For nearly a month (since the infamous 1st of June) a couple of disquieting questions have been bouncing back and forth within my skull:
– what are we to do if/when the other agencies follow Shutterstock’s despicable example and start treating their contributors like beggars?
– How come a fair agency like Picfair appears to sell nearly nothing even though they offer such awfully great pictures?
I do know all too well what it’s like to set up a photostock agency – I did it. Once you solve the technical problems (quite a hard cliff themselves) and get it to run fine, you find out to your dismay that keeping it up and running – server fees, updating, de-hacking, automation, you name it – is way more expensive (at least in time) than you optimistically thought when you started.
No, I don’t really think that setting up a new agency – with so many small ones out there struggling to survive – would be a solution. What we need is a new concept, something that would entice anyone who needs one or more images having specific requirements. The cue came from Alex Rotenberg as he told us how a customer, unable to find his images on Shutterstock any longer, got directly in touch with him.
So why not to put in contact clients and contributors, thus bypassing the agencies?
All it would take would be a surprisingly cheap and simple no-profit site, a sort of artists’ cooperative dedicated to illustrations, photos and video clips, where potential clients may freely ask for images having some specific features. Their requests appear on a board and get immediately sent per E-mail to all photographers who subscribed (for free).
A mother knows her baby, a photographer knows his/her images: the one who has an image that may satisfy the client (say, a kid playing in a puddle) replies uploading ASAP one or more watermarked images onto a page that only the client may access.
That would be really big news: a thoughtful human response, no AI at all, no 300 pictures of the same lonely puddle in the park taken from 300 different angles. And no time wasted on keywords ( do we all loathe them!)
As far as prices are concerned, that’s all to be seen: fixed price, normal and premium, private negotiation… a matter of taste. However the cooperative rules must be simple and clear, and accepted by all subscribers; that’s important, the one who doesn’t play fair gets kicked out without ceremony.
The site would be extremely simple – though attractive – and wouldn’t require any special server performances, or large amounts of memory, or special skills to run it. The only costs would be:
- annual server rent (not much).
- software maintenance (not much if regularly performed, but it must be done weekly to keep the software up to date and to prevent possible undue intrusions, malware and hacking).
- start-up software development and further expansions if the initiative is successful (affordable).
No commission on sales – we’re talking of a no-profit initiative and this way it shall stay, lest greed creeps in and shatters(tocks) it to crumbles 🙂
The expenditures above would be covered by all subscribers after their first sale; if some 1000 – 1500 artists gather and join, it would be a matter of a few $ each yearly – transparent management, all expenditures publicly documented, no hidden costs.
Of course there should be a page telling the cooperative’s history and its goals, with a nice name (how about “Shutterstock’s castaways”?) and some well-groomed galleries of monographic pictures about current topics, something like the Photocase’s ones.
Maximum publicity to all successful sales on the site.
No a-priori exclusive, though it may be individually agreed with the client case by case.
All the above should obviously be discussed in detail once (if) this initiative takes shape and color. Mine is just a stone I’m throwing in the pond, let’s see now if it makes any waves…
For a long time I’ve been wondering how much would it cost, as toil, money and time, to set up a
working microstock website – maybe prodded by the mischievious but inevitable question “how large a share of my money does a microstock agency really deserve for selling my pictures?”.
Eventually I succumbed to the temptation and accepted the challenge.
As I keep seeing on Microstockgroup forum more and more question on this topic, I think it won’t harm to share what I’ve learned from this experience.
The server has to be very fast (you need speed to show your images!) and with enough memory,
not necessarily a dedicated server. Problem solved with A2 Hosting *), more expensive of the usual shared server but yet affordable. Competent feedback.
I’m using Easy digital downloads *) with WordPress. It is free and good enough.
Some years ago I gave a try to Symbiostock and didn’like it: too bulky, few automation, many flaws.
Automatic process to upload pages, files, categories and tags
Put out of your mind to upload manually your images and their corresponding pages.
This is the biggest challenge to face and I didn’t find any reliable solution out of the box: I tried and discarded all what I found ready on the market.
You must be able to prepare some hundreds of images and their pages in few minutes, stripping the keywords out to build categories and tags essential for the SEO and the internal search engine.
