Sunday, August 19, 2007

Au Contrare Mon Frere! Or, Tip for Microstockers: Don't Quit Your Day Jobs

I have great respect for my colleague Jim Pickerell. So much so that almost about a decade ago, I hired him as an expert witness. Yet, I'm going to have to disagree with his example of a microstock success - Erik Reis: Microstock Success Story, over on Black Star Rising.

I responded, in parts:

  • "microstock photographer Erik Reis is happy with his results." You cannot equate this individual's being "happy" with their results, as someone who's an example of a success story. Just as people can be successful and not happy, so to, can people - especially hobbyists - be happy and not successful.
  • Jim then writes about Reis, that he "acknowledges that only about 10 percent are good sellers." Ok, so, out of 1,338, only 133 are good sellers. That's not so good for a year's work. Even worse for two year's work. My advise to Reis - don't quit your day job.
  • Then Jim goes on to reveal "As is the case with the majority of the more than 70,000 microstock photographers, he has chosen to put the same images on many different sites."...Every stock agency (including Getty and Corbis) specifically preclude you by contract from placing the same images with them, because it's been proven to be bad for the agencies, and, as noted by clients - it's been proven to upset clients when they find the same images in searches at many different places.
  • The one shining point is the insight that iStockPhoto is not a satisfactory revenue producer, and that other smaller sites are better for them.

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.


Duane said...

That's not a very impressive success story... $17k a year - though a nice chunk of change - isn't enough to live on. It would have been much more interesting to hear from a top product like Lise Gagne - although her results are not anywhere near typical her story would be better to see a possible success.

I think the bottom line is if you decide to do something and REALLY put in the time and effort you will be successful. I can see how the part-time-microstock-producers are not really helping anything.

The problem is, and will continue to be, the fact that folks can supplement their income going this route. For instance - what would Eric had to do to increase his overall income by $17k through traditional means? You’re talking about overtime (if it is even an option) or getting another job. So he has something he loves to do (more than likely), it is probably relaxing, and he has increased his income.

Then the other question is could a professional full-time photographer sell images through micro-stocks and increase their overall income by $17k (probably more if they had a huge selection of images). So can a pro run their business and leverage off the micro-stock trend to increase their profitability - or would it ultimately hurt their business? I know from a political perspective amongst fellow professionals would look down on the person - but in the end it’s a business and your trying to make more money?

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness it's a free world and we don't all have to live by John Harrington's narrow definitions of happiness and success! If Erik Reis is happy producing images and clients are happy to purchase them at whatever rates the two parties choose, then more power to them. Maybe Erik doesn't need or want to quit his day job. Maybe it's just a great money-making hobby.

By the same token, if there are other photographers and clients that prefer a higher-dollar arrangement, then that's great for them too. But this whole "I hope microstock fails" thing is really rather petty, isn't it?

John Harrington said...

Paul --

I wasn't diminishing Erik's "happiness", but rather, making the point that just because he's happy doesn't mean he's successful. My exact point, to quote myself, was: "so to, can people - especially hobbyists - be happy and not successful."

Since the title of the article was a microstock success story, it was important to point out that the two do not always require the other.

-- John

Anonymous said...

But again, who are you or I or anyone else to presume that we have the right to define "success" for someone else? Perhaps you have more information, but I didn't see anything in the article that stated Erik's original goals.

Maybe he hoped to make $10k from his hobby within a year, but made $17k instead... sounds like a success to me. Or maybe given the amount of time he's currently able to put into this venture, his earnings would be substantially higher if he were to do it full time (if that's even the goal). The bottom line is that we don't know, so it's not really fair to judge.

Even if it were fair to judge, what would the criteria be? "To be successful you must make $X in a city with a population of Y and median income of $Z?"

Anonymous said...

How about a suggestion of what Erik should be doing instead of his current plan to kill the photography business (which seems to be the take on micro-stock lately)?

What alternatives does Erik have? Signing up to sell on a micro-stock site is as easy as signing up for an account on Flickr or Smugmug (ok, it's a bit more involved, but hopefully you get the point). Say Erik wakes up tomorrow and sees the light that he's getting ripped off for the time he's putting into his work. What does he do then? Where does he go?

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IKOstudio said...

Hi everybody.

I only found this artiche and posts today... good (funny) surprise to me.
Just to let you know, that I’m not still a Yuri Arcurs, but I'm quite happy white my experience and success on Microstock world.
After 5 years I already quit my full time job at two years ago. I have new light equipments and cameras, and a new and bigger studio.
I employ a full time assistant photographer and makeup artist.
My best seller image already give me a revenue of more than $20.000, but yes only 10% of the images sell very well, and that includes the majority of all Stock Photographers.
And my full month income is coming only from the Microstock market and some of the traditional market.

Thank you, and best regards.

Erik Reis

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