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View Full Version : HELP! Stock photo agencies - is it worth it?


Ian
20th May 2011, 10:58 AM
This subject was raised, off the main topic, in a different thread. As we didn't really have a board for discussing more formal and commercial aspects of photography (exhibitions, stock agencies, other commercial work), I thought it was time to start one and this is the first thread in the new board I have created! :)

So, who has experience of stock agencies. I registered with Alamy ages ago but never got around to submitting any shots :o

You can earn useful income from these agencies if you know what you are doing, so how successful are e-group members?

Ian

sponner
20th May 2011, 12:18 PM
"Is it worth it" ......... I think that depends what you are after.

As I have intimated on the other thread I am a complete novice photographer starting from scratch last Autumn.

Since then I have uploaded to most of the micro stock agencies, Alamy and a couple of print on demand sites.

Here (http://www.alamy.com/search/searchresults.aspx?CreativeOn=1&qt=n+spooner&all=1&creative=&adv=1&dtfr=&dtTo=&et=0x000000000000000000000&ag=0&vp=0&loc=0&lic=6&lic=1&hc=&selectdate=1&txtdtfr=&txtdtto=&size=0xFF&ot=1&ot=2&ot=4&ot=8&archive=1&chckarchive=1&aqt=&epqt=&oqt=&nqt=#BHM=foo%3Dbar%26st%3D11%26pn%3D1%26ps%3D120%2 6qt%3Dspooner%26lic%3D3%26mr%3D0%26pr%3D0%26aoa%3D 1%26creative%3D%26nu%3D%26ccc%3D%26bespoke%3D%26ag %3D0%26hc%3D%26et%3D0x000000000000000000000%26vp%3 D0%26loc%3D0%26ot%3D15%26imgt%3D0%26dtfr%3D%26dtto %3D%26size%3D0xFF%26archive%3D1%26name%3DNigel%252 0Spooner%26groupid%3D%26pseudoid%3D{D2EEAFDF-191D-4B03-8F2E-50E99AF96353}%26userid%3D%26id%3D%26a%3D%26cdid%3D %26cdsrt%3D%26cc%3DGBP%26xstx%3D0%26alamyuid%3D%25 7BB0510BC7%252DACDC%252D48C3%252D82E6%252D95737970 FF08%257D%26editorial%3D%26nasty%3D%26t%3D0%26edop tin%3D%26customgeoip%3D) is the stuff I have on Alamy.


My portfolio is small and very mediocre so commissions across all sites amount to about £150 or so, most of that I can't claim yet as I haven't reached the amount required for payout. Given the hours I have put in, it certainly isn't worth it for me from a finacial point of view.

What has been very worthwhile for me is the learning I have gained trying to meet the very demanding terchnical requirements of most stock agencies.

If anyone is interested I can give more info on the individual agencies from a novices pov.

sponner
20th May 2011, 12:30 PM
I will just add that the type of photo required for stock is very very different from most of the fantastic images I have seen on this forum, as one stock site forum regular puts it stock is about "prose not poetry".

There are also lots of issues with model releases, property releases, keywording etc to get your head round.

E.g one of my recent "best sellers" (good for me anyway!) is this (http://www.dreamstime.com/-rimage18829712-resi2709173)


p.s. That is a referal link so if you did sign up to dreamstime from it and started selling pics I would get a small commission, makes no difference to the contributor but thought I would mention it in the interests of transparency.
I have referal links for all the other sites too ;)

Ian
20th May 2011, 12:48 PM
Talking to people I know who have worked hard to build stock photo portfolios, several points emerge:

1. Artistic merit is often far from the priority with buyers and sometimes bizarrely banal shots become good earners.

2. You need to submit a lot of images - thousands, even.

3. Key wording is a huge factor in attracting buyers.

Ian

charty
20th May 2011, 12:51 PM
Talking to people I know who have worked hard to build stock photo portfolios, several points emerge:

