Ad
Ad
Ad
Pages: [1] 2 »   Bottom of Page
Print
Author Topic: BJP - How the Stock Industry ate itself?  (Read 6662 times)
N Walker
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 296


WWW
« on: July 07, 2011, 09:49:34 AM »
ReplyReply

http://www.bjp-online.com/british-journal-of-photography/opinion/2072022/stockpiling-trouble-stock-industry-ate

Nothing new, still, worth a read.

Stock Artists Alliance (SAA) to shut down at the end of this year.
« Last Edit: July 07, 2011, 10:10:13 AM by Nick Walker » Logged

Graham Mitchell
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 2282



WWW
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2011, 02:28:52 PM »
ReplyReply

Nice article!
Logged

Graham Mitchell - www.graham-mitchell.com
nightfire
Jr. Member
**
Offline Offline

Posts: 90



« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2011, 05:09:17 PM »
ReplyReply

Quote
Betsy Reid was founding executive director of the Stock Artists Alliance [...] Today she works at the Georgia Center for Nonprofits [...]

I sense a slight irony of fate here.
Logged
Schewe
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 5453


WWW
« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2011, 05:21:06 PM »
ReplyReply

I sense a slight irony of fate here.

Actually no...I've worked with Betsy (back when I was in APA) and she was a dedicated hard working individual. It doesn't surprise me at all that she's involved with nonprofits...but that says nothing about her work with SAA. It's not here fault that photographers end up eating themselves.
Logged
feppe
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 2909

Oh this shows up in here!


WWW
« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2011, 06:52:56 PM »
ReplyReply

It's refreshing to see a thorough analysis of the failures of the business - especially one that recognizes that amateurs and microstock were only some of the many reasons for its downfall, and that it started well before digital revolution.

Quote
With it came the harsh recognition for picture libraries and professional photographers that they were no longer indispensable for creating and licensing images. As Howe foretold, “pain and disruption are inevitable” and it was perhaps most painful of all in the professional photography market.

Most painful? Ms Reid might want to do some reading on numerous industries which have suffered far worse fates or disappeared altogether due to technology making it obsolete or taking it away from the elite.
Logged

tom b
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 869


WWW
« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2011, 07:14:23 PM »
ReplyReply

Michael had an essay written by George Munday on this topic (Micro Payment Agencies - A Force for Good or Evil?) a while ago, essay is here.

Cheers,
Logged

Graham Mitchell
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 2282



WWW
« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2011, 04:47:11 PM »
ReplyReply

Another point which I have not seen mentioned before is the fact that stock agencies like iStock charge by the size of the image. That made sense in the print days - a small image such as 600x800 pixels would be used for a small inset image only.

These days, a large slice of the sales is due to websites which would rarely download an image larger than 600x800. Istock is selling that image size for about 5 credits, whereas the file for an A4 print page is 20 credits. That's a 75% loss in revenue as people shift from print to internet. Not a very clever model...
Logged

Graham Mitchell - www.graham-mitchell.com
louoates
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 751



WWW
« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2011, 06:26:59 PM »
ReplyReply

The "model" you refer to is doing quite nicely for the major stock agencies. The volume of web-based images is increasing geometrically and it is the stock photographers largely supplying that demand. In general the price per image paid the photographer is decreasing as more photographers jump in and the images available have skyrocketed. And the agencies themselves are in a price war of sorts with each other. Much like any other business having to keep cutting costs. 

I don't agree that the size/price differences have outlived their usefulness. I have 500-700 images on several stock sites and constantly have sales in all sizes. So what if they are using just the resolution they need? The point is that they're using more of them as the refresh rate (changing) of images on web and personal video devices is increasing as well. My best selling stock image sells 75-90 times per month and many of those are in the $2 to $4 range.

There is still a good business in stock for someone who likes to shoot creatively and get paid for it consistently. Like anything else it takes work and the ability to change with the market.
Logged
Graham Mitchell
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 2282



WWW
« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2011, 07:01:34 PM »
ReplyReply

The "model" you refer to is doing quite nicely for the major stock agencies. The volume of web-based images is increasing geometrically and it is the stock photographers largely supplying that demand. In general the price per image paid the photographer is decreasing as more photographers jump in and the images available have skyrocketed. And the agencies themselves are in a price war of sorts with each other. Much like any other business having to keep cutting costs. 