I decided to solve the complete automation offline with specifically written dedicated software, uploading thereafter the images per FTP and their pages & all related paraphernalia with a unique csv.file
Solved with satisfaction 🙂
Internal search engine
Statistics tell that stock agency customers don’t go usually far more than two pages searching for an image, in spite of millions of them stored. Therefore is of paramount importance that the website search engine works well tuned. The WordPress built-in search is not very good. I have found Relevannsi by Mikko Saari quite exceptional, sharp focused as long as tags, categories and descriptions are …relevant.
Compliance with EU regulation
As a web professional that’s my thing. I confess that I’m not complete satisfied by the checkout procedure, it must be smoother and friendly, needs still some thoughts about.
Smart photo galleries
The easier task: there are many excellent options out of the box to choose, I’m happy with Show posts pro
You cannot go around without a valid defense: more than in other websites we have to protect very valuable stuff.
Some years ago, even if “protected“, all my websites were brutally hacked.
The second time it happened I was prepared: I was aware of an unidentified back door in a website of mine. To this end I deployed several different anti-malware softwares on my server, all they assuring to be able to detect and defend, but only one was successful.
It scared me that most of the others didn’t even realized the issue (or only partially) and the possible consequent danger. They were only pretending!
Since then – honing my weapons even further – I was always able to protect myself and my customers from brute force attacks and similia.
Sorry for not giving away my solution, it took me a lot of stamina and effort to develop an exclusive active protection package.
*) If you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
The first of June,
The Shutterstock’s treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Shutterstock’s treason
Should ever be forgot!
The whole microstock world is talking about it: since June 1st 2020 the Shutterstock royalty system has changed.
For better or worse? Obviously for worse, and (surprise, surprise) the news were broken just a few days before.
In a nutshell: if until the end of May 2020 my basic income was 36 cents/download, now Shuttestock has decreed that 10 cents/download must be enough.
Sure, in case of special sales I might still get something more – but anyway less than half as before.
No problem though, thanks to Shutterstock’s magnanimity I can still yearn for better earnings provided that I have a lot of images and they sell quickly and easily: the more I sell, the (little) more I get.
But there is a small catch: such a privileged “top seller” status is reset at the end of every year, and on every January 1st I’ll have to restart from scratch. Isn’t that great?
Well, it might be due to the COVID-19, and Shutterstoch must face some heavy financial loss…
Nope: according to information gathered around they seem to be in full bloom, no debts, several millions $ cash, premises on the Empire State Building… pity those poor devils!
No, alas, apparently it’s just good old greed.
The new Shutterstock royalty system punishes mostly the small contributors, those with few thousands of images to sell and those that count on Shutterstock’s monthly payments for their survival.
Not a very nice surprise indeed.
As a matter of fact $ 0.10 per download is a slap in your face: just think that you plan or stage your shoot, inspect your pictures at 100% size to detect any possible flaw, process them with Photoshop or whatever, swear on the keywording (an obnoxiously boring job, as you know) paying great care to put in front the most significant keywords and highlight the 10 most meaningful ones to comply with the agencies idiosyncrasies… a hell of a work.
Try offering 10 cents to a cleaning lady and see how much you get cleaned in return.
Someone doesn’t know that in this bizarre market the royalty for the same image can range from a few cents to over $100, depending on the agency policy and the buyer’s options.
No seldom occurrence, it happens quite often.
Then you may rightfully wonder if cashing those 10 cents will make you lose a way bigger earning somewhere else, and bite your own fingers. Do you really want to be your own cheap competition?
Like this you start deleting an image that might sell better elsewhere… then all the others with some sales potential, and eventually leave on Shutterstock only the oldest ones, uploaded when you had little experience in post-processing… you can tell now that they were a bit ugly… okay Shutterstock, you may try to sell them for the glory of 10 cents 😀
And to complete the job you remove from your blog, your website, etc. the links to your Shutterstock portfolio.
Then you can breathe again!
Strange days now, at corona virus time. My web job runs as usual but I find more time to rediscover the nature and the apple blossoms: the spring air is crystal clear and I enjoy immensely my bicycle tours around, appreciating what is often taken for granted.
I also took the opportunity of revisiting my local shoots and processing some of them as watercolors. It is a loving tribute to this little university town with a healthy rural flair, so near at a magnificent big city like Munich.
