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Author Topic: Microstock - making money for you?  (Read 2407 times)
KevinA
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« on: May 17, 2011, 03:04:06 AM »
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OK I know how nasty and evil Microstock is and it's a tool of the Devil. But other than those big names that get rolled out is anyone making a living out of them as a contributor. Do my prejudices mean I am missing a good income stream. Anyone here got any practical experience of a good return? I know we all have our opinion and I know it has killed a lot of stock revenue with one hand, reality is they exist, so is it better to be on board or wave the train off with a rude gesture ?

Kevin.
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Kevin.
Rob C
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« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2011, 02:15:13 PM »
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OK I know how nasty and evil Microstock is and it's a tool of the Devil. But other than those big names that get rolled out is anyone making a living out of them as a contributor. Do my prejudices mean I am missing a good income stream. Anyone here got any practical experience of a good return? I know we all have our opinion and I know it has killed a lot of stock revenue with one hand, reality is they exist, so is it better to be on board or wave the train off with a rude gesture ?

Kevin.



All I can tell you, as a former Tony Stone Worldwide contributor, is that it was always a lottery, but the stakes were more attractive and you could realitically expect a couple of thousand pounds for a good sale. A certain Mr Yuri Arcurs is always thrown up as the epitome of micro, but how many Mr Arcurs clones exist and make it?

My opinion is forget it, but in a few years, don't come back and shoot me.

Rob C
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KevinA
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« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2011, 05:25:54 AM »
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All I can tell you, as a former Tony Stone Worldwide contributor, is that it was always a lottery, but the stakes were more attractive and you could realitically expect a couple of thousand pounds for a good sale. A certain Mr Yuri Arcurs is always thrown up as the epitome of micro, but how many Mr Arcurs clones exist and make it?

My opinion is forget it, but in a few years, don't come back and shoot me.

Rob C

I don't thank the Yuri's of this world for blazing a trail to the micro's, you can point at them for a successful business plan of using the Micro's, but the fact is they would of made good money as things were for less effort. But that was then and this is now.
 I looked at Dreamstime and I can't see how anyone would get more than a few pennies return as they have a policy of only 25 uploads a week! now I thought Micro's worked on the "pile 'em high sell 'em cheap" method. Yuri has tens of thousands with them as do others. Anyone new is going to be somewhat hampered by now only uploading 1200 a year.
Reading the Forums and blogs on the sites, reminds me of the couple of times I got persuaded into trying the MLM business, everyone talks about their success which is only just around the corner, the truth is you are running around a bloody circle, someone else gets rich on your efforts. All the talk is about future earnings and milestones reached like 100th sale and level this or that. When you check out their profile you find it's taken them four years to sell a few dollars worth of images. I wonder what the percentage is that never gets paid out, there must be thousands and thousands of contributors that upload a few images but never sell enough to reach the $100. min payout amount. How on Earth did we let things get into this sorry state.

Kevin.
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Kevin.
Josh-H
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« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2011, 05:57:07 AM »
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I think Seth said it best "Micro Stock is No Stock" (or something to that effect).

I have looked at most of the Micro Stock agencies in some detail over the last couple of years and my feeling is its probably easier to make money standing on a street corner than sitting around waiting for orders from micro stock agencies. The whole business model has flies on it. Not to put to fine a point on it; but why on earth would I (or any photographer for that matter) want to sell a photograph for a dollar or even ten dollars when a single print sale can bring well over a thousand dollars (depending on the size, buyer etc.) Personally I do not buy into the philosophy that selling an image for a dollar is better than not selling it - but hey... I could well be odd in this.

Photographers with near household names like Art Wolfe are struggling with stock these days and are looking to alternate revenue streams such as training and workshops. Its not because they are bored of selling stock.

The market is so saturated with options for the buyer these days and the price so low from so many of the agencies that the poor photographer has almost no chance of making any sort of living out of these micro agencies. And thats not to cry over spilt milk. It is the way it is and as long as you understand the pitfalls you can make an educated decision on wether to enter the lions den of micro stock. I would take a massive grain of salt with any of the online testimonials claiming big returns from micro-stock - I dont know of a single pro photographer in Australia making a living from them.

