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Old Nov 1, 2006, 10:19 AM   #1
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Is microstock bood or bad for photography.

I have heard many sides to this issue. Is it worth it to go thru the effort of creating the images and selling them on microstock sites verses traditional (if you can get in)?

I would like to make more money off photography and am considering getting into stock photography but am very concerned about whether microstock is good or bad as a business decision.
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Old Nov 1, 2006, 9:21 PM   #2
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I think microstocks are ok and agreat way for the average Joe to make some money doing what they love. Let's face it, the major non RF companies (like Getty, or Corbis) are beyond the reach of the non-pro. There are now more than 10 Royalty Free sites, with varying degrees of popularity. They all have different standards of acceptance, requirements and payouts. You can make anywhere from .25 up to a few dollars or more per sale, depending on licensing. Shutterstock pays the least per pic, but by far is my highest earner.

Whether or not you make money is dependent on how hard you work. In order to make decent money (for me a few hundred per month form all sites combined) you need two things...quality and quantity. Small portfolios don't earn well, and neither do large galleries of poor quality work. Stock photography is not art. Flowers, sunsets, landscapes, etc do not earn well. What sells are people shots (which require model releases), concept shots, and isolations. If you would hang it on a wall, then it probably won't sell. To pull these shots off, you'll need great lighting, a tripod and a very sharp lens. You'll have to pay close attention to details at 100%, and need a camera capable of producing noise free images (or noise reducing software). You'll also need a good thesarus to come up with quality keywords so your image can be found. Microstock is not a ticket to easy money and will require several hours a week of work to be successful. Many pro's hate the business, much like portrait photographers hate Walmart portrait studions, but the industry is here to stay.
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Old Nov 1, 2006, 9:45 PM   #3
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Microstock http://istockphoto.com is owned by Getty.

Here is a little article about crowdsourceing. http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.06/crowds.html

If you want to make a decent living at imageing, microstock is not the way to go.





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Old Nov 2, 2006, 9:57 AM   #4
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PeterP wrote:
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Microstock http://istockphoto.com is owned by Getty.

Here is a little article about crowdsourceing. http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.06/crowds.html

If you want to make a decent living at imageing, microstock is not the way to go.





Peter,

I read that crowdsorucing article. The most frightening thing I found was the http://www.mturk.comwebsite. Yikes! who would do these requests for like $0.25 an hour or less. That sounds like a lot of work for no pay.

Regarding microstock I have looked at the top players in the game.

What I notice is that ifa person uses, say 4 of the top sites, submits 5 pictures a day that are marketable, and keep this up. Within 2 years they are making around $30,000. per year. But they need to build a porfolio of about 4000 images or so.

So unlike mtruk, it is possible to make a living. That said it appears this is the exception to the rule as these are the top contibutors.

Even still. If the top contibutors make 30 grand, how do they pay for the eqipment, models, travel, time, etc and then have enough to live off of? It looks like you would need to treat it like a full time job just to make something worthwile.

On the otherhad, the driving force seems to be that people like to make a few bucks here and there for their photos they are happy thinking that otherwise they would just be sitting on a harddrive.

rjseeny, how much time would you say you put into taking the pictures, editing them, submitting them for approval, keywording images, and traveling to shooting locations. Can you estimate this please?

Next can you figure out how much you paid for models, gas for traveling to location, equipment (camera, tripod, lighting, etc), and other expenses related to taking the pictures.

Next can youestimate how many images you have between those microsites and then do the following:

1) Add up the hours.

2) Add up the costs

3) Divide the costs by number of pictures (this gives a fixed cost per picture ratio)

4) Divide the hours by number of pictures (this gives a time per picture ratio keep this in terms of minutes)

5) Determine how much money you need to get paid per hour to make a living (could be your salary divided by number of hours you work, and then multiply this hourly rate by step 4's result and then divide by 60.

6) Take step 3's result and addstep 5'sresult to it

7)Divide your earnings to date by the number of pictures (this gives a gross profit per picture ratio)

8 ) Subtract the step 6 from step 7

Is the result you end up with negative or positive? If negative, what is the answer? How long would it take you to not submit a single thing to bring this number up to be possitive?

What I am having trouble with is the ecomomics of microstock. I do belive people make some money from it. You mention you make a couple hundred bucks a month. But does that cover expense and your time? If it can't then you lose money (because time is money) for each picture you upload.

I am not trying to attack. Please don't take it this way. If I could make a profit from microstock I might consider it. But someone would have to convice me I can make one. That is why I asked you these questions.

You mention that the pictures required aren't the artsy type. Most of us enjoy taking those types of pictures. So for me microstock would require me to take pictures of things I otherwise would not and thus that means it would be work, not some pictures sitting on my harddrive that i would just upload. So if it is work, I need to see how to profit from it. Enough to cover my fixed costs (because cameras and lens are always being bought every few years, especially in the digital era), as well as for my time. Help me understand the economics.


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Old Nov 2, 2006, 9:57 AM   #5
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Deleted for double post. Don't know why this happened.
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Old Nov 2, 2006, 12:51 PM   #6
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A lot of images, especially people images become dated very quickly, what looks right and sells today won't move tomorow.
So you need to keep updateing the pot .

Someone on another forum said that you only get around .30 on the dollar per microstock photo sale and worked out that it would take around 23,333 micorstock sales to pay for a 1dsmkii body. I don't know if that is correct.

The microstock concept really makes the money for the microstock agency only.
From that perspective the idea is good, harness the huge herd of digital cameras in use out there. Sell the work for next to nothing, and give the photographer a few pennies for each sale. Great if you are doing it as a hobby.

