Shooting Stock Photography 2: Jan 2009

An update for the stock photography industry

Young Man Drinking Coffee Whilst Shooting Stock Photography

Once again the industry is changing. I have recently read interesting news on certain stock photography forums. Apparently, many of the photographers who once took to devoting their time and life to shooting stock are becoming disgruntled. One reason is that it is getting harder to get your work accepted.

In the early days of microstock, you could submit anything and everything and know that the majority of shots would get accepted. Now there are millions of images on many of the larger websites. They are becoming tougher on what they will accept and simply reject the rest. Sometimes with good reason and other times with no reasonable explanation whatsoever.

Saturation is a word that once again springs to mind. I remember reading time and time again in the past, threads on "show me your 10 best selling images" or "show me your best selling business image". I posted at the time with my concerns that the people who reply will eventually regret it. And so it came to pass! In fact I mentioned this in my 2007 stock photography update.

It was not only the person who asked the question who made note, but thousands of other photographers read these posts and simply went out and:

  • Duplicated
  • Mimicked
  • And even bettered

...those best selling images. This happened to the point where the photographer who was receiving huge volumes of downloads in the past became powerless as their downloads faded!

You may have seen some of these images:

  • A business handshake over a computer or below an office block
  • A pretty receptionist with telephone headset and huge smile
  • People, families and business people jumping for joy on a beach or in a perfect green field with blue sky
  • Etc, etc, etc

The smart ones kept quiet. They stayed off the stock photography forums and carried on shooting a huge variety of images.

It’s not all bad

Don’t let this put you off though! Why?

  1. 1
    There is always room for improvement
  2. 2
    Nothing ever stands still...things move on and you need to stick with it
  3. 3
    Times change. There are always new fashions, trends and technologies to shoot
  4. 4
    Keep on keeping on!

My advice is to keep your cards close to your chest. If you have a great idea for a stock shoot, even a design or invention, keep it to yourself. At least until the time is right to unleash it into the world. Only then should you promote, yell and brag about it...the walls have ears you know!

The money is also getting better. It seems that the gap between traditional and microstock is shortening and the payout amounts are slowly converging. Alamy Stock Photos have now introduced a "micro" section or Novel Use where you can put your images up for sale as part of a new cheaper scheme.

Many micro sites are also introducing single sales whereby a buyer can pay for and download a single image rather than committing to a subscription or bulk buying scheme. Because the cost of a single download is higher, this means that the payouts to the photographers increase. I have definitely seen a rise in income from sites such as:

This also means that when you look at a photographers portfolio to see his bestsellers, this doesn’t mean any more that they are his biggest earners. Sorting a portfolio by "most popular" means the top ones are being downloaded many times. However, now some of my biggest earners don’t show up in my "most popular" because they get downloaded less often but the payouts are greater.

At the end of the day, be original, expose and compose well, shoot like crazy and keep it up!

Pretty Woman Lying in a Bath of Milk
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