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Author Topic: Response to Essay on Micro Payment Stock Photos  (Read 31007 times)
benInMA
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« Reply #100 on: July 18, 2006, 04:37:18 PM »
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I'm not confusing the two but there are certainly tons and tons of amateur photographers who do confuse the two.

Frankly as an amateur who makes his living in a more stable field.. photography as a business seemingly sucks.   Compared to many fields it's closer to moving to LA and trying to get into Hollywood.  A very tough proposition.

Lots of people want to do it, and it's not the best job unless you're very good at both creating the work and selling yourself.

All it takes is a steady stream of amateurs who are willing to dabble a bit from time to time.  The power of the internet turns them into a big money making machine for a company like iStockPhoto and a big headache for working photographers.

Put me squarely in the camp of "This genie is not going back in the bottle."  Every working photographer from now on has to deal with it, just like everyone in engineering has to deal with Indian and Chinese universities pumping out hundreds of thousands of engineers willing to work for next to nothing.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2006, 04:41:20 PM by benInMA » Logged
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« Reply #101 on: July 18, 2006, 05:49:08 PM »
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As an amateur I think many of us have a fascination in getting a little ego boost by selling a few of our pictures, even if the rates are a joke and make your artistic hobby seem like a total waste of money.

There are enough people willing to dabble in it to make these sites work and cheapen the value of the photos.

[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=71035\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

... some wag once said:

"Photography is like prostitution - it's a profession spoiled by amateurs".

 
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Quentin
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« Reply #102 on: July 18, 2006, 05:56:35 PM »
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I don't need to be able to tell people I sold $50 worth of photos a year to feel good about my hobby and I honestly don't want to take the money away from someone who might be struggling to make a living.

[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=71035\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

You'd have to be a spectacularly unsuccesful microstock photographer to make so little.  On the other hand, to make a go of any type of stock photography, you do need to shoot for the market.  If you are not prepared to do that, then stock photography in general is not for you.

Quentin
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« Reply #103 on: July 18, 2006, 07:11:37 PM »
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how great would it be if this forum allowed AVATARS!
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benInMA
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« Reply #104 on: July 18, 2006, 09:26:15 PM »
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You'd have to be a spectacularly unsuccesful microstock photographer to make so little.† On the other hand, to make a go of any type of stock photography, you do need to shoot for the market.† If you are not prepared to do that, then stock photography in general is not for you.

Quentin
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=71056\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

You'd have to be spectacularly unsuccessful to make so little IF you are putting lots and lots of time into it.  I put a grand total of an hour into it when I started.

Didn't you say you are a member of 4 different stock photo sites and run a forum about it?  You've obviously got a lot of time into it.  If you're a photographer and don't have a normal day job you probably have the time to do so.  And then you can be one of the top guys on your particular site.  But when the sites have tens of thousands of members many of them are people like me who put a very minimal effort in.  A single upload of 50 random photos, and then never putting any more work into it.

If someone buys something it's free money, if not I'm not losing money by way of spending lots of time on it that could be spent on my real job, going out shooting pictures, or generally having a life.  

But the site(s) work based on having thousands of people upload pictures.  That's how it works.

Looking at the photo requests I'd need to go out and shoot all kinds of random things I never bother to shoot.  This would take lots of time and money.  Then I would compete with thousands of other submissions for a payout of a few dollars?  It's almost like playing the lottery... it's not a smart business.

It's like eBay.. there are a few people without day jobs making a living on it by spending all day selling knick knacks.. but in general what drives the business are the thousands of people buying or selling an odd item here or there.  That equals tons of money for ebay, a new market for cheap goods, and a general driving down of prices & profits for the traditional buyers and sellers of such items.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2006, 09:27:25 PM by benInMA » Logged
alainbriot
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« Reply #105 on: July 19, 2006, 12:25:02 AM »
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I'm not confusing the two but there are certainly tons and tons of amateur photographers who do confuse the two.

