One promising alternative to the self-hosted site: Picfair

luisa-photogr3-1000 by .

I always hear the same refrain: yes, they are fair indeed, pity though that they don’t sell much…
Actually so far my experience at Picfair had been… fair: for a few years I’ve been putting every now and then some images there, having three or four sales promptly paid in the meantime.

But times seem to be changing, and I decided that I need a personal photo website. I would know pretty well how to set up one myself, but for a small yearly fee Picfair offers me the possibility to have it under my own name, and as a very nice bonus also to sell my pictures as prints/posters/framed. So why not to give it a try?

So be it: luisafumi-photography.com
The presentation of the images is very good, and I can (beside having an URL of my own by them):
– sell prints,
– make albums and feature one on the first page,
– have a local search engine,
– create a splash page with a picture I love
– add external links to the menu (to my blog here, to my other website vintage-nostalgia.com, etc.)
– have a personal watermark. I retained the Pifair standard one, very well thought and designed, also because I am happy to be there in excellent company, as I find the overall Picfair image quality astonishingly high.

Time will tell if such a decision will be fruitful – now it is to early to make a reliable forecast about the destiny of the photo market at all.

Just few days after my new Picfair installation I was rewarded with a pleasant surprise: my first print sale, my splash image! A good omen and a nice startup.

SPLASH-PICFAIR-600 by luisa fumi.

Microstock Armageddon?

luisa-photogr2-1000 by .

Find you niche(s)!

I fear that Shutterstock has given the final blow to the microstock photos market with their unilateral action, by reducing drastically the contributors royalties to 10 cents/picture – promising more for big amounts of uploads and sales, but resetting the contributor at the beginning of each year – that is, forcing her/him to start from scratch @10 cents/sale, and thus humiliating legions of outraged submitters.
And I also fear that this deliberate act is actually a farsighted move: the SS people must have realized that the time was ripe to grab as much as possible before going out of business.
Just look around: the websites offering high res images for free are rapidly growing and some of their pictures are really beautiful, also considering that today’s smartphones are growing better endowed than most photographers.

What to do now?
I’m thinking of two possibilities:

1. Business is business: to upload all of one’s images on all agencies that sell (if just a little) in exchange for a decent (if just a little) royalty, and to hope for the best.
Alas, there is a heavy drawback about it, tough: a couple of years ago I withdrew almost all my images belonging to a particular well-selling niche from the less profitable agencies. As it happens, it proved to be a blatantly fortunate manoeuver: my sales at Alamy and Adobe more than doubled immediately. And they keep growing.
This way I understood that I was my own cheap competitor. When 123RF contacted me on behalf of a customer about a deleted image of mine, I told them that I was really sorry and explained candidly my problem. Quite surprisingly they accepted my point of view and respected it.

2. To accept the change without moaning and make plans. To leave and to upload your images on the trustworthiest agencies, but to keep aside the best ones and find other more profitable ways to sell them.

Still I think that the idea of a personal stock agency is worth a thought or three anyway – no matter if self-hosted or not: there are several alternatives on the market and at least two of them are very affordable (I’ll tell about them in a next post).
It could turn into a precious show-window for the images you like too much to give them away cheap.

At this point it wouldn’t surprised me to witness a revival of many curated niches over the mass cauldron.
Since many years I’m not only a contributor, but on behalf of my web customers also a microstock buyer, and as such I’m perfectly aware that my behaviour doesn’t deviate much from the vast majority of buyers, who statistically give up after the second page the local search engines produce.
And what with the tenths of millions of images stored by the agencies? Dead, almost completely dead.

Nowadays selling microstock is like winning a prize at a cheap lottery called “search engines”: partially random, partially influenced by hidden rules and only marginally based on the actual, hard-labored keywording.

What’s the point of such zillions of dead images, when just a few thousands of high-quality pictures, if well presented and properly selected, could make a really huge difference?

A pebble in the pond: a free Artists’ Marketplace

stock3 by .

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…

How to build a personal stock images website: essential technical points solved

vintage-stock-500 by .

