12 Sep 2008 How to Change the Stock Photo Market

Bad Day, Randolph PamphreyPhotoShelter announced yesterday that they’ll be closing the PhotoShelter Collection portion of their business, effective October 10. The closure will occur almost exactly one year after their official launch of the Collection and is attributed to “the size of our image selection” and “entrenched subscription relationships”.

In the blog post that accompanied the announcement, CEO Allen Murabayashi has blamed Getty Images, microstock and buyers for the failure. Some people agree, others do not.

The PhotoShelter Collection Story

The PhotoShelter Collection was all about the photographer and they gained a large and fiercely loyal photographer following as a result. They boldly claimed they would change the industry, spend $1million on promotion, and remained ‘defiant on microstock’. They put a lot of investment into building the business through initiatives such as publishing a detailed Buyer Survey, their Shoot!TheDay blog, the Shoot!TheDay global event and competition for photographers, and their School of Stock initiative.

But in the end, the PhotoShelter Collection wasn’t profitable and PhotoShelter chose to close it down rather than seek funding to fix the mistakes that prevented it from reaching profitability.

The Market Reacts

Reactions are mixed. The loyal are thanking PhotoShelter for not compromising. Others are upset about their lost investment. Here’s a sample:

Julia Dudnik Stern – To many, Murabayashi became the long-awaited knight in shining armor
Terry Smith – blaming the industry instead of their own incompetence
Vincent Laforet – It’s a blow for every photographer who ever wanted to fight ‘The Man
Daryl Lang – three contributors contacted had never seen a single sale
Grant Harder – I love what PhotoShelter stood for
Eric Holsinger – 1 year seems like a pretty short time to crash and burn
Dan Bannister – I spent a few minutes before bed each night praying it would work in spite of my predictions to the contrary

Microstockers are saying that ignorance isn’t the same as defiance:

A crowd-source model for stock will likely never work“, Allen Murabayashi, PhotoShelter CEO, September 11, 2008.

How to Change the Stock Photo Market

PhotoShelter certainly burned a lot of photographers who won’t risk contributing to new agencies again.   Subsequently, the barriers to entry for new stock photo agencies just got a lot higher.   Change the market, indeed.   Getty must be grateful.

  • Marek
    Posted at 12:21h, 13 September Reply

    I was preparing a portfolio for PhotoShelter separate from my microstock, but I haven’t submitted anything yet. What other options for “midstock” do we have if any?

  • Janie M
    Posted at 16:46h, 15 September Reply

    Marek, I also am a member of SnapVillage and Cutcaster.
    SnapVillage has a top price you can set at 50.00. but at Cutcaster you
    can set as high a price as you want for your images and the buyers
    can even send you bids. They also have algorithms if you want to
    sell your work for LESS. I use the set my price that they have to pay
    and sometimes the algorithm with a price and then the computer may
    set the price up or down from that price you put in for the photo depending
    on the market value.
    Check it out at http://www.cutcaster.com/ref/757196508

    It is starting to get good reports. SnapVillage is selling my work too.
    Janie M.

  • Tati Viana
    Posted at 13:22h, 17 September Reply

    I’m Tati, a brazilian illustrator.
    One friend of mine introduced this site, and I enjoyed all posts!
    Off course now you make part of my feeds reader :D.

    Well, I’m a “stocker” too. I have two accounts, one on iStockphoto and another on StockXpert. And as you mentioned in one post, iStockphoto is where I earn more money. I just need post more there :P. I just have 11 images… I don’t have too much time, but when I saw this is really working, and people are giving me good comments, I decided make more stocks.

    My stock page is: http://www.istockphoto.com/tativiana


  • Steve Gibson
    Posted at 18:58h, 18 September Reply

    Surprisingly little comment on this story here considering the amount of posting that microstockers made defending their industry while photoshelter was running. It seems that a lot of the anti-microstock camp are somewhat upset as it seems that microstock has won. Like you say getty will be happy, but I think someone else will come along to challenge them again. crowd sourced macrostock is not dead, photoshelter started the ball rolling and alamy have been plodding along for years. photoshelter has proved that there are willing photographers, but like you say any future sites will have a harder time starting up, especially considering how flashy looking the photoshelter operation was.

  • José Elias
    Posted at 19:37h, 22 September Reply

    The decision to close down Photoshelter Collection only shows that the whole Project was nothing but fanfare.

    I had about 500 images there at the closure time and wished to see them succeed, especially because they seemed the only open Macro/Rights Managed alternative besides Alamy, and even complementing this one which doesn’t seem to be very strong in US.

    Yet, this decision (considering the arguments used) was not only a coward act, but a betrayal to all of those that invested time in the agency. And to those who know, each image demanded much more time to put online than iStock!

    If their problem was the profitability of the project, they could have been honest with the contributors (which oddly they always claimed to be!!!) and explained that they could not maintain the 70% commission to the photographer. At this point people would decide if they wished to continue to contribute. As they seemed the only alternative besides Alamy I think they would not loose many contributors, especially because people there seemed to be into some kind of crusade.

    Surprisingly, with the lame excuse of Getty, Subscriptions, etc., they just quit saying that they were not willing to betray their ideals! Well, guess what… They kept their ideals but betrayed all the photographers… which were the ones they said they were defending since the beginning… Contradictory, no?!

    Anyway, I don’t think I’ll be joining any other start-up easily, because RM images demand a lot more work than Micro RF. They definitely damaged the Stock Industry because they’ve undermined the confidence in new Macro agencies with their lack of honesty.

    But they kept their ideals… Hope they sleep well.

    José Elias

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