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Author Topic: Response to Essay on Micro Payment Stock Photos  (Read 30807 times)
DarkPenguin
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« Reply #20 on: July 12, 2006, 11:56:56 AM »
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It was your use of the term "monkeys". It implies a low opinion. Sorry if you didn't mean it that way, but that's the way it came across to me. Unfortunate choice of words.
Again, the choice of words implied it. When you write that someone conrtibuting to micro-stock is taking $20 away from the pros, it implies that you think it "belongs" to the pros in the first place. Sorry if I misinterpreted.
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We're all monkey's.

The $20 doesn't belong there.  But that's where it is.  I was trying to say that the only effect I see of microstock on photography is the money moves somewhere else.  This "this could be a benefit to photographers" idea bugged me.  I see no effect other than the above.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2006, 11:57:51 AM by DarkPenguin » Logged
John Camp
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« Reply #21 on: July 12, 2006, 12:44:07 PM »
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The current changes are sadly caused by politics and the religion known as "the free market". We live in a world infected with the Global Commerce virus, where the big fish eat the smaller fish and make no apologies for it. The Economic climate of today is all about growth, super profits and satisfying shareholders. Gone are the days of the Mom and Pop stores where building long lasting customer relationships and giving service were important. Gone are the days when corporations were founded to take on large projects for the good of society.[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=70466\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

This whole discussion seems to me to be a good example of the smaller fish eating the bigger fish.

As far as markets go, everything is a market -- even in non-market societies; things are just arranged differently. In the old Soviet Union, the leaders had their dachas; in Maoist China, the sons of the influential did well and got rich.
 
Most of the American economy, and most job creation, could be attributed to what might loosely be called "mom and pop" organizations.

Corporations were never formed to take on large projects for the good of society. They were always about profits. That creates no problem, as long as everybody keeps it clearly in mind.

I've always thought some aspects of high-end photography were absurd. Do you really need to pay somebody $50,000 to take a picture of a Buick? It occurred to me any number of times when I was working as a reporter, and I'd see a big photo shoot somewhere, that (as a longtime amateur photogapher) I could do something that would be 90 percent as good, for 10 percent of the money, and that 99 percent of the people who viewed the resulting ad would never be the wiser...Some of the newspaper pros I worked with were as good as any high-priced custom pro I ever encountered, but preferred the newspaper life (and security)...

Anyway, those over-priced chickens are now coming home to roost. People will still pay for exceptional talent, so we don't have to worried too much about the talented. The ones who will get squeezed are those in the middle; those who generally do average-to-mediocre custom work. The people at the lower levels of professional work -- wedding photogaphers, portrait photographers -- don't have to worry for the same reason that waiters don't have to worry about their jobs being outsourced to China. That is, the work has to be done here; a micro-stock agency isn't going to take away somebody's wedding work.

On the whole, I think the change will be for the better. There'll be a lot of new photography out there that'll be judged on the basis of quality, rather than the basis of connections or who-you-know in the industry, and may give some real talent, that otherwise wouldn't see the light of day, a chance.

JC
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Blir
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« Reply #22 on: July 12, 2006, 01:01:03 PM »
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Long time reader, first time poster...yes, it's THAT compelling an article!  

Some great points made here. I think the best being the fallacy of equating the volume done via Micropayment being equal to more traditional means. I'd bet the idea is that if you can grow the market AND you shoot great shots, you'll still be able to adapt and sell more at lower prices - IF you want to. I mean, who once would have thought that 1 MEGA byte of storage could be sold for .04 pennies - nonsense!

I also think the law of unintended consequences could also serve great photographers well here. IF the Micropayment market segment gets flooded with lousy pictures by casual picture-takers, then the value of the high-end segment will actually be supported by these "huddled masses". Great photographers can then continue to serve the premium market.

Lastly, I think the author does a disservice to his "rewarded for cost" point by posting two images he took fairly casually, one while out with his kids and one on holiday. The cynic might take that to be a bit contradictory to his point.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2006, 01:04:22 PM by Blir » Logged
Quentin
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« Reply #23 on: July 12, 2006, 02:10:10 PM »
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IF the Micropayment market segment gets flooded with lousy pictures by casual picture-takers, then the value of the high-end segment will actually be supported by these "huddled masses".

They won't.  the standards at the better micros - take iStockphoto as a specific example - are technically very high.  Send in a casually taken shot, or a shot with CA, noise, dust bunnies etc, and it will be rejected.  Rejection rates are pretty high -  quite a shock for new members thinking they can use the micros as a dumping ground for second rate rejects.  

