A very interesting thread on Sportsshooter about the 30 dollar microstock cover on Time Magazine.
Random musings on this:
-- It amuses me that the cover theme was "The New Frugality"; obviously the Time staff was practicing what they preached!
-- I almost hate to say it, but I think $30 probably was a pretty fair price for a single use of this photo. It's utterly generic; most of its value comes from the way the cover designer used it, not from the photo itself. Another way of looking at it: if this photo weren't available, there would have been hundreds of other generic photos that a clever designer could use to illustrate the concept of "The New Frugality."
-- Another reason $30 isn't a bad price: precisely because the photo is so generic, the shooter will be able to sell it dozens more times. That's what makes the microstock world go 'round, or so I hear.
-- The professionals whingeing away on SportsShooter and other fora to the effect that the microstock shooters are taking food out of their mouths have got a bad case of craniorectal inversion. What do they want, a law stipulating that photographs for publication must be taken by a "Licensed Professional Photographer" at a mandated "fair" rate? (Yeah, actually they probably would want that... until they found out what it would be like.)
-- This moron goes even further, abusing the photographer for letting himself get "screwed out of several thousand dollars in income"... conveniently ignoring the fact that if the photographer had asked for several thousand dollars, Time would just have plugged in a different stock photo instead.
I guess there was a time, when photography was difficult and editorial markets were very cliquey, that it was possible for a cabal of editorial photographers to "ration" the supply of their product and prop up the price. But the Internet has pretty well killed that business model, and ranting at microstock photographers won't bring it back.
It's the part of capitalism called "supply" and "demand". A friend of mine described it like this:
If you are a goldsmith, and one of your neighbours finds out how to make gold in his bathtub from materials he can buy at the local grocery for 50c per kilo, the price of the gold you sell will probably go down as well.
That's digital photography for you. The market for generic photos was bound to change, and it has. What the whiners and whingers fail to understand, is that this has opened up huge new markets, with buyers who used to steal or "borrow" photos instead of buying. A successful, generic microstock photo will usually sell hundreds or even thousands of time. In ancient times, like ten years ago, most photos would have sold once or twice, if at all.
If this is negative or positive to the business, is highly irrelevant. It's a result of digital photography and the internet, and it's obviously unstopable. The negative side is of course that a magazine like Time chooses to use a cheap generic photo for their front page now and then, instead of commissioning a photographer, paying thousands of dollars, to take that same photo. The positive side is that millions of websites who have an unlimited need for new photos on a regular basis, now actually pay for those photos.
Really unique and exceptional photos will still sell at a premium. It's just a question of taking those photos. In the stock photography business these days, it's adapt or die.
As a working pro anyone giving away these photos for 10 bucks 30 bucks what ever you are destroying a profession that you all hope to join. It is a shame you two do not see that. years ago as punk kid in my 20s I had a full page of Madonna from live aid . The folks at Life tried giving me 500 dollars "there were lots of photos of Madonna from Live Aid" I was told, I replied yeah but you chose mine it must be the best and therefore I want more then the 500 . I got 750. These days somebody might go to that large a magazine and offer free photos for a photo credit. Too Bad and Too Sad. David www.davidseelig.com
There's a big difference between shooting a jar of coins at a tabletop studio in your kitchen and shooting a celebrity at a concert. I never said I liked the decline in stock photography prices, but when tens of thousands of photographers are shooting whatever they can find in their kitchen drawers, the prices are bound to be thrown into a free fall. This is not a question of being for and against. This is a question of doing a quick browse through the internet and check which way the wind is blowing. You can always try to stop it, but I do think there are more entertaining ways to waste your time.
Good editorial stock is a completely different world. Partly, most microstock agencies don't accept editorial images, and those who do, sell in very tiny numbers. A photo of John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe in the backseat of a pink Cadillac with Fidel Castro behind the wheel, will still bring in thousands of dollars. A glass of water isolated on white on the other hand... unless it has some really unique aspect to it, most microstock agencies would reject that, stating something like "we have too many of these photos". When that is the case, expecting Time magazine to pay $3,000 for it, even for a front page, is somewhat optimistic.
Again: this is capitalism, pure and simple. Supply and demand. And you'd be surprised if you knew how much profit some of the microstock photographers are actually making.
