11 Feb 2008 Do You Want to Be a Macrostock Photographer?

The microstock market gained popularity among contributors quickly because it provided opportunities to everyone. At the time the macrostock market was difficult for all but the best photographers to gain access.

With higher prices and the opportunity to sell with Rights Managed licenses, macrostock is a different market with different buyers and where different types of photos experience success. But the same barriers to entry no longer exist and any microstock photographer can now gain exposure to the macrostock market.

Macrostock Opportunities in the Current Market

The macrostock market is taking on the operational methods that are core to the microstock business model. There are now many macrostock agencies that are open to everyone and operate entirely online.

Alamy have pioneered this model, offering Rights Managed licensed images with open contributions since 1999. They’ve always sold images online, and added online contributions in 2007. New entrant PhotoShelter is using a similar model, while existing agencies ShutterPoint and DigitalRailroad offer similar but fee-based services. Through these agencies, any photographer can register and sell photos at macrostock prices and via Rights Managed licenses.

These agencies also offer instant access to the market, unlike the established programs of the big three stock photography houses who offer only elite microstock contributors the opportunity to contribute to their macrostock collections via established programs: Getty Images via the offer to exclusive diamond level iStockphoto photographers; Corbis via SnapVillage; and Jupiter Images via the StockXpert SXpress program.

How to Sell Photos in Both Microstock and Macrostock Markets

Some types of photos sell better in the macrostock market while others sell better in the microstock market. The challenge for each photographer operating in both markets is to discover which of their photos do best in each market.

There is also extra management required, as photos that have been sold Royalty Free cannot then be sold with a Rights Managed license. Photographers must keep track of their photos with more diligence than required by the microstock market.

There’s also the opportunity to sell the same photos currently available in the microstock market via a Royalty Free license in the macrostock market. Many photographers are opposed to doing this for various reasons, but others do so with all agencies in full knowledge of the situation.

Why Would You Want to Sell Photos in Both Markets?

Ron Chapple, a 25 year veteran of selling stock photos, recently offered the microstock community a 12-month update on his experiences selling in the microstock market. One of the core messages in his report was that diversification in all areas – pricing, subjects, and license type – is crucial to achieve stable earnings.

With exposure to a broader range of markets and the ability to test each one for profitability, a photographer has greater opportunities to increase (and stabilize) their earnings.

More Research to Come

More of the world’s top microstockers are also increasing their exposure to the macrostock market, so we’ll hear more about their experiences in the near future.

I have registered with Alamy, PhotoShelter and ShutterPoint and am starting a campaign to test their services using Royalty Free licenses. I will also take some advice from various mentors and contribute some select images with Rights Managed licenses. Naturally, I’ll report on my experiences in time.

  • Stephen Strathdee
    Posted at 15:39h, 11 February Reply

    Go, Lee Torrens, go!

  • studio54
    Posted at 12:42h, 13 April Reply

    Hi Lee, any updates on this article? Have you tried the 3 macro websites you mentioned?

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 14:48h, 28 July Reply

      Hi, delayed response, but… The Photoshelter Collection closed down. ShutterPoint never made enough money to cover the fees, even with referral earnings. Alamy appears to be continually going strong, but as I haven’t been producing much new content over the past three years I haven’t put any effort into contributing there. So not much to report.

  • Paolo
    Posted at 12:46h, 04 April Reply

    I think@ moment things r getting very interesting; would say a kind of fusion..micro e macrostock companies in partnership,in some cases giving the photographer the option for RM or Micro model..May be in the future prices will tend to half way between those 2 models. Will be interesting to observe the evolution.

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