Quentin
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Ben Rubinstein
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« Reply #24 on: July 12, 2006, 02:12:49 PM »
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What I would ask is why people consider their work to be of so little value given the expenditure taken to produce it? I think in that at least the article is spot on. Why should I bother for a few bucks, not worth me getting out of bed for...

I have tens of thousands of pounds (£) of photographic equipment plus all the sweat money and tears that it has taken over the years to reach a level where I make all my money from photography. It isn't that hard to explain why I charge £3.50 for a 7X5" print for my wedding clients when if they had the disk they could print it for £0.12 in the local supermarket. Why would I think differently when shooting for stock. It's one thing if it is a by-product but to shoot for stock, for micro stock agencies just doesn't make sense economically, how can it when you would need the income of many hundreds of images just to pay off your camera body never mind the lens and the rest of the gear, your expertise and experience, the insurance and depreciation, your travel and significantly - outlay in both time and cost in the processing of these images.

Seriously, can someone shooting for this market explain their balance of the economics so that the guy working for minimum wage is not making more per hour once you balance the expeditures?
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« Reply #25 on: July 12, 2006, 02:24:50 PM »
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Seriously, can someone shooting for this market explain their balance of the economics so that the guy working for minimum wage is not making more per hour once you balance the expeditures?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=70490\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

You're working from the (IMHO false) premise that somebody shooting for this market is expecting to make a large part, or all, of their income from it.  That simply isn't how it works anymore.  Clearly, a wedding photographer cannot be replaced by a stock library - well, unless somebody has truly awesome Photoshop skills :-) - but for non-specific stock images, is a library going to try to charge $500 for a photo of a tree by A. Famous-Pro, or $5 for the same tree by me ?  If I'm not expecting any income, as a pure amateur, then $5 (for my soda) is free money. I'm happy. The client is happy. The library is happy.  The pro is screwed.

So there's nothing to explain, really. You cannot make a living from stock photography any more. Game over.
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« Reply #26 on: July 12, 2006, 02:44:25 PM »
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Seriously, can someone shooting for this market explain their balance of the economics so that the guy working for minimum wage is not making more per hour once you balance the expeditures?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=70490\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Sure, its easy; you look at the average annual per image returns, not the fees paid for each sale.  200 sales at, say, 50c per sale commission gives you $100.  1 sale at $100 gives you $100.  You might feel better with the latter, but you have earned the same with both systems.

Average earnings per image per year with a typical microstock portfolio should earn you about the same as, but possibly more than, the similar average per image earnings from a traditional agency (excluding high-end work on the likes of Getty, of course).  The difference will be more of your images will have been sold more times with the micros.  I base this on reported earnings from the microspayment stock forum.

Of course that is a comparison between traditional and microstock agencies.  Any form of stock photography is tricky to earn a full time living from. Many microstock contributors will, just like other stock photographers, have a day job - as a photographer in some cases, but also as pretty much any other occupation.

Quentin
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« Reply #27 on: July 12, 2006, 02:48:09 PM »
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So there's nothing to explain, really. You cannot make a living from stock photography any more. Game over.

This is probably true for those selling the occasional general use low rez images. Say, a 3-5 mpix pic for $1-$2 or something. Hard to make a living like that. Just another McJob, or a hobby at best.

But in general, shouldn't there still be a stock photo market for high rez (aka large final print) images that sell for reasonable amounts of money. There may be well-heeled amateurs out there with high-end D-SLRs' who are shooting 50 mpix pics and who are willing to sell them for a buck, but I can't believe that there are that many. Why would anyone do that?

But this is no more than conjecture on my part. Are the high-enders losing any business, is the question?
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« Reply #28 on: July 12, 2006, 02:53:56 PM »
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Sure, its easy; you look at the average annual per image returns, not the fees paid for each sale.  200 sales at, say, 50c per sale commission gives you $100.  1 sale at $100 gives you $100.  You might feel better with the latter, but you have earned the same with both systems.

Average earnings per image per year with a typical microstock portfolio should earn you about the same as, but possibly more than, the similar average per image earnings from a traditional agency (excluding high-end work on the likes of Getty, of course).  The difference will be more of your images will have been sold more times with the micros.  I base this on reported earnings from the microspayment stock forum.