Frankly as an amateur who makes his living in a more stable field.. photography as a business seemingly sucks.   Compared to many fields it's closer to moving to LA and trying to get into Hollywood.  A very tough proposition.

Lots of people want to do it, and it's not the best job unless you're very good at both creating the work and selling yourself.

All it takes is a steady stream of amateurs who are willing to dabble a bit from time to time.  The power of the internet turns them into a big money making machine for a company like iStockPhoto and a big headache for working photographers.

Put me squarely in the camp of "This genie is not going back in the bottle."  Every working photographer from now on has to deal with it, just like everyone in engineering has to deal with Indian and Chinese universities pumping out hundreds of thousands of engineers willing to work for next to nothing.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=71048\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Personally I found the exact opposite to be the case and I wrote a post about this earlier in this same thread.  I don't think it is that much different with stock photos, although as I mentioned I don't work with microstocks so I can't really comment on it.
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Alain Briot
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Quentin
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« Reply #106 on: July 19, 2006, 05:46:58 AM »
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You'd have to be spectacularly unsuccessful to make so little IF you are putting lots and lots of time into it.† I put a grand total of an hour into it when I started.

Didn't you say you are a member of 4 different stock photo sites and run a forum about it?† You've obviously got a lot of time into it.† If you're a photographer and don't have a normal day job you probably have the time to do so.† And then you can be one of the top guys on your particular site.† But when the sites have tens of thousands of members many of them are people like me who put a very minimal effort in.† A single upload of 50 random photos, and then never putting any more work into it.

If someone buys something it's free money, if not I'm not losing money by way of spending lots of time on it that could be spent on my real job, going out shooting pictures, or generally having a life.††

But the site(s) work based on having thousands of people upload pictures.† That's how it works.

Looking at the photo requests I'd need to go out and shoot all kinds of random things I never bother to shoot.† This would take lots of time and money.† Then I would compete with thousands of other submissions for a payout of a few dollars?† It's almost like playing the lottery... it's not a smart business.

It's like eBay.. there are a few people without day jobs making a living on it by spending all day selling knick knacks.. but in general what drives the business are the thousands of people buying or selling an odd item here or there.† That equals tons of money for ebay, a new market for cheap goods, and a general driving down of prices & profits for the traditional buyers and sellers of such items.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=71080\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

But the same is true of all stock.  To make more than peanuts, you need to put in the effort.  With the exception of a handful of photographers on the likes of Getty, stock photographers in general have to develop large portfolios of thousands of images in order to make serious money.

From the stats I have seen, the average per image income from successful microstock photographers bears comparison with traditional stock.  With microstock, you rely upon low price / high volume, and with traditonal stock you rely upon low volume / high price.  The net income should, however, be similar.  

Quentin
« Last Edit: July 19, 2006, 05:48:03 AM by Quentin » Logged

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Rob C
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« Reply #107 on: July 19, 2006, 11:05:31 AM »
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Alain

The truth about stock is brutally simple: the stock company is in the business of selling a product and creating a profit, a middleman enterprise; the contributing photographers are the suppliers who provide the material that the stock company sells. It is in the interest of the stock company to create the highest margin of profit that it can. The problems of its suppliers are no more its concern than the problems of third-world tailors and cobblers are to the high street stores that sell their sweated goods in the first world.

Frankly, all you can do as a photographer is to decide whether you want to play that game.

The so-called bigtime photographers are something else, both in talent and in the opportunities available to them to create stock.

Don't forget that it isn't just photographers trying to sell product: publishers have already forced photographers into contracts whereby their commissioned feature work can be re-used, sold on and virtually worked into the ground for next to zilch. Stock libraries have contracts with major magazine groups to market some of their feature images etc. etc. and so the playing field is not only not level, it is like a chest of drawers!

As another contributor just wrote: as a job, photography sucks. It does. You have to be dedicated and then it is no longer a job.

Ciao - Rob C
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benInMA
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« Reply #108 on: July 19, 2006, 11:10:16 AM »
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Quentin I could certainly put in the time and upload 1000 files to my account.. it remains to be seen if it would be worth it.  I'd have to pay extra for all that space.

