09 Oct 2007 When do Contributors Delete their Photos?

Delete, Goldmund PhotographyMicrostock contributors delete their photos from microstock agency websites from time to time. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why we might do so.

Poor Protection

The first reason – and the most universally accepted – is poor protection. If the watermark isn’t good enough, your photos can be easily stolen and few microstock contributors want that. If an agency changes its watermark, which happens from time to time, you may not feel the new watermark adequately protects your photos. In this situation, many microstock contributors will delete their photos to protect them from theft.

Likewise, a change in the size of the photo thumbnails can put the photos at risk of theft if the thumbnail is too large. Again, deleting photos protects them from theft.

Lost Confidence

When a microstock agency doesn’t do what it says it will do, contributors lose confidence. Even small incidents are sufficient for many contributors to choose to remove their photos. Here’s some examples of such incidents:

  • Reviewers rejecting images that competed with their own
  • Photos being displayed without watermarks
  • Photos appearing for sale in other markets under a different name
  • Agency not undertaking promised marketing initiatives

All of these examples were drawn from actual events that took place. Occasionally, you don’t even get an opportunity to delete your images before a complete loss of confidence. At least one agency has completely disappeared with no indication of what was done with contributors’ images.

Poor Performance

Many contributors are happy to leave their photos with non-performing microstock agencies. Others are quick to remove their photos if the agency doesn’t live up to their expectations.

These expectations can be for earnings performance, website uptime and reliability, as well as the contributor’s experience with the agency’s customers service.

The most serious example of unfulfilled expectation is search performance. Contributors become upset if they can’t find their photos in the search results for the photo’s top keywords, or if they find their photo buried behind masses of less relevant photos.

Deleting photos from an agency that’s not producing sales is often a defensive strategy. An agency can’t survive for very long if they’re not earning revenue, and who knows if another floundering agency will disappear with all the contributors’ photos.

Change of Agreement

Microstock agencies all have contributor agreements which set out the obligations between the agency and their contributors. Agencies need to make changes to the agreements occasionally to keep up with movements in the market. However, sometimes the changes aren’t pleasing for contributors.

More than a few microstock agencies have added subscription models after launch. This has always proved controversial with contributors reporting different affects on their earnings. Some have deleted their portfolios as a result, though from what I’ve seen this hasn’t been many.

Agencies have also been known to change the contributors’ commission. In my experience, the changes have always been up rather than down in the microstock market, though I’ve seen commissions drop at macrostock agencies. It’s easy to understand contributors wanting to take their business to other agencies in this circumstance, and deleting their photos is how it’s done.


There is an amazing array of things microstock agencies can do to upset contributors and like any group of people, microstock contributors run the full range of temperaments. I’ve heard from more than a few contributors who have deleted their entire portfolio from an agency, not because they didn’t think more earnings would come, but because they were angry with the agency.

Notice Periods

Most agencies have notice periods. This means that if you delete your photos, they remain for sale on the agency website for a specified period. The notice periods range from 30 to 180 days and are always detailed in the contributor agreement.

My View

It’s easy for me as photography is not my first passion, nor do I rely on my microstock earnings. I have been selective about agencies choice and so far I haven’t had first hand experience of many of the reasons I’ve listed above. I can certainly empathize with contributors who aren’t in my same situation and who choose to delete their photos for the above reasons.

While I can’t say that I’ve never deleted photos from a microstock agency, it’s never been for any of the reasons above. That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t for any of those reasons in the right circumstances.

What about you? Have you ever deleted your photos from a microstock website?

  • Steven Kapsinow
    Posted at 11:29h, 09 October Reply

    Hi Lee!

    A couple other reasons may be because they are going exclusive or because they sold the rights to an image.


  • La Roach
    Posted at 00:00h, 11 October Reply

    Hey Lee,

    Good post. I’ve found I make more money going exclusive with some images rather than spreading them around to several agencies. Another reason for pulling a portfolia could be lack of time. As many microstock photographers are part-timers, sometimes there’s just not enough time to do multiple uploads to several agencies. It’s easier to pull back and concentrate on one agency rather than spreading yourself too thin uploading to five.

    La Roach

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