Of course that is a comparison between traditional and microstock agencies.  Any form of stock photography is tricky to earn a full time living from. Many microstock contributors will, just like other stock photographers, have a day job - as a photographer in some cases, but also as pretty much any other occupation.

Quentin
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That's rather partial information.  I'd like to know the macroeconomics -- of the $2B in annual revenue, most of it going to Getty, Corbis and Jupiter, how much ends up in photographers' pockets?  That's what we all, from businesslike pros to wannabees to hobbyists, will divide up.  Thanks to a friend who is consulting with some RF and RM companies on the very serious need to move their software backbone from mom-and-pop to Internet grade, I got some numbers.  For example, the shooting budget for new material each year shot to order is only about $20M.  Probably that goes into the RM category, and I doubt if more than half of that ends up in photographers' pockets.  

Do you know what the overall numbers are on royalty payments, and what the breakdown is betwen RM, RF and micro?

scott
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svein-frode
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« Reply #29 on: July 12, 2006, 03:00:41 PM »
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This whole discussion seems to me to be a good example of the smaller fish eating the bigger fish.

As far as markets go, everything is a market -- even in non-market societies; things are just arranged differently. In the old Soviet Union, the leaders had their dachas; in Maoist China, the sons of the influential did well and got rich.

Having gouvernment (elected by the people) controlled markets is not the same as welcoming communism and totalitarian regimes. The so called free market of today works much like the world in the middle ages when kings (aka individuals with great wealth) ruled as they wanted. When gouvernments no longer represent the people, but major shareholders of the worlds largest corporations, we can no longer talk about free markets as we know them from economic theory. Strongly controlled markets can work, just look to f.ex. Norway and the Scandinavian contries which have managed to combine democracy, public welfare, personal wealth and regulated markets (Just read the reports of IMF and UN).

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Corporations were never formed to take on large projects for the good of society. They were always about profits. That creates no problem, as long as everybody keeps it clearly in mind.

 “Early corporations of the commercial sort were formed under frameworks set up by governments of states to undertake tasks which appeared too risky or too expensive for individuals or governments to embark upon.” “In the United States, government chartering began to fall out of vogue in the mid-1800s. Corporate law at the time was focused on protection of the public interest, and not on the interests of corporate shareholders. Corporate charters were closely regulated by the states. Forming a corporation usually required an act of legislature. Investors generally had to be given an equal say in corporate governance, and corporations were required to comply with the purposes expressed in their charters. Many private firms in the 19th century avoided the corporate model for these reasons.” (Micklethwait/Wooldridge)

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I've always thought some aspects of high-end photography were absurd. Do you really need to pay somebody $50,000 to take a picture of a Buick? It occurred to me any number of times when I was working as a reporter, and I'd see a big photo shoot somewhere, that (as a longtime amateur photogapher) I could do something that would be 90 percent as good, for 10 percent of the money, and that 99 percent of the people who viewed the resulting ad would never be the wiser...Some of the newspaper pros I worked with were as good as any high-priced custom pro I ever encountered, but preferred the newspaper life (and security)...

I don't know about the Buick, but I know that car phtography is a very demanding on equipment and studio facilities. In a big marketing campain you need images that can be used for billboards and magazine ads with equal quality in both mediums. This reminds me of the argument of people seeing a modern painting and claiming their kid could do it better... On the other hand you have a point, and I'm sure there are some well fed photographers out there overcharging!

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On the whole, I think the change will be for the better. There'll be a lot of new photography out there that'll be judged on the basis of quality, rather than the basis of connections or who-you-know in the industry, and may give some real talent, that otherwise wouldn't see the light of day, a chance.

I agree and disagree. Competition might spark a few bright stars, but I think micro-payment stock is the beginning of the devaluation of photography as a whole. Photography as a business isn’t very different from many other businesses, and once things have become cheap, they’ll tend to stay cheap. Sure, there will always be niches, but I think lots of talent will go to waste if the industry can’t provide a decent income.

We need professionals to keep educational institutions alive and to develop the art and craft of photography in a professional way. I have met enough amateurs that can make sharp and perfectly exposed images, yet know nothing about visual communication, art history and professional ethics. An amateur rarely can compete with someone making images 24-7 in terms of professional output and ethical standard. I think less is more, and overflowing the market with terrible images just because they’re cheap is tragic. Then again, I agree that becoming a photographer isn’t a birth given right, nor should it be. Life will go on without it, but with a little less spice.
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« Reply #30 on: July 12, 2006, 03:07:32 PM »
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Do you know what the overall numbers are on royalty payments, and what the breakdown is betwen RM, RF and micro?

scott
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I rely on the data I see on various forums.  I should emphasise I am no microstock apologist; the micropayment forum was set up because free (read critical) discussion of the micros was impossible on their own forums.  iStock in particular police their own forums and delete critical threads.

