Monday, 21 May 2007

Why sell for as little as 20c

The common criticism of Microstock is that we sell our photos for nothing and that this devalues the industry.

When researching my last post - Earn $300 a day on microstock I came across Yuri Arcurs website. In his website, he explains why he sells on microstock and not at one of the larger agencies, like Getty, where he could earn $100's per sale.

"Selling my pictures this cheap makes some old school photographers angry. Photography is filled with tradition, and before digital cameras became accessible, stock photographers selling their pictures on agencies like Corbis of Getty Images were paid very well. Some (like me) think that they were paid a little too well. Charging $300 for a one-time usage of a picture of a flower was not unheard of, and this is still the price estimates found at Corbis and Getty Images today. In 2000, istock started a revolution in the stock photography field by selling pictures online (not by catalogue as in the old days) and selling these pictures as low as $1 per each picture. This price drop started a heated debate and an almost warlike conflict between the new microstock photographer (at the time mostly semi-professional or amateur photographers) selling their pictures for as low as $1 and other timers use to get an overly high price for their pictures. The old timers accused the microstokers of destroying their own ability to make real money by under pricing the value of their pictures and were also somewhat angry that these new pictures put an “unfair” mark on their own highly priced pictures.

I have considered being a Getty of Corbis photographer, but after reviewing their contract and looking at the sells of other Getty photographers, I was able to estimate that I would actually lose income by become one. So it seems that “underpricing”, as the microstockers were accused of, has gradually shown to be a “best pricing” polity instead, with great side effect: Breaking apart an old price conspiracy."

The reason I started with microstock is the ease of entry. The likes of Corbis and Getty would never accept me (they are like an old boys club). After selling for a while it also seemed to make sense. On forums like DPreview, the Pros critisised the microstockers but when they set out the large amounts they are earning, the amounts are matched by an equally large portfolio, resulting in an average price per photo per year similar to what I make. Sure my portfolio isn't as big but then I don't do this full time.

The selling for 20c each is also slightly misleading. From my sales, the average I earn from each DL is (approximately per sale - not per photo per year):

25c shutterstock This will increase to 30c folling the pay increase this month.
77c dreamtime
64c Fotolia
71c istockphoto
76c bigstockphoto
58c 123RF
110c StockXpert
190c Featurepics
80c LuckyOliver

You also have to remember that microstock works on volume (the walmart of photography). As such, while shutterstock pays out the least per download, it actual pays out the most per month due to the volume of sales generated by its subscription model.