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Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

Out Of The Micros II

Though I certainly wasn’t planning to do more than a single post about my decision to slowly leave microstock sites, I thought I might write just one more to address some comments and e-mails I have received. Once again, I would stress that these are simply my personal opinions and I don’t necessarily mean them to be appropriate for others who may have different needs and/or goals.

1) I do not believe that the microstock industry is going to go bust nor do I believe that the failure of Lucky Oliver (a microstock site) is the harbinger of a larger industry-wide demise. On the contrary, I suspect that just the opposite is true. From what I have read, revenues at the major microstock sites continue to climb while they are on the decline at the macros. Surely, other micros will go under, but this just reflects the difficulty in new players competing with the established giants in the industry......the same holds true for every industry. I suspect that the Shutterstocks and iStocks of the world will continue to grow.

2) Moreover, as I mentioned in my prior post, I believe the ‘horse is out of the barn’. I suspect a critical mass of photographers and images are available on the micros such that it would be difficult for any group of people to stop the trend by deciding not to participate. That is one of the main reasons that persuaded me to give it a try. In the end, participating in it just didn’t ‘feel right’ to me.

I fully recognize that slowly pulling my 100 images isn’t going to make one bit of difference to the agencies that have them. In fact, even if the largest individual microstock contributors pulled their many thousands of images, I suspect it wouldn’t have much effect. If the majority of the major contributors pulled their images it might make the sites have a brief second thought, but then they would likely quell the revolt by reimbursing a few more cents per image (along the lines of the recent mini-uprising on Fotolia).

I suspect it is quite true that I stand to make much less on the ‘macros’ than the micros; in fact, I recognize that there is a very good chance that I might never make a sale there. But, for me, I would rather feel good about making nothing than feel bad offering my best work for a pittance, while making a few hundred bucks a year.

I do find myself wondering how this pricing model ever started. Who decided that an image should be sold for 5 or 10 dollars. Well, perhaps 5 or 10 might, in some instances, be reasonable, but for the photographer to get $1 or less from the sale? I am not familiar with the history of microstock, but why did people flock to the subscription model where they get 25 cents an image…..was it the promise of selling it 1000 times over?

3) I find that I don’t believe, as some have said, that the micros can be a place to develop a name or reputation that will allow one to move to the macros. In fact, I suspect just the opposite is true. My guess is that you probably do more harm than good to a photographic career if you get known as someone that sells their images for peanuts. Again, I have no proof of this, but my guess is that one would ultimately get further by working hard to make great images and offering them at appropriate price points (even if they get less sales and income) than by selling them at micro sites.

I personally do not find particularly believable the claim made by Corbis at their SnapVillage micro-site that ultimately their most successful micro shooters might be culled to become regular Corbis photographers.

By the way, why do the majority of micro shooters submit under a pseudonym? I don’t know, but I have always felt that if I am not proud enough of something to attach my name to it than I probably shouldn’t be doing it.

Someone commented to me that one reason for using a pseudonym is to sell the same royalty free images on micro and macro sites since that would make it harder for a macro buyer to find that the image he just paid top dollar for was available for a few bucks by searching for the photographers name on micro sites.

Whether the same royalty free image should be able to be sold on the macros and micros (after all, royalty free is royalty free) is another whole question (and I have decided not to do so). But, if you think it is right you shouldn’t have to hide the fact that you are doing so. That fails my ‘if it’s right you shouldn’t be ashamed of it’ test.

4) I do believe that the quality of the images that are currently being accepted on the micros are excellent. In fact, based on what I have experienced, I suspect the technical quality of the images are at least as good as on the macro sites. Which is why the buyers keep coming back. I just can’t understand (yes, I know, I was doing it myself) why the contributors are willing to accept the extremely low fee per image that they get. If I were a buyer for anything other than a large corporation the micros are probably the first place I would look as well.

5) I should mention that there are some images that, to me, do seem appropriate to sell on micro sites, but that is because I believe their value may well be what the micro reimbursement is. Colored backgrounds, quick shots of a location I might be walking by, images I am not interested in developing or working on etc., but not your best work.

I think there is ‘lots of stuff’ to think about here and certainly the answers I have come up with are purely personal ones. Maybe, as someone who is not a photographer by profession, I shouldn’t be offering my opinion, but, then again, this is a personal blog........