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Author Topic: A bit OT: RF Stock Photography...  (Read 7626 times)
jmb
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« on: March 16, 2006, 12:14:50 PM »
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Hi,

Sorry about being slightly off topic, but I couldn't find a better category for this posting...

I was wondering what you guys thought of Royalty Free [EDIT] Micropayment [/EDIT] Stock Photography. I have been doing a bit of research and was wondering if I should consider this...

Over 90% of my photos end up just sitting on my harddrive(s), only seeing the light of day when I show them to family and friends... Since I don't intend on really getting into stock photography (or making a living off of photography) or printing a bunch of stuff to sell, I was thinking that maybe RF stock photography might be a way to make a little bit of money off of this expensive hobby...

Advice on this topic might be hard to give without a little background about me and my current setup... I am a graduate student and have no aspirations on becoming a professional photographer (I pretty much take photos because I enjoy it, like travelling, and like (occasionally) printing out large panos). I currently own a Digital Rebel with the kit lens and a 50mm f1.8 (my most used lens), but it would be nice to be able to afford some more lenses in the near future (and a new body at some point...).

What are your thoughts? Are there certain things I should know about or be concerned with?

Thanks,

JMB
« Last Edit: March 16, 2006, 04:16:19 PM by jmb » Logged
Gary Ferguson
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« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2006, 05:14:11 PM »
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You could for example submit a trial CD of about a dozen shots to Alamy (www.alamy.com), but you'll find there's two stiff hurdles to overcome.

Firstly their minimum requirement is a 48MB RGB TIFF, which is quickly becoming the industry standard. That means either a Canon 1Ds MkII, a medium format back like the Phase One P20, or rezzing up. They'll scrutinise your test images at 100% and will reject on the tiniest technical shortcoming.

Secondly someone's got to actually choose your images from the millions of alternatives that are just a mouse click away. That means as well as high technical standards you'll need shots with impact, originality, and most of all commercial relevance.

Many photographers fondly imagine turning an expensive hobby into a useful second income. The reality is that you'll need to invest a lot of effort in discovering an unfilled niche and then work very hard at delivering excellent quality work to meet that opportunity. It can be done, but it's unlikely with shots that just happen to be sitting around on your hardrive.
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Quentin
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« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2006, 05:27:49 PM »
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Quote
Hi,

Sorry about being slightly off topic, but I couldn't find a better category for this posting...

I was wondering what you guys thought of Royalty Free [EDIT] Micropayment [/EDIT] Stock Photography. I have been doing a bit of research and was wondering if I should consider this...

JMB
[{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

If you are asking specifically about micropayment royalty free, then the requirements, both technical and commercial, are somewhat different from those applicable to Alamy.

for example, micropayment sites generally forbid uprezzing, unlike Alamy.  Their technical standards are high (which may surprise some), but artistically they are a little conventional.

I recommend you join the micropayment group on Yahoo, which is far and away the best independent discussion group on the subject.  Plus the bosses and admins of several leading micropayment sites sometimes hang out there.

[a href=\"http://groups.yahoo.com/group/micropayment/]http://groups.yahoo.com/group/micropayment/[/url]

Quentin
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Quentin Bargate, ARPS, Author, photographer entrepreneur and senior partner of Bargate Murray, Law Firm of the Year 2013
jmb
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« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2006, 09:57:38 AM »
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Hi Quentin and Gary,

Yes, I was referring to micropayment RF stock photography as I know I don't have equipment good enough for traditional stock photography or the desire to go all out to get stuff published there...

Thanks for the link to the Yahoo group; I'll check it out.

JMB
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Gary Ferguson
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« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2006, 12:04:11 PM »
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And if you earn squillions be sure to let us know so we can come galloping after you!
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jmb
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« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2006, 02:15:40 PM »
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And if you earn squillions be sure to let us know so we can come galloping after you!
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=60521\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I am sure I won't. A hundred bucks here and there might be nice though...

JMB
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Robert Roaldi
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« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2006, 06:57:17 PM »
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JMB,

All I can do is relate my experience. I am in a similar situation to yours in that I don't expect to make a living from photography but had accumulated a bunch of reasonable shots that I thought were worth something. During most of last year I was not working so I took the time to submit some pics to first one, then eventually 3 micro-payment sites and one not-so-micro site. I'll write about the micro experience. Most of the shots were taken with a 4mpix higher end digicam and the rest were from down-rezzed scanned slides. The reason for the downsizing of the slides is that I don't believe it makes any sense to sell high-rez versions of photos for such low dollars. Micro-sites target a specific category of buyer and I think it's best to aim at that.

At first I had a lot of rejections, until I bought NeatImage and also started to sharpen more aggresively. I found it odd that micro-sites to which I was submitting 4 mpix shots would be so picky but I guess they have to draw a line somewhere and they chose to evaluate pics at 100% screen magnification. This seems like overkill to me, given the likely size of final print, but it's their site and they have to set some standard, I suppose. So far as that goes, it's good practice to prepare photos for them.

