You are currently browsing the Mikhail Lavrenov blog posts tagged: microstock

2011 year end post

Apologies to my readers for not writing for a long time. Thus this year-end post will include several notes I would have normally posted between April and the year end.

I just made a major WordPress upgrade before writing this post. All seems to work fine.

Looking back in May my friend photographer and I organized a studio session with the same model I mentioned in November of 2010. This time it was done at home. Although we were not very happy with the stylist the model performed great and I am happy with the result. And the whole evening was very joyful.

For a number of reasons I didn’t upload any new stock photos from July until the end of the year (except uploading my existing portfolio to some new sites). Following up my April blog post I need to mention that I was doing surprisingly good at microstock despite the break in uploads. I didn’t experience any decline and I even had growth of sales in September and October. November was lower; and traditionally December is always lower.

Now I have made some new pictures and I’ll start uploading them in January – hopefully the sales will grow again.

Speaking about new photos I had an outdoor session at the end of November with a very kind “weather-proof” model. It was a dark grey overcast, it was raining/drizzling most of the day, and the wind was strong. The temperature was around 8 degrees (centigrade). Nevertheless we decided to go ahead with the planned outdoor shoot. Fast lens and a strobe helped to make it a sunny day – at least on pictures ๐Ÿ™‚

Growth of sales

Happy Successful Young Businesswoman

Many micrstock photographers reported reaching a plateau in sales at certain point. I experienced it myself several times. I mean I continued to upload new photos but my sales per month remain flat.

On the other hand,ย  if I stop uploading for a long time my sales remain flat too, though at a lower level. Some other photographers mentioned the same phenomenon: they stopped uploading for some reason, sales drop at first (up to 30% or less), but then they remain stable for a long time.

For example, Jonathan Ross has mentioned that he continues to get a stable income after he didn’t upload to microstock for 2 years.

The conclusion from these 2 observations is simple:

Every portfolio has a threshold. If you supply the number of photos above the threshold your sales will grow. If you supply below the threshold the sales will stay flat.

The threshold goes up with the growth of sales.

My current threshold is around 60 photos/month. If I upload 50 in a month, the sales remain flat; if I upload 75 or more I am starting to see the growth. Thus I am trying to produce 80-100 photos a month. And I know I will need to produce more than that when I’ll reach a new level in a few months, to keep the sales growing.

Microstock in March

The good thing about microstock for me is that I see the result each time I am starting to put more efforts. I mean when I start uploading 80-100 pictures a month my sales start to grow. Unfortunately I haven’t been able until recently to keep up the pace. Microstock is my part time activity and there has always been some other priorities emerging…

Now I keep the pace for 3 months and it works well: February was my BME in microstock in general and in iStock, thanks to several EL sales at IS and good sales at Alamy. Now March is closing tonight – it is not my BME in general but it was a good solid month with BME in Dreamstime.

So my 2 short-term objectives are to keep the pace of uploads and to go beyond 100 photos/month mark.

One picture from my last session:

Young woman with face paint

Microstock in February

I should have posted it earlier…

February, 2011 was my Best Month Ever (BME) on microstock. I started to put more efforts in that business a couple of months ago and it started to pay back. Very nice indeed.

What is very surprising is that it was my BME on iStock despite lower commissions and my non-exclusive status.

Also Alamy was performing nice in February. The sales there are irregular, but I see them more and more often as my portfolio grows.

One very important thing with microstock for me is that I do see the result every time I am starting to put more efforts. Every time I start shooting and uploading more actively I start see increase is sales very quickly. That is indeed a good motivator ๐Ÿ™‚

Microstock – hobby or business?

Many microstock photographers treat their photography as a hobby not as a business. That is very natural when you make just a little supplement out of it rather than a full-time income. Some photographers who have grown their microstock activity to a full time job still a kind of a hobby attitude. That is also natural taking into account the background and the speed of the growth from a pure hobby to a job.

Recent changes in microstock, particularly commission cut at istock and fotolia caused a lot of negative reaction from the photographers. Of course it’s extremely unpleasant when the agencies reduce the share paid to photographers. Although legal it is perceived by many as a very unfair step.

How to react besides expressing your thoughts in various forums is the question for many. Is it worth to boycott such agencies, is it worth to unite the forces? Are there any other options?

I tried to summarize my thoughts on these 3 questions:

Boycott it or not?

I think it mainly depends on whether you have significant revenue from these agencies or neglectful. If it’s neglectful you can easily stop working with the agency. You should realize that you would only please yourself doing that but the agency wouldn’t notice your leave.

If your revenue is significant I would take a step away and try to look at it as one of your income streams, emotions aside. If the stream is significant, and if it will remain significant after the commission cut I would rather keep it. However I would explore other possibilities to extend other streams and/or add more streams.

Can photographers influence the behavior of the agencies? There are suggestions to unite forces which is supposed to increase the negotiation power. The fact is that about 80% of the agencies’ income is generated by approximately 20% of top photographers. That means that even uniting 80% of average contributors that isn’t too much value for the agencies. It would only make sense if the very top photographers would unite to negotiate the policy of the agencies. If you aren’t one of them any attempt to unite with your peers is pretty much useless.

One other part of the picture is ever increasing competition. The growth of supply is higher than the growth of demand. I suppose that will cause further saturation of microstock contributor with the middle layer being affected the most. I mean top contributors making a full time income for several people in their “picture production factories” will certainly be able to survive. They will have to optimize costs but I have no doubts they will stay successful. The low layer of hobbyist contributors will not be affected much. The main difference will be increased threshold for the acceptance of their pictures as the agencies can afford to become more selective. Other than that the hobbyist making a hundred or a couple per month will just continue at similar level… I suppose ะตhe most affected by competition will be the middle layer, i.e. the people just making the living from microstock but being around the threshold of their survival level. If they will not be able to grow significantly they will probably be pushed towards the low tier.

It’s again about the same story about 20% of people making 80% of income. Most of increasing competition are eating from the 20% piece of the pie. Even the pie is growing too, number of eaters is growing faster. If you manage to get to the top tier you’ll compete for a portion of 80% piece of the pie – the piece is much larger and the number of competitors is much lower.

Is it still possible to get to the top tier, or did it become a close club? It’s very difficult but is certainly possible. Daniel Laflor is one of the recent examples, Cathy Yeulet is one before; and there are some other too.

Updated guide about selling photos online

I updated the guide about selling photos online –

Part 4 of the guide needs to be extended further, it’s in my “to do” list.