31 Dec 2008 Microstock in 2008

2008 was a turning point for microstock. The market matured, gained respect and moved further away from its hobbyist & community origins towards serious business. Some observations:

Microstock in Context

The way people speak about microstock changed in the course of 2008. As the idea of different images being suitable for different markets took hold, microstock grew in acceptance and we saw many traditional stock photographers enter the microstock market.

Rising Quality, Volume and Prices

Microstock agencies saw rising quality as digital photography technology improved, more hobbyists became professionals and more traditional stock photographers entered the market. iStockphoto introduced a tiered structure based on quality.

Agency portfolio sizes grew with Dreamstime and Shutterstock now adding new images almost twice as fast as they did at the start of the year.

Dreamstime, iStockphoto (twice), and Shutterstock all raised their prices during 2008.

The Business of Microstock

2008 saw a shakeout in agencies as both microstock and traditional agencies failed during the year. There were also new agencies and new ideas launched, and no shortage of mergers, merger-like partnerships (CanStockPhoto & Fotosearch) and deals to eliminate threats.

The business of creating and distributing microstock images also got serious with new distribution services and more corporate microstockers.

Maturing Microstock Market

The release of financial information ended any debate about microstock being a serious business. New ventures arose providing microstockers with tools, analysis, keywording services and uploading services.

The new-look microstock market is shaping up to provide a very exciting 2009.

  • Jon Hornstein
    Posted at 16:21h, 06 January Reply

    I agree that 2008 was a watershed year for microstock photography, and that in turn has helped make it a turning point for professional photography in general.

    The rising quality and broader range of microstock has put extreme price pressure on all areas of photography that even remotely compete with microstock. Not only on other sources of stock (i.e. Royalty Free and Right Managed collections) but even on some assignment shoots. A few bucks an image is a powerful incentive to make an image fit a small campaign, instead of the other way around.

    Add to this the current recession, with ad spending and creative budgets down, and 2009 looks to be a year of continued growth for microstock and contraction for much of the rest of the photo industry. And when the economy does recover, much of the advertising will not be going back to print, for which photography is the best creative medium. but online, as well as into games and product placements, where crafts like video, animation and interface design are better suited.

    Advertising that uses photography will tend to be smaller media buys, and therefore smaller creative budgets, meaning less money for photography, which means more use of microstock. (There will always be exceptions, and I’m not saying that high-end advertising, fashion or product photography will ever completely go away. But the opportunities will be reduced.)

    I believe that 20 years from now, people will be able to look back and pinpoint 2007-2009 as the years in which the long-standing economics of the photography industry radically changed, and microstock is playing a key part in that.

  • pdtnc
    Posted at 18:12h, 06 January Reply

    If I made New year resolutions, which I don’t, they would be:
    1. Do more leg-work at the gym and generally stick at the weights!
    2. Ruthlessly sort through and keyword all the present files on my computer
    3. Upload the product of number 2
    4. Shoot some of the ideas I’ve had over the last 12 months!

    Oh… and we have to go ice skating more (says my other half) 🙂

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