A colleague forwarded to me Lee Torrens' post - Microstock Full Circle, from last week.
What's remarkable is just how two-faced microstock photographers can be. The refrain that is laughable on it's face and just plain insulting when contemplated even for a minute, is the notion that microstock photographers don't do it for the money, they make pictures so they can see their work in print, and maybe their name as a photo credit, but now they're complaining because prices are getting too low. (as if $0.20 net per image isn't already too low!)
Torrens' article is insightful, and talks about petitions being signed by some microstockers to opt out of the models that microstock agencies have turned to - subscription models, because they wanted to differentiate themselves. What used to be $1 per image, can now be silly prices like $150/month for "all you can eat" use, meaning those earning $0.20 per image are now maybe earning a few pennies.
And I am supposed to feel bad about it? Not likely.
Torrens makes the point that silly petitions won't make a difference, and he's right.
In the end, differentiating yourself as a photographer from the rest of the pack is going to win you more clients, more repeat business, and insulate you from the "everyday photographer" and their downward spiral.
Torrens does make one flawed argument, with bad numbers:
If you're in the business of selling photos, you'll be equally happy with an agency that sells 50 photos for $100 as one which sells 300 photos for $100.The problem here, is that where images are priced at either $2, or $0.33 per image, it's not about the $100, it's about the fact that the license that both models promote is an extensive rights package for next to nothing per image. I'd much rather license one image for $100 than even 20 for $5 because I know that, over time, I will earn more per image because the person who licensed one once will need to come back again for a license to extend or expand the license.
However, if you're in the business of improving the industry for the benefit of your fellow photographer, that's very noble of you. You'll likely drop the second agency as they're not paying you as much per sale - they're not paying 'fair' prices. But will this help your cause? Not likely. One of the other 29,999 microstock contributors will get your sales.
That discrepancy aside, I enjoyed his piece. In fact, I enjoyed even more hearing whiners complaining about prices getting too low. Next they will be called pennystock, because you'll be first able to get an all rights package for $0.05, then $0.01. Next up will be agencies thinking that if they can get images "placed" in certain places, they will pay for that opportunity.
What then, about side deals? Consider you have great pictures of people using bicycles. It would be really easy for someone from say, Schwinn, or Huffy, to locate all their bicycles in an agency, and then offer a placement deal to the agency where by, whenever those images get used, the bicycle manufacturer pays the agency a placement fee. In turn, the agency offers to incentivize possible clients to use the photos, so any search for bike/bicycle returns these images to the top, offering them for, say $0.01 when the standard price is $1. The fee the microstocker gets is 1/20th of a penny, because they are only entitled to their percentage of the license. The fee that the bicycle manufacturer pays the agency is not a part of what the photographer gets.
Movie companies have done this forever, with proactive product placements. How likely is it that there are, say, coke cans in photos? Coke could cut a deal to get those images placed higher up, and thus, placed more. This could be done with logos on shirts for Nike, Adidas, and so forth - any branding opportunity could benefit the agency and not the photographer, and the photographer not only would not be entitled to a piece of the deal, but they would never know about it!
Enjoy continuing to be taken advantage of microstockers. Don't bother to read your contracts, they're non-negotiable, and however they read, those who own the servers where your images reside will do everything they can to preclude you from profiting from your efforts.
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