Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Microstock: Current Update

There's a number of things I want to comment on related to microstock, so I'll just lump them all into one post.

Currently I've got three images approved at Dreamstime (still 100% acceptance!) with 13 more pending. I've also got four more in various stages of keywording and editing that should be submitted tomorrow at the latest. I even decided against submitting two (pretty nice, IMHO) shots of Alcatraz after I realized there were near-identical shots already in the Dreamstime system.

Overall, I'd say I dread keywording the most since images tend to stay in the pre-keyworded stage longer than any other stage (except maybe the "add more blue to the sky" stage -- see tutorial here!). Overall, I probably spend more time editing submissions than I need to -- the users of the images likely edit them some too. But, it is nice to know that I'm building a folder of quality, edited images (including IPTC tags) that I can submit where ever I want.

That said, I've got three images active at Dreamstime with a combined 35 views and no sales. I'm beginning to suspect that my typical subjects (birds, nature, travel, etc.) and style (dark backgrounds if I do isolation) probably will not sell that well in microstock. But, by the time I go to the conference in France in less than two weeks, I'd like to have fifty images submitted, and I'm bound to make some sales with that many images live.

I'm still going to wait a bit before applying to the bigger agencies (IStock and Shutterstock) because they need portfolios to review and I want to see which of my images sell well. But, I was looking through Arcurs's two minute agency overview and I noticed his second place earner is Fotolia, which doesn't require an application process to submit images. So I think my next submission location, starting in a few days, will be Fotolia.

Actually, I should mention, the general buzz on Fotolia is quite inconsistent. People tend to be polarized about the site, either making lots of sales or very few at all. There's also rumors of nasty, quasi-identity theft, drivers license submission requirements and a much reduced acceptance rate. At this point though, I'm just going to give them a shot. After I get 20 images uploaded to Dreamstime, I'll take that twenty and submit them to Fotolia and see what happens.

And guess what? The first person to leave a comment with a Fotolia referral link (or a web page with your referral links) will get my Fotolia referral!

Just my way of rewarding one of my readers!

(I'm also curious to see how long it will take before someone actually offers me a link -- if it takes more than a day or two, I'll just go with Yuri Arcurs's link, as much as the Yuri Arcurs Distribution Network weirds me out!)


Lorraine said...

Hi Sean, I purposely waited a couple days to reply... I thought someone would jump all over that referral offer. (I don't want to jump in que because you linked to me at DT.)

Yes, Fotolia is one of the top 6 sites, but it is wildly inconsistant. At first they took everything. Then they had a reject everything spree, and this month I've had no rejections - even for abundant "brick walls" etc. Hm???? Perhaps they've fired a bad reviewer, but still, don't be surprized if you take a photo of a unicorn and it is rejected as "an overabundant category".

FT brings in between 8-10% of my microstock earnings and sits in my fourth position, about 2% higher than Bigstock.

Yuri, by the way has reached Rubis ranking (over 100,000 sales), he has upped his minimum credit price to $4, and they pay him a 45% commission. (I am only bronze and earn .35 per $1 credit sale, he earns 1.8 per $4 credit sale). You have to sell a lot of photos to get the big increases, starting at 10,000 sales = emerald; it is very difficult on a site that has so many technical failures, many can't even find their photos doing keyword searches.

It seems like those who have been with FT for a long time do very, very well. If only it was easy to sell the first 10,000 photos. Now that FT has introduced subs this is even more difficult as a sub sale only counts as .25 of a sale, it takes 4 subs to = 1 sale towards your climb the status ladder. Subs now make about 30% of the sales at FT, so it takes a lot longer to get the payoff.

Here is a link to the Fotolia ranking and earnings charts. Make sure you look at the "non-exclusive" boxes!

Sean said...

Lorraine -- thanks for waiting to see if anyone else wanted the referral. I'll use the link from your site when I sign up for Fotolia. The info you gave me in this comment is definitely worth the referral.

Your explanation of the large variance between top earners and bottom earners is a good one which I didn't even consider. It definitely makes it harder for new photographers to break in!

I've got another question for you: are there any contractual gotchas from Fotolia? For instance, given how upset some people are with the site, if they have a 6-month hold period like Dreamstime (once images go up you can't take more than 30% of them down for 6-months) I'd probably reconsider submitting to Fotolia. If there's no rules that lock my images up, I don't mind taking a shot and seeing what happens.

Do you know of anything else with Fotolia I should worry about?

Lorraine said...

Fotolia doesn't lock you in. Bigstock does for 3 months, and Dreamstime for 6 months. This would only normally be a consideration if you were going to go exclusive with Istock, and you need 250 sales before you can do that. DT and BS have a reputation of being very helpful, if someone wants to buy your photo exclusively I've heard that they will usually help you out.

Lorraine said...

P.S. I forgot to say a big THANK YOU if you do sign up under me... FT is my #4 earner. Not too far behind DT, but a long way to catch up to Shutterstock.

Sean said...

Don't thank me too soon -- I might have screwed up the DT referral. I cleared my 'private data' but it turns out that doesn't include cookies, so you may not have gotten credit for it. But you did for Fotolia!

Sean said...

Actually, nevermind. On your photographer page at DT it actually lists me, so I must have accidently done it right :)