Tuesday, January 19, 2010

SpiderPic -How Stupid Can Photographers Be?

Let's get the upside out of the way here - SpiderPic is a great solution for the photo buyer, in the short term. SpiderPic is an aggregator that brings together search results across microstock sites, showing you your results, and in examples like at right, where there are identical images - which place has the best price. Paul Melcher, in his piece - A Microstock Price War? - has a good analysis of this service, and was where I first learned about it.

I have not delved deep into the ownership of SpiderPic, but what I have learned is that their revenue is from referrals to each of the microstock sites, where they take a piece of each transaction. Melcher is right - this will create a price war. Further, guess what - the loser will be - that's right - the photographer.

But how stupid can these photographers really be?

(Continued after the Jump)

If you are one of the many photographers who are selling the exact same image in different portals, at difference rates, for the same exact usage, then you need to re-think your common sense - not to mention your business sense.

Do I blame SpiderPic for facilitating this? Yes, and no. First, they are just making it easier to do what someone previously had to do manually, and so, for that service, they get a piece. However, as creative budgets get slashed by these low prices, budgets will make it all but impossible to create fresh content for assignments, and that's bad long term.

Now all the microstock photographers can pile on here in the comments, with sentiments like "I just want to see my photo in print, who cares about the money..." and "...for some of us it's not about the money it's about the fame..." and other equally idiotic sentiments. go ahead and subsidize multi-national corporations and mega-corporation quarterly reports with your EOS Rebel or D90 photos. Some day, you'll tire of all the work and the market will be so flooded you'll lose interest. Go ahead - I'll wait.....that's right, patience is a virtue, and while I have more than I need of it, clearly one "virtue" of these microstockers is that they couldn't care less about the profession of photography as a sustainable endeavor. SpiderPic's results demonstrates just one more manifestation of that.

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.


Peter said...

Welcome to the wonderful world of digital photography. Or, better said, the world where photography is made easy, at least at a certain level, you know, no more dark room etc. A world where picking up photography as a hobby is a lot easier (and cheaper) then it used to be. So no matter what, it will get flooded with photographs, good and bad...

Northern Focus said...

" go ahead and subsidize multi-national corporations and mega-corporation quarterly reports"

I'm glad that *somebody* else gets it! Microstock cheerleaders don't realise that they are just handing over the earning potential of their work to someone else.

Unknown said...

Here, here. Good post John and one that unfortunately resonates the world over with people trying to make a reasonable living with camera in hand.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, John, micro-stock photogs need to really get aware of how to run a business. Subsidizing corporations is NOT how you get your bills paid. Thanks for spreading the word.

Unknown said...

I went through something very similar to this last Summer. I was contacted by a local "events publication" (i.e. advertisements in the guise of community information) wanting to use a photo I'd shot of a band that was going to be performing.

I responded with a price, and even stated that I'd be willing to work with them if need be.

The last email I received, was that they were used to only paying $15 on istock.

I declined to release the image for publishing.

Shortly after, I received a request from the band for some hi-res copies of the photos. I gave them copies well after the magazine's deadline for print.

West Coast Jim said...

John you are a riot! Always.
How can anyone profess to be a professional in any field and expect to make a career out of no or low pays? No one, of course.
So they're are in it for the glory of seeing their images used? Sounds just like facebook to me. Or flicker, etc. etc. Just fun for amateurs. Talented or not. God love them. We all were once.
But they aren't professional photographers.
They are amateurs. And they help us by keeping Nikon and Canon going so we can afford our tools.

Till said...

The question is: Which way does the photographer earn the most money? Of course it seems to be stupid, to offer the same picture for different prices at different places. But as far a I know most of the micro-stock photographers can't choose the price. Doesn't the micro-stock agency do the pricing? So now a photographer would have to limit himself by only working with one of the websites. But I doubt that would be as effective as using as much as possible.

hiddenstock said...

Um, why are you guys having a go at microstock shooters?

The problem is Spiderpic not the photographer.

I think you will also find there are a lot of pros making a living from microstock.

Tim Nealon said...

I see this soo often with Photographers anymore. Even on a local level with Wedding Photographers and such. People are soo eager to make a quick buck they don't think about establishing a sustainable business plan. Before you know it photography will be a dime a dozen...literally...

Ohio Photographers said...

I've never understood why a photographer would charge more at Site A than at Site B, other than the different amount of comission the site might take.

Marco Oonk said...

Stock Photography company Alamy is considering taking legal action against Spiderpic. It appears that some of the pricing on their site may be misrepresenting Alamy as a result of differences in licensing details and image resolutions http://www.fastmediamagazine.com/?p=3705

Thomas said...

There are people who make A LOT of money from microstock sites, there's plenty of people who earn enough to make living out of it, and there's heaps who just happy to cover the costs of their photo toys :)
Now, if you 'pro' photographers feel threatened by such a low pricing on stock sites - then you obviously aren't offering point of difference that's serious enough to put you onto different level of the competition - and others can simply offer same kind of stuff but heaps cheaper.

C'mon, why winge, it's a wakeup call. It is a competitive world and if you aren't up to it - then yes, can wait and hope that the competition will disappear by itself :)

As far as I can see from authors website - he charges thousands of dollars for NON EXCLUSIVE use of stock photo ON THE WEB for the period of THREE MONTHS.
This obviously is in direct competition with microstock sites which offer just the same kind of product, but what - with heaps more choice and like THOUSAND TIMES CHEAPER?