If it meant it started generating some income maybe it'd be worth it.  Regardless I'm not sure I have the time to prep & upload 1000 files.
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mtomalty
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« Reply #109 on: July 19, 2006, 01:31:34 PM »
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It's worth mentioning that IStock, and others, do not market 'unlimited rights'. The whole RF concept is slightly mis-named because there are limits put on what a client can do with the image. What RF really means is that there are no more royalties payable for that image as long as it is used within the basic license parameters set by the stock company in their T+Cs.

True enough but the T + Cs are very liberal and in no way limit a purchaser of a RF image
to using an image exclusively in the domain for which they originally needed the image,
i.e. many clients are now amassing their own small internal RF libraries using images which
they liscensed legitimately and are reselling these same images to other of their clients when
the opportunity arises. To me that's dirty pool and,even if an RF supplier had terms forbidding
this secondary resale there is virtually no way for the original vendor to track what is,and is not
a secondary resale as useage info is not required as a term of sale.

I make my living exclusively from stock (predominantly in RM but am dabbling around the edges
of RF) and am opening a gallery in Montreal in the next week or so.

As it was almost impossible to resist the reality that RF is quickly becoming a dominant
force in the liscensing of stock images (over 50% of the global dollars spent on stock
photography is spent on RF) I put a few questions to the legal department of my principal
agent so as to educate myself on what backend problems i might run into when trying to
determine which images go into the RF stream and which into the RM.

The most notable,among a few other lesser issues,for me knowing that I would be
eventually owning a gallery and selling 'fine art' prints was that there exists no exclusion for
most,if not all of the big distributors, for fine art use meaning that an unscrupulous RF
purchaser could liscense images at high enough resolution to print and market fine art
reproductions without compensation to or even recognition of the image creator.

It was noted by the legal department contact that the area was a little 'gray' and that
possibly a successfull defense could be presented in court if the need arose but the fact remains
that no specific protection currently exists in present T + Cs.

It's obvious,for anyone doing their homework,to  note that quality of RF content is very
high (and there is volume junk) and is no longer the poor sister of RM imagery.
I suspect that micropayment stock will also follow a similar creative path and I think one has
to think carefully on how ones images can be used once it enters the 'semi public' domain
of royalty free liscensing

Mark
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alainbriot
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« Reply #110 on: July 19, 2006, 02:34:12 PM »
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Is iStockPro considered a MicroStock? I think there was an offer to join this agency in the last release of Photoshop.
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Alain Briot
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John Camp
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« Reply #111 on: July 19, 2006, 03:39:14 PM »
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Alan, your view of this argument seems to be pretty self-centered -- YOU may not get increased attention by working for micro-stock companies, because you're already well-known. Your situation doesn't necessarily apply to everybody. If you take a talented photogapher living in West Bumf--- Arkansas who sells a few hundred microstock photos, being able to put that in a portfolio (under "works sold") might be crucial to a budding career.

You do make an important point in that people should not confuse art and business. I would make the further point that nobody should confuse almost anything with business -- just because you went to Harvard Law doesn't mean that anybody owes you a living; just because you went to RIT shouldn't  mean that a self-taught amateur photographer shouldn't be allowed to get his stuff in an art magazine. Anything -- work, effort, good intentions, intelligence, art, training -- are meaningless in terms of making a living, if you can't somehow sell your product or service.

All microstocks do is provide another way for a service to be sold. Microstocks are not interested in driving experienced photographers out of business; nor are they interested in preventing Harvard Lawyers from joining the country club -- they are interested in one thing: selling photos and making money. Complaints about that process are simply more-or-less subtle restatements of the argument that some people should be priveleged, due to talent, training, effort, good intentions, good taste, intelligence, or whatever.

Microstocks aren't interested in all that. They simply say, upload, and if we can sell it, you'll get some money. If we can't, you won't. Period.

