Shooting Stock Photography – A 2007 update on the stock photography industry
If you have been a reader of ATP for some time, you may have read the “shooting stock photography” section a while ago. This is an update for 2007 of where the industry is now.
2004/2005 saw the introduction of microstock stock photography into the photography world on a mainstream basis…it had gone global.
On the one hand it was welcomed and embraced by many amateur photographers who wanted some recognition for their hard work as well as earning a few pennies along the way.
On the other hand, many of the traditional stock photographers took complete umbrage to this new model stating that it was killing the industry that they had known and loved for so long. I for one was a little confused at the time.
Should I pledge my allegiance to this new method of selling and shooting stock photography or should I stick with the “old school” art of selling my images? It actually took a year or so and a lot of soul searching but in the end I waded in and gave it a shot.
I thought long and hard about the difference in earnings, what it may or may not do for the industry in general and also tried to tackle the moral issues involved. I saw the industry boom and knew that nobody could stop this speeding train that is microstock…after all, if you can’t beat them…join them.
My attitude annoyed a few traditional stock photographers and some accused me of “selling out” but at the end of the day it is a changing world, you have to run to keep up and I have a family to feed.
After all that it seems I made the right choice.
Now in 2007, the big players have come to realise that there is no denying the power and success of this booming microstock industry.
Getty images bought out iStock, one of the first and largest microstock sites to hit the scene, then a few months later, Corbis announced their arrival to the party with their “spin off” site Snapvillage.
Now two of the biggest traditional stock agencies in the world were involved it got everybody thinking.
As I said at the very start, there is room for all. The large corporation stock photography buyers with huge budgets and the need for licensed images are still going to predominantly use the traditional RF (Royalty Free) and RM (Rights Managed) stock agencies.
What microstock did was to bring high quality, highly affordable stock photography to the masses. It brought cheap images to clients such as schools and churches with small budgets and big ideas. It gave the booming digital photography market and its new photographers a place to meet, learn, share ideas and make some extra money.
Shooting Stock Photography – So where are we now?
Well, as with any boom there are problems to be had…theft, plagiarism, copyright…
With traditional stock photography, the images are sold at a minimum of $100 up to in excess of $10,000 for a licensed exclusive image. Way too much for petty thieves to think about buying and hoping to sell on as their own work.
But when you can get images for less than $1, it opens up the sluice gates for all sorts of criminal activity. Photographers are finding their images for sale on eBay as well as many other photo hosting and sharing websites.
They are also being sold as fine art prints, reprints etc, all without the owner’s permission but all is not lost.
The forums that are run by these microstock agencies are, in a way, a double edged sword. I personally feel that they are the cause for much of this trouble but ultimately help in catching and prosecuting the offenders…
Shooting Stock Photography – The Bad – Let’s say an anonymous poster on a forum makes a normal and friendly request to see everyone’s best selling image for whatever subject. All too willingly, and with a craving for that extra bit of exposure and ego boost, many photographers comply.
The original poster then has an entire thread of images that he knows will sell well, he sometimes even knows how many they have sold and where. What he then does is either buy the full res image and sell it on elsewhere, or simply steals the “idea”, betters it and puts it up for sale much to the annoyance of the other photographers.
A thread then starts about copyright issues, “idea stealing”, plagiarism and how their own downloads have dwindled, plus they are not making as much money as before…well hello!!!
The larger stock agencies have no forums…just images for sale!
Obviously this situation can happen regardless but there is no point in adding fuel to the fire.
Shooting Stock Photography – The Good – The flipside is that the forums are a very friendly place with everyone watching each others back, apart from the odd few, and this helps to tackle the issue.
Most photographers are now aware of the problems and many know each other and each others work. Some do regular checks online at many photo outlets looking for stolen images.
I see post after post where images are found to be infringing copyright laws. The site owners are contacted and the offending images are removed immediately with the offender being banned or even prosecuted. Good job.
Many people now know that a Google image search will bring up your exif-data-embedded pics in all sorts of places. Most I find are legit but some get through the net. I recommend placing all of your images with a company such as Copyright Deposit for safe keeping.
You will never see the big hitters or the most successful photographers posting images or messages on the forums anymore. They are simply keeping out of the limelight, getting on with what they do best and protecting their investment.
Shooting Stock Photography – Get involved!
If you haven’t done so already and you have a talent as well as a bunch of images worth selling, jump on board…it is never too late.
There are however, a few things you need to know!
Look at the quality. With the increasing amount of incredibly talented photographers selling and shooting stock photography, the bar has been raised. Agencies now look at the smallest details when reviewing images and will reject them at the first hurdle. Look for…
- No Noise is Good Noise. Submit only nice, clean images. Use a program such as Neat Image to kill any noise or grain in your pics.
- Cropping Yourself? Make sure the image looks well cropped and composed. Even leave some “copy space” for designers to add wording.
- Colour Me Bad. Make sure the images are well colour saturated and natural looking with no colour casts.
- Similarity Breeds Contempt. Don’t upload more than 5 photos with the same theme…the rest will be rejected.
- Loyal Subjects. No flowers, pets, photos of your shadow or other “shot to death” subjects. Whatever agency you submit to, check out their “wants and don’t wants” section.
- Viva la Resolution! Make sure your images are shot with a high resolution digital camera (preferably a DSLR) and saved at the highest resolution…the bigger the better, they can always be downgraded and sold as low resolution by the agencies if needed.
Check out our microstock photography agency section below for a list of places to go when selling and shooting stock photography for yourself.
- Alamy (Traditional) – Earn from $40-$440 commission RF
- Shutterstock (Micro)
- Dreamstime (Micro)
- Fotolia (Micro)
- iStock (Micro)
- Big Stock Photo (Micro)
Good luck and Stocks away!
P.s. Got a video camera and a steady hand? Try out the Shutterstock Footage Section!
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