I don't agree that the size/price differences have outlived their usefulness. I have 500-700 images on several stock sites and constantly have sales in all sizes. So what if they are using just the resolution they need? The point is that they're using more of them as the refresh rate (changing) of images on web and personal video devices is increasing as well. My best selling stock image sells 75-90 times per month and many of those are in the $2 to $4 range.

There is still a good business in stock for someone who likes to shoot creatively and get paid for it consistently. Like anything else it takes work and the ability to change with the market.


My point is that both the photographer and stock agency make 1/4 the amount on a web page image compared to print image, for an image that was the same amount of work to create, which is not a healthy model for an internet-based future. I'm also amazed that you seem happy to be selling your work for $2. Where will you draw the line? $1? 10 cents? I'm glad I'm not in that game, though of course I am very much affected by the stock photo market and the race to the bottom.
Logged

Graham Mitchell - www.graham-mitchell.com
feppe
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 2909

Oh this shows up in here!


WWW
« Reply #9 on: July 13, 2011, 07:30:48 PM »
ReplyReply

My point is that both the photographer and stock agency make 1/4 the amount on a web page image compared to print image, for an image that was the same amount of work to create, which is not a healthy model for an internet-based future. I'm also amazed that you seem happy to be selling your work for $2. Where will you draw the line? $1? 10 cents? I'm glad I'm not in that game, though of course I am very much affected by the stock photo market and the race to the bottom.

Your last phrase shows why the price drop. Web images have lower price than images for print for many reasons: lower IQ requirements and expectations, lower capacity and willingness of customers to pay, humongous supply of suitable images, seemingly never-ending supply of people willing to sell images at $2 a pop, etc.

Stock is becoming even more commodized than it was in the past, which is yet another factor in ever-dropping prices. One has to have a ginormous database of images which has to grow at a faster pace than prices drop to make a sustainable income in that business, which is infeasible given that a single human (the photographer) doesn't scale very well, so economies of scale are unattainable - there are only so many hours in a day.

And no, I don't think there's a bottom other than zero.
Logged

louoates
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 751



WWW
« Reply #10 on: July 13, 2011, 08:11:09 PM »
ReplyReply

I think the most difficult thing to accept about the micro-stock business is that it is vastly different than the traditional photographer-customer relationship. On the production side the direct costs and time to produce a micro-stock image are a small fraction of what it was pre-digital. And the image content does not need to be as involved and extensive as a custom-shoot for a particular client.

On the income side you have the age-old argument of small number of sales/high price vs. huge numbers of sales/low price. I believe the commission amount per sale is meaningless. Of course, that assumes that you can anticipate what the market will buy in decent quantities. That part comes with experience.

I  like the way those commission checks keep coming in regularly from images I shot 5-7 years ago with zero additional effort.
I'm not happy or unhappy about getting a $2 commission or a .25 commission. It's not a one or two sale shot. It all depends on the total return over time. And a decent image produces every day, year after year.

I'm curious, Graham. If you're not "in that game" how are you affected by the stock photo market?
Logged
Graham Mitchell
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 2282



WWW
« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2011, 01:04:29 AM »
ReplyReply

On the income side you have the age-old argument of small number of sales/high price vs. huge numbers of sales/low price. I believe the commission amount per sale is meaningless.

No disrespect intended, but this thinking is what landed the photography industry where it is today. Say there are 10 clients in the world and ten photographers and each client needs one photo. Without stock photography, each client hires a photographer and pays $100. The photographers earn $100 each, on average, and $1000 in total. Along comes a stock photographer who uploads his work on a stock photo website, each client pays $10 now, and that one photographer earns a total commission of $40. He might think he's done ok, but as an industry the photographers just earned $40 instead of $1,000. Once the other photographers catch on why they aren't getting work any more, they decide to compete in the stock photo market, and they end up earning $3.63 each, on average (there are 11 of them now), instead of $100. And as they all earn less and become more desperate, they drive the prices even further down. That's where we are today and yet there are still photographers out there today convinced that their stock photography is a good thing.

I'm curious, Graham. If you're not "in that game" how are you affected by the stock photo market?

See above.
Logged

Graham Mitchell - www.graham-mitchell.com
feppe
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 2909

Oh this shows up in here!


