19 Nov 2007 PhotoShelter
Update September 2008 – The PhotoShelter Collection has closed. PhotoShelter continues to provide its paid service for photographers to sell photos directly to clients, but the agency portion of the business is no longer operating.
If you aren’t already familiar with PhotoShelter, they’ve been providing photographers with a paid services since 2005. Their initial services allowed photographers to archive, distribute, and sell their photos directly to their clients. On September 15 they launched a separate marketplace known as The PhotoShelter Collection, which is free to contributors. It has only been open for these two months, and over 5,000 photographers contributed more than 225,000 photos. On November 15, PhotoShelter launched the collection to buyers.
The key details about The PhotoShelter Collection are that contributing photographers can set their own prices from US$50 and get to keep a generous 70% commission. Now let’s take a more detailed look at this next opportunity for photographers to sell their photos online.
|Minimum Image Size||11 – 100MB uncompressed (general minimum of 4 megapixels)|
|Licenses||Royalty Free and Rights Managed|
|Pricing||User sets the price. Minimum US$50|
|Payment Methods||PayPal, ACH, Check|
|Payment Delay||45 days from the sale date|
|Application Process||Submit 3 – 10 example images for review|
|Upload Methods||Flash uploader, HTML Form, Desktop Uploader (Java software for Mac and Windows)|
|Headquarters||New York, USA|
Why This Business Model?
Whether inspired by the limitations of the microstock market or not, the PhotoShelter business model is a direct attempt to return control over pricing to the photographer while leveraging the same strengths of open contributions and instant purchase.
Their slogan for the new collection embodies this founding concept:
Free to Join, Join to be Free
This strategy will appeal to photographers who reject the low price of images in the microstock market, making it easier for PhotoShelter to attract contributors. Photographers will also enjoy the ability to find an ideal yield by testing their photos at different price points.
However, while the model is appealing for photographers, the buyer side is restricted by the minimum price of US$50. This puts the price range firmly in the midstock & macrostock markets, isolating PhotoShelter from the growing market of microstock buyers.
Other Key Differences
PhotoShelter will group similar photos from the same shoot into a ‘stack’. The first photo in a stack will appear as a thumbnail in the search results, and buyers can then click the stack to view all the photos.
They cater for both editorial and commercial types of photos using labels ‘Creative’ and ‘News+’. Contributors can designate which one, or both, when they upload their photos.
PhotoShelter push the fact that the people behind the organization are photographers. This may be why their marketplace is so generous to contributing photographers but not so hot for photo buyers, at least buyers at the microstock level. iStockphoto proved that buyers bring contributors regardless of your commission or how hard you make them work. So, I expect there’ll be any mutual ground for microstock buyers and PhotoShelter’s buyers. Their support for Rights Managed licenses will also attract buyers from a macrostock background.
Their system is professional and refined, and they have an excellent Learning Center with all the informaiton contributors could want. They’ve also committed substantial resources to buyer acquisition, which inspires confidence. I’ve signed up with PhotoShelter and uploaded my test images. We’ll see if I’m PhotoShelter material, and if so, we’ll see how well my photos sell there.
Update September 2008: The PhotoShelter Collection has now closed, though the paid service of PhotoShelter currently remains active.