Many people criticize the microstock business and specific microstock agencies when the real reason for their discontent is that microstock just isn’t suitable for them. It’s obviously working for some people, so let’s look at some of the situations where microstock isn’t suitable and some of the alternatives that may be more appropriate.
You’re an “Artist”
Almost all successful stock photographers, microstock or traditional, are also business people. They look at what the market wants and create accordingly. This means conducting their own research or buying it, and following market trends or trying to predict them.
If your passion is shooting landscapes, abstracts, fine art or other less commercially popular subjects, you can expect to work harder than others in the microstock market. All successful stock photographers have an element of art to what they do, but they’re not all “Artists” with the inverted commas.
Still, there are many “Artists” who are also successful stock photographers, but they’re the exception. If you’re an “Artist” and want to make stock photography work for you, you need to adjust your expectations accordingly.
You Can’t Handle Rejection
Rejection in the microstock market is unavoidable. Even the top contributors get images rejected. The list of technical requirements is long and every submission must meet them all and at the same time be commercially appealing. Add to that the fact that reviewers often have less experience and knowledge in the stock photo industry than the contributing photographer and frequent inconsistencies in rejections across various agencies, and it can get frustrating.
If you can’t disconnect from your photos enough to accept the rejections, learn what you can and just move on, then you can expect contributing in the microstock market to be frustrating.
You Can’t Get Past the Commission Rates
Microstock commission rates are very low! They can get as low as 18 cents. Looking at it this way it’s hard to see why anyone would sell photos in the microstock market. A photo which you carefully crafted using all your skill, talent, experience and expensive equipment sells for only 18 cents commission!
Successful microstockers look past this perspective. They see the income in terms of time rather than individual sales. Photos obviously sell many times and continue to sell each day, hopefully for years. If you can’t get past the individual commission rates and see the bigger picture then you won’t enjoy selling photos in the microstock market.
You’re Already a Professional Photographer
Many professional photographers working in areas other than stock see microstock as an open opportunity to leverage their skills and equipment to generate a side income. If hobbyists can earn a few hundred dollars a month, surely a professional can do even better.
The fact is that microstock, and stock photography in general, has different requirements than other areas of photography and many professional photographers experience difficulties getting started in microstock. However, some professional photographers thrive in the microstock market. The difference seems to be in the investment of time and energy to understand stock photography and the microstock business. If you look at microstock as any easy-entry and lucrative sideline, microstock may not be for you.
So What are the Alternatives?
If microstock isn’t for you, there’s no shortage of alternative outlets to sell your photos. Here’s some suggestions:
Alamy – an established agency which accepts submissions from the public. Prices are at traditional levels (except the Novel Use scheme) and they offer both Royalty Free and Rights Managed licenses.
PhotoShelter – a new agency who are doing many things right. Sales are still slow and uploading is a lot of work, but they allow you to set your price (minimum $50) and you choose your license.
Inmagine – accepts submissions from the public through its IRIS system. You can choose both a price tier and a license type.
Cutcaster – a new agency supporting prices that run the full range. You choose the price and can receive pricing feedback based on how well your image performs.
Shutterpoint – a pay-to-play agency that allows you to set your own prices from $20 up.
FeaturePics – a microstock agency that lets you set your prices above microstock levels. They also enable Rights Managed sales.
Posted August 28th, 2008 by Lee Torrens