30 Dec 2015 5 Microstock Market Trends Gaining Ground in 2015

As another year draws to a close it’s always fun to look back and see where the market is evolving.

Here’s five of the more notable trends that kept coming up for me in 2015, and I’d love to hear what trends you’re seeking via the comments.

Unlimited Subscriptions

As Videoblocks and StockUnlimited pioneer the unlimited subscriptions business model, selling stock footage and illustrations respectively, everyone is waiting to see it applied to photos, and done with contributor content.

Producer LifetimeStock has a near-unlimited subscription via their direct sales website, and the YAYimages ‘streaming’ product is also quite close.

StockUnlimited have indicated their intention to add photos to their library and recently started reaching out to their buyers with a survey about pricing and other relevant questions about their needs. Maybe an unlimited photo subscription is close!

Videoblocks’ continued growth must be drawing attention of other agencies, who may be looking to build their own collections of content they can offer for a fixed monthly fee, perhaps by allowing contributors to opt-in low-selling files for a fixed monthly royalty.


The bundles strategy is gaining popularity everywhere except the top-selling agencies.

Envato continues its outrageously successful annual bundle promotions, with contributors consistently clamouring to have their files included.

Creative Market has success with bundles both company-wide and allowing contributors to make their own.  Stocksy and 500px have both trialled bundles on Creative Market, with 500px continuing the strategy on their own website.

Mobile Stock

Smartphone cameras continue increasing in quality yet nobody has found the magic business formula to turn mobile photos into a revolution in stock photography.

Perhaps the ultimate success of phone photography has been the influence on style, with an obvious trend towards authenticity, intimacy, candid, and realistic aesthetic, and probably a few other buzzwords I’ve missed.

From what I can gather, very few contributors are making money from mobile stock, and I suspect the agency selling the most mobile stock is Fotolia rather than one of the mobile specialist agencies.

Yet, angels and VCs keep throwing money at mobile stock companies with no innovation in business or technology, and an extremely competitive ‘winner-takes-all’ style market, so it remains a ‘trend’, if only by the quantity of new startups in the space.

2016 will likely bring more business pivots for these companies –like the one taken by Scoopshot last September. We’ll also see some of them being acquired or closing, as they will find there’s an excess of players in the only valuable space (missions), and too much churn among contributors when they fail at producing earnings at scale.

Sale at Point of Use

Selling stock at the place it’s used seems to be the giant opportunity that all microstock agencies missed, excluding Fotolia who was lucky enough to get acquired by a company with the power to make it happen in Adobe.  At Canva we had the technical chops and industry knowledge to build our own stock collection rather than partner with any existing agency, setting a dangerous precedent.

Shutterstock appears to have realized the train is leaving the station and started running.  Their photo editor tool launched recently, and CEO Jon Oringer says it’s “just the start”.

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 1.30.25 pm

Perhaps Depositphotos will allocate some of the $5M investment they have to spend in Ukraine to build something similar.  Perhaps YAYimages with their new focus will expand on their image editor.  Perhaps Dreamstime will…. just kidding – they don’t build anything anymore.

Hybrid Photography

New formats that combine elements from photography with other media –video and sound– have been around for a long time but began to get noticed in stock this year.  The concept of living images in cinemagraphs and other alternative formats is taking off as it’s the most simple to replicate in an existing format – video.

This year all major social media platforms added features that improve functionality of hybrid formats, like autoplay of videos and in some cases also automatic looping. This has made it easier for more brands to use “living images” in their social media marketing.

In September, Apple launched their own hybrid photo format, Live Photos, initially restricted to users of iPhone 6s/6s plus and iOS 9 devices. Shortly after an iOS developer launched Live GIF, an app that converts Live Photos into GIFs to be shared in a wider range of platforms. Instagram launched a stand-alone app in October, Boomerang, with a similar concept in a format with extended share-ability.  In December, first Tumblr and then Facebook added Live Photos support to their iOS platforms –Facebook limited this to a certain number of users, but intends to extend support to all its members in 2016.

So far cinemagraphs are the only kind of hybrid photos landing in stock. Although it’s still at an early stage, there’s clear signs that the microstock industry is interested in the format. Shutterstock closed a partnership with Flixel this November, to add 1000 cinemagraphs from Flixel artists to their collection. In a recent blog post with projections for the next year, Fotolia called on its contributors to submit cinemagraphs too.


What trends are you excited about in or around our industry?

  • Alexander Jemeljanov
    Posted at 17:47h, 30 December Reply

    Im excited about 4k timelapse trend. No investments needed – all we need is 12 MP photo camera and smart shutter release. Old timelapse footage can be recompiled to 4k resolution as well 🙂

Post A Comment