I feel the dust hasn't settled yet from the GFC in relation to micro stock. There has been a certain cleaning of the house, but I personally still feel there are too many agencies out there.

Of course, I reference all of the above to micro stock and not to the giants of the world such as Getty and Corbis. For those photographer shooting stock for these companies there is still a good living to be made - provided you have a good handle on what it takes. When I stop and think about the photographers I know or know of who are making good to great livings they are all doing so out of studios selling prints. But this is Australia and we'll.. although not backward we are down under.  Grin
« Last Edit: May 18, 2011, 06:02:34 AM by Josh-H » Logged

Rob C
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« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2011, 02:33:31 PM »
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I think that the thing is this: micro thrives (or do I mean just grows?) on the desire of the person who will do anything to see his work in print. The same people would probably be just as happy to get published for nothing.

As they joyfully keep telling us, nobody owes the pro his living; so what if his business dies, if his wife leaves and the kids end up in care; I got a picture published!

Rob C
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Rhossydd
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« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2011, 02:37:39 AM »
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The same people would probably be just as happy to get published for nothing.
Unfortunately VERY true. Most of it is driven by the amateur photo magazines, where being published is implied to be a token of delivering "professional" standard work and highly aspirational.......even if with no reward.
Of course the magazines(and other publishers) love this, content for free for them. The irony is that work published without a reasonable fee can't be 'professional' as you could never earn a living from it.



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Rob C
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« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2011, 02:59:20 AM »
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Unfortunately VERY true. Most of it is driven by the amateur photo magazines, where being published is implied to be a token of delivering "professional" standard work and highly aspirational.......even if with no reward.
Of course the magazines(and other publishers) love this, content for free for them. The irony is that work published without a reasonable fee can't be 'professional' as you could never earn a living from it.



The perfect Catch 22.

Rob C
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bgbs
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« Reply #7 on: July 11, 2013, 06:01:21 PM »
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You can become successful at it but it takes hard work and a lot of dedication like anything in life.  I've looked at some photographer profiles on fotolia, and I saw one guy who uploaded only 2000 images, but made 40K in sales. Normally it is not possible to get so much sales on this amount of photos.  Stock industry has to be understood, and it is always an experiment because times change, events happen, styles evolve.  You never know for sure which image nails it. If you plan to photograph people, then you have to understand that clothes, and hair styles change, eventually as the style changes, people become less hip, tech such as laptops and phones start to look old and therefor such images become non-sellers. On one hand it is bad, on the other hand that means you can reshoot your best seller subjects to be on the cutting edge with the times. This also means that you are never really late to the game.

To make money in stock you have to sell on more than one stock agency. Best stock sites are istock, dreamstime, fotolia, and shutterstock.  Sometimes one image gets accepted on one stock site, but not the other. Sometimes the same image will be a big hit on one stock site, and a non-seller on the other.  If you have access to special places or subjects, thats a good way to gain traction in microstock. I started by having access to a dental laboratory that allowed me to shoot some of their prosthetic products.

I sell only a little bit on stock sites, usually stuff that I snap somewhere that only sits on my HD doing absolutely nothing for me.  Uploading stuff like that on microstock pays for my daily Americano at Starbucks. One thing I've learned is that these stock agencies always tinker with their search algorithms. I had some images, that always came up on first page with particular search terms, and thus made me good sales, but suddenly fall into abyss (I mean page 300), and the sales went from hero to zero in one day. It's like google, being on first page matters big time. A crappy image on first page will outsell your award winning image on 10th page every single time.