WWW
« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2011, 03:03:54 AM »
ReplyReply

No disrespect intended, but this thinking is what landed the photography industry where it is today. Say there are 10 clients in the world and ten photographers and each client needs one photo. Without stock photography, each client hires a photographer and pays $100. The photographers earn $100 each, on average, and $1000 in total. Along comes a stock photographer who uploads his work on a stock photo website, each client pays $10 now, and that one photographer earns a total commission of $40. He might think he's done ok, but as an industry the photographers just earned $40 instead of $1,000. Once the other photographers catch on why they aren't getting work any more, they decide to compete in the stock photo market, and they end up earning $3.63 each, on average (there are 11 of them now), instead of $100. And as they all earn less and become more desperate, they drive the prices even further down. That's where we are today and yet there are still photographers out there today convinced that their stock photography is a good thing.

To further expand on the comparison, to earn that $100 the photographer had to initially sell just 1 image, then 2.5 images, and even more the lower the prices go.

And that's where (lack of) economies of scale comes in. One photographer has probably less than 40 hours in a week to take photographs, rest of the time goes to editing, marketing, selling, uploading, traveling, eating, resting and sleeping. While one can take more photographs per hour to a certain extent, there is a limit somewhere. And I guarantee that limit comes earlier than the public's appetite for ever cheaper photographs.

Catalog (old) images alleviate this challenge, and although I don't know the business, I imagine visual culture (fashion, makeup, hairstyles, cars, colors, etc) change so fast these days that many lifestyle photographs, for example, are outdated within months.
Logged

N Walker
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 296


WWW
« Reply #13 on: July 14, 2011, 03:17:55 AM »
ReplyReply

I  like the way those commission checks keep coming in regularly from images I shot 5-7 years ago with zero additional effort.
I'm not happy or unhappy about getting a $2 commission or a .25 commission. It's not a one or two sale shot. It all depends on the total return over time. And a decent image produces every day, year after year.


[/quote]

I have been a full time professional sports photographer since 1993, I initially specialised in covering pro golf worldwide. I am fortunate my golf images required accreditation to capture them - pictures of clouds are free for everyone to record. I recently covered a county level sporting event involving a team of international players (some world class), a pre season warm up. I was approached by a multi billion dollar American company who were interested in a particular image (I gained a model release) for a 50,000 poster campaign and 10 national newspaper adverts.

The call went somewhere along the lines, "We like your image but we can get others at istock rates". I gave them a price, several thousand pounds, and thought sod it I would rather loose the sale than provide a multi billion pound company with an image for less than the price of a cappuccino at Starbucks. I sold the image to them. Had I been resigned to istock rates they would have paid me a pittance.

To equal the fee I received in istock rates would have taken hundreds, more likely a few thousand sales.

I can only hope the istock industry significantly raise prices for those photographers involved - the business model isn't going to vanish. I refuse to support a business model that devalues photography (expensive costs, time and effort) by rewarding commercial clients on the cheap.
« Last Edit: July 14, 2011, 01:03:41 PM by Nick Walker » Logged

Rob C
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 12213


« Reply #14 on: July 14, 2011, 04:29:23 AM »
ReplyReply

Having worked in photography since '60, done mostly commissioned work as well as a goodly amount of stock (pre-digi) I'm amazed that anyone can make the claim that digital is less time-consuming! Anything I do now on digi takes days out of my life at the friggin' computer. Once, I used to stick the lot on a lighbox and, within, minutes, know the keepers. The stock library did the rest and still paid me 50%. And we thought that an excessive deduction for nothing more than a matchmaking service.

How plummeting prices can ever be seen as a good thing for the supplier is another of life's strange phenomena. It fits neatly into the file marked "Self-deception".

Rob C
Logged

feppe
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 2909

Oh this shows up in here!


WWW
« Reply #15 on: July 14, 2011, 12:22:29 PM »
ReplyReply

Having worked in photography since '60, done mostly commissioned work as well as a goodly amount of stock (pre-digi) I'm amazed that anyone can make the claim that digital is less time-consuming! Anything I do now on digi takes days out of my life at the friggin' computer. Once, I used to stick the lot on a lighbox and, within, minutes, know the keepers. The stock library did the rest and still paid me 50%. And we thought that an excessive deduction for nothing more than a matchmaking service.

How plummeting prices can ever be seen as a good thing for the supplier is another of life's strange phenomena. It fits neatly into the file marked "Self-deception".

Indeed; the photographer is now expected to be the developer, post-processor, and sometimes printer. Are you guys getting paid for that part of the job? If not, that's yet another form of price erosion.
Logged

fredjeang
Guest
« Reply #16 on: July 14, 2011, 03:00:42 PM »
ReplyReply

Agree with Rob and Feppe. Digital is in the end a mad time consuming.