A photograph and a photographer should never be devalued and when it is, it hurts us all . I have no desire to get into a internet shouting match, I do not think any photograph where ever it was taken has more or less value. If Time magazine can get away with paying 30 bucks for any photo they will and sooner or later only trust funders will be pro photographers. David
Here is a link with another take on this
Last edited by dseelig; 26th July 2009 at 17:56. Reason: more info
I see it as you adapt or you fail. My business, wedding photography, is full of this devaluation due to digital photography and you have to adapt, distance yourself from the 'new' or you fail and no crying about it will help put bread on your table. Let's face it, it's a new reality and the gearshift lever has no reverse on it. You can either select park or drive but if you don't move then everyone will pass you by.
Look at Getty, they scoured Flikr and found a new crop of photographers, offered about a 1000 of them jobs including a friend of mine. There was lots of whining from the regular Getty photographers who just didn't get it, people want to buy photos that aren't typical stock, especially in the 'look'. The marketplace has moved on and I think Getty were very intelligent in their approach. Reminds me of a quote from a Terry Pratchett that I was reading yesterday. The designer of a new machine asked for apprentices and students only 'as they've not yet learned the limits of the possible'.
In my own market there are at least 5 new people trying to break in to what is an extremely small market, I'm one of only 3 photographers servicing the Orthodox Jewish wedding market in the entire UK outside of London. There is only one who I even begin to worry about. That's the guy who Getty chose, the one with innovation, new ideas and a modern approach. The others are all trying to copy the 'top' man in the business, a man whose photography got stuck in 1980, who never adapted to digital properly and who is about to retire. They'll never get anywhere. I know I have to innovate and move with the times or I'll be out of a job.
What is making me slightly nervous is this convergence of video and photo. Everyone seems to be very excited about it (read the clients will expect it soon enough) but no one has any real concrete ideas as to the implementation or marketing of it. I do know however that the idea of someone shooting a wedding while doing the video of it, all at the same time and with a DSLR is more than laughable. But, I'm keeping my eyes wide open as to where this will go.
As to stock photos, clients will pay a little as they can for what they need. If it's offered for next to free, then that's what they will pay. I disagree that you can "sucessfully innovate yourself" in a market like that since someone else is setting the price, and there are photographers willing to sell their work for the set price. FYI, the price for better work has dropped like a stone also. It's just a matter of time to when the image pipeline is full and even good photos will be $100 or less.
BTW, $30. isn't the actual income, it's the gross. To make an average wage like an office receptionists you'd have to sell over 2500 images a year ... that's 10 a day. Lots of luck with that.
The notion that $30. is better than some some company stealing the images they need is odd at best ... they are still stealing it, only this time it's legal.
Thing is Marc that you couldn't shoot video and still take the stills you do, nor work with a 2nd camera, nor shoot something that isn't infront of the lens videoing the 'action'. You could have a camera specifically geared to the video while you shoot your stills 360 degrees around you but we've had that for a while, it's called a videographer! If this kind of thing does kick off then I'll employ a videographer with tools made for the job and we'll work our output into a single package.
The idea of convergence seems to me just another way to make sure we work more for less pay. Let's be honest, how much would an album have been compared to the slideshow? See where I'm going with this?
What I'm suggesting could be done is just part of the event live action for which you don't need a full blown videographer and all the gear involved.
As far as I'm concerned, I just as soon do a 100 frame slide show which takes about 1/8th the time that a 40 print album takes and involves none of the materials costs (which keep skyrocketing in price) ... basically it generates more profit for less time spent. I hate making albums because it is also like what I did for a living before going full time photographer, and is donkey work that just adds to the post work load.
As far as stills are concerned, I'd rather do one or two dozen finely crafted individual prints in a portfolio box.
I could not even click a link that someone called this moron. That blogger has been fighting for photographers rights and trying to educate photographers. Too denigrate someone who spends time helping others is low. Too hype getty which from some of the companies it bought like allsport and wireimage has been the model that has driven down photographers payments is particapating in your own destruction.
Stock is supposed to priced by circulation, use and time . This is clearly not even remotely close to those standards. The sad part the guy is happy as a pork roast in pig ****. Now there is the crime. Sad for the industry. This really encourages us to go shoot high end stock images. Folks stock as we know it is dead. I have to agree with David on his last comment. Any involvement in stock is like taking a leak on yourself any more, not fun and stinks. Sorry this one rubs me the wrong way for a long time now.
I'm sitting on 35 years of images and there is no revenue i can create from it.
If the images are what is wanted, then they will come. In my former life as an agency creative I bought stock a fair amount of times ... the freaking search for a decent photo took a huge amount of time because all the crap was lumped in with the decent stuff.
Which reminds me of one of the comments on the link to He Who Must Not be Called a Moron. The commenter pointed out that Don't Call Him a Moron is writing extensively on his blog, and selling advertising on it... yet he's not even remotely qualified as a professional writer.
