08 Aug 2010 Pixmac

Pixmac LogoNew microstock agencies launch every month. We contributors get tired of figuring out which ones are worth the risk of uploading and laboriously submitting our content.   They all market to us about how and why they’re going to be successful, but very few ever take off. Even fewer provide a positive return on time spent submitting.

Most of us have concluded that new microstock agencies have little chance of success without having something unique. That might be bags of money or something different in the business model. Cheaper prices and a cleaner website never seem enough.

‘Unique’ is something that Pixmac have achieved even since their launch at the end of 2008. Take a look:

What’s Unique about Pixmac?

The biggest challenge for new microstock agencies is attracting enough contributors to build a portfolio big enough to satisfy buyers while simultaneously attracting enough buyers to make it worthwhile for contributors to submit – the microstock catch-22. Pixmac overcame the microstock catch-22 very early by including photos from the Fotolia and Dreamstime reseller programs. With this method they reached 10 million available images before any other microstock agency.

Currently, the only upload method for Pixmac is through iSyndica. This achieves dual objectives. First it provides a solid and simple upload & submission process for us contributors, avoiding the painful and laborious processes common among microstock agencies. Second, it allows Pixmac to focus on generating sales.

Pixmac allow buyers to license images without registering.   This makes the checkout process very quick for buyers with ad-hoc needs.

Pixmac’s Visual Similarity search tool doesn’t just find images with similar keywords. It actually analyzes different aspects of the image content. Try it out. It’s very good.

Pixmac Details

Web Address www.pixmac.com
Minimum Image Size 3 megapixels
Vectors Yes
Footage No
Licenses Standard Royalty Free (though they don’t call it that) and Extended License
Compensation 30% to 44% dependent on sales volume,
Pricing $3.88 for direct purchase, credits from $0.92 to $1.00, subscriptions at $199.95 (25) or $299.95 (100)
Payment Methods PayPal & Moneybookers
Payout threshold $50 paid automatically
Referral Program Buyer only, and it’s complicated
Application Process None, just start uploading
Exclusivity Offered with higher commission
Upload Methods iSyndica
IPTC Data Supported
Delete images? Yes, immediately and individually
Lockin period removed. there is no longer any lock-in period.
Currencies US Dollars, Euros, Pounds, Polish Zloty, Czech Crowns
Languages English, Spanish, Russian, Czech, Finish, Polish, Dutch, German, Brazilian Portuguese, Italian, French, Korean, Danish, Hungarian
Headquarters Czech Republic
Launched September 2008

Other Points of Interest

Subscription commissions – Pixmac subscriptions provide buyers with a daily credit allocation rather than daily image download limits. This method is not-dissimilar to other subscription offers in the industry. Contributor royalty on full resolution downloads is potentially as high as 41 cents and as low as 10 cents (it would be 3 cents but there’s a commission ‘floor’ of 10). Fortunately the 10 cent royalty is only for 0.1 megapixel size restricting the usage options.

Limited portfolio available to subscribers – Only photos uploaded directly to Pixmac are available by subscription.   This is not good for buyers who can only access around 1% of the entire Pixmac portfolio. Pixmac will struggle to attract subscribers with this limitation.

Cheap Extended Licenses – Extended licenses for the resold Fotolia and Dreamstime collections are priced at the same price as the original agency. However, Extended Licenses for photos contributed directly to Pixmac are priced at just $30, which is much lower than most other microstock agencies. The Extended License rights include unlimited print runs (standard license is 500,000) and items for resale.

Celebrity Collection – Pixmac also license stock photos of celebrities, but it’s not open for contributions. A quick browse through the Celebrities Collection shows plenty of non-celebrities and even some photos without people. The editorial license also restricts usage to personal use only, prohibiting use on commercial websites or by media companies.

Marketing – Pixmac is spending a LOT of money advertising on big web development blogs and the Alexa reports for pixmac.com show that it’s driving a lot of traffic. These blogs are Pixmac’s second and third highest sources of traffic and overall traffic is growing very rapidly. This advertising strategy is popular among microstock agencies as it’s easy to determine return on investment and keep it cashflow positive.

A Rocky Start

Uniqueness has come at the cost of many mistakes for Pixmac.   Here’s some of their follies:

  • using a one year image lock-in period – the longest in the industry
  • offering to do keywording for free – this just doesn’t work in microstock
  • partner images appeared with the incorrect contributor names, incorrect thumbnails and incorrect prices
  • launched a promotion with a known image thief (they obviously didn’t know at the time)
  • expired contributors’ credits after a year if they hadn’t earned enough to cash out

All those issues have been resolved now and Pixmac are wiser for the experience.

Is it Worthwhile to Contribute?

If you already have your images on Dreamstime and/or Fotolia you may wonder if there’s any benefit contributing directly to Pixmac. Directly submitted images are available through the Pixmac subscription and their own partner program. Right now this won’t provide much of a revenue boost, but it’s growing.

