29 Oct 2008 Microstock Superstars – The Panel

This is a guest post by Ann Parry, a keen microstock photographer who attended the Microstock Superstars panel last week.

Micrsotock Superstars Panelists

The Microstock Superstars panel at PDN’s PhotoPlus Expo 2008, with the panel of (left to right in photo) Lee Torrens, Yuri Acurs, Andres Rodriguez, Kelly Cline, and moderator Daryl Lang from PDN, surely was helpful to a wide range of photographers interested in the world of microstock photography, present and future.

For anyone who is not in stock photography, but considering it, it was an advanced crash course in the realities of the business. The panel seemed nicely candid about what stock is and isn’t all about – technically, creatively, financially. I also appreciated how generous they were with their advice about what tends to work and what doesn’t, including mentioning that the currently emerging style is for a more natural, real look – I’d say especially in the lifestyle shots.

The panel very clearly and respectfully made the point that it’s wise to deal with reality. It’s an exercise in futility to expect microstock sites to change to embrace beautifully creative photography that simply doesn’t fit needs of clients.

For photographers who have already achieved success in traditional stock photography, it was a great venue to share the frustration over how their excellent photographic work in macrostock photography often is quite unrelated to the kind of images microstock clients need. And, since venting can be nice, but in and of itself not too productive, it was good that the panel showed and discussed successful microstock images. This provided a better understanding about the transformation a traditional stock photographer’s approach would need to undergo to work in microstock, should they decide to go that route.

“Think like a designer” was extremely good advice that I could definitely relate to. For example, I have two versions of photo of Nautical Mooring Posts with shallow DOP. In the original version, in which the many posts arc across image with an ever increasingly soft focus, is the one I’m using for a gallery exhibition later this year. It’s a complete image. However, for stock, the version where I cloned out all but one sharply defined and one less defined post finds much more success in microstock as the expanded sky area provides better copy space.

Present and potential contributors in the audience also found it useful hearing that even the microstock superstars have images rejected and that there’s absolutely no point in taking it personally. If a contributor finds the rejection reason helpful, great – learn from it! Otherwise, chalk it up to an inevitable part of the business, and simply move on to work on your next batch of images.

Like many photographers involved with stock photography, it’s a part of my photography business. Getting specific feedback from reviewers and from fellow contributors on forums and blogs has been a tremendous learning experience.

Though I find myself more and more drawn to editorial, public and private event, and concert photography, I will always value the expertise and support photographers such as these have graciously, pragmatically, and professionally shared, regardless of whether my photography ends up being a good, long-term fit on any significant level with micro and/or traditional stock photography.

Because of the experience, insight, helpfulness, and candor of the truly superstar panel, along with the comments and questions from the audience, my time at the panel was a very well spent 3 hours indeed. Thank you so much, Lee, for making it possible.

Note from Lee: The above photo was also taken by Ann. There are more photos from the panel and other New York meetings last week in the photo album on the Microstock Diaries Facebook page.

Also check out these video interviews taken at (or near) the expo. (more to come!)

Andres Rodriguez on the experience of speaking at PhotoPlus.

Dan Heller on his expectations for microstock in the greater context of the stock photography market.

  • Antonio D'Albore
    Posted at 03:59h, 30 October Reply

    Lee, Ann,

    Thanks indeed for sharing those useful info with us who had no opportunity to attend the event.


  • Marcio eugenio
    Posted at 09:11h, 30 October Reply

    Wow! Nice job!

  • Matthew Botos
    Posted at 10:58h, 30 October Reply

    Thanks again for the opportunity to attend the panel and the expo, Lee! It was great to meet you, Ann, and others from the community.

    The panel and audience discussion provided a ton of good information; here are my own reflections.

    • Ann
      Posted at 15:32h, 31 October Reply

      Wow, Matthew, you really included extremely helpful information presented at the Microstock Superstars Seminar. Great note-taking or fantastic memory, plus wonderful writing! smiles – Ann

  • Marlene Ford
    Posted at 17:49h, 30 October Reply

    I attended PhotoPlus last week in New York and loved it. I learned a great deal and found all the speakers and presenters more than willing to share their knowledge regarding the business – but I now have more questions than ever resulting from the seminars I attended. Lee, I am a fan – you’ve obviously done your research and have a great deal of knowledge regarding the business. I highly recommend your blog to all stock photographers, micro and traditional. Look forward to next year.


    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 18:43h, 04 November Reply

      Thanks Marlene, it’s always good to get feedback, particularly when it’s positive. 😉 I’m glad you learned a lot. I did too. I have my fingers crossed that they invite me back again next year!


  • Mauricio Jordan
    Posted at 17:17h, 25 December Reply

    I would like to take the chance to ask a question that till now I didn’t find a exact answer nor a approximated one. I’m having a hard time to find really [B]trustable/representative sources to calculate how long a stock image will live in micro and macrostock[/B] in order to predict income in the year to come.

    But I haven´t found until now avarage numbers on the [B]”lifetime of a photo” [/B]for micro and macro agencies (and which one would you talking about)? .

    How long would be a reasonable estimate?

    What I mean is: How long would you estimate that a photo will sell well until the sales start to decline?

    I already found another numbers for what Tom Grill calls “half life”:


    But not the answer to the question:[B] how long a stock image will live?[/B]

    Yuri Arcurs proposed the following numbers:

    “Half life speculations:
    Non-exclussive microstock: 2 years.
    Istock: 1 year.
    Traditional stock: 5 years.

    Does your expierence confirm this more or less? What would you say about the life time of a photo on Microstock/Macro agencies.

    I guess the sharing of this information would be really useful for all stock photographers.

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