22 Feb 2009 UGCX in Review

User Generated Content Conference & ExpoUGCX was amazing! The photography track was full of amazing speakers from all parts of the industry who each presented fascinating and useful information. I won’t go into the detail of each session, but here’s a sample of what was said, announced and presented.

News Breaks

Corbis made a major announcement just days before the conference. They’re moving SnapVillage content and buyers over to their new Veer Marketplace where microstock photos will be available alongside traditional and midstock content. SnapVillage will be phased out completely by the end of the year. Stephen Shankland, Daryl Lang and Paul Melcher all had interesting thoughts.

iStockphoto announced the launch of iStockaudio during the opening keynote by Bruce Livingstone and Kelly Thompson.

Who Was There?

In addition to the amazing speaker roster I detailed here, there were a few surprises and new friends among the attendees who I’d like to thank and shout out:

PACA‘s Executive Director, Cathy Aron. Gustavo Baez of Glow Images. BrightQube‘s CEO, Lee Corkran. Shannon Fagan, photographer and SAA President. Ozmo‘s Robert Gaggin. Steve Gibson from Microstock Insider. Sean Locke of sjlocke fame. PhotoShop Stock guru John Lund. Trevor Lush. Michael Masterson representing ASPP. Shalom Ormsby. Trinette Reed and Chris Gramly from Plush Studios. Yis Tigay of ImageRevolver. Robert Walters, CEO of PantherMedia. Nicole Young aka nicolesy, photographer and blogger.

With so much of the industry represented we took the opportunity to gather everyone together for a two-hour roundtable discussion of the state of the stock photo industry on the Monday night.   As you can imagine, the discussions were incredible, sometimes heated, but generally very productive in promoting understanding between microstock and the traditional macrostock market. And what a rush to be among so many greats of the industry.

Press Coverage

There was a lot of coverage of the event and fortunately for us, much of it was photography related. Some even

Stephen Shankland, who covers the digital photography market for CNET News was at the event and reported on the iStockaudio announcement with additional gems from the iStockphoto keynote. David Needle at InternetNews also covered the keynote in detail.

Brian Shields from KRON4 interviewed Fotolia’s Chad Bridwell, myself, and traditional stock photographer Chris Gramly among others from the event.

Rasmus Rasmussen reflected on what he learned at UGCX and Rahul Pathak made his impressions clear on the LookStat blog.

There was quite a few people tweeting live from UGCX as well as the official @UGCX account itself. Additionally, there’s a collection of press coverage on the UGCX website itself.

Photos of the event are being collected in the UGCX Flickr group, seen in this slideshow:


Here’s some of the more interesting quotes from the event I’ve managed to gather:

Kelly Thompson: “Quantity of images has never been a problem in microstock”.

iStockphoto keynote introduction: “[on iStock] a file is downloaded every single second”.

Bruce Livingstone: ‘It’s easier to build a business with community if you are part of that community

James West: “It’s the ‘wild west’ of stock photography. And that’s not a reference to myself!”

Jack Hollingsworth: “I never said the industry was dead. I said it was broken.”

Yuri Arcurs: “My RPI in microstock has dropped from $8 to $6 per month.”

Rasmus Rasmussen: “Where was I going with this? Can you repeat the question, please?”

Andres Rodriguez: “The gap between professionals and hobbyists in microstock is getting bigger every day.”

The Next One

UGCX is moving to Boston New York in October. Keep an eye on the UGCX website for details.

  • Matt Antonino
    Posted at 13:26h, 22 February Reply

    I hear the next UGCX is going to be more location-friendly to us East Coasters? I’m planning to be there for that! 🙂 Glad you guys had fun and a lot of learning and sharing by the sounds of it.

    What Andres said about the gap – I don’t think people get that. If you’d had a fill in the blank “wider/smaller” I think most people would have assumed he said the gap was smaller – but given what I’ve seen from Yuri, IOFoto, Andres himself in the last 18 months, it’s definitely expanding. It’s going to get to a point where the small indy can’t keep up if they don’t make the leap themselves.

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 18:04h, 23 February Reply

      Hey Matt, yep, October in Boston. See you there!