1. Artistic merit is often far from the priority with buyers and sometimes bizarrely banal shots become good earners.

2. You need to submit a lot of images - thousands, even.

3. Key wording is a huge factor in attracting buyers.

Ian

What is the best way to start?
Caroline

StephenL
20th May 2011, 12:54 PM
I've sold a few images through Photographers Direct. Some through their "wants" posts and some stock photos I have placed with them. Payments aren't great but you get to negotiate direct with the buyer and commission rates are low.

sponner
20th May 2011, 01:35 PM
Charty as you seem interested I'll summarise my experience thus far, I know I keep saying this but it is important to remember I am very much a noob with a camera so others may have a different perspective.

The first thing you need is a very thick skin and low expectations!

All the worthwhile agencies review your submissions and reject the ones that don't, in their opinion, measure up to their requirements. This can be very frustrating as there is no consistency within one agency and each one has its individual quirks.

Across the board landscapes, flowers, pets, insects etc. have to be fabulous to get in.

I will summarise the agencies I am with together with referal links (click on the agency name). The ones listed below have no "entrance exam" so it is just a matter of signing up, preparing the photo, adding keywords in exif data (important or you have to keyword for each site) and uploading, preferably with a utility that uploads to all or most of the agencies at once.

Cutcaster (http://cutcaster.com/#R976221960)
Easy reviews and uploading, very low sales for me.

Canstock (http://www.canstockphoto.com?r=75298)
Very easy and quick reviews, very easy uploading process. Low sales.

Bigstock (http://www.bigstockphoto.com/search/photographer/sponner/)
Reasonable reviews, low sales.

123RF (http://www.123rf.com/#sponner)
Reasonable reviews, very easy uploading process, reasonable sales.

Dreamstime (http://www.dreamstime.com/register-resi2709173)
One of the bigger sites, tough reviews , moderate sales.


Fotolia (http://en.fotolia.com/partner/202044759)
Quite tough reviews with limited feedback, one of my better earners.

Mostphotos (www.mostphotos.com?ref=25491)
A bit strange as there is no review process at all, rubbish sales (less that $1 in 6 months) but you can download your portfolia in one zip file so I use it as free online backup.

I would have a bash with these first, starting with the sites that are more easy going with reviews. Once you are ok there I would move onto Fotolia nd Dreamstime, these seem to be two of the sites where the money is.

Once you are getting reasonable acceptance rates at these it may be worth trying to crack the tougher nuts where the earning potential may be higher,

Shutterstock (http://submit.shutterstock.com/?ref=676129)
Easily my favourite site, very tough reviews but regular sales. You have to submit 10 images for examination before you can upload. 7/10 have to pass to be accepted as a contributor. I fluked it on the first try but that was after several months learning on the other sites.

Istockphoto (http://www.istockphoto.com/)
My least favourite site, toughest reviews, low commssion and low sales so far, it is one of the major players in the industry though so....... Again there is a process to go through to be accepted, I think it was submit 3 for exam all have to pass. I got in on second attempt.

Alamy (http://www.alamy.com/contributor/help/sell-images.asp)
More midstock than micro stock, payments can be significantly higher than micros (having said that I have made a grand total of $3 or so from two sales;) ). There is a requirement to submit samples for approval before being accepted. Once in Alamy don't review for content, just technical quality. They dip sample rather than reviewing each image, I have had none refused yet so they must be reasonable but I do only upload shots I think will be ok. UK newspapers etc. source a lot of shots from Alamy so it is a good place for Rights managed and editorial content that isn't accepted on the Royalty Free micro sites. Quirky upload processs.

