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?

Microstock Armageddon ? (IT version)

luisa-photogr1-1000 by .

Trovate la vostra nicchia(e)!

Ho come l’impressione che Shutterstock abbia dato una spallata fatale al mercato delle foto microstock con un azione (unilaterale) che ha indignato non pochi contributors, facendo drasticamente scendere le royalties a 10 cents/foto, promettendo di più a chi galoppa per fornire più foto e vendite, per ricominciare però tutto daccapo a 10 cents l’anno successivo. E così via.
Temo purtroppo che si sia trattato di una mossa lungimirante: hanno capito che i tempi erano maturi e quindi deciso di arraffare quanto più possibile prima di chiudere.
Date un’occhiata in giro: si moltiplicano rapidamente siti che offrono high-res foto free molte delle quali bellissime. Tutti possono ormai contribuire con foto decenti da smartphone. Non occorre neanche sfoderare esperienza e capacità quando la macchina ne possiede per conto vostro.
Che fare?
Vedo due possibilità:
1. (business is business) buttarsi allo sbaraglio, caricare tutte le stesse foto sui siti che vendono almeno un po’ e offrono royalties non oltraggiose e sperare.
Ho una controindicazione in merito a questa decisione. Già un paio di anni fa, avendo delle immagini best-sellers di nicchia, le ho ritirate quasi del tutto (si lascia un filo di Arianna, no?) dai siti che pagavano di meno. Il risultato è stato eclatante: un immediato boom di vendite più che raddoppiate in Alamy ed Adobe, che cresce e continua tuttora.
Ho capito che non dovevo essere io il mio cheap competitor. 123Rf mi ha contattato poichè un cliente voleva acquistare un’immagine che avevo cancellato e ho spiegato il mio problema. Sorprendentemente mi hanno detto che capivano benissimo il mio punto di vista.

2. prendere atto che le cose cambiano senza mugugnare troppo e fare un po’ di piani. Lasciare e caricare le foto sui siti microstock che vi danno affidamento, ma tenere da parte quelle che sono i vostri punti di forza e trovare altre maniere di monetizzarle.

Considererei anche l’idea di un sito-agenzia personale, non importa se self-maintained o ospitato contro una quantità modesta di vile denaro (ce ne sono, ve ne parlo la prossima volta). Se non altro potrebbe essere una show-room per le immagini più belle che pensate non valga la pena di dar via per poco.

Non mi parebbe affatto strano infatti che ci fosse un riflusso verso più nicchie curate contro il calderone di massa.
Sono anch’io un’acquirente di microstock per conto dei miei clienti web. Mi rendo conto di fare esattamente come dicono le statistiche di chi acquista microstock: la stragrande maggioranza non va oltre la seconda pagina offerta dai motori di ricerca locali, poi si stufa.
E le decine di milionate di immagini stivate nelle agenzie? Restano là, morte.

Inutile dire che ormai vendere appare sempre più come vincere un modesto premio nella lotteria organizzata dalle search engines: in parte random, in parte influenzate da “opportunità contingenti”, in piccola parte basata effettivamente sul keywording.

Mi chiedo che senso abbiano queste quantità inverosimili di foto, quando qualche migliaio di immagini di qualità, ben selezionate e presentate come si deve possono veramente fare la differenza.

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…

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!

Il tradimento di Shutterstock

shutter-red-b by .

Nel mondo microstock al momento non si parla d’altro: dal 1 giugno le percentuali delle royalties di Shutterstock sono cambiate.
In meglio o in peggio? Direte voi.
In peggio naturalmente e comunicate con solo un paio di giorni di anticipo.

In sostanza se il giorno prima prendevo 36 centesimi di dollaro per download ora sono retrocessa a 10 centesimi per download.
Se vendo tanto posso aspirare ad avere di più, ma all’inizio di ogni anno si riazzera il vantaggio creato dalle vendite, si riparte da capo e devo rimettermi a correre.
Ci sono è vero anche le vendite speciali che ogni tanto ti portano in tasca qualcosa, ora comunque anche quelle più che dimezzate in valore.

Non c’entra il COVID o una perdita di Shutterstock. Da quel che ho raccolto in giro la società è in fiore, non ha debiti, ha parecchi milioni di dollari in cassa e sede nell’Empire State Building a NY.

Il nuovo sistema penalizza al massimo i piccoli contributors con qualche migliaio di immagini in vendita, che poi sono quelli che maggiormente dipendono dalle royalties spesso anche per la loro sopravvivenza.

Insomma una bruttissima sorpresa.

E poi quello schiaffo dei 10 centesimi, quando ogni foto la progetti, la ispezioni al 100% per vederne i difetti, la processi con Photoshop o simili e poi ci fai sopra le keywords (lavoro noiosissimo ed odioso) stando attenta a mettere davanti le più significative o a delineare le 10 più importanti per l’idiosincrasia di qualche agenzia. Un casino di lavoro.
Forse non lo sapete, ma in questo mercato così bizzarro per la stessa immagine puoi ricevere una royalty da pochi centesimi a 100 dollari o più a seconda dell’agenzia e dall’opzione di acquisto scelta dal compratore. La situazione non è una rarità.
Allora non puoi fare a meno di pensare “questi 10 centesimi mi fanno perdere la vendita più sostanziosa da un’altra parte”.
Così cancelli da Shutterstock quell’immagine. E poi tutte le altre con un qualche potenziale di vendita e lasci solo le tue prime quando avevi poca esperienza di post-processing e in verità sono proprio bruttine… ma forse per 10 centesimi possono anche venderle…
Poi per completare l’opera togli i links al tuo portfolio di Shutterstock dal tuo blog, dal tuo sito, ecc.

E finalmente ti senti meglio!

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies/ visitando questo sito si consente all'uso dei cookies more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close