Success in microstock requires that you learn how to consistently create high quality (high selling) stock photos before you increase your volume of production.
That’s not to say that you can’t earn any amount of money in microstock by simply producing average quality photos in high volume. You can, in theory. But, if you’re one of the many microstockers out to make a million in microstock, would you prefer to do it with a portfolio of 10,000 photos or 100,000 photos? Which do you think would be more work? Which do you think you could achieve sooner? Which do you think would be more rewarding?
At the UGCX conference earlier this year, CEO, James West, stated that the two top earning Alamy photographers had massive differences in portfolio size. One focused intensely on quality, crafting each image carefully, and had a relatively small portfolio. The other used what James referred to as â€˜the machine gun approachâ€™, with a very large portfolio and less attention paid to quality. They generated similar amounts of revenue.
How Can You Figure Out Quality in Microstock?
The market has all the information you need. You just need to look. Microstock agencies all allow search results to be sorted by quantity of sales, enabling you to see what sells. Many also provide lists of top selling photos and statistics on how well individual contributors are performing.
Once you’ve used the market to figure out all the different aspects that make photos sell well, you can use the market again to test your research.Â Create some photos based on what you found worked, upload them, and see how well they sell.Â Within just a few days the market will tell you what works and what doesn’t.Â Use this feedback to refine what you create and test again.
How do you Know When You’ve Achieved Quality?
The generally agreed benchmark earnings in microstock is one dollar per photo per month.Â If your new photos are earning less than that, then you know your quality is below average.Â Top microstockers Yuri Arcurs and Andres Rodriguez both have a monthly Return per Image (RPI) between $5 and $10.Â Their RPI stays in that range during slow months, through rapid portfolio growth, and even with many of the photos in their portfolios more than four years old.
If you want to be a quality microstocker, you need to get your RPI consistently up above $1. If you’re happy being a quantity microstocker, then it doesn’t matter.
You can also compare your sell-through rates, your ‘Downloads per File’ ratio at Dreamstime, and your ‘Rank’ at Fotolia. The Downloads per Month statistics on your iStockphoto ‘My Uploads’ page is also a great indicator of quality in your portfolio.
I Figured it Out Too
Figuring this out is one of the reasons I haven’t been shooting or contributing new photos this year (I wasn’t one of the people who figured it out early). I can no longer bring myself to upload the same below-average photos that currently fill my portfolio.
One of the triggers to my understanding of the issue was when my new photos didn’t sell as well as they had in the past. While the quality of my shooting had improved marginally, the quality in the rest of the market had increased much more rapidly.
As microstock continues delivering photos of greater and greater quality, below-average photos will continue getting buried at the back of the search results, selling less and less. The high-volume game is rapidly losing its profitability.
For Some People Just Quality is Enough
Not everyone wants to be a microstock superstar. Not everyone wants to become a production machine either. And it’s certainly not a requirement for generating revenue or enjoying your microstock career. There’s no shortage of microstock portfolios with a relatively small number of photos and a massive number of sales.
Success in microstock can take many different forms, and you’re free to choose what works for you. But if you’re chasing superstar status, success will be considerably easier if you don’t raise the production volume before achieving a consistently high standard.
Posted September 8th, 2009 by Lee Torrens