Well, I am a professional writer, dadgummit -- got me a degree and everything -- and it infuriates me to see these photo-snapper bloggers trying to take food out of my mouth and driving down the rates for my profession by covering their blogs with their own amateur scribblings. If they're serious about professionalism, and about supporting professional standards and maintaining fair rates for professional work, then why don't they hire professional writers?!?
Okay, actually I wouldn't be caught dead ghost-writing that muck no matter how much it paid, but you get the point (or do you?) What we're seeing here in the howlings of such wounded professional photographers as Musn't Call Him a Moron is simply hypocrisy. They're ready to moan and groan when it's their own ox that's being gored, but happy to turn around and gore someone else's if there's a quick buck in it.
What on God's green earth makes you think we "all" want to be professional photographers?!? Ewww!!!!!...you are destroying a profession that you all hope to join.
If I decide I want to be a salesman, I'd just as soon sell something I didn't have to make on the side...
Really weak to get me on an extra o in to.
PS Glad to see Guy feeling good enough to be active in the forums again
I don't know if it's right or wrong, but stock photography has changed. That's just the way it is. As a designer, I buy lots of the stuff and have for years. In days of yore, it was an excruciating and expensive process. Entire walls dedicated to stock photo catalogs. Transparencies! Scanning! Not to mention the penalty for losing or damaging a chrome. Now I can go to iStockphoto or any number of other (Getty-owned) sites and search, buy, and download photos at blazing speed. Heck, I've paid less than $30 for better photos than that coin jar. My billable photo-research time is usually more than the fees for the photo.
And yes, there are still Royalty-managed photos that are purchased based on publication type, circulation, and time. Those cost more money and tend to be better quality. I'll bet Time has used some of those too.
From a designers perspective, and maybe even from a client's perspective, all the changes have been good. From a photographer's viewpoint, maybe not so good. I don't think it helps much to bit*h about it though. That ship has sailed. And for some shooters, whatever little money they get is great. Plus, there's always a chance you'll get picked for the cover of Time!
Tim totally understand your comments and honestly don't disagree what the issue is and digital has brought on speed and use for the masses. What happened along the way was places like Getty are just giving it away at much much less value than it was say only 2 years ago. The image has not changed but the cheapening of the sale went to far on the usage and such. Let's face it a cover of Time for 30 dollars is absurd with that type of circulation. Even that image 2 years ago would have been 1500 for a cover. That's a big drop in value and as good as the industry has become we also cheapened it way to fast. I know NFL shooters when Getty bought them out that completely gave up and walked away from the business on what they where offering them for front end top quality cover shots for SI and such.
If bitching about the current practices makes potential pros shy away from these micro stock agencies and get a clue about how to be a photographer, then it is worth it. It is worth my time to help the business I am in. David
interesting thread. digital allowed soooo many 'photographers' into the business. further, editorial has not been a great area to make money for sometime. for instance, wireimage (now owned by getty) would recruit anyone at local colleges to shoot ncaa football, local concerts etc. some of those shooters got to do NFL, PGA and so on as a bonus. the money was lame (since they only paid on sales/collections which were unlikely since so many shooters contributed) unless you became a 'contractor' for them. well those days are gone and getty sucked wireimage and others up. you can 'contribute' to getty and get the same deal, but you still only get half of the sale and guess what: the price getty gets has dropped like a rock. many 'news' and editorial sites pay a monthly subscription to the so called wire services and the photographers get a split based on their percentage of the total sold. I still contribute to several 'agencies' but do so as an adjunct to revenue. I can tell you my 10,000+ images on getty do not generate much every month; unlike they did just a few years ago.
so the money is in weddings and other areas of commercial photography that are more difficult for the masses to get into. so be it.
btw, i recently reviewed a contract for biz week or forbes and i think it was $2500 for a cover -- or was it $1500. they still covered 'expenses' which made it more viable, but i understand they are considering revising this.
Last edited by fultonpics; 29th July 2009 at 20:16.
It's far too late for this discussion. The train left the station years ago, and it started with royalty free, continued with digital cameras and ultimately the internet. Time paid $120 (not $30, that was the photographer's cut) for the photo because that's the current market value. If they'd been shopping around a bit, they could probably have had it cheaper. iStock is expensive by microstock standards, but pays the lowest commission to the photographer (20% at the lowest).
But look at it from another angle:
Let's say that there are 10,000 travel agencies in this world, and there probably are. Most of them have web sites, customer newsletters, brochures etc. Before microstock, did they buy images at Getty? No way. Far too expensive. They found a brochure that they picked up at some destination and copied whatever they needed. No chance of getting caught, so why worry?
