 contributors with more than 0 image. So if you divide $115 million by 250,000 (taking SS figures) that would be an average of $460 per contributor in the year of 2016.

$115 million divided by the number of images at the end of 2016, which was about 115 million, gives a return of $1 per image/2016.  

Obviously, there are contributors with 1 image and with 1 million images. Let's assume that the "average contributor" has 500 images, this would give an average of $500 for 2016/per contributor ($42/month) using the above assumptions / educated guesses.  

Is $42/month more than the average contributor at a midstock agency? I don't know, but probably less.

Conclusion: SS big payout but consider the number of contributors. Midstock agencies have, on average, many less contributors so the pie is divided in less piece. Would be interesting to analyse / compare but this forum is probably not the best place.   

 

payout.JPG

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On 10/7/2017 at 3:00 AM, 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.

Wow -- didn't know this happened. I was wondering why most of my images were getting accepted where as before it was a bit more difficult. 

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On 10/6/2017 at 8:45 PM, Thomas J. Sebourn said:

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.

Thomas, do a lot of your nature images sell? Should I be posting more landscape or vertical photos of nature? I recently submitted pics here in the Pacific Northwest and wanted to experiment with them to see how they do. So far no luck. 

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58 minutes ago, bscmediallc said:

Thomas, do a lot of your nature images sell? Should I be posting more landscape or vertical photos of nature? I recently submitted pics here in the Pacific Northwest and wanted to experiment with them to see how they do. So far no luck. 

I'm not Thomas but I am in the PNW, too. My best-selling nature images come from Michigan, where I lived for many, many years before moving here (wish I were back there!):

stock-photo-male-northern-cardinal-in-fl        stock-photo-fawn-in-tall-grass-155173532

Beyond the fawn here, I don't think I've sold many verticals. My eagles sell well, but landscapes...er...not so much. 

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1 hour ago, bscmediallc said:

Wow -- didn't know this happened. I was wondering why most of my images were getting accepted where as before it was a bit more difficult. 

I think the corporate strategy shifted from wanting to be the best to wanting to be the biggest. Wanting to be the biggest is fine so long as the quality remains largely and consistently high. Unfortunately, it has not. And yeah, I have some clunkers in my port, too.

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Beautiful images images, Phil. Yea I find that landscape images are hard to sell. Ive sold some once in a while but generally not on a regular basis. Though I do happen to have a landscape image which turned out to be one of my best sellers (maybe I got lucky with that one.)

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Phil Lowe I love your photo of the red bird (sorry I'm and Aussie so have no idea what species it is). 

To put forward the opinion of a newcomer - I was genuinely surprised at how ridiculously easy it was to get accepted to Shutterstock.  Like many of the older hands I would prefer it was harder to get in, with higher criteria.  Reading through this thread I wonder why I didn't do this five years ago when it was and earnings were better. 

As it is, being so easy to have photos accepted I have only loaded up my second tier images to date, as much as anything to see what the whole microstock thing is like.  I have a applications in to try and get into a midstock agency with my better stuff - but then again I may well get rejected there and will then need to consider whether I throw all my eggs into the microstock market.  Still I have a few images that I just value more than 25c, even if they were to get multiple sales which add up - but then that is more an emotional attachment to those shots than anything I guess. 

Anyway just wanted to say that not all newbies are after an easy ride, I'm sure I'm not the only one of us that wishes the game hadn't changed. 

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In my portfolio there's no pictures, I am a designer. However, one year of my work on this site sales every month growing. But there are very in my opinion strange moments when one week every day there are sales, and the other has none. Maybe someone knows why this is happening?

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29 minutes ago, sljones said:

Anyway just wanted to say that not all newbies are after an easy ride, I'm sure I'm not the only one of us that wishes the game hadn't changed. 

Understood, sl. And it's hard not to generalize when this topic comes up as it does every so often. There are very good photographers here who came in after the change. And there are others genuinely interested in learning. But - as the OP noted - there are some who come in displaying ports that would never have been approved just 2 years ago, and are wondering why their work doesn't sell.

I just sold an EL of a new image I shot a few days ago. It doubled what I made my previous two months because it was well-conceived, well-shot, and - more importantly - covered a very timely topic. One or two sales can really make a month, but it has to be good and something buyers want. Yeah, I get it (for those out there that maybe wondering if I don't). The bait to get people to submit here is, "Make money with your photos." What's not said until people get in here is that you're only going to make money with the kind of crisp, clear, colorful images that help a buyer advance their message. That's the reality. Unfortunately, as I wrote earlier, people come in expecting to sell with whatever they have because they're "in" now. Maybe it worked that way once, but those days are long gone.