I remember in Fine Arts when we where shooting film and digital was only entering in a few very specialized houses we where spending much less time despite the process much slower because tasks where fragmentated.

Now we do everything or its done by much less people. But the most time consuming of all is to find informations. It's a non-stop up-date year after year, new softwares, new hardwares, new gear without rest and the learning curve never ends. Once you finish one you start with another, once you buy a camera it's already obsolete in a question of mounths. I found myself sometimes hours and hours in internet or on the phone just to find the how on a new stuff or solve a rather simple issue.
Just a silly common thing, I bought a GH2 recently and guess what, none of my softwares are reading the files because I haven't upgrade yet to C1 6, to CS5 so I have to use the Silkypix given by Pana. Thank god I have an Edius to edit natively AVCHD because even with the Avid version of MC 5, I'd have to upgrade to the ultimate.

 
Logged
louoates
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 751



WWW
« Reply #17 on: July 14, 2011, 03:49:44 PM »
ReplyReply

No disrespect intended, but this thinking is what landed the photography industry where it is today. Say there are 10 clients in the world and ten photographers and each client needs one photo. Without stock photography, each client hires a photographer and pays $100. The photographers earn $100 each, on average, and $1000 in total. Along comes a stock photographer who uploads his work on a stock photo website, each client pays $10 now, and that one photographer earns a total commission of $40. He might think he's done ok, but as an industry the photographers just earned $40 instead of $1,000. Once the other photographers catch on why they aren't getting work any more, they decide to compete in the stock photo market, and they end up earning $3.63 each, on average (there are 11 of them now), instead of $100. And as they all earn less and become more desperate, they drive the prices even further down. That's where we are today and yet there are still photographers out there today convinced that their stock photography is a good thing.

See above.

Graham, I don't disagree with your statements regarding the reduction of commissions. What you describe has been happening for some time. And it is true that some have become desperate and either left the stock business or accepted the changes as inevitable and learned ways to both increase output and seek new sales outlets. What I don't accept is the nostalgia of a golden age of stock photography that should be somehow restored to its former glory. I suppose the buggy whip makers mourned the coming of the automobile in much the same way.
Most accept the fact that the image world is changing faster than ever. Thankfully we all have the freedom to either cope with it or go do something else.

In my opinion the digital workflow for stock is much faster, cheaper, and easier than pre-digital.  Shot properly a stock image should require less than a minute to select the best among similar shots, maybe another minute to apply a standard PS action for minor contrast and sharpening adjustment, and less than a minute or two to keyword and upload. Any more than that is way too long in the current stock environment.
I still spend countless hours in Photoshop but only with my fine art work that gives me much more satisfaction than stock.
Logged
Rob C
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 12213


« Reply #18 on: July 14, 2011, 03:52:46 PM »
ReplyReply

It's just a form of screwing every last penny out of the mark.

I really miss the days when a good camera lasted as long as you wanted to keep it or you just wore it out, and could do anything later models did other than, with the Niks, synch at high speeds like the cheapo FM and FM2 could until the F4 came along, and with that, the stupidity and hassle of self-loading which led, in my case, to self loathing caused by the sad spectacle of a seasoned pro blushing like a novice because the bloody camera wouldn't bite the film and wind on to the first frame!

Bloodsucking. But then I guess the younger guys don't know any different and accept it as par for the course.

Rob C
Logged

Rob C
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 12213


« Reply #19 on: July 14, 2011, 04:10:09 PM »
ReplyReply

"What I don't accept is the nostalgia of a golden age of stock photography that should be somehow restored to its former glory. I suppose the buggy whip makers mourned the coming of the automobile in much the same way."

Then I take it that you are saying that a Golden Age didn't exist? I know better; I was there enjoying it. As for whip makers - red herring, false analogy, call it what you will.

"Any more than that is way too long in the current stock environment."

With that statement you have just removed the legs from your own stance: in the GA that you deny, stock was used for, and priced, for some very high-value advertising; it was worth spending time and money producing a great original transparency in the camera.

By your own admission, then, today it's a load of crap in, another similar load out, and then straight into the fan and out again all over the world.

Whether anyone can get the system back to sanity I can't say; however, genies and bottles notwithstanding, I do suspect it's possible. It would take a lot of good guys resigning and just letting the cesspool overflow until sanity rules and the plumbers get called back in. Five years? Money talks, and when the sales messages are seen to fail, that money will scream.

Rob C
Logged

Pages: [1] 2 »   Top of Page
Print
Jump to:  

Ad
Ad
Ad