05 Nov 2007 Does Deleting Your Non-Selling Photos Help or Harm Your Earnings?

Garden Shovel, Dana BartekoskeAs your microstock portfolio grows it becomes tempting to weed out the weak and non-selling photos so your portfolio can be a tight, high performing reflection of your skills as a photographer. But at what cost?

The Hidden Costs

A larger portfolio results in your photos appearing in more search results. This increases the quantity of buyers who click through to view your portfolio. Particularly as buyers often search your portfolio for similar photos if they’ve seen something close to what they’re seeking in their search. So while these poor sellers or non sellers may not contribute directly to your earnings, they have an indirect affect.

Microstock agencies use complex algorithms to determine the order of ‘best match’ search results. Appearing high up in these results has a massive affect on your sales. One of the factors that some agencies use in their algorithm to rank photos is the quantity of photos in the portfolio of the contributor.   They do this on the assumption that larger portfolios generally contain higher quality photos that smaller ones, which is accurate across an entire agency. Deleting the non-selling photos from your portfolio decreases this factor in the algorithm – though likely a low weighted factor – resulting in poorer ranking for the rest of your photos.

By the nature of microstock – the large variety of buyers and their uses for photos – few photos never sell. Most contributors, myself included, are often surprised to see some obscure and old photos from the back of their portfolios recording occasional sales. Across a large portfolio these sales can add up to form a not-insignificant portion of your earnings.

Let the Agencies Do It For You

Some agencies have programs to continuously remove non-selling photos from their database. Others rely on their algorithm to push weak performers to the back of the search results. Many agencies are happy to maintain photos that haven’t yet recorded a sale to serve the long tail market. The marginal cost of storing an extra image is virtually zero, so it’s not a cost issue.

If you’ve been considering cleaning up your portfolio, it appears it’s not in your interest to do so. If other factors outweigh the negative affect on your earnings and you choose to delete your non-performers, you’ll at least know what to expect.

1Comment
  • La Roach
    Posted at 22:41h, 11 November Reply

    Great post! I’ve often wondered what to do with photos that seem to be somewhere off in never-never land, not getting hits or making sales. But every so often I’m surprised by a sale on a long-lost image.

    Here’s another idea – in Dreamstime you are allowed to create “collections” that revolve around a specific topic. I’ve found this is a good way to get a little more attention for some of my favorite images that don’t seem to sell. Of course you need to include other photographer’s work within the collection, but it is still a new and interesting way for buyers to find your images.

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