Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Microstock: Some Open Questions

I feel like all I've got is questions right now about this whole microstock thing. Let me list some out along with whatever answers I have.

This is more of an organizational exercise than anything else...

  • How much can I make at microstock? Probably not much according to this post. If I can make $1 per hour of effort, I'll be happy.
  • Where should I submit images to? I'm leaning toward Istock, maybe Shutterstock, and Dreamstime -- thanks Lorraine for the comment -- I'm finding your site useful!
  • What images should I submit? This is a toughy, since I suspect most of my images have too much noise since I shot them at high ISO. I'm not afraid to get rejected though.
  • Do I need to take the images off my blog if they go up on a stock site? Probably.
  • What model releases are needed? This will rule out many of my images.


Lorraine said...

Thanks for visiting my (infrequent)blog! I've had yours in my RSS feeds for a while.

I had an aha moment when I realized the difference between a "photograph" and a "stock photo". Nice or artsy photographs have a chance, but how many products can be sold with a photo of a cow in a field at sunset? Think Fresh. Copy space. Love. Seasonal. Isolated on White. Concepts (happiness, success, business, etc.)

How much can you make? Too many variables. It depends on your subject matter. Your skills. Your keywording. Your concepts. People shots sell much much better than landscapes.

Photos on Shutterstock sell almost as soon as they are live but die quickly, they don't seem to rise on Dreamstime for around three months. You can expect roughly $1 per image per month. But, great concepts that are well executed can earn much more than that. If a photo catches on Istock, it can easily sell a few hundred times a month (until they change their search engine).

(From his bio:) Yuri Arcurs is the world’s top selling microstock photographer and sells over 650,000 individual licenses per year, the equivalent of selling an image every 50 seconds - 24/7.

The world's top microstock photographer makes about a buck a minute!

Rejections. You do need to be afraid of rejections (but don't take them personally!) Your ability to sell photos depends on buyers finding your photographs. Some sites favor contributors with higher acceptance ratios. Some sites penalize lower ratios in other ways - like restricting your uploads. Shutterstock will kick you out if your ratios get too bad.

Different sites have different attitudes about noise. Definitely don't send a speck of noise to Shutterstock. Don't use noise reduction on Istock.

Yes, you can keep your images on your blog if you are selling them as Royalty Free on micros. If you "sell the rights" you will have to take them down.

Istock has the best model release, but if you use it you need to remove references to Istock and Calgary from it before you send it to the other agencies.

If a photo of a person is newsworthy you can submit it as editorial without a release.

Uh-oh. Thought I would add a quick comment and I got carried away again.

Sean said...

Thanks Lorraine. Gotta love it when your comment is longer than my post :)

All very useful information.

The stuff that sticks out:

You have a nice description of what makes stock photography different from other photography.

It sounds like the top microstock guy makes $0.5 million every year. That's a lot of cash -- but how many make less than that? (I have a post brewing on that subject actually)

Finally, probably what had the biggest impact on my thinking is the idea that rejections do matter. Rejection rate determines a number of things that impact earnings. Also, some sites (Shutterstock) will make you wait a month to reapply if you get rejected. So obviously, some thought needs to go into my submissions.

Tons to think about... obviously. I need to get some photos submitted soon though.

Lee Torrens said...

Actually, Yuri makes more than a million a year. But as you point out, he's the pinnacle and it's a VERY steep drop from there. There are hundreds of people earning a full-time income from microstock, but there are hundreds of thousands of contributors.

Microstock is an open market unlike traditional stock photography. So, it's possible for anyone to reach any level. BUT, there is a significant early adopter advantage, so someone would have to work twice as hard and be twice as good to catch up to Yuri if they started now. Yuri works very hard and is very good! ;)

Average earnings in microstock, from what anyone can tell, is around $1 per photo per month (making me about average). Expect landscapes to be lower and business people to be higher. Top microstockers earn upwards of $7 per photo per month.

PS. Lorraine is an experienced microstocker and her comments are spot on.