This turned into a bit of a rant, hope it helps.

charty
20th May 2011, 03:23 PM
thanks! thats really helpful, I'll let you know how I get on!
Caroline

Seonnaidh
20th May 2011, 08:12 PM
I am willing to share my own experiences, but these may not be typical.
Firstly I never stop networking, ever. If I see an opportunity for a sales pitch I take it. Unashamedly.
A great source of inspiration when I first started was "The Writers & Artists Year Book". Gives lots of agencies and publications and specifically what they are after.
Read several issues of the type of publication that suits the type of images you take.This way you can get a 'feel' for what type of images they like. Don't be surprised though at what gets taken up and what does not.
I submitted a picture of a White Tailed Sea eagle dropping a fish to an American agency This image has been used world wide now by publications as diverse as a Japanese car manufacturers corporate magazine (it was used to illustrate an article about
maintaining concentration) and a Scandanavian Fish Processor.
Submitting pictures to magazines etc directly can be a good earner but often the rewards are poor. Especially from photo mags.
Respond quickly to image requests. A few years ago when living south of the border I was contacted one Sunday morning about images of a roast chicken.
To cut a long story short a chicken was purchased, roasted, dressed and laid out, photographed, and the images sent in 3 hours. One month later a nice three figure sum was transferred to the business account. Since then this agency has used dozens of my images. From images of the remains of the Remagen Bridge in Germany, to an infra red picture of a derelict chalet, to an image of a kilt pin.
My wife has just researched what our highest earning image is (excluding print sales by ourselves) it is a picture of Eilean Donan Castle taken after a thunderstorm when the sun was just starting to break through. In the first year we had it on offer we grossed £6300. Not bad for a few minutes work.
We have had images published in the following.
Sunday Times: Editorial & Advertising
Sunday Times Colour Supplement; Editorial (news)
The Daily Telegraph ; Features
The Observer; Lifestyle
Scottish Wildlife Trust Magazine (Sea Eagles Golden Eagle)
Visit Scotland Publications
Scottish Executive Publications & Advertising
Inverness Courier
Press & Journal
The Herald
The Daily Express
The Mail on Sunday
The Guardian.
We have had images used by General Accident, Brinks Mat, Sainsbury's, Norwich Union, Mercedes Benz, (very fast payers)Unilever, and numerous advertising agencies.
Payment can range from £40 - £1500 for single use.
Postcards and calendars are a good source of revenue.
This year we have had 11 new images taken on by postcard companies both here and abroad and the average payment is £120 per image postcard use only or £85 calendar use only.
A friend who sometimes posts on this forum was with me when I took an image on Berneray in the Western Isles which to date has earned £4212.67p
We heard this week that one of the first images I ever took with my E5 of two council workers clearing snow so their snow plough /gritter could get moving is being considered by a blue chip advertising company as part of a series of images to illustrate determination . Their client is a huge pan global company who will probably offer a good five figure sum to use it and only slightly less to retain it's use unpublished.
However, the downside. If you are not emotionally strong and very thick skinned don't do it. I have had images shredded and verbally rubbished by picture editors and been told just how c**p my images are on more than one occassion.
Just shrug it off and keep going.
Very few of my "fine art" type images have been used. However a lot of 'snaps' have proved to be very lucrative indeed.
We are emotionally attached to our images and so we do not view them as
we should. The publisher of my first book derided my first sample submission and told me to "get out and take pictures we want not what you like" my submission was too ethereal.
So that is my experience. Very good money to be made if you stick at it and produce the images wanted. Not what you think will sell.
As for micro agencies. Mmmm! I just don't bother.

sponner
20th May 2011, 10:06 PM
Very interesting thanks.

I am aware of that the micro's are really looked down on by many pro photographers but its working for me atm, I would have no idea where to start with the stuff you outline above.

stevednp3
20th May 2011, 10:14 PM
I started submitting to istockphoto a year ago, it was a lot of forms and submission of photos to get accepted. I got 5 photos accepted straight away but then had a lot of rejections after those, so I lost heart in it and haven't submitted any in ages, but I do plan to start again soon ;)

Ian
20th May 2011, 10:25 PM
I started submitting to istockphoto a year ago, it was a lot of forms and submission of photos to get accepted. I got 5 photos accepted straight away but then had a lot of rejections after those, so I lost heart in it and haven't submitted any in ages, but I do plan to start again soon ;)

Do they explain clearly why the images were rejected?