  • john
    Posted at 17:31h, 23 February Reply

    Interesting. If you take Yuri’s portfolio at Fotolia (15272). It indicates that Yuri was earning ~$120,000 per month at his peak and is now earning ~$90000.

    Yuri earns somewhere between $1m and $1.5m a year.

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 18:12h, 23 February Reply

      Hey John, Yuri announced earnings of US$1.4 million per year last October at PhotoPlus. I asked him during his session at UGCX if he wanted to give an update and he said he won’t be making his income levels public anymore. However, with the RPI figures he did provide you can make a relatively accurate estimate.


      • Chris Nuzzaco
        Posted at 00:48h, 24 February Reply

        I find the Yuri RPI stats interesting, yet not very revealing. Unless I haven’t heard it all, the RPI numbers given never seem to come with an explanation about the calculation. Is this assuming only images in a given year, or all time? Etc.. I’m still pretty solid in my opinion that any drop he’s had has more to do with a changing content demand, as well as saturation of former high earning subjects which make up a large potion of his portfolio.

    • Don Farrall
      Posted at 16:25h, 27 February Reply

      Gross sales matter not, what matters is net. I remain unconvinced by any numbers I read regarding the large scale production of microstock.

      Don Farrall

      • Chris Nuzzaco
        Posted at 17:10h, 27 February Reply

        I agree completely Don, net is king.


      • Lee Torrens
        Posted at 17:18h, 27 February Reply

        Well Don, I can see why you’re not convinced.

        At the same time as announcing his $1.4million earnings he spoke about keeping his business very close to the line of profitability. But he stressed that this was the result of his intentional heavy re-investment strategy. He added that he only pays himself a salary of US$6k per month. (keep in mind this conversation was in October 2008)

        An obvious key strategic advantage in microstock is being able to produce photos cheaply. Yuri calculates the profitability of each of his shoots and knows his numbers well. Still – at least so far – he chooses to work with a large team, shoot with a Hasselblad, and base his business in a very high taxing country (up to 62%). Maybe that’s why he reinvests so heavily – it keeps his profits and subsequently his taxes lower, yet still builds his income level.

        Another example is Andres Rodriguez. He shoots with professional models, on location, with a crew and lots of equipment. But he does this in Colombia. He said at UGCX he gets return on investment for each shoot in three months, on average.

        My point is that it’s different for all of us. Large scale microstock production may not be at all feasible for highly capitalized photographers in the US, so I understand why you’re not convinced. But for people in different circumstances, it can be more than feasible.

        We each see microstock from our own perspective, and one is not necessarily more valid than another. I’m not trying to convince you, but just highlighting some alternate perspectives. 🙂


  • Rahul Pathak
    Posted at 19:06h, 23 February Reply

    Nice summary Lee. I missed Kelly’s quote. Did he mean that there is no lack of images, or did he mean that the abundance of images does not create problems? (Does my question even make sense ?)

    PS: You did an amazing job making this show happen and deserve a ton of credit for its success.

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 19:38h, 23 February Reply

      Rahul, my understanding was that he meant it’s never been difficult to attract a lot of submissions. From the perspective of iStockphoto that’s obviously the case, though I can point to a few other agencies who have a totally different experience.

      Thanks for your kind words on the event. Don’t believe what I told you previously, it was all worth it in the end! 😉


  • Brian O'Shea
    Posted at 21:41h, 23 February Reply

    Hi Lee –

    Thanks for the write-up – we’ve been so busy it’s a good time to step back and look back at all the good stuff that happened at UGCX.

    Great to meet you in San Jose – and many thanks for all your work to help put the show together.

    We had an awesome time – looking forward to the next one!

    – Brian

  • john lund
    Posted at 15:18h, 28 February Reply


    Great show…thanks for making it happen! The show felt very intimate…and being in such close proximity to so much brain power was a kick! I enjoyed the opportunity to talk with some very successful micro shooters, including Yuri. I remain convinced that there are still huge opportunities in stock if one stays flexible and informed. Micro still isn’t for me, but I certainly do not see it as the end of stock…more of an interesting addition. Right now I see it as an indicator…an indicator that tells us there is a demand for lower priced images, there is no shortage of those willing and able to fill that demand, and that for me to continue my success in stock requires more strategic thinking and business discipline than I have employed before. The industry continues to grow more fascinating by the moment!


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