The state of the art
Just to feel the pulse and the vibe of the moment, I visit pretty often the wailing wall, a site well known to the photographers that sell images through the microstock agencies. Most of what I read there is mournful whining about the professional degradation and the brutal royalty cuts. Nothing constructive.
Due mostly to the steadily improving quality of cameras and smartphones, the images market is flooded by offers ranging from fair to excellent, a flood swelling like wildfire. The stock agencies, no fools, take full advantage of the situation by constantly shrinking the royalies – offer and demand, inevitably. A tough competition is going on too among the agencies themselves, and not surprisingly the smallest ones succumb.
What’s the use of 100 millions of images?
One microstock agency can count on tens of millions of images (at least). But how could a customer find his way through them all?
How will customers get to the “right” image they are looking for? According to statistics, most of the users while searching give up after the first page, and very few clench their teeth and hold out up to page three.
Rumors have it that the stock agencies, in order to offer a different image variety for the same search, sort them part random, part according to other criteria adjusted and twitched from time to time
I’ve been wondering long if it was worth wasting so much time and effort on the keywording ordeal, by far the most boring and time consuming task of image processing, if the agencies use just a small part of it. And above all: what’s the point for an agency to collect zillions of images when people give up searching after a few of them?
I’m smelling here another crisis looming in the air.
A possible way out?
Now it could be really the right time to reinvent the personal website where one can sell images without the support (?) of an agency.
I am not talking about a website meant to sell generic images the way small agencies do – and are now going through difficult times.
No, I’m thinking of a monographic website to offer many thousands of images focused on a theme of general interest or social relevance.
A well designed site, cleverly divided in sub-galleries, with an own shop. Something very user-friendly that a visitor looking for a picture of sport, touristic European regions, vegan lifestyle, sustainable energies, rock concerts, steampunk art, you name it… could easily navigate almost instinctively.
Perhaps also supported by a blog to make it more lively and interesting.
Think of your passions, of what you mostly love to shoot: in your (digital) drawer you’ll certainly find many thousands of images on the subject. 2000 to 4000 of them could be a good start for such a website.
Like this the awfully boring and demanding work of keywording them all would not go wasted: extracted as page tags, the keywords would be used by Google or duckduckgo to locate exactly your pictures. Take my word for it, I tried it on my own skin and it works 😀
Upon a second thought, why just one website? Along the same lines you could create several others centered on different themes – as many as your interests.
Cheer up: we don’t need million of visitors, nor to spend a fortune on online ads, while we can afford a better alternative and thus pocket the whole loot rather than just a minuscule slice of it.
Selling wall art & decor at Fine Art America
Virtual images are great! But if you’re looking for something solid, tangible, something nicely framed you can hang on a wall, or something artsy to wear printed on a T-shirt, or a very personal mug or maybe a shower curtain then…
why not to pay a visit to my shop at Fine Art America?
Near some fine art photography you’ll find images from my Old Times Collections stock images of https://vintage-nostalgia.com for a very unconventional and distinguished present 🙂
For a very long time I’ve been dreaming of a site of my own where I could sell my images.
Not that I hadn’t tried in the past, but the results weren’t very encouraging: updating and maintaining such a site proved way too burdensome even after automating (well, partially…) the image uploading procedure.
As it is I gave up on it and put away that dream in a drawer – until recently a number of ideas (see below) induced me to dust it off and try once more.
And this time I made it!
Now to sell my own stock images I finally have a fully automated website, easily maintained and – if I say so myself – functional and enjoyable to use.
To get started I chose a pretty profitable niche product I particularly like: beautiful venerable images from ancient books (that I keep collecting maniacally), scanned at a very high resolution and then processed to spotlessness using a set of tricks and procedures I’ve perfected during so many years of experience.
A FEW CONSIDERATIONS TO START WITH:
- In these days the stock images market is saturated: just anyone can take excellent pictures today using a cheap camera or even a cellphone that does most of the thinking for them. Supply and competition are overwhelming.
- The stock agencies work with tens of millions of images (to say the least); to rummage through them all in search of the ‘right’ one is definitely no easy job for the customer
- IMO too many images produce a sort of boomerang-effect: after 4-5 online pages full of pictures and/or illustrations, the visitor’s attention tends to drop drastically. I’m wondering if the many thousands of images I’ve uploaded myself to the agencies’ sites are found at all despite all the care I took (and all the time I spent) to choose painstakingly the most appropriate keywords.