But more importantly, if you take a close look at the prices and commissions you’ll find that you actually earn less for a full size sale on Pixmac if you submit directly.   Only base level (white) contributors at Fotolia earn more from a direct sale. Pixmac is aware of this and hope to be able to improve the numbers soon. For now, they can reflect your existing revenue level if you ask. I recommend you do so.

  • paul
    Posted at 07:26h, 08 August Reply

    Why should i submit my images to that agency?

    I already have images in there and the revenue is like 0.00005$ / download.

    so is not worth at all, and be fair with the article, and don’t make a masked advertising

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 07:31h, 08 August Reply

      Hi Paul, it might be worth reading the article again, especially the last paragraphs. I’ve addressed those very issues.

      Also, there’s no “masked advertising” here. They don’t have a referral program for submitters, I didn’t use referral links in the article, and I didn’t make a recommendation. I don’t see how this article qualifies as advertising.

  • FlemishDreams
    Posted at 14:50h, 11 August Reply

    Their start was certainly very rocky. At first they had a lock-in period of 2 years but they listened to my objections on the MSG and brought it back to 1 year. Offering keywording was of course meaningless since every contributor did his keywording already. Then there was the sales warranty. It all sounded very reckless. I’m glad they came with their two feet back on the ground.

    I had a quick look at the site and it looks much better now, compared to 1.5 years ago. Although I can spot duplicates. Their navigation is much better too. The prices don’t look bottom-down. But of course, they still are mainly resellers. If one’s portfolio is on Dreamstime and Fotolia, I don’t see any point uploading there directly. If their price point goes beyond that of FT and DT, picscout will find them soon enough. If it’s the opposite, FT and/or DT might cancel their agreement.

  • marcelo
    Posted at 12:27h, 14 August Reply

    Cuando uno ya es contribuyente de las grandes agencias como Istock, Shutterstock, Dreamstime y Fotolia comenzar con alguna agencia nueva es casi siempre un esfuerzo perdido y un riesgo. No hay nada nuevo, puros riesgos con precios en el suelo. Cuando lo he hecho siento que mis imágenes flotan en el lado negro del ciberespacio perdidas sin remedio. Alguien se ha preguntado ¿que pasa con miles de imágenes cuando una agencia muere? ¿las venden en paquetes? ¿las rematan a una agencia grande? ¿se las regalan a agencias de imágenes gratuitas? Y lo que es peor cuándo te retiras de una agencia ¿qué pasa con tu colección?
    En definitiva un gran riesgo para nosotros los contribuyentes que incluso puede ser negativo para tu imagen frente a las agencia clásicas y sólidas con las que contribuyes.
    La pregunta que me hago ahora es: ¿cómo me gustaría que fuera una agencia ideal?
    Rápido me respondo: mejor precio, mejor trato y transparencia a toda prueba.

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 15:21h, 14 August Reply

      Different people tackle the issue of supplying the second and third-tier agencies in different ways. For many big producers, it’s very easy to make contributing directly very profitable. If you read the last lines of this post you’ll see one of the ways in which this is done. Risk can be managed, and the return can be easily achieved. For smaller producers it’s more difficult, but not difficult if you look into it.

      We all wish that agencies were “ideal” for us, but that would require that they’re *not* ideal for their owners. So self-interest ensures you’ll never see what you’re wishing for. However, there’s plenty of resources which can help you sell your images directly. I recommend trying that out. You’ll get to understand more about the challenges that go into bringing an agency to success and why successful agencies are so ideal for their owners and not for us.

  • James
    Posted at 06:30h, 18 August Reply

    I haven’t tried Pixmac yet so this is a really helpful post.

    Great Blog as well!



  • Chris Reynolds
    Posted at 13:09h, 06 September Reply

    I really like how you break the details of the service out into an easy to read format. Thanks for taking the time to do so!

  • Sergey Skleznev
    Posted at 06:53h, 01 November Reply

    Hi! have you read this already?

  • pavel
    Posted at 10:13h, 30 November Reply

    yeah, good article. Thanks

  • Laurin Rinder
    Posted at 10:56h, 17 May Reply

    Thanks for the work you do lee. They keep sending Me e-mails to Join. I’ve been with 29 Sites in 6.5 years. Just can’t keep this up. Im down to 9 now and a few more are going soon. It’s just not cost effective. Good Luck and keep Up Helping Out. Laurin

  • Steven Bittner
    Posted at 03:02h, 29 October Reply

    I became a contributor 6 months ago and uploaded a small portion of my portfolio.
    Approval process went relatively quick.

    Only problem I have encountered:
    – Customer service does not reply to emails.
    – Features on the site are broken and don’t seem to get fixed. (Set series, thumbnails broken)

    Overall, it’s an easy to use, low earner site.

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