Ian

stevednp3
20th May 2011, 10:39 PM
Do they explain clearly why the images were rejected?

Ian

Yes two usual reasons, either didn't like the content or artifacts in the image, I was over sharpening back then :o. But I have to say I learnt by it and I'm ready to go again now *yes

The 5 images that got submitted earnt £60 in a year, not something to retire on but I can see with a good quantity of quality images, there is some money to be made :D

sponner
20th May 2011, 10:42 PM
Istock do give a pretty comprehensive reason(s) for rejection. The only problem I have is seeing what they mean!

E.g. for the this image (http://dl.dropbox.com/u/14783063/beer3.jpg)

I think just about all the others accepted it.

Rejection Reason

In review of this file, we found the lighting underexposed. For information about iStock lighting standards please see:
http://www.istockphoto.com/article_view.php?ID=524

For more information on iStock Lighting Standards, please see:
http://www.istockphoto.com/tutorial_2.2_lighting.php

Related Articles:
Lighting and Shadows:
http://www.istockphoto.com/article_view.php?ID=46
Setting up your own home studio:
http://www.istockphoto.com/article_view.php?ID=14
Custom White Balance:
http://www.istockphoto.com/article_view.php?ID=95

Decent Exposure:
http://www.istockphoto.com/article_view.php?ID=40

If you require further explanation regarding this rejection, please visit our critique forum for immediate peer to peer feedback. To visit the critique forum please see:
http://www.istockphoto.com/forum_threads.php?forumid=26

Resubmit
You may choose to resubmit the new file with the above correction(s).

Ian
20th May 2011, 11:06 PM
Your picture isn't under exposed at all. In fact there are some blown highlights. The subject is predominantly dark, which is how you would see it in real life.

My main issue with this shot (apart from the cooked highlight in the froth of the head) is the distracting background, even though it's blurred.

But I can see your thinking and submitting a well thought subject like this is part of the key to success, I think.

Ian

Istock do give a pretty comprehensive reason(s) for rejection. The only problem I have is seeing what they mean!

E.g. for the this image (http://dl.dropbox.com/u/14783063/beer3.jpg)

I think just about all the others accepted it.

Rejection Reason

In review of this file, we found the lighting underexposed. For information about iStock lighting standards please see:
http://www.istockphoto.com/article_view.php?ID=524

For more information on iStock Lighting Standards, please see:
http://www.istockphoto.com/tutorial_2.2_lighting.php

Related Articles:
Lighting and Shadows:
http://www.istockphoto.com/article_view.php?ID=46
Setting up your own home studio:
http://www.istockphoto.com/article_view.php?ID=14
Custom White Balance:
http://www.istockphoto.com/article_view.php?ID=95

Decent Exposure:
http://www.istockphoto.com/article_view.php?ID=40

If you require further explanation regarding this rejection, please visit our critique forum for immediate peer to peer feedback. To visit the critique forum please see:
http://www.istockphoto.com/forum_threads.php?forumid=26

Resubmit
You may choose to resubmit the new file with the above correction(s).

sponner
20th May 2011, 11:31 PM
I totally agree, it knew it was marginal when I uploaded it but didn't get the underexposed rejection.

You just have to shrug and move on, at least this one was only 5 minutes work after a pleasant afternoon in the beer garden (and it has sold a couple of times so far for a few cents elsewhere) ;)

David M
21st May 2011, 12:01 AM
Stock photo agencies - is it worth it?

Not these days.

OlyPaul
21st May 2011, 07:05 AM
Not these days.

I'd tend to agree with David's comment seeing how the market has become so saturated and I'd doubt you would get rich from it.