I have about 200 pics at two micro sites, and 65 at a third. I have made (my cut) $60 in about half a year. I look at the statistics on the site and there are others who do much better. Since my shots are of things that I happen to come across and like, they don't necessarily match the demands of the clients of those sites. Hence, my low sales, relative to others. Spend time looking at what's offered for sale by contributors with high sales volumes. It's not pretty landscapes, in the main, not at the micro sites, I don't believe.

OTOH, my pics were just sitting on a hard drive so getting anything for them is a bonus. Also, the incremental cost of taking and submitting more pics to them is nearly zero, so I keep doing so. The inventory slowly increases, and it's a little like compound interest. You don't think about it, and then one day you're suddently rich. Sort of.

The amount of money I've made is laughable, of course. But then, the number of pictires I have for sale is small as well. But it's good practice. And it's not as if my other choice was selling framed prints for $400 apiece. It costs time to prep and submit the photos, not to mention the time it takes to shoot them, but part of that you would probably do anyway, and part of it is educational as well. You never know where it will lead.

RF micro sites generally get a lot of criticism on photo boards but they have their place. You are not likely to make a lot of money with them, although with enough effort you might, but you'll make something.
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jmb
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« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2006, 10:58:29 AM »
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Hi Robert,

Thank you very much for your detailed reply. It was exactly what I was looking for and I enjoyed hearing about your experiences.

JMB
« Last Edit: March 19, 2006, 10:58:58 AM by jmb » Logged
benInMA
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« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2006, 10:55:34 AM »
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I have an account on shutterpoint which I am not sure exactly qualifies as "micropayment" but it has been fairly useless.

Basically there are tens of thousands of photographers, very few buyers, the buyers are incredibly cheap, and the photographers bend over backwards to provide photos to the buyers.

I pretty quickly realized it wasn't even close to worth my time to try and compete hard to get the pictures sold.  Buyers were mostly listing budgets of $20.  

Also the site is totally dependent on ratings and such from other members in order to get your pictures seen by customers.  All it takes is someone who is clueless to come and rate your picture badly and no one will ever see it.  (e.x. upload a picture that has not been heavily sharpened, or hasn't had the contrast maximized, so it still has room to be sharpened or printed differently based on the buyers preference, and someone will come along and say it's not sharp enough or high enough contrast.)

And if your work is landscape or nature stuff as you might expect since you posted here, you're in the worst scenario as those types of pictures are extremely common in internet stock photo agencies.

Basically you are going to use a lot of your time sitting on the site prepping and uploading pictures, and rating and viewing other people's photos to build a "reputation" to get your pictures seen.  For the amount of time you're going to spend, you're basically losing money.
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jmb
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« Reply #9 on: March 21, 2006, 02:08:44 PM »
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Ben,

Thanks for the alternate viewpoint. I think I will give it a shot anyways, but I don't intend to sit around developing a reputation, etc. As for prepping the photos, that's already been done, so no additional time there...

Thanks again,

JMB
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Steve West
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« Reply #10 on: March 21, 2006, 08:04:20 PM »
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This is the first I've heard about micro-payment, so I'm even more green than you are.  However, you mention that you'd like to make some money from your expensive hobby.

This is not the answer you are looking for, but I make quite a bit of money from my photography without selling anything!  When you scan the internet or craft fairs and look at the price people charge for framed photo in 13x19 or larger, you quickly realize that by taking your own photo, buying your framing material from a place like americanframes.com, and putting them on your wall, you are making a lot of money from your hobby.  Two such pictures would cost you hundreds even thousands of dollars, yet I can put up two framed 13x19 photos for under $60, and I've paid for my equipment in what I've saved not buying someone elses photos.  I've probably got 20 large framed photos that I'm extremely pleased with, and I would not have been able to afford all those pictures otherwise.

Then to top it off, when people come by my house or office, they like what they see and I occassionally sell a framed print or two.  I also give gifts of large framed photos, and it turns out to be far cheaper than buying them something else, and they are always well received.

I guess it's a matter of how you do your accounting for your hobby.

JMHO,

Steve W
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benInMA
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« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2006, 07:47:48 PM »
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I wasn't trying to totally be negative about it.

I just think if you were actually trying to turn a buck doing it you'd want to try and be flexible and actually shoot the stuff that there were current image requests for.

Unless you have a massive archive of stuff and you can just let it sit of course.   (You also have to spend the time just to upload.)
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leaf
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« Reply #12 on: March 29, 2006, 03:04:05 PM »
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A few points.

Alamy doesnt require a canon 1d mark II or a digital back.  They require their 12 MP images, but they allow you to upsize the images 200% to get there.  The provide instructions on how to do it.  They recommend that you have a camera with at least 6 mp, which includes then, the nikon d70 and the canon 10d

as for microstock.  Yes i would highly recommend it.  i submit to both microstock and macrostock, and find that the images i have on the micro's earn more than the ones on the macro sites.

Good ones to check out are
shutterstock, and istock, dreamstime, and fotolia.

Also, if you would like an online forum for discussion check out

Microstock Group
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jmb
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« Reply #13 on: March 29, 2006, 04:14:37 PM »
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Thanks everyone for the replies.

