This past weekend, PhotoShelter launched what I consider the final phase of their marketplace entry, launching the PhotoShelter Collection. Daryl Lang, over at PDN penned their first review PhotoShelter Launching Community-Based Stock Site (9/14/07). My thoughts on this new service are based having just been a speaker at PhotoShelter's Atlanta Town Hall, just prior to my presenting to the ASMP Atlanta chapter.
The most attractive feature (so far), is that you don't need to be a member of the current PhotoShelter service to have your images considered for inclusion, or to start generating revenue.
And, what does it cost?
Before I get into cost, note above, I said "considered". Your work must be presented and reviewed by PhotoShelter's new team of editors, who's job it is to make sure that no crap gets into the archive. This has been a complaint by some of the pre-Collection content at PhotoShelter - specifically, that there's a lot of sports and personal photos that buyers don't want to weed through. Agreed, they don't. PhotoShelter gets that. Hence, not only do you have to submit images to the Collection for review and consideration, but a pair of photo-buying eyes have to approve your submission. How do they do that?
To start, there's two classes of accepted images - "Accepted", and "Editors Choice". If your image is good enough, it will be given the classification "Editors Choice", and be listed first in search results. In a previous post (I told you so? No, not really (Well, maybe, sort of)", 8/4/07), I noted how a search for "White House" on iStockphoto yielded better results first than Getty's more expensive offering - Getty Images.
As the service has just launched. in beta, and for photographer submissions only, I can't do as in depth a piece as I did for Digital Railroad's Marketplace, however, once both have gotten their feet wet, with a bit of time under their belt, I'll do a comparative piece, and, in the near future, I may compare the stated services - i.e. costs/fees, and so forth.
For now, the big question is - How much does it cost?
Sweet. What have you got to loose?
You don't need to be a current PS paying member. You don't pay anything monthly - not a dime. You don't need to pay a fee to submit. You don't need to pay for server space. PS is betting on their editors' eyes. If their editors think your image is worthwhile, they give you a free spot in their listings, expecting to make up the costs of the storage, maintenance, and promotion of your (and others) work through image licensing.
So, what's the deal with percentages? Well, first things first - standard agency deals are a 50/50 split. Some (including Getty) have evolved to a 60/40, or 70/30, and in some cases 80/20, favoring the agency.
PS is doing just the opposite - their take is 30%, with 70% to you. But, if you've got images now, ready to go (and I do), uploading before November 5th gives you 85% (for the first six months), with PS taking 15% on those images. So, in order to facilitate the initial growth of their library depth, getting in first not only gives you an extra 15%, but, you're the "fresh fish", getting the exposure first. I'll save the comparison to Digital Railroad's 20% take in a later piece.
PhotoShelter also does not require exclusivity, so you can have your images there as well as, say, iStockphoto. If you're an iStockphoto contributor, why earn $1 on your photos, when PhotoShelter will earn you much more? PS is targeting, in tandem with professionals - amateurs as well. At first blush, this would be a red flag for pro's not wanting their work alongside the non-pro's, but in the end, it's about the image. If the amateur has as good as, if not better than, a working pro, they get a fair shake.
How much more? PS uses the industry-leading pricing model espoused by fotoQuote, a tool I have relied on for almost a decade. fotoQuote allows you to modify your pricing, so, if you think your work is better than average, you can adjust your pricing to, say, 110% of all fotoQuote's midpoint pricing. You're in control of how much your work is worth.
How will your images be returned during search results? Of course, there's the metadata search of the caption and so forth, but what about keywords? I am in the process of taking a collection of just over 2,000 images that I have scanned, to make them ready for the online world. I talked with David Riecks, of the well-respected Controlled Vocabulary keywording solution (which I purchased a copy of, and which powers all of my keywords), about keywords, and specifically, the value of synonyms. Reicks talked about Getty's propriety ability to deliver synonyms for search results, and that I should seriously consider the added expense of synonyms. What's the extra cost using Jaincotech? $0.35 each. So, not having to do synonyms will save me $700 for 2,000 images. Further, as a part of PS's synonyms/plurals capability, is their artificial intelligence to return a search for "big apple" to with images keyworded "NYC".
It would be amazing if even a few of iStockphoto's major contributors/producers to submit a collection of images to PS, and have them realize just how much they've been selling themselves short as it regards the value of their work. What you submit doesn't have to be exclusive, so, there's little downside to trying it out.
How do you "get in"? Visit PhotoShelter Collection and sign up. You'll be asked to submit between 3 and 10 images so they can confirm you can make images, and then you'll be approved. Within the first three days, they had over six hundred photographers sign up. By the time you read this, it'll probably be closer to 700. I know that I did.
So, how will people even know that the Collection exists? With the service actually becoming available to buyers in November, starting in January they have set aside $1 million for advertising/marketing of the service. That's not chump change.
So, what about amateurs? Well, if your work can compete with the "big boys", this levels the playing field. You're judged on the quality of your submissions, and nothing more. By including the amateurs in the community, and helping them to realize the value of their work, these amateurs become a part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. Giving them data about their images, insights into appropriate pricing models, and feedback is going to make a huge difference in their growing role in the field of photography.
So, bring 'em on!
Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.