11 Jun 2008 Choose Microstock or Macrostock or Both

I’ve previously written about the opportunities for microstock photographers to enter the macrostock market. From what I hear, many photographers are doing so. But do you list the same images as you have in the microstock market? And if not, how do you decide which images go into each market?

License Incompatibility

Most microstock photographers are already aware of this, but it’s worth mentioning again for those new to the market. Microstock agencies use Royalty Free licenses by necessity. However, the macrostock market supports both Royalty Free and Rights Managed license models, which are not compatible with each other. Once an image has been sold with a Royalty Free license it cannot be sold with a Rights Managed license. Microstock photographers venturing into the macrostock market need to ensure they don’t list any images as Rights Managed if the same image is listed Royalty Free anywhere else.

Listing Photos in Both Markets

Most photographers that I speak to post their best performing images in both markets. Alamy, for example, currently don’t prohibit listing images that are available in the microstock market. Many photographers take advantage of this and post either their entire microstock portfolio on Alamy, or just their better selling photos.

Buyers who later find images they purchased at macrostock prices for sale at a microstock agency are understandably upset. Nobody is happy to see something they just bought for $300 available elsewhere for just $3.

Some microstock contributors employ the strategy of deleting their photos from microstock agencies when they sell for the first time at a macrostock agency. This tactic ensures they don’t waste images that would never sell in the macrostock market, and eliminates the risk that the macrostock buyer finds the same image in the microstock market – assuming they delete the image fast enough.

Agency Incompatibility

Understandably, macrostock agencies are not happy to have their customers risk buying images that are available from a competitor for a fraction of the price. Unlike Alamy, many require that contributors don’t contribute images that are available elsewhere at lower prices, or below a certain price point. Last week, PhotoShelter amended the contributor agreement for their PhotoShelter Collection prohibiting the listing any images which are available elsewhere for less than their minimum license price of $50.

These agreement restrictions are common enough to force contributors serious about participating in both markets to divide their portfolios into two groups, one for each market. While there is no shortage of microstock agencies, there’s only a few macrostock agencies that have open contributions: Alamy, PhotoShelter Collection, Inmagine and Fotolia’s Infinite Collection for their Emerald level contributors.

An Open Market

The evolution of the stock photography market has reached the point where contributors can sell their images at a full range of prices, from a single dollar to thousands of dollars. It’s no longer a challenge to find outlets to sell your photos at different price points. The current challenge is sorting which images go into which segment of the market for maximum return.

  • R. Kneschke
    Posted at 15:19h, 11 June Reply

    >>Once an image has been sold with a Royalty Free license it cannot be sold with a Rights Managed license.

    Where is the law that prohibits that? Selling an image with a RF licence doesn’t necessarily mean selling it exclusivly and sometimes a specific RM licence can be much cheaper as the same license with RF conditions…

  • niagaragirl
    Posted at 17:59h, 11 June Reply


    I did a blogpost on this just recently. http://niagarashooter.blogspot.com/2008/05/perilous-line-in-stock-photography.html

    The thing that will eventually bite some m’stockers in the arse is the failure to understand the scope, purpose and terms of licensing models, along with understanding professional industry common practices. In a lot of cases, they make up their own rules to justify their actions, and that’s pretty dangerous.

    You have a great day! And thanks for your post on this.

  • john
    Posted at 14:37h, 13 June Reply

    great write up lee. that is what we are building at cutcaster. an open marketplace to accomplish this. we want people to have the choice of how to price and also know where the demand lies at all pricing levels.

  • Perry
    Posted at 09:04h, 14 June Reply

    I think selling the same images microstock and macrostock is just immoral.
    People who delete their images from micro sites _after_ a macro sale just “take the money and run.”

  • Antonio D'Albore
    Posted at 06:27h, 18 June Reply

    I think there is nothing wrong in selling images to both RM and RF agencies.
    Personally I decide where to submit my images based on a range of factors:
    – potential value for Editorial (RM)
    – potential value for Creative and ADV (RF)
    – presence of people whom I don’ have MR (RM)
    – exclusivity of the place in case of scenic of outdoors (RM)
    – sales history for the subject in the specific agency

    At the end I think is almost a must to differentiate with right mix of RM and RF agencies to achieve the maximum portfolio exposure to all kind of potential customers (Editor, Designers, Webmasters, Professionals, etc.).

    With my current top picks from archive (almost 10K pics) I ended to be contributor to 2 RM Agencies and to only one RF.

    Antonio D’Albore

  • john constable
    Posted at 17:00h, 17 April Reply

    Where’s the best place for images which are of minority interest? Is it RM or RF (is that the same as macro/microstock?)
    For instance, I have some quality images of my village. Great for postcards and guide books but they won’t sell in quantity…

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 01:26h, 20 April Reply

      John, all microstock is RF, but macrostock (traditional stock) is both RM and RF. All other factors being equal, images which appeal to smaller buyer groups can earn more in the Rights Managed market. But of course, there are always other factors to consider. Alamy RM is probably one of your best options.

Post A Comment