The position is further complicated by different sales models.  Shutterstock, for example, is a subsription site that pays a flat 25c per download.  Jon Oringer who owns SS claims that if each subsriber downloaded their full allowance Shutterstock would make a loss... believe that if you must    iStockphoto's base comission is 20% of the sale price - far too low, in my opinion.  This rises to a maximum of 40% for exclusive members who only sell RF through iStock and are at "Gold cannister" level - 10,000 or more downloads.  The minimum payment for a non-exclusive photographer is 20c, with higher payments for larger file sizes, up to around $10 or a lot more for extended licensing arrangements.  Other sites have other twists.  Fotolia seem to be the up and coming kid on the microstock block.

Quentin

PS Don't anyone please fall in to the trap of thinking the micros are only full of mom and pop amateurs sending in pictures of aunt mabel and sunsets.  There are plenty of pros on the micros submitting highly professional work.   Maybe that should be a cause of more concern to the trads.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2006, 03:16:03 PM by Quentin » Logged

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« Reply #31 on: July 12, 2006, 03:23:12 PM »
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I agree that X amount of images will pay X, what I still am incredulous about is the economics of producing those X images relative to what you are being paid for them. Yes you can make money on those 200 images mentioned, shame that making them in the first place is likely to cost as much or more than you will get paid, don't know about you people but I can earn far more for the same amount of time and expenditure.
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« Reply #32 on: July 12, 2006, 03:27:33 PM »
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I agree that X amount of images will pay X, what I still am incredulous about is the economics of producing those X images relative to what you are being paid for them. Yes you can make money on those 200 images mentioned, shame that making them in the first place is likely to cost as much or more than you will get paid, don't know about you people but I can earn far more for the same amount of time and expenditure.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=70501\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Your comments must hold true for all stock.  I don't spend a fortune on producing microstock; its not my primary source of income.  

Quentin
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« Reply #33 on: July 12, 2006, 04:41:34 PM »
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I just don't get the reason why people stand in line to get screwed with microstocks . All you are doing is putting money into someone else's pockets . While I do agree that there is a need for rf images and sell some my self I see no need to give it away to designers for nothing . I can see selling web images for say $20 -$100 a pop and the photographer gets 50% but selling for $1 is just stupid .

I have been talking to some of my clients and they are saying they are still paying a lot for images used on their websites . They were pissed when I pointed out that the designer was paying a buck a image and charging them over $100 a image and pointed them out of istocks website . Designers and microstock site owners are the only true winners in this game . Photographers and end users are the ones getting screwed . I read through the microstock forums and see a bunch of amateur photographers cheering over the screwing they just got . I see designers crying because they had to spend $3 for a image because there is too much white area for them and they had to spend a extra $2 for a image so they could crop it  . I have started informing everyone I shoot for about designers and how they are screwing them on images . Designers are bottom feeding scum and they are behind this microstock crap .

People that sell to istock and shutterstock are sell outs . Yes there needs to be some lower priced images for web use but not at that price . $20 -$150 a shot for shots that are rf are ok in my book but people need to stop feeding the istock and shutterstock monsters .

I am doing good with stock sales but rf is down and rm is way up . I have started to find speciality agencies and placing my images there and am having better luck . There is still a demand for better images and I really hope pro shooters will stop selling to the istocks of the world . People who are selling images there are losing any value the image may have and are turning them into a image that will only earn a few bucks a sale and can't really be sold on a conventional agency ever again .
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svein-frode
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« Reply #34 on: July 12, 2006, 04:57:23 PM »
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http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.06/crowds.html

http://www.pdnonline.com/pdn/search/articl...t_id=1001806311
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« Reply #35 on: July 12, 2006, 05:17:49 PM »
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People that sell to istock and shutterstock are sell outs . Yes there needs to be some lower priced images for web use but not at that price .

Actually the people who sell to the micros seem happy enough, and most have heard the criticisms many times before.   The right price for an image?  What is that exactly?  And why should anyone pay what you might think is the right price if they don't have to?   It's such utter nonesense to rage againsts the existance of a business model that was always going to happen for the reasons I mentioned in my first message in this thread.