Welcome aboard. By the way, the red bird is a male northern cardinal. ;)

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18 minutes ago, AV_designer said:

But there are very in my opinion strange moments when one week every day there are sales, and the other has none. Maybe someone knows why this is happening?

The local bakery doesn't sell pumpernickel bread every day, either. Some days, the buyers just aren't there for any of us. Wish it weren't so, but it happens - as far as I know - to all of us.

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6 hours ago, Alexandre Rotenberg said:

According to SS earnings report, they indeed paid out 115 million in 2016 (see screenshot).

According to their stats, they have 250,000 contributors with more than 1 image, but probably less. According to Microstock.top (http://www.microstock.top/blog20170123.html), at the end of 2016, there were 164,900 contributors with more than 0 image. So if you divide $115 million by 250,000 (taking SS figures) that would be an average of $460 per contributor in the year of 2016.

$115 million divided by the number of images at the end of 2016, which was about 115 million, gives a return of $1 per image/2016.  

Obviously, there are contributors with 1 image and with 1 million images. Let's assume that the "average contributor" has 500 images, this would give an average of $500 for 2016/per contributor ($42/month) using the above assumptions / educated guesses.  

Is $42/month more than the average contributor at a midstock agency? I don't know, but probably less.

Conclusion: SS big payout but consider the number of contributors. Midstock agencies have, on average, many less contributors so the pie is divided in less piece. Would be interesting to analyse / compare but this forum is probably not the best place.   

 

payout.JPG

Not completly true about the split calculation. I am not interestet in the amount of contributors the images are split. Just the amount of images. On shutterstock I have to compete against 160 million images. (I dont care if they are split to 10 contributors or 200.000.) On the A midstock against 115 million images. Difference... payout A was around 10 million to the 115 million and SS 115 million to 160 million images. Clearly a large difference. No competition even. 

 

Mirco

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On shutterstock I have to compete against 160 million images

Keep in mind that there's a lot of snapshots out of those 160 million and more importantly, similars. The number of quality images out of those 160 million is probably only 10%. So, I don't really regard such high numbers as competitors...if anything they're just "noise" and distractions to the buyers who get confused with the images available and perhaps my more mediocre images get hidden among the masses. I fully expect my premium images to rise the rankings.

I shoot travel so I don't see how I would compete with someone who shoots still life vegetables. Also, someone based in India shooting street markets isn't a competition to me shooting a street market in Italy.  

Quote

On the A midstock against 115 million images. Difference... payout A was around 10 million

I would be curious to know where you got that info, not that I'm questioning you, just that I would like to look deeper into this. 

On average, the quality of images at midstock is higher than at micros. However, there's more room to stand out in certain niches that I believe would be more difficult at Micros. Customers at Midstock generally tend to be more corporate-type and are looking for something specific. While a small-time blogger may search on here for "dog", at Midstock they may be searching for a specific breed of dog, using scientific names, to illustrate a more technical article. I'm speaking here generally but it's the type of search results I see at Midstock.

Quote

(I dont care if they are split to 10 contributors or 200.000.)

If at Midstock there are 15,000 contributors to the $10million payout, on average this would be more than $115million paying out to 250,000 contributors.

It's difficult to make comparisons between Micros and Midstock. Apples and pears. Different types of clients, different types of images do well, different keywording algorythmns. There's a small cross-over but extremely small. 

 

 

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5 minutes ago, Alexandre Rotenberg said:

.

If at Midstock there are 15,000 contributors to the $10million payout, on average this would be more than $115million paying out to 250,000 contributors.

It's difficult to make comparisons between Micros and Midstock. Apples and pears. Different types of clients, different types of images do well, different keywording algorythmns. There's a small cross-over but extremely small. 

 

 

First of all thanks Alex to add your sight. It makes me think further ;).

I am of course not speaking about all midstock. I just mean 1 specific. I think you know which one i mean. Even if this agency has 15K cotributors it still doesnt change the fact that they have 110 million photos. I think it it doenst change the competition if you have 15K contributors totalling 110 million photos or 110 million contributors having 1 photo each. It is always the 110 million you have to compete with. Thats why i think the amount of contributors is only relative.

Mirco 

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Also i have to say when i look on internet at editorial articles or other media related to editorial i really often encounter Shutterstock. The midstock agency images are most of the time related to UK publishing media. 

It could be that i life in Poland. Polish people have a smaller budget the UK and believe that is an reason they license more on SS. I could be wrong... just a tought.

 

Mirco

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36 minutes ago, Alexandre Rotenberg said:

It's difficult to make comparisons between Micros and Midstock. Apples and pears.

