It's nice to see that the venerable old BBC can write an article about how Shutterstock/et al are changing the landscape, and revealing the damage it's doing to photographers like Shannon Fagan, which is reporting that "his livelihood is under attack thanks to a proliferation of websites dedicated to amateur and semi-pro stock photography called "microstock".
Their ilk (the microstock sites) defend their model, suggesting "...'We're targeting a different market,' says Stephen Kapsinow from Stockxpert, another stock photography website." IF that were the case - the notion that the images would be used just for school reports, or even a mom-and-pop startup who's never even thought of licensing images, it might be more palatable. However, that's not altogether the case. Designers are procuring images for commercial and corporate clients with a budget and billing those budgeted fees of hundreds of dollars, and instead, paying pennies on the dollar.
And what do the iStalkers have to say?
Over in their forums, here, some are suggesting the article "...it's well-balanced and informative...", but that's a minority opinion. Instead, they take offense at snippets of the article which report that " quality is no longer a priority", and "amateur snappers do not have to be very skilled." It stands to reason that the "Infinite monkey theorem" here might just well apply. When an organization of 80,000+ photographers worldwide are snapping thousands of photos a year, this comes strikingly close to the theorem's parameters.
They then try to align themselves with Ghandi, citing him - "First they ignore you. Then they make fun of you. Then they fight you, Then you win." The problem is, as another iStocker suggested, "Oceans of mediocrity wouldn't matter at all if the search results were sorted in such a way that the cream rose to the top..." and this may well be the problem - photo buyers will want a controlled, filtered, and sorted solution, like PhotoShelter's Collection, or through Digital Railroad's Marketplace.
The article reports "Shutterstock.com was set up after founder Jon Oringer became frustrated with his lack of opportunities as a semi-pro photographer....'I went looking for a place to sell them. The top agencies didn't return my phone calls.'" So, I guess, if you can't be them, screw them? If he'd have set up an agency with market pricing, no one would have blinked. Sound familiar?
The founder of iStockphoto, during an interview with DesignSessions, is noted that he "...started his design career in 1994, as a clerk in the mail room of Image Club Graphics, a Calgary company credited with being the first to put RF images on CD-ROMs. After a piece of software essentially eliminated his job..." he then moved to and fro, and then "...During these years, Bruce sharpened his skills as a photographer...He calls iStockphoto a "true example of success born from failure." After deciding he was not going to make it in the traditional stock photography business, Bruce created a free Web site to share his images...and iStockphoto was born."
Could it be that these "frustrated" and "born from failure" photographers are living out their retribution?
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