Sunday, October 7, 2007

Magically Ridiculous!

Well, there appears to be some uproar over the latest issue of PDN that arrived in my mailbox today. Apparently, the US Postal Service has delivered others before mine finally arrived.

The fury stems from an ad with the tagline "Join the fight against overprices images!", which is purportedly akin to Modern Postcard's promotional campaign, which included the tagline "Skip the expensive photo shoot...", and which I wrote about back in August (Skip the expensive photo shoot..." - What the #%^@ !").

(Continued after the Jump)

I just don't see the comparison to Modern Postcard as an apples to apples comparison. When I see PDN write articles talking about how great RF/Microstock is, and how everyone should jump on the bandwagon and sell out, well, then I'll be upset with PDN.

Let's see, someone comes to PDN, who wants to spend $7,000 (it's $3k if it's considered the Exposures area) for a 2-color ad, according to PDN's ad rates, found here. Where then, do you get your placement? Heck, buried in the back of the magazine, among the classified ads, where few people turn to. The only reason I make it to the back of the magazine is to check the last page! The ad was on page 169 of a 176-page issue.

Who did the math on this investment? $7k needs to generate 14,000 image sales in order to break even, where Fotolia earns about $0.50 per image. Further, the people - by and large - that read PDN would never submit images to Fotolia, and the well-informed photo-buyers that do read PDN certainly are well-informed enough that they're not likely to ever buy from Fotolia.

So, this is what you get when you mix a semi-struggling model, a guy that sold photofinishing solutions, a guy that was a domain-name buyer (squatter?) in the 90's, (who are billed as the photo-knowledgable ones) along with a few other hold-overs from Web 1.0. Aside from that alphabet soup that is Aiste Miseviciute,Thibaud Elziere,Oleg Tscheltzoff,Patrick Chassany,& Chad A Bridwell, you get the silliness that is, Fotolia.

Back in 2005, StockphotoTalk did an interview with the CEO, The President of the company did an interview about a year ago for one of his other startups where he's the CEO (hey, how many companies can you be CEO and President of at the same time?!?), inbetween model bookings, the "US Public Relations and Marketing Manager" is trying to remain busy at Colors Model Management with her online comp card here and at another agency, here, Their Vice President of Corporate Strategy (and also a co-founder) lists over on LinkedIn that he's CURRENTLY also the co-founder of, Founder & CEO of, co-founder and CEO of, and Director of the venture capital organization Reachtown Ventures. I'd say he is a good candidate for ADD concerns, however, who in their right mind would give a dime to someone who is con-currently a Founder/CEO/Director of so many organizations? How much strategizing can you be doing for Fotolia when you're leading so many other companies?

According to their pricing structure, you get paid in 'credits", not actual accrued dollars. Why credits? Lawfully, it's easier to take "credits" away from you after 365 days (as they say they will), if you don't use them, instead of actual currency. Further, you have to give up sale(s)/credits if you want to get paid out under 50 credits, to paypal.

Their PR firm lists them as a "case study", where they tout getting Fotolia placed at #1 for the term "photographer commission", yet, a review of Google's own marketing research about searches actually performed, there would be ZERO clicks per day for this search term. Now that's a successful case study! Further, they write " Images that do not meet Fotolia's standards of professional quality are not rejected, but offered to be posted in the websites Free Section," nice. Free photos from the rejects pile. (More about the free section here.)

The complaintants suggest PDN should be writing articles about how bad Fotolia and its ilk are for photographers/photography (they have), and how we all should cancel our subscriptions. That's just silly. I can't recall a time - ever - where subscription cancellations changed the course of a publication. Further, there are laws in place that prevent PDN from rejecting ads like this one. It's one thing to reject an ad for nudity, or racisim, or the promotion of unlawful activities. However, Fotolia's lawyers would have a field day with VNU's legal department if they had rejected this ad. So, what to do? Bury it!

Fotolia is doing all it can to.... wait, did I just say that? What with all their founders and management focused on numerous other endeavors, who's actually minding the shop? Is Fotolia just a server farm with a bunch of hard drive space and a few applications serving up images and collecting money? With supposedly upwards of 7,000 images a day coming in, who are they paying to "review" the images for acceptability? Let me rephrase...

Fotolia is running their servers, collecting images, in hopes of reaching some critical mass so that Getty, or someone else, will buy them up. Doubtful, folks. Getty has their beheamoth that is istockphoto, and they're not likely to take up Fotolia. Nor is anyone else. Their coffers are now $7k lighter, meaning their servers will hum along that much shorter a timespan when they run out of money. The only way Getty/Corbis/Jupiter/et al will snatch them up, will be in a bankruptcy/fire-sale. May that come sooner rather than later. If the "bomb" icon they use is any indication, we can only hope it comes along sooner rather than later.

In the past, PhotoPlus has had schmucks like OnRequest and DigitalVision with booth space. Does that mean we boycott that too? I think not. I have been every year for over a decade, closing on 15 years I think, and each year, I take away enough that it was well worth my while to be there. Fotolia can spend all they want on ads - it's not going to change the quality of the work they peddle, or the interest they gin up, or lack thereof.

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.


Anonymous said...