Also, I see nothing at all wrong with Quentin selling under as many different names as he wishes. He's a commercial photographer, using brand names to differentiate between his brands, no different than Pepsi and Fritos, which are owned by the same company. The situation may be different for a person selling photos as art, because a sideline might appear to cheapen the value of his art works, which are priced partially on the basis of scarcity and implied overall quality of artistic output...Although that didn't seem to bother Rembrandt, who did lots of cheap multiples, engravings, to supplement his painting income...

JC
« Last Edit: July 19, 2006, 03:42:47 PM by John Camp » Logged
Rob C
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« Reply #112 on: July 19, 2006, 03:55:22 PM »
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Lads - I think this thread has now gone circular. In other words, I reckon we have got down to the black is white situation where the original point/discussion is secondary to winning the argument; last man standing and all that jazz...

Ciao - Rob C
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« Reply #113 on: July 19, 2006, 04:21:42 PM »
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Is iStockPro considered a MicroStock? I think there was an offer to join this agency in the last release of Photoshop.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=71168\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

No, Alain.  It was supposed to be the upmarket iStockphoto, but in practice, according to the rumours I hear, iStockpro is moribund, and most photographers stick with iStockphoto which is where all the investment and time seems to be directed.

Quentin
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« Reply #114 on: July 20, 2006, 02:54:07 AM »
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No, Alain.  It was supposed to be the upmarket iStockphoto, but in practice, according to the rumours I hear, iStockpro is moribund, and most photographers stick with iStockphoto which is where all the investment and time seems to be directed.
Quentin
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=71179\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Thank you Quentin.  So what are the non-moribund high-end pro stock agencies?
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« Reply #115 on: July 20, 2006, 03:59:30 AM »
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The most notable,among a few other lesser issues,for me knowing that I would be
eventually owning a gallery and selling 'fine art' prints was that there exists no exclusion for most,if not all of the big distributors, for fine art use meaning that an unscrupulous RF purchaser could liscense images at high enough resolution to print and market fine art reproductions without compensation to or even recognition of the image creator.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=71155\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Hi Mark,

Well, these days, if the license doesn't exclude fine art use, then that's not "uncrupulous", just "entrepeneurial". "Unscrupulous" seems to be the order of the day anymore what with stock agencies posting RM images on entrapment pages saying you're free to use them on your website, then when you do, sending extortion letters demanding high fees. And photographers aren't missing out either, signing exclusive RM agreements with stock agencies then trimming a few pixels off the image and putting essentially the same image on microstock sites for a tiny fraction of the price.

For specialized photographers like myself, it's entirely possible these days (thanks to the internet and google) to set up your own stock agency, and this is what I plan to do, offering my images as anything from low cost low-res web images for a few dollars, to prints for an intermediate price, to rights managed high-res (fine art use excluded) for much higher fees. Why give 1/4 to 3/4 to an agency anymore, particularly when they're so dumb with their license terms and haven't figured out multi-tiered use yet?

- DL
« Last Edit: July 20, 2006, 04:20:18 AM by dlashier » Logged

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« Reply #116 on: July 20, 2006, 04:33:56 AM »
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Why give 1/4 to 3/4 to an agency anymore, particularly when they're so dumb with their license terms and haven't figured out multi-tiered use yet?
- DL
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=71247\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]


I am sure I am stating the bleedin' obvious but the reason you relinquish 50% of sales revenue is because they do the work of selling. I am a poor salesman and I do not want to spend my days on the phone drumming up business for my stock library. I am happy to pay someone else to do this effectively, rather then me do it myself. I'd rather be out taking photos.

It is possible to set up an automated system, sure. But if you build it, will they come? No, not very likely. Any web based enterprise needs to be marketed as aggresively as any other business, this much has been proven.

Better to find an agency with the skills you think important and let them do the marketing work. There are quite a few very progressive traditional agencies starting up who have identified the shortcomings of the big agencies. I have just started with one and a: I am a medium sized fish in a small pond and b: the owners are actively marketing very effectively - after all it's in their own best interest.