 

39 minutes ago, Alexandre Rotenberg said:

the quality of images at midstock is higher than at micros

Alex, apparently you have a great experience with midstock (like many others), I don't doubt that.

I only participate in one midstock and the only difference I see is that micros sell a lot while midstock sells once in a while and even than, most of the time for a small price. Maybe one day I will hit the jackpot too but for now I get higher rates on some micros than on midstock. 50% of almost nothing is not much.

 

You are using the word snapshot a lot, which I find is just a slogan. Could you elaborate what do you mean by snapshot because according to the general definition of this word every spontaneous shot like candid photos, sports, street photograph, lifestyle and smartphone photo are napshots.

However exactly these photos are very successful among buyers, compared to staged studio shots, AFAIK.

 

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I am new to SS and photography in general. I think the truth lies somewhere in between. Both quantity and quality play a role in sales, but most of all the commercial value. 

To be honest, my photo's suck and I know it, but then again, I am only at the beginning and have plenty more to learn. I in no way think that if my photo is accepted here that its actually good photography, but its a nice beginning. 

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Also i have to say when i look on internet at editorial articles or other media related to editorial i really often encounter Shutterstock. 

Interesting discussion!

True, there's tons of editorials out there licensed by SS buyers who are generally the smaller enterprises, bloggers, NGOs and charities. 

My experience with my sales on Midstock and research is that such editorials are usually licensed by larger corporate clients in many cases for print (often large reproductions) so a google search won't pick up on it. Next time you're on a plane, open up the travel magazines on the seat pocket and look at the images & captions. I often do this out of curiosity. These will be large reproductions since imagine how many British Airways planes there are and magazines reproduced. 

Agree about UK publications. I prefer not to go on here about this but google "UK newspaper scheme".  

Quote

I only participate in one midstock and the only difference I see is that micros sell a lot while midstock sells once in a while and even than, most of the time for a small price. Maybe one day I will hit the jackpot too but for now I get higher rates on some micros than on midstock. 50% of almost nothing is not much.

True. At Midstock it takes much longer and less volume (especially for Rights-Managed). Keywords are more important at Midstock since more sophisticated buyers will search for very specific words/phrases, including scientific names. As mentioned earlier, "dog" won't do...need the breed. Same with specialist subjects such as fauna. Travel places need keywords in different languages (Florence/Firenze) - don't know why Shutterstock don't allow different languages for keywords. 

I'm currently looking into whether duplicating images on Micros and Midstock harms Midstock sale. I think so but looking for hard evidence. 

From what I've read many who venture into Midstock give up too quickly precisely because it takes longer to get sales. I believe that Micros is easier for newbies since sales are almost immediate, even if they're small amounts. Those give contributors an immediate motivational boost. It's an illusion though since 25 cents is almost nothing.

Quote

You are using the word snapshot a lot, which I find is just a slogan. Could you elaborate what do you mean by snapshot because according to the general definition of this word every spontaneous shot like candid photos, sports, street photograph, lifestyle and smartphone photo are napshots.

However exactly these photos are very successful among buyers, compared to staged studio shots, AFAIK.

I would define snapshots as "images with no clear commercial vision and just a record of a time/place". In other words, the photographer isn't thinking about how to capture the image in a technically excellent way, nor is thinking about how would a potential buyer use such images to promote a product and/or service, or use such image to support a newsworthy story. There are many of these on here and unfortunately QC is letting too many through.

Now, to create a technically excellent image with commercial value to look like a candid/snapshot is really valuable. This was the look I was going for when I did a series with a model, not sure if I pulled it off. p.s Lots of contributors including light flares now for that "facing the sun" type realism look.

--------------------

On my blog you'll find many tips and tricks to earn from Microstock (and Midstock) :) 

www.brutallyhonestmicrostock.com 

 

 

stock-photo-young-attractive-man-laughing-in-front-of-castello-sforzesco-in-milan-italy-676225444.jpg

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1 hour ago, Alexandre Rotenberg said:

commercial value to look like a candid/snapshot

You can always tell when a shot is staged and it cannot be candid in the same time.

Yes that is a nice, staged smiling face, like other hundred thousands, as stock should be (happy), but life is not all smile.

Just for fun, this is a snapshot, this is the look we get on street photography, total disconsideration, a genuine and unique face expression that cannot be staged. I agree it is not as pleasant as yours but real.
From here on it all depends on what the buyer is searching for and why.

dicconsideration.thumb.jpg.7013d3b2597e3c3a71260fb888af0c25.jpgsnapshot.jpg.33141871d5e3d4b87c646df288401d92.jpg

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