From a personal point of view it not something I would do simply because I enjoy taking images to please me, it would spoil the enjoyment of my hobby if I had to take mundane images for micro stock, but that's just me.:)

Saying that I have made a few private sales at £100 to £200 a time just from people browsing or searching my Pbase site ( I average 15000 page views a month) so that always gives me a buzz when people like and are willing to pay for what I enjoy taking.:D

gwpics
21st May 2011, 07:39 AM
I renewed my look at Fotolia as an example of a typical microstock site. This is what they say:

"When your files are sold, they can be used with no limits on time or copies. They can be used for: advertising, professional documents, press articles, packaging, websites, blogs or the creation and the resale of derivative products (Extended Licenses)."

For this you can get as little as 20% of 75 pence = 15 pence. I am not willing to let anyone have those sales conditions attached to any of my images for 15 pence so I would STRONGLY urge others to stay clear of the microstocks.

I have had images sale regularly through agencies who are not microstock for up to $1000, of which I get 60%.

Gerry

Seonnaidh
21st May 2011, 10:18 AM
I must apologise for my previous post on this subject in case it gave the impression that I was belittling Stock Agencies.
I'm not, they can be quite good providers of income. I have images with several agencies, it's the micro stock agencies that I am not wholly impressed with.
One recently contacted me with a view to using an image I have on Flickr. After numerous e-mails, loads of forms to complete and having to be quite specific about copyright and usage I earned the sum of £6.00.
This isn't really cost effective for me. Certain American picture agents have an almost insatiable appetite for images of Scotland, these very often earn £100 or more for single use.
A friend was also paid 64p by a micro stock agency for one of his images.
That is belittling.

Wreckdiver
21st May 2011, 02:40 PM
Just as a side issue there is one thing I notice from many stock agencies websites that really, really bugs me :mad:

Most accompany all their images with a "DPI" value ..... aaaaaaaaaaaggggh!

Two points arise:

1. If you are talking about a photo resolution it is in PPI NOT DPI.
2. If you don't specify physical dimensions (inches) then you cannot possibly quote a resolution in PPI (or DPI on these websites). If a purchaser wants to take an image and use it at postage stamp size it will have a high PPI value. If he wants to use it at billboard size it will have a very low PPI value. All a photo has is a vertical and a horizontal pixel value, NO DPI, NO PPI without physical dimensions. DPI come into the picture at the print stage and is dependant on how the printer is set up and the printer driver software.

It just amazes me how many "professional" companies and websites make such a fundamental error.

Sorry folks, rant over. Time to cool off :)

Steve

sponner
21st May 2011, 09:26 PM
I'm new here and don't want to be seen in any way as a cheerleader for the micro stock sites. I only posted some info as I thought some people were interested.

There is no doubt that the level of reward is very very low for images sold through micro's although the suggestion that an extended licence would net 15 pence is incorrect (although the sums involved are, as suggested, derisory). I just looked up my earnings per download on fotolia, a shade under 50p per download on average, this is rubbish but then again so are my images and non are extended licence sales.

Conversley there is also no doubt reasonable income can be had from micro stocks, this will only happen with considerable skill, time and hard work invested, none of which i have in abundance at the moment.

As I said in an earlier post the financial rewards, for me, are NOT worth the effort but it is not all about the money. I feel i am learning while taking pleasure from the fact I can produce an image that is accepted and occassionally sells.

For me micro stock works (now) for the reasons outlined above. The small sums I am making are a bonus and, if I am brutally honest, still more than I am worth as a photographer.

In 6 years time I hope to be in a much stronger position skill wise with some knowledge of commercial photography and in a position to supplement my work pension leaving more time for my other hobbies ;)

This may or may not be in micro stock and could just be a pipe dream but it is more fun trying this than watching tele.

Pjphoto59
23rd May 2011, 05:23 AM
I have been shooting stock for 5 years now, so I have had some experience.

For someone thing of taking up stock first thing to ask yourself is “Why do I want to do this?”

In my case I took it up after I had retired from work and had plenty of time to spare, and to give some reason and focus for my photography.

There are a lot of agencies out there and you need to find one that suits you. If you have some speciality you may find a specialist agency to suit, but if, like most of us you have a wide range of subjects a more general agency is more suitable.

I would advise against microstock as they pay very little, all they do is degrade the value of our work.