I am not used to read blogs. And now I understand why... Did you ever try to get informed about the subject ?

It is a funny non-article :)


Anonymous said...

I have to agree.

Why don't you find something new to write about instead of constantly whining about other people that seem to be making it.

Do something else...or at least correct the typos in your posts.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what the other two posters are objecting to. John is making an effort to point out the futility of slamming PDN for allowing the ad into their magazine. It is widely accepted that stock agencies like Getty are bad news amongst photographers that pay attention.

If you are doing well with Getty or similar then more power to you... I guess. I don't think John's blog entries on this subject constute whining. More importantly, it's his blog, not yours.

I would offer though, that I think this subject has been covered quite well over the last few months. How bout some marketing ideas John?? :-)

Anonymous said...

So that's where Oleg, et al, are hiding. They sure as hell aren't minding the store. Fotolia treats photographer's worse than dog doo.

Anonymous said...

Why submit photographs to Fotolia? They are better places to sell your photos. Photographers even part timers need to have pride in your work and put a value on it. come on folks

Anonymous said...

To be a photographer is everyone'dream. A lot of folks just want to post their pictures on Fotolia.
I think that a photographer should think about his business and pay attention to this kind of agency.
The truth that there are some people that are not photographer and live of another job.

Anonymous said...

I think John is doing a good job of pointing out low-price stock houses and their effect on the industry.

If you do not reading about it, that is your choice. I appreciate John taking the time to research and post his thoughts.

My stock is with WorkbookStock and Getty. No way would I ever place an image with one of the micro-stock sites.

I feel that the Micro-stock sites are set-up so that the owners can sell out to the big boys.

John is not a big-time ad shooter. Nor is he small potatoes. He knows what he is talking about and he walks the walk.

It is his blog. His blog. His thoughts.

If you want to read how great micro-stock is, I am sure you can find a forum where there are a lot of wanna-be photographers raving about how their 6MP camera is so good and the have made $60.00 this year.

Anonymous said...

Well, with my 6mp SLR body ($375) and lenses ($50 each) I made US$2100.00 last year total from 7 microstock sites, shooting exactly the subjects I wanted to, when and where I wanted to, when I had the time available. Sure, not a large chunk of change, but neither am I a "professional" in terms of making or wanting to make a full-time income from photography. I enjoy photography immensely and do take it seriously. Question: since when do a bunch of 6mp-toting weekenders pose such a threat to the real pro's, and why does the mere mention of them leave such a bitter taste in pros' mouths??? That's the sense I get by reading this and several other blogs/articles/forums/etc., that we microstock amateurs are the lowest of the lowest scum-sucking slimebags, prostituting the profession to a sure and absolute ruin. Of course, I hear over and over again that "You can make so much more than you're making on micro..." What I never hear explained very clearly is exactly where can I make so much more without being an established name or oozing with natural talent or being in full-time photography or having a starting portfolio of thousands of high-quality images, & how exactly to go about doing it while maintaining a full-time job, family, community commitments, etc., & how long it will be before I see a real return on my invested time, & what minimum equipment (cameras, props, sets, lighting, models) I will have to invest several $K into just to have my work even possibly considered, & how long it will take just to be considered, & what minimum annual quantity of consistent material I will have to submit in order to stay accepted, & other things. I never find any really clear answers to those questions. At least being in microstock gives me flexibility that makes the above questions inconsequential for the most part, admittedly with not a huge financial return although it's consistently but slowly increasing for me every month. I'm absolutely in love with photography whether I get paid or not, so that makes me an "amateur" in the purest original sense of the word. For recreation and relaxation I don't play with toy trains or go fishing or play golf or skydive or hunt or crochet---I shoot pictures. I make my way in photography as best I can with the time and finances I have available for it, and I love it and do the best work I'm capable of. And atop it all I make a little money from it too. I'm not a professional nor do I really want to be one---so my humblest apologies for taking advantage of the free-enterprise system to steal away $2100.00 worth of food out of some pros' families' mouths, which they probably wouldn't have seen anyway since they don't submit to the micros. It sure helped with my family's food bill, though, and I had a lot of fun doing it and plan to continue doing it even as my income from it grows (not a professional income, though, you understand...)

Signed, The Microstock Amateur

John Harrington said...

PhotShelter. It's Free, and if you take ALL your microstock images and put them there now, for the first 6 months, you'll earn 85% of all sales. Since it's FREE you have nothing to loose, even if they reject 50% of your images, you'll still have plenty up there, and you will see what you *could* be earning off your images.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip!

Anonymous said...

That $2100 that you used to put food onthe table with really might have been $10,000, or even more. Not knowing the specifics of the sale, use etc. it;s hard to pin and exact #. But by taking that kind of money out of circulation, yes it does hurt. Also remebr that 1/3 of the $2100 goes to taxes. You are claiming it as income right?

Anonymous said...

Fotolia is even worse to their customers. I had so many technical difficulties with their site I had to switch to Shutterstock. Even after I canceled my account they charged me for another month. I was able to dispute the charge but it was a big pain... mostly because they were so awful to deal with. For all those who are doing their research before you buy... anyone but Fotolia!!

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