Few other things most people would not think about to add in for Cost-Of-Business if you are running it as a living/business.
Pay for business insurance for equipment and liability on-site and on-location.
Pay for constant upgrades to stay competitive.
Pay business licenses
Pay Taxes (You are caliming your sales right:-) )
Pay for legal service and an acountant at least when you first startup and then perodically to keep things straight.
Pay for rent/lease of your location.
Pay for vheicle
Pay for services (Phone, electricity, water, heat,ac)
Pay for marketing/advertising.
Pay for lab services.
Pay salleries (Yours!)
Pay into the retirement fund.

There are a lot of hands taking out of the cash-pot that your images has to bring in.
Probably why I'm hearing many grumblings from others about not wasting any more time on dwindeling stock sales and dropping out of it altogether. Just switching to other modes that can generate the needed income like commerical work or portrait studio work; or the most lucrative area of photography, seminars and courses on various topics probably now including "how to use digicams to sell microstock".
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Old Nov 2, 2006, 1:11 PM   #7
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Interestingly enough, I posted this same question over at one of the microsites.

I do have a small portfolio there of 5 images that I put up just as a test to see what happens and how things work about 6 months ago. I figured this wasn't wroth my time after intially starting. Not due to poor preformance but for the economics of it as I am mentioning.

BTW, my images sold 6 times for a total of $5.30. That's $0.88 a sale. Not as low as $0.30 that you mention

One person claims in a thread I started similar to this one, that he has figured the cost of an image is $5 and if he had 3,000 - 3,500 he could make a comfortable living comprable to his day job (he has about 250 images online as it is).

So that would mean his costs would be $15,000-17,500 if his calculation are correct. To live comfortably? If we were talking say $45,000, he would have to be pulling in $20 per image per year. Is it possible to pull that much per image per year?

Peter,

Do you think photography due to microstock and the digital age has dropped in value? The bureau of labor (US) sites the average photographer income in the past 9 years has been:

1997 - $15.95 USD
1998 - 17.11
1999 - 18.26
2000 - 18.20
2001 - 19.10
2002 - 16.59
2003 - 17.41
2004 - 16.46
2005 - 17.05

These numbers look very stagnet to me consider 9 years of inflation and no real patern of growth at all. To bad I can't get statstics futher back than 97.
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Old Nov 2, 2006, 1:39 PM   #8
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I look at this a bit differently. Photography is not my main source of income. I will make a couple of Thousand off Microstock, and a bit more than that from my small portrait/sports work. My camera and equipment is owned more for personal use than work, so I don't see the cost of equipment as being needed to be recouped n order to be profitable. I've spent about $50 this year in props for micro, and also bought a light tent and some hot lights last year, so I'm looking at about $200 total invested specifically for micro. I spend about 5-8 hours a week shooting, editing and uploading, and am trying to submit 10-20 images a week, although because of other commitiments I haven't done all that much.If you plan and set up shots well, you don't have to do much post work except for sharpening and levels adjustments.One of the sites recently added a keyword generating engine that also helps lessen my time spent on this venture.It's hard to pin an averageearned on an imagebecause it changes rapidly.Some are downloaded every day with no extended licenses, some have sold several extended licenses but aren't downloaded much etc. I don't shoot a lot of people, and only friends and family when I do, so I don't have to pay models. Basically, my expenses and time aren't all that great, and the idea that I don't have to cover equipment expenses, leaves me with what I consider a positive income.

I do think it would be extremely difficult to do this for a living. But its a nice partime job that's easy (for me) to do when I want to do it.
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Old Nov 2, 2006, 2:01 PM   #9
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rjseeney,

You bring some valid points too. If this is done as a on the side thing it may not be too bad. But could it be hurting those that do stock photography for a living?

Also, You mention you make a couple thousand a year right? So let's say that is $2,000. Well, bump it up to $2500 just for the sake of it.

You fixed cost are $200. Okay 2500-200 = $2300. You say you spend 5-8 hours a week. Okay $2300/52weeks/5-8 hours = $5.53-$8.85 per hour.

Judging by this, you are right. it would be hard to make a living. 40 hour work week would yield $11500-18400 per year.

I guess my problem I am having is that if I did this on the side. I probably could only spend maybe 2 hours a week if I kept my full time job. That means if my success would be like yours, after a year or so I could expect to maybe make $580-920 a year of extra cash. That doesn't sound too bad, but for me, working at 5.53-8.85 an hour to do stock photos which is more like work (I prefer fine-art landscapes and such as my hobby shots) is not much compensation.

For microstock to be worth it to me as "an on the side thing" It would have to yeild at the very least $15/hour, preferably $20+ profit.

On the other hand, going the route of more traditional stock, would the $ per hour rates be any better? What about Alamy, would that be a good alternative? Or is microstock canabalizing the traditional stock sales?


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Old Nov 2, 2006, 2:37 PM   #10
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Quote:
Judging by this, you are right. it would be hard to make a living. 40 hour work week would yield $11500-18400 per year.
As your skill increases, I would also expect your income to increase, although I don't think it would increase exponentially. There are folks out there who claom to be making several thousand per month (although I'm skeptical)
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On the other hand, going the route of more traditional stock, would the $ per hour rates be any better? What about Alamy, would that be a good alternative? Or is microstock canabalizing the traditional stock sales?

I've been accepted at Alamy, but have never submitted any work. they do pay better, but used to require you to submit very large files (you would have to upsize everything significantly) and only were able to submit via CD, and their based in the UK. I didn't feel it was worth the effort for my ability and equipment (good but not great). For what you shoot, it may be a viable option. there was also talk of them changing submission standards to make things easier, but I haven't looked at them in quite awhile.
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