JMB
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DiaAzul
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« Reply #14 on: March 30, 2006, 01:45:44 AM »
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I think someone commented that there are lots of landscape shots on stock photo agency websites. Whilst this is true, the majority of them do not meet the reqirements of clients (such as ourselves). As an example, we have been doing a lot of picture searching lately for metaphores to do with partnering, looking forward, taking steps into the future, and so on across all the major stock image agencies (including Getty, and other leading sites). You may be surprised to learn that our actual success rate in finding images has been abysmal - this is after a team of three people searching for five days. There is still a HUGE market for graphically strong images which can be used to illustrate a particular concept.

A second misconception is that clients require 48Mb TIFF files. This may apply to certain groups of people. But in my humble experience with the work we do most of our images are 1/4 or 1/8 page in size and we are quite happy with JPEG (provided there is no compression artifact). Most of this work is corporate internal and external communication (brochures, datasheets, proposals, etc...). There is always big demand for fresh good quality (from concept perspective) images in this area.

A final point I would add is, even if you are on a stock photo agency website such as Alamy, you still need to develop a client base for your images. I would suggest that you consider the stock agency website as purely a fulfilment mechanism - you will still need to drive sales and marketing of your images yourself in order to get your images noticed above the general masses. Also, if you can keep your images tight and focused around a theme or concept then it makes targetting your portfolio at specific groups of customers that little bit easier. You want regular clients that come back time and time again to you for a particular group / type of image.
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David Plummer    http://photo.tanzo.org/
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« Reply #15 on: March 30, 2006, 10:47:47 AM »
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David

Without going into too much detail,what did you have in mind for illustrating the
themes you mentioned in your post- partnering,looking forward,taking steps to the future,etc?

I also don't think there is a misconception that clients require 48Mb files.
Agencies use that as a submission target to be able to service the minority of clients who
do need a file to those specs knowing full well that a vast majority of sales are in the
smaller sizes as you referenced.
Buyers are demanding and,increasingly,pressed for time and are not prepared to wait the
additional day or two that rescanning film or repurposing digital files would entail.
Rather that risking a sale,the highest common denominator for general enduse has become
the defacto standard.

Mark Tomalty

www.masterfile.com
www.marktomalty.com
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lonna.tucker
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« Reply #16 on: March 30, 2006, 10:21:37 PM »
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A recent news story in PDN Magazine announces the acquisition of iStock, a micropayment site by Getty Images. On the next page it announces the sell off by investors of Getty, because they missed their 2005 revenue forecast by 1/10th of a percent. Getty will continue to look for ways to cut their operating margins "which will most likely come at the expense of photographer's fees".

iStock sells it photos for $1 (low rez), $3 (mid-rez), and $5 for a high rez image!

I wish all of you could realize the bigger picture here. Royalty free and micro payments are forcing the market down. Are you really happy with yourselves for spending your summer vacation preparing your digital files to earn $50 bucks for the year? Please learn to value the work that you do. This is bad business.

Lonna Tucker
www.lonnatucker.com
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mtomalty
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« Reply #17 on: March 30, 2006, 11:02:04 PM »
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Lonna

The problem is that the 'genie is out of the bottle' on these issues and they ain't going back.

I've been earning my income exclusively from Rights-managed stock for close to 15 years
now and have seen my sales plummet  in the hundreds of thousands of dollars over the
last 6-7 years.
In the last quarter of 2005 Royalty free sales globally accounted for over 50% of total
stock dollars spent and it is still gaining momentum.

If one is to survive in the stock photo industry one HAS to have some sort of Royalty free
presence even knowing that one is,at the same time,participating in its demise. Sad really
but it is reality.

The trick is to find the balance.

Mark
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lonna.tucker
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« Reply #18 on: March 31, 2006, 09:18:28 AM »
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The problem is that the 'genie is out of the bottle' on these issues and they ain't going back.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=61406\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Mark,

I am not in this mindset, and if I ever get to that point I think it's time to hang it up. Why let a big fat corporation make all the profit from your work?

As far as assignment rates, I'm not giving in there either. I discovered one of the best tools in the negotiation process is the ability to say "no". It is ok for me to walk away from a bad deal, I have no problem with that. In the end, we get a lot of the jobs anyway and clients show more respect.

Lonna
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mtomalty
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« Reply #19 on: March 31, 2006, 10:04:30 AM »
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Lonna

I'm a long way from 'hanging it up' but the reality of the stock photo business has
forced me to rethink my 'rights-managed' only strategy.

The rules have changed. Hell,the whole game has changed and photography,more so in stock
than in assignment,is simply regarded as a commodity by the marketplace with no more
prestige than a tube of toothpaste.

Moving forward an 'old school' career stock photographer such as myself has to come up with
a recipe to have both a right managed and royalty free revenue stream build into my business
to thrive.  

The really crazy thing is that the cost to purchase an RF image is oftentimes more expensive
than buying an equivalent RM image from the same agency/portal. Todays buying culture
wants the simplicity and automation that the RF model provides.

MT
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