In 1 month I have racked up AUD1000 in sales so I'm happy with that as a start  

I think it's all about playing to your strenghts. I am a better photographer than marketer - I am comfortable with this and now prefer to deal with people whose strength is marketing. Having said that, there are plenty of broadly talented types out there who may well be good at more than one thing - more strength to them I say.

If you can shoot good images and market them effectively then why not keep all the pie - I would just say that it's not as easy as it sounds...
« Last Edit: July 20, 2006, 04:35:09 AM by Nick Rains » Logged

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Julian Love
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« Reply #117 on: July 22, 2006, 09:35:38 AM »
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As mentioned before I think most people in this thread are not actually involved in stock photography, and most of them have clearly not bothered to take a look at iStock. I am a professional photographer and have images represented by a medium-sized RM only library here in the UK, but I have been looking at iStock closely....the more research I do the more I see as an opportnity than a threat.

To bring some well needed facts about iStock into the discussion:

1) The quality of pictures is generally very high. All pictures are reviewed before being accepted, for content as well as technical issues. The average quality is much higher than Alamy for example, which many people really do treat as a "dumping ground" for their second tier images.

2) Pictures only sell for $1 if you are buying a tiny image, for a powerpoint presentation say. a 50MB file costs $40...true, much less than a "traditional" stock site, but much more than $1.

3)  The sales volumes for good images are enormous. Look at the "most popular" page and you will see there are many images which have sold over 5000 times. These tend to be the images that are more difficult for amateurs to shoot - model released corporate and lifestyle shots.

4) The net effect of points 2 and 3 is that there are a significant minority of contributors who are making very good money ($thousands per month) from iStock. Just browse the forums and you will come across threads where people openly discuss how much money they are making. The successful ones are often treating it as a full-time or nearly full-time job.


Micropayment sites are vastly expanding the volume of images that are sold, by selling images at rates affordable to small businesses. They are also creating wealth not only for their owners, but also their contributors. While there will aways remain market for commissioned photography and rights managed stock, iStock is a viable business model and is here to stay.

Whenever the status quo in an industry changes, there will be winners and losers. The winners are those who exploit the opportunities that were not available before, or adapt to the new business landscape. The losers are those who do not or cannot adapt. Look at the s an losers from the rise of the internet in the 1990s or the growth of outsourcing today.

Sitting there and moaning about it certainly won't help you.

Julian
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« Reply #118 on: July 23, 2006, 11:16:48 AM »
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To bring some well needed facts about iStock into the discussion:

2) Pictures only sell for $1 if you are buying a tiny image, for a powerpoint presentation say. a 50MB file costs $40...true, much less than a "traditional" stock site, but much more than $1.


$40 files donít get much downloads at IStock. In my experience the average price per download is slightly above $2


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3)  The sales volumes for good images are enormous. Look at the "most popular" page and you will see there are many images which have sold over 5000 times. These tend to be the images that are more difficult for amateurs to shoot - model released corporate and lifestyle shots.


If you look at the most popular page here http://www.istockphoto.com/most_popular.php you will see that there is not even one with 5,000 downloads. In fact there are only three pics with more than 1,000 downloads.


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Sitting there and moaning about it certainly won't help you.

Poor research neither
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« Reply #119 on: July 23, 2006, 04:13:10 PM »
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If you look at the most popular page here http://www.istockphoto.com/most_popular.php you will see that there is not even one with 5,000 downloads. In fact there are only three pics with more than 1,000 downloads.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=71550\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

The numbers next to the images are the number of downloads in the last 3 months.

If we use your average of about $2 per download, some images are generating over $1000 per month in revenues, and $400 per month in commission for an exclusive "gold" iStock photographer ($200 for a newbie) - from a single image. These are best case scenarios, but it should be readily apparent that photographers with a collection of several hundred images of popular subjects are making very good money from the site.

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Poor research neither
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=71550\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
Quite.

Julian
« Last Edit: July 23, 2006, 04:15:06 PM by Julian Love » Logged
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