13 Aug 2015 Is it Too Late to Get Started in Microstock?

Nobody argues that it’s much more difficult to get started in microstock as a contributor than in previous years.  At least nobody I can find. However, many reject the idea that it’s too late, citing persistent gaps in the market, greater availability of data and analysis, and the ongoing need for fresh imagery as openings for new entrants.

But there are also many factors working against newcomers.  Their competitors have already worked up the royalty and price ladders microstock agencies work on.  This raises their income, giving them more cash to re-invest into more and better shoots. They also start at the bottom of the search metrics ladder, competing against established images which already have a sale history and already rank for high-value keywords.

I asked around to see what other people thought.  Here’s what I got back.

Mark Milstein, Microstock Solutions

Yes, the rumors are true. Microstock’s gold rush days are long over. Contributors might not instantly realize riches with each shutter click, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t money to be made. Contributors are just going to have to be a bit more creative in order to exploit the niches that regularly appear. Video is one of them. Anyone who recently started producing footage clips is experiencing a boom. Audio is another area where riches are waiting to be made. If photography is the only thing you can produce, then consider contributing to Stocksy or Offset, where images sell for upwards of $500. Food photography is another area ripe for mining. – Microstock Solutions

Paul Melcher, Kaptur

It’s not too late, it’s just much more challenging. Like any platform that is founded on the distribution of crowd production, the earlier the adoption, the better the chances to succeed.  The reason is simple: dissolution. As microstock distributor offering increases and their algorithm become more specific, the less likely images will appear on search result pages. However, being a numbers game, the more a newcomer produces, the better the chances, especially if he/she places those images in multiple microstock companies. – Kaptur.co

Chad Bridwell, Fotolia / Adobe

Its never too late, you just need a plan and need to manage expectations. – Chad Bridwell

Andres Rodriguez

It is definitely a time when it is very difficult to succeed. Competition is tough and creativity and quality seem to be improving by the day.  Approximately 200,000 images are coming into the market every week; this means you need big numbers, top notch quality, a big investment and a lot of patience. Only expect returns if you have low overheads and you can stand out from the crowd in every sense. I’d say it would take a year or two to start seeing profits. – Andres Rodriguez

Josh Hodge

Maybe. Depending on what your expectations and understanding of the industry are. I think there is lots of room for creating new content, but it needs to be different and fit in with clients wishes to be successful. The industry has changed but understanding what clients are actually wanting is key to survival. – Josh Hodge

Elnur Amikishiyev

I think it is still not too late so start. However, if a few years ago, it was possible to start and learn this business as you go, nowadays, the financial returns for unprepared starter would be disappointing, and will soon demotivate. But if someone can come to the market with established workflow, i.e. ability to regularly produce quality images, then there is still business rationale to do so. My biggest earners Shutterstock and Fotolia produce a good return from newly submitted images. Microstock used to be a business with almost immediate payback, but as competition intensified, the payback times has increased, however probably still much shorter than other industries. Certainly, not as long as in oil industry, which is my main profession. – Elnur Amikishiyev

Cathy Yeulet, MonkeyBusinessImages

I believe that if you have a talent and style of your own it is not too late to be a part of micro stock. Individuality along with a solid grounding in the principles of stock mean anyone can succeed but I believe these principles are harder than you think to come by. – Monkey Business Images

Dmitri Shironosov, Pressfoto

I believe that in the current market model it is too late to start working as a stock photo producer. This is not a competition of talent but rather a competition for the cost of expenses and market knowledge. On average, the cost of investment in shoots will eventually fall as long as there is someone who can offer authors a better working model. This will be a second wind for the stock photo market. This model should let them focus more on quality rather than quantity, but stock agencies must promote this initiative. In the end, consumers do not care about how many hundreds of millions of images stock agencies have – they need the special one. – Pressfoto

Amos Struck, Stock Photo Press

I personally think it’s not to late to start in microstock. Today customers are demanding more authentic, fresh and non-stocky style images. This demand is a great chance for new photographers to enter the market with their own style. It’s surely not as easy as a couple of years ago, but a hard working and passionate photographer will always make it in this industry. Search for your own niche topic, occupy it, and don’t forget to develop your own style and keep improving on your skills. And you will succeed. – Stock Photo Insight

Scott Braut, Adobe

I believe it’s still the “early days” of stock. What is happening at the highest level? There are millions of existing stock customers, ranging from individual designers to large enterprises consuming content at different price points. The purchase workflows are becoming seamless, using the Adobe Stock and Photoshop integration as one example, with the potential to reach millions of new customers worldwide. Content marketing is expected to go from an industry in the “tens of billions of dollars” to hundreds of billions by 2019. Video consumption, ad spending and engagement continue to surpass record highs. There are large markets that are still emerging. I’ve only heard customers say, “We need more content.”  

At the same time, contributors need to think strategically about their portfolios. Popular topics see the greatest volume of submissions. Aesthetics change. New markets and audiences emerge. It’s important to have a unique or original aesthetic, to focus on commercial value, to optimize your metadata, and to evolve portfolios with demand. – Scott Braut


Do you think it’s too late to get started in this business? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!

  • Jennifer Jordan
    Posted at 18:30h, 13 August Reply

    I hope it’s not too late! I only started submitting to microstock agencies earlier this year. Although my portfolios are miniscule, I add to them regularly and am seeing some return for my effort. Hopefully this payback will grow as I submit more work and find my.own niche.

  • user contributor
    Posted at 06:41h, 15 August Reply

    it is late.
    reason is eg. that shutterstock decreased payment limit from 75 to 35 usd .
    means, most people can not make money to reach that every month.
    so this discourage them and stop submitting new content.
    also above comments are from companies’ perspectives, they need new content, they do not pay much but want more fresh content.
    at least they must pay %50 of the sold content so that contributor feel moralized.
    if you have 8000 images and hardly make 100 plus usd each month, it is waste of time
    have a nice try.

  • Thoms Baker
    Posted at 14:59h, 17 August Reply

    Nice to read positive news on the business! I’ve started in 2011 and have personally experience 100% to 300% growth in each year! The secret it to continue to push yourself to higher limits and never stop submitting…

  • Alex J
    Posted at 04:17h, 22 October Reply

    I can confirm that for me 85% of microstocks income comes for a footage sales. My footage specialization now is timelapse. And yes – is seems that stills stock is overfilled.

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