- To back up that doubt there’s the fact that, although I lately added another few thousand images to my accounts by the fistful of agencies still worth posting to, my return in terms of royalties hasn’t changed appreciably. Where did my images go?
- As I then read on the Wailing Wall the specialized forums have become, I cannot help getting a dark thought: not only are the current royalties quite measly, but also there’s no way to know how many of our images are actually sold – but for what the agencies themselves tell us.
Shall we really trust them?
Giving free rein to the fantasy brought up the thought of a very decent way to get out of this nasty pickle: an online cooperative of artists residing on a virtual mega-site where each one has an own site-space and an own personal specialty-niche.
Not really mine as a matter of fact: in a way this was also the basic idea behind Simbiostock, that apparently for some reasons didn’t work out – which should be ascribed more to the way it was implemented than to the idea itself. Their original intentions looked actually good: I even got to use their free image management plugin, although it looked somewhat cumbersome.
However that notion may be (with some luck) a promising second step but hardly the first one: the first one has to be an independent niche-centered stock images site that, once it’s working fine, can merge with ‘sister’ sites and grow up with them.
Thus, like a dog gnawing at a bone, I growled and faced the problem of a fully automated personal stock site by breaking it down to a number of simple well-defined tasks to be munched one by one.
THE WEBSITE MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS
- The site should be fast. Otherwise it wouldn’t be competitive and the search engines would penalize it – if not snob it at all. As such the host should be chosen with the greatest care.
- The site should use a safe connection: nowadays the SSL protocol is indispensable for any well-bred site, in particular for a virtual shop.
- The site should abide by the EU directives in matter of privacy and tax clarity.
- The storage space should not be limited to a few gigabytes – images take a lot of space.
THINGS TO BE OPTIMIZED AND AUTOMATED
- The images should be uploaded by chunks per ftp, the fastest available connection between your computer and the online server.
- The metadata should be extracted from the images offline and automatically; in particular the keywords, extremely important as TAGS to optimize the web pages for the search engines and crucial to locate an image amid millions of others.
- All the data (prices, keywords, sizes etc.) required to populate the web pages must be loaded automatically by means of an auxiliary text file. Generally used to this purpose are the Excel-generated .cvs files.
- The .cvs files in turn should be built offline upon the data hidden within the images and all the other parameters required by the shop web pages, of course still automatically.
Obviously uploading the images and preparing the single ‘product’ web pages by hand is still possible, but it would hamper lethally the swiftness of the daily site updating – as well as swallow plenty of one’s precious time that would be better devoted to sorting, processing and keywording new images. Firsthand experience, you may take my word for it 🙁
LAST BUT NOT LEAST…
A last most important requirement is that the initial financial investment be modest: even if you can afford it, you certainly do not want to put too much money in such a website until you see some promising return. Thus for now watch the costs: once your own agency takes off you’ll be able to loosen the purse strings at leisure 🙂
Next article: HOW TO GET STARTED AND BEGIN SELLING WITH $170.99 (no bul***it, it worked for me 😀 )
Da un sacco di tempo volevo un mio sito personale dove vendere immagini.
Ci avevo già provato in passato senza molto successo: i problemi di manutenzione del sito erano troppo gravosi anche automatizzando parzialmente l’upload delle immagini.
Insomma ci avevo messo proprio una pietra sopra fino a quando una serie di considerazioni (di cui riferisco qui sotto) mi hanno fatto ripensare al progetto.
Ora però ce l’ho fatta: ho un sito automatizzato in tutte le sue parti, semplice da mantenere e mi pare funzionale e piacevole per l’utente.
Ho scelto per cominciare solo un mio prodotto di nicchia: la divulgazione high res di immagini antiche dai libri di antiquariato che colleziono con grande passione e che restauro e riproduco digitalmente con un procedimento collaudato e messo a punto in anni di esperienza
Le considerazioni preliminari:
- Il mercato delle stock images è ormai inflazionato: tutti possono scattare foto di qualità con macchine fotografiche a buon prezzo e con cellphones. L’offerta e la concorrenza sono enormi.
- Le agenzie lavorano con decine di milioni di immagini (a dir poco), ricercare lì in mezzo quelle ‘giuste’ per il cliente non è un compito facile.