Now, they buy microstock, and they buy a lot. Multiply that with any other kind of business that you can think of. I probably have 3-400 travel photos of good quality on Alamy and a similar quantity of a slightly inferior artistic quality with the microstock agencies (Technical quality is mostly better, that's the nature of the beast. When you sell photos for 10 dollars a piece, you can't afford complaints.). Sales of travel images at Alamy the last year = 0 (that's zero). Microstock sales: 2-10 images per day (travel images alone). As a rule of thumb, I make as much money on microstock per month as I do on Alamy per year. If microstock didn't exist, my income from traditional stock would probably have been higher, but not 12 times higher, not even close.
Yes, I know; the value of my images is diluted and God-knows-what, but if you ask me what's good for the photographer: Money is what's good for the photographer, to pay the rent, the food, the beer and a lens now and then. Microstock photography is as interesting as going to the dentist, and the photos that I post on these forum wouldn't even be accepted (nor would I sell them as microstock), but anything that enters through the door of my apartment that may sell as microstock, takes a detour via the permanent tabletop studio in my kitchen, just in case. 10 minutes photography and 10 minutes post processing, and off it goes. Going to a nice temple that is being photographed 7,568 times per day, 365 days a year? Perfect for microstock too.
It would be nice if magazines like Time paid a few thousand dollars for every photo they used on the front page, but photos like the coins in the jar have become commodities, and commodities sell for what the market is willing to pay. Do you think Time would accept to pay more for the coffee or the paper clips in their offices than Duluth News Tribune does? Hardly.
Most of those who are successful with microstock sales (I'm not) are doing it full time, and some of them have studios with several employees. They probably make more money than most of those complaining that microstock is taking away their business. I know a couple of photographers who retired years ago on their stock portfolio. Too bad for them, but dreams are dreams and reality is reality. They are back working now.
Edit: Do I like microstock? Not at all. I'm as much in favour of it as swine flu, but like swine flu, it's here and it won't go away. And next year, there's another flu. We can choose to live with it, or we can dig our heads deep, deep into the sand.
Last edited by Jorgen Udvang; 30th July 2009 at 16:54.
Everyone wants the benefits of open competition - as long as they arent affected....
or to put things in another way..
I havent seen a professional photographers work I couldn't shoot - if I wanted to earn peanuts I would.
or to put things another way
many years ago I decided I wanted a career where what I earned was purely based on open a free competition in the most competitive market that one can play in..in a global market with low barriers to entry ie I went for the most difficult job one could imagine to succeed in - that way I have never relied on anyone except myself and never kidded myself about the odds being stacked against me - the day I stopped making money trading against other animals who want me dead is the day I am on the scrap heap - and I better have some savings to fall back on....at least I have never had any illusions about the inevitability of change or the constant battle for survival..
Also understand that you may feel that you are making yourself feel good calling yourself a 'professional' - but the old fashioned world I grew up in reserved the term professional for very few occupations - most of which are callings and most of which involve enormous personal sacrifice for public good..
and finally - who reads TIME magazine anyway - it is a total rag these days and yeah most professional photographer wanna bees think it is just great to have a photo published on a cover of a magazine - they add to their resume - and on to their web sites - like it means something..so to them TIME actually paid $30 for something they would have handed over for free.
as if charging $1000 or $5000 would have made any difference . How many wanna bees versus how much demand for this stuff? Thats all you need to know.
I also wouldn't mix up editorial type photographers with all professional photographers ... editorial is paying less because the print industry is fast disappearing ... and as you say, the wannabes have flooded that shrinking market. Supply verses demand, pure and simple.
Like wise, "iReporters" with cell phones and pocket-rocket video cams are sucking the news photographer dry. The photo essay types of in-depth news reportage that requires dedication and insight is going the way of the Dodo because the general public has the attention span of a Ferret on crack.
Stock and what-not tends to be generic in nature in an attempt to have the broadest content appeal to garner enough sales volume over time. Generic is a LOT easier to do than being specifically creative concerning a given idea or product attribute. So, more and more shooters do it because it's easy to do = flooded market.
This profession or what-ever we want to call it (craft/art/past-time/etc.) ebbs and flows ... and changes. TV killed off a ton of still photo studios in the early 90s ... then TV media became way more expensive and vertical print came into it's own ... and those photographers left standing made a killing.
After this "weeding out" it'll be interesting to see what's next. There is always a "what's next" ... the trick is to figure out what it is ... and be there.