Stock photography has changed utterly and forever and we'd all better learn to deal with that fact.

Quentin
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« Reply #36 on: July 12, 2006, 05:20:51 PM »
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Microstock or micropayment if you want certainly is a hot button topic but the article here has at least one glaring error and that is the cost of equipment needed to submit to these agencies. I submit to most major microstock agencies using a Canon Digital Rebel and so my investment is not even close to the authors estimate. In this case he has errored in his facts or used his facts to support his case.

There is still and always will be (I think) a place for rights managed work of high quality but there is such a high demand for photos these days with web pages, online journals and easy small run publishing and yes even the odd print for your wall that micros will continue.

I know there is at least one instance of a major add campaign by two compeditors that used very similar RF images, as big business realizes this pitfall they will probably continue to use RM images.

Too bad the author wrote this piece from a biased point as it calls his whole view into question.

And yes I don't make much from this but enough to by the odd lens.

KLW
« Last Edit: July 12, 2006, 05:22:43 PM by kerryw » Logged
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« Reply #37 on: July 12, 2006, 06:05:51 PM »
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This exact topic came up on one of our ProForums here in Australia with the same arguements being put forward. One critic of microstock said that he had never heard of anyone mading much money out of $5 payments and only the company made the big bucks.

Well, a new poster popped up, a member of our Pro Association (AIPP) and revealed that he had many thousands of images with IStock et al and made over AUD30,000 last year.

That shut everyone up.

Quentin has the right point of view on this, and I agree with him totally (from the perspective of a stock shooter since 1987). I also agree that it is a hard industry to make a living from, in isolation. Having said that, at the height of the stock market in the 90s, one individual whom I know of used to make upwards of $1,000,000 a year in travel stock sales.

Anyway, this concept of images being somehow 'precious' just because the were difficult to shoot and/or expensive to shoot and/or shot by a famous photographer is totally flawed. An image is worth what someone will pay ie what it is worth to them.

The proof of this is in the following:

My single best selling stock image has earned me roughly AUD50,000 over the past 10 years. However, the individual sales themselves have ranges from less than $100 to $21,000. Same image - different uses, therefore different prices.

This is the way the rights-managed stock industry has always worked - price is based on use. All the micro stock agencies are doing is opening up smaller and smaller 'uses' so that now imagery is accessible to small publishers, Powerpoint producers etc.

Personally, whilst I don't use microstock myself, I don't really care if I sell one image once for $1000 or 1 image 100 times for $10 - that image is still worth $1000 to me.
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« Reply #38 on: July 12, 2006, 06:33:31 PM »
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What no-one seems to point out is that there is any amount of photography available for free either legitimately (e.g. via Microsoft Clip Art Gallery and other online sources) or illegitamtely because people download images and use them without paying any license fees. If the micro-stock agencies can tap into this market and persuade people to pay modest amounts of money for properly licensed images then that is a good way to go.

What is missing from the system is not so much a tiered pricing structure from a buck to a zillion dollars, but a system to enforce copyright protection on images so that cash flows into the system rather than down the drain. As the music industry is finding out, if you provide a low cost/cost effective charging structure that people can buy into at low cost for quantities that they actually want, then perhaps you don't need a strong enforcement system.

I can't help but conclude that what is happening to photographers is also what has been happening in the music industry. If Adobe Stock Photo is the equivalent of iTunes and offers images at 99 cents a pop with simple-to-use client software then the two are pretty much comparable.
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« Reply #39 on: July 12, 2006, 07:39:03 PM »
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So for those who want more money than micro stocks will provide, what is the best way for the future of targeting RM so as to maximise potential and profits? Is it shooting with high quality gear whose output will provide the potential that lesser quality cannot? It is targeting niche markets? I think we need to ask, who is still paying for RM instead of Micro, WHY, and how do we maximise that?

I've been interested in shooting stock for RM for a while, I have a specific niche in mind that although exploited has not been done in the best way. I think those of us who would not like to be told that our image that in terms of equipment, expertise and time is only worth a few dollars, need to maybe stop bemoaning a ever growing industry and work out how to maximise the potential at present and in the future, for the RM stock sales that we would like to target.

Does that make any sense? I think answers to the above questions my put things into perspective. If there are people out there paying for RM at present we need to know why they are paying those big bucks, and use that to put the bread on our tables...
« Last Edit: July 12, 2006, 07:40:00 PM by pom » Logged

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