Mi sembra che troppe immagini comportino un effetto boomerang: già dopo aver sfogliato online 4-5 pagine piene di foto o illustrazioni l’interesse decade rapidamente. Mi domando se le mie immagini caricate sui siti delle agenzie vengano trovate anche se curo in maniera maniacale le keywords perdendoci molto tempo su.
- Una riprova ai miei dubbi mi viene purtroppo dal fatto che – pur dopo aver alimentato di qualche migliaio di immagini i miei accounts sul pugno di agenzie dove ancora vale la pena di postare – il rendimento in royalties anche se non cala non aumenta.
- Leggendo poi il muro del pianto che sono diventati i forums specializzati, mi viene un altro brutto pensiero: che non solo le royalties siano ormai in generale alquanto modeste ma che non esista nessun controllo su quante nostre immagini vengano effettivamente vendute. Ci fidiamo?
Mi sembra che occorra a questo punto riprendere in mano l’iniziativa e giocare nel web le proprie carte in maniera differente. Come fare? Sbrigliando la fantasia mi viene in mente che la soluzione potrebbe essere una coperativa online di artisti collegati in un megasito dove ognuno ha il suo spazio-sito e la sua nicchia-specialità personale
Era un po’ questa l’idea di Simbiostock che però sembra non abbia funzionato. Probabilmente il difetto non stava nell’idea in sé ma nella sua realizzazione. Le intenzioni di partenza parevano buone: ho anche usato il loro plugin per la gestione delle immagini che mi è però sembrato alquanto farraginoso.
Comunque il primo problema da risolvere rimane come realizzare un sito stock personale completamente automatizzato. Una volta costruito e funzionante, può eventualmente mergersi con strutture analoghe e crescere assieme.
Come il cane che rosicchia l’osso ho cominciato ad affrontare di nuovo l’idea del sito stock personale scomponendolo in task semplici.
I requisiti minimi del sito:
- il sito deve essere veloce altrimenti non è competivo e viene penalizzato dai motori di ricerca: il host deve essere scelto con gran cura
- Il sito deve utilizzare una connessione sicura: il protocollo SSL è ormai indispensabile per ogni sito per bene e in particolare per uno shop
- Lo spazio del sito non deve essere limitato a pochi Gigabytes
Gli automatismi necessari
Certo è sempre possibile preparare manualmente le pagine dei prodotti dello shop o caricare manualmente le immagini, ma non è questa la strada per poter avere un sito aggiornabile senza fatica ogni giorno. Mi sono posta il problema di come fare per automatizzare completamente l’aggiornamento senza intervento manuale:
- Le immagini devono essere caricate a blocchi per ftp, la connessione più veloce fra il vostro computer e il server online
- Occorre estrarre offline i metadata dalle immagini automaticamente, soprattutto le keywords estremamente importanti per l’ottimizzazione delle pagine web per i motori di ricerca dove vengono usate come tags
- Occorre caricare tutti i dati per popolare un blocco di pagine web dello shop automaticamente con un file di testo. Un protocollo generalmente usato sono i files .csv preparati in ambiente Excel.
- I files .csv a loro volta devono essere costruiti offline dai dati delle immagini e completati con i rimanenti parametri delle pagine dei prodotti (categorie, url’s dei files da scaricare ecc.) in maniera automatica
Last but not least…
Un ultimo requisito importante: l’investimento monetario iniziale deve essere modesto.
Occhio ai costi dunque: quando e se l’agenzia personale prende le ali si possono allargare i cordoni della borsa.
Nella prossima puntata: COME INIZIARE A VENDERE STOCK ONLINE CON UN INVESTIMENTO DI 171$
Inauguration of the ESO (European Southern Observatory) Supernova Planetarium & Visitor Centre near the Eso headquarters in Garching near Munich, Germany
A new great attraction in Munich!
Supernova provides an immersive experience in astronomy and technology and – I would remark – lot of fun with interactive gadgets and virtual reality.
Learn the stars, the new projects and the history of universe on colorful boards written with dedication and full of amazing images.
I have begun to play with Photoshop artistic filters for fun.
Adjusting the parameters, some results are remarkable: the starting point is always a shot of mine, but the overall feeling changes.
Not all the images are suitable for this kind of treatment, but some are really enhanced by the watercolor effect:
They are accepted by Shutterstock as illustrations and they are selling!