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.

Building https://vintage-nostalgia.com

Server

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.


Basic shop

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

A big pain in the ass: cookie consent, privacy policy, VAT calculation or exemption for different countries, VAT confirmed by IP Adress identification… ther’s enough for a headache.
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


Anti-hacker protection

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.


Shutterstock’s treason

shutter-red-b by .

Remember, remember!
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!

The new supernova over Munich, editorial photos (EN)

Inauguration of the ESO (European Southern Observatory) Supernova Planetarium & Visitor Centre near the Eso headquarters in Garching near Munich, Germany

GARCHING, GERMANY - APRIL 27, 2018  The new Supernova Planetarium of ESO (European Southern Observatory) opens to the public
GARCHING, GERMANY - APRIL 27, 2018  The new Supernova Planetarium of ESO (European Southern Observatory) opens to the public

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.

GARCHING, GERMANY - APRIL 27, 2018  The new Supernova Planetarium of ESO (European Southern Observatory) opens to the public
GARCHING, GERMANY - APRIL 27, 2018  The new Supernova Planetarium of ESO (European Southern Observatory) opens to the public
GARCHING, GERMANY - APRIL 27, 2018  The new Supernova Planetarium of ESO (European Southern Observatory) opens to the public
GARCHING, GERMANY - APRIL 27, 2018  The new Supernova Planetarium of ESO (European Southern Observatory) opens to the public
GARCHING, GERMANY - APRIL 27, 2018  The new Supernova Planetarium of ESO (European Southern Observatory) opens to the public
GARCHING, GERMANY - APRIL 27, 2018  The new Supernova Planetarium of ESO (European Southern Observatory) opens to the public

Editorial images: spring flea market (EN)

Spring in Bavaria is the best time to visit flea markets.
The season begins with the biggest of all, the Riesenflomarkt in Munich at the same location of the Oktoberfest in autumn.
A big flea festival reserved only to private sellers, about 2000 stands just for one day of bargains.

Munich, collectible objects, home decorations, dishware and lamps on sell at the open air giant flea market
Munich, vintage movie posters and clothing on sell at the open air giant flea market
Munich, great choice of classical and modern guitars on sell at  open air giant flea market

Fancy a cowbell? Great choice here!

Riesenflomarkt in Munich, spring flea market

… or a trophy for your drawing room?

Munich, ibex head with horns as taxidermic trophy on sell at the open air giant flea market

I always find something to buy: ancient books, coffee cups and absolute useless trinkets that I cannot leave there, because they are telling me a story.
After this shopping ordeal, you can have a beer and a merry-go-round at the nearby spring Festival!

Munich, spring festival

Editorial images: the march of Science, Munich April 22 (EN)

The calendar read spring but the weather in Munich seemed to differ, thus I feared that a lot of people would desert the march and look for something cozier to do. But I was wrong: Karlplatz was full of merry people, who turned this meeting in a sort of civil festival.

All signs were clever, funny and appropriate:

why science? because it works, bitches
make science great again!
don't mess with science, we have laser
the best, typical Bavarian: NO SCIENCE, NO BEER !
NO SCIENCE, NO BEER !

the participants spoke in a calm and cool matter-of-factly tone to an utterly attentive audience. Then the march: first time in my life I see such a march stop on red traffic lights – apparently science and civilization walk hand-in-hand!

stop at traffic light

The gloomy side:

is it really worth the while to demonstrate against “alternative sciences” (alas, nowadays calling them “superstitions” wouldn’t be politically correct), or against “alternative facts” ( calling them “blatant lies” would be risky)?
Yes, I definitely believe it’s worth the while.

If we don’t, tomorrow we might have to demonstrate against “alternative honesty” or “alternative democracy”, and end up in a jail if we call them with their true names.

fakt not fake

I’m persuaded that we must remember constantly that the independence of science from politics, superstition and bigotry is an essential factor to the welfare of society and humankind, and that the survival of a millennial culture depends entirely on it.

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