If you think that microstockers will magically disappear cause they'll get bored - you're dreaming.
Times when stupid people are paying thousands for generic non exclusive images will soon be over, so either do exclusive work for the clients/employees, or step up and shoot something that microstockers can't do on a same level as you.

Edward said...

Dufus Alert!

Gee wiz, Thomas, you might benefit from a business 101 class.

There is a difference between "making money" (as you put it) and generating revenue. I’m going to make this really simple for you, so concentrate really hard, okay?

Making money, by definition refers to earning a profit. Profit = gross revenue, less costs of goods sold, less overhead (oversimplification for Thomas)

It is incredibly challenging and quite rare to "make money" (profit) as a microstock shooter. First, you must generate significant revenue. To generate significant revenue, a micro photographer must consistently produce very significant quantities of images. To generate significant quantities of images, a photographer must invest significant resources – production expenses, overhead, and time. There is a cost associated with that time. It is called “lost opportunity cost,” which is the time that a pro or amateur photographer could have spent on other activities, profit generating or otherwise, instead of producing microstock day in and day out.

The few photographers at the top of the microstock ladder –those who generate significant downloads – are often bandied about by micro suppliers as supposed glowing examples of success, to bait other suckers into producing content for that marketplace. Speak with them privately and you will find that they are struggling. Most photographers are suckers for big download numbers, just as you are, apparently. But those numbers are not the whole story.

The top tier micro shooters struggle with the burden of maintaining production volume and production value while effectively managing sufficient time and costs to so as to earn sufficient profit to support their desired lifestyle, whatever that might be. If we had the opportunity to view their year-end financials or tax returns, we would find that few if any are “making money” as you imply.

For a professional photographer who is not willing to jump into full-bore production on a significant scale, microstock is a sucker’s bet. In fact, other than the high volume shooters (and perhaps including a few of them), most micro photographers could make a greater *net* income (and work far fewer hours) working a 7-11 counter However, for a kids living out of a backpack on a friend's couch, or for an amateur or semi-pro looking to supplement his or her steady income from another job, microstock is a viable option.

As for calling clients “stupid people” because they are willing to pay a professional $1000, or $10,000, or whatever) to a competent, skilled professional to solve their business problems by producing custom imagery, you’ve just earned the King Dufus Award.

A medium sized corporation might spend hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars on buying the space in which they use photographs to promote their products or services. Many clients buy a mix of assignment, rm stock, and rf stock (in its various flavors including micro, subscription, etc). If you want to find a stupid client, go find the client who is spending $800,000 per page per week to buy advertising insertions in Parade magazine and decides to bet the bank on a microstock image.

Thomas, pull your head out your stinky spot and stop looking at the marketplace from the perspective of (and with the intelligence of) a termite. Fees paid to all photographers and stock agencies combined amount mere peanuts in the global marketing economy.

Rest assured that competition in the micro space will drive quality up, and prices down, creating an unsustainable business environment for photographers like you who will no doubt continue (as you have promised) to clamber over each other to supply the marketplace with fuel for the race to the bottom.

Good luck in your endeavors.

Rob said...

Hiddenstock said, "I think you will also find there are a lot of pros making a living from microstock"

Thomas said, "There are people who make A LOT of money from microstock sites, there's plenty of people who earn enough to make living out of it"

Don't you just love those statistics? Thank you Edward for taking the time to put together such a cogent comment...but especially for not holding back when it came to letting Thomas know your feelings. I enjoyed it immensely...

Thomas said...

Ahaha, yes, thanks Edward - I really enjoyed reading this too! :)))))

You spitting the dummy and making some silly assumptions about me and what I do/say/promise instead of simply reading what I REALLY said and then bringing objective arguments - is the best indicator that my post was spot on!

Looks like it's you who need to concentrate really hard to get simplest things (or maybe just "take head out your stinky spot"), as you are totally missing the point :)

Today is your lucky day though - I don't mind repeating, hope you'll at least make an attempt to read/understand it this time around :)

Again - all I am saying is that when "professionals" are selling THE SAME quality/subjects which microstockers sell for 1/1000 of the price - only stupid will pay thousands instead of few cents for the SAME NONE EXCLUSIVE product.

And BTW Edward, you should keep your assumptions and "business education" to yourself, as you are obviously quite poor at both :)
I am in design/publishing business for about 20 years now, and back in the 90s we were mostly reliant on those "pros" for most of the illustrational material.
Then Getty and some other libraries came around, and we got access to much better variety (and pricing).
Online brought our industry down a bit, but on the other hand - we're making up for it with microstocks - paying peanuts and getting quality/variety we could only dream about, plus there's heaps of up-to-date editorial content appearing daily.

Now, if you're trying to "business educate" me and tell that I should be having less profit and pay you more just because you decided to set inflated price tag - then I don't think that even business 101 class will be able to help you.

If microstock photographers are doing a better job and happy to earn what they earn - then probably they're just not as greedy as you are, so get on with it or offer me something better :)

Or you can choose to continue living in delusional world of assumptions and "brilliant business ideas" where people want to pay 1000 times more, where they can pay less for the same or better product and service :))))

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