Great Reads – The Lonely Planet Story

It is some time since I have written a post for Beyond Here recommending a book or blog. That is partly because I haven’t been reading as much as usual. That changed last week with a trip to the local library where I have borrowed a number of books including The Lonely Planet Story.

Are you familiar with The Lonely Planet Story? I love travelling, and had the good fortune to live in a range of different countries during the 1990’s. In my role working for an airline (in a non photography job) I used to travel extensively.

During that time I lived in New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Fiji, and back in New Zealand again. Throughout my travels I was a regular reader of Lonely Planet travel guides. There were others around – I remember the Let’s Go series plus Frommer’s Guides – but Lonely Planet was always the best.

Lonely Planet

(I have a much later photography connection to Lonely Planet which I will tell you about at the end of this post).

So what is The Lonely Planet Story about?

First, it’s not a photography book. Second, it’s not a business book either.

So why is it part of the great reads series on Beyond Here? The Lonely Planet Story literally tells the story of the husband and wife team who began and lead the Lonely Planet business. The book shares their love of travel and the origins of the business. It also covers the challenges they had along the way, insight into their personal lives, and the later sale of a majority stake in the business to BBC Worldwide.

Why do I recommend it?

I love to hear stories about well known businesses with tiny origins. I particularly love to hear about the passion of the founders. And I value the insight which comes from the hard work they have put in, and the ups and downs along the way.

Lonely Planet was started by husband and wife team, Tony and Maureen Wheeler. I had always assumed they were Australians but Tony was originally from England, and Maureen from Ireland. They tell a great story of arriving in Australia in the early 1970’s with 27 cents to their name. From those beginnings they built a worldwide business. What a great story!

Why might this book be enjoyed by people running photography businesses?

Many of us running small businesses have a great passion for photography and ride the daily ups and downs of a creative business. The Lonely Planet story is inspirational in that it tells a similar story of passionate people pouring themselves into their work and building a remarkable business.

The book is partly a travel story, partly a business story, and partly a life story of the founders. I found it to be a great read and think you might too. Check out The Lonely Planet Story next time you are at the library or the bookshop.

So what’s my photography link to Lonely Planet?

Lonely Planet has built a large collection of travel images for use in their guides. They also buy stock images at times, and I’m pleased to say they have bought at least one of mine. See one of my tree kangaroo images in Lonely Planet guide to Papua New Guinea.

Thanks for reading Great Reads – The Lonely Planet Story. Check out the book.

7 Early Lessons Building an Image Library

Over the last 6 months I’ve had a dramatic change in my approach to stock photography. I had been an exclusive contributor to iStock since 2010 and had a portfolio of over 10,000 images producing a steady income. The problem was, the income was steady but not growing in line with my portfolio. I wrote about some of those issues in Why I Dropped iStock Exclusivity. At that time most of my stock photography friends were expecting me to spread my portfolio among the other major stock sites. I saw that being a very similar road to being with iStock, and instead focused on building an image library.

I can probably fill many posts with things I’ve learned on the journey so far – but for this post I have limited it to 7 Early Lessons Building an Image Library.

Lesson 1 – It Can be Done!

The most important point first – it can be done! Selling images via microstock sites is not the only option. Building an image library