Always pay attention to keywording. Properly keywording an image is crucial to success. Some stock site will allow you to modify keywords after submission, and some will not. I do all the keywording in Lightroom so they will be embedded into the image, that way I do not need to keyword each time on every stock site.
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louoates
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« Reply #8 on: July 11, 2013, 09:45:13 PM »
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It's been three years since I've uploaded any images to my four main microstock sites. The 400 to 700 images at each have continued to sell well, yielding around $200 to $300 per month in commissions. I figure that around $10,000 the last three years isn't a bad return for zero work during that time. Critics look only at the low commission rates per sale and not on the overall return over time. By continuing to efficiently add images that sell you can build up some decent income. Like anything else the harder and smarter you work it the more you will make. Most of my stock images were accumulated while working on my commercial landscape portfolio. Stock can be shot any time of the day or night if you know what to look for. Uploading to most sites is fast and if you are mindful of the technical requirements you can get 90% acceptance rates. I stopped stock shooting only because it became boring.
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TOlson
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« Reply #9 on: July 16, 2013, 11:16:40 AM »
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I make my living from microstock photography so yes it is possible.  I'm doing it and I'm hardly a 'Yuri'.  I also don't agree with the comparison to MLM sales pitch.  If you look at the industry forums (MicrostockGroup for example) and look at the monthly sales threads for example, there are many many examples of long term contributors that are seeing such dismal income they are ready to give up.  That said, I also see other large portfolio's growing very fast.  The number of people making a living with microstock is certainly small on a world wide scale (200 or so by my guess).  But saying it is impossible is not quite true.  Very challenging yes, but not impossible.
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KLaban
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« Reply #10 on: July 17, 2013, 08:58:59 AM »
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Roll up for the summer sale.

http://www.istockphoto.com/article_view.php?ID=1560?esource=50407_iStock_ABC_Wave_2_RNB_EN_em&sp_rid=&sp_mid=5580424
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Robert Roaldi
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« Reply #11 on: July 17, 2013, 11:05:40 AM »
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I make my living from microstock photography so yes it is possible.  I'm doing it and I'm hardly a 'Yuri'.  I also don't agree with the comparison to MLM sales pitch.  If you look at the industry forums (MicrostockGroup for example) and look at the monthly sales threads for example, there are many many examples of long term contributors that are seeing such dismal income they are ready to give up.  That said, I also see other large portfolio's growing very fast.  The number of people making a living with microstock is certainly small on a world wide scale (200 or so by my guess).  But saying it is impossible is not quite true.  Very challenging yes, but not impossible.

One could argue that 200 worldwide rounds to zero, for all intents and purposes. There are more opportunities than that in professional sport, which is usually considered a more or less "impossible" career choice, in the sense of having little hope of success, statistically at least. Certainly very challenging.

It would be interesting to know or estimate how many consider microstock to be an OK part-time job, a place where pros can park images that they have no other use for in the hopes of making some unexpected cash. The price of entry is not high, just some uploading, a process that can be automated.
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Rob C
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« Reply #12 on: July 17, 2013, 01:40:08 PM »
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What a delightful ad, devaluing photographers right in their very faces!

And still they supply...

Rob C
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Rob C
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« Reply #13 on: July 17, 2013, 02:06:41 PM »
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One could argue that 200 worldwide rounds to zero, for all intents and purposes. There are more opportunities than that in professional sport, which is usually considered a more or less "impossible" career choice, in the sense of having little hope of success, statistically at least. Certainly very challenging.

It would be interesting to know or estimate how many consider microstock to be an OK part-time job, a place where pros can park images that they have no other use for in the hopes of making some unexpected cash. The price of entry is not high, just some uploading, a process that can be automated.


That kind of depends on whether or not you use models, travel extensively anywhere on your own account, other than on holidays, and if you would actually own the equipment you do were it but hobby.

To put a perspective on it all: I joined Tony Stone, (who became Getty’s first big purchase – I heard a figure of 30 million pounds bandied about) by invitation via suggestion to Stone from a mega calendar printer who dealt regularly with the Stone agency. I went down to London, we signed a deal, and also a second one for personal representation for commissioned work (Stone also ran a studio at the time).

I supplied stock from the unused shots of calendar assignments and everything in the garden smelled of the sweetest of roses. Commission on stock was a straight 50% split, representation far more in my favour.

My best sales were always in France; I asked for my submissions to be edited in Paris instead of in London, on the basis that my style was clearly, if based on sales figures, more suited to European than British tastes, which were, if anything, a little more brash than I liked to be with my own work. This was refused – I began to lose interest… we finally parted company, something I later came to regret. Pride, falls, etc.

But, competition was fierce as hell; there were many excellent shooters out there doing exactly the same as was I; models began to get a bit expensive when the client’s money factor was removed… film and processing made you think seriously about what you proposed to do.

If it ended up not really worth the candle for some kinds of shooting even in those great times. I fail to see what can come from it now, unless it boils down to ego-tripping. Period.

Rob C
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