At all levels of the business more and more people are coming into it, there are a huge and rapidly growing number of images for sale. There ia a lot of competition and prices are steadily falling.

I have put work with several agencies, but the best seller for me is Alamy

Alamy accept images on the basis of technical quality rather than content. Although of UK origin they have distributors worldwide, an office in New York and have recently started a new website in Germany.

When I joined in 2005 they had 3 million images on sale. I made my first sale when I had 300 in my collection. Alamy now has over 23 million images on offer, so if my experience is typical a beginner might now expect to start getting sales when they have 1000-2000 images on offer.

Apart from the time out with camera taking pictures, in my experience, it takes about 20 minutes per image to prepare files upload them and keyword the ready for sale.

I have over 4200 images on sale now and adding about 1000 a year so you can see it is a very time consuming business.

I would recommend stock libraries which, like Alamy, are non exclusive. That way when you have done all the work of shooting and preparing images, you can put them with more than one.

The lowest price I ever sold an image for is $16 the highest $929. Alamy get 40% of this and the photographer gets 60%. Expenses relating to the work are tax deductible.

Last tax year I earned about £1000.

An upside of stock is that it does answers the “Why am I doing this?” question, the downside is that one takes plenty of pictures for their content rather than for producing an inspiring or artistic picture. You go out every day and every time you look through the viewfinder you think "What are the keywords"


I hope this is helpful.

gwpics
23rd May 2011, 07:41 AM
My experience with Alamy has been much the same as Peter J except to say that 'views' and actual sales seem to have dropped right off for me in the last couple of months. You have to remember that Alamy now has 23.5 million online, so the chances of your few being found are remote which means it is also a numbers game.

Gerry

Pjphoto59
23rd May 2011, 08:13 AM
My experience with Alamy has been much the same as Peter J except to say that 'views' and actual sales seem to have dropped right off for me in the last couple of months. You have to remember that Alamy now has 23.5 million online, so the chances of your few being found are remote which means it is also a numbers game.

Gerry

I certainly tend to think of it as a numbers game, but an advatage of Alamy is that they don't edit subject matter and I have sold many pictures that would probably never have been accepted with other agencies. If you sell something unusual you will find that there was not much competition. e.g I sold one of a Subaru car key. Only four of those on there....

sponner
2nd June 2011, 04:38 PM
I've been on alamy for a few months with a small mediocre portfolio. As mentioned previously I only had two small sales but today a sale dropped in netting me $162!

It's not even a good picture really. I know this isn't a huge sum of money but, at my level, very satisfying and proves there is money to be made.

Oh and 2 sales on shutterstock netting me 50 cents ;)

Ian
2nd June 2011, 04:43 PM
I've been on alamy for a few months with a small mediocre portfolio. As mentioned previously I only had two small sales but today sale dropped in netting me $164!

It's not even a good picture really. I know this isn't a huge sum of money but, at my level, very satisfying and proves there is money to be made.

Oh and 2 sales on shutterstock netting me 50 cents ;)

Well done :) Your experience reinforces my view that it's not how good YOU think the picture is, but how good the client thinks it is! And this can be very difficult to predict.

Ian

Zuiko
2nd June 2011, 09:28 PM
Facinating and insightful thread. I've had a couple of dozen with Alamy for some time now, but don't think I've had a view, let alone a sale! Discussions here confirm more than ever that it is a numbers game and at the moment I just haven't got the discipline or the will to load any more.

Zuiko
2nd June 2011, 09:42 PM
Out of curiousity I just checked my Alamy a/c, something I haven't done for a while. It seem I have had 122 views but no zooms. But.... I have made a sale during April - for $24. :)

I've just entered my bank details, it seems they no longer send payment by cheque.

sponner
2nd June 2011, 11:36 PM
I think you need $250 for payment

Zuiko
3rd June 2011, 12:04 AM
I think you need $250 for payment

Well, I'm almost 10% there! Probably have more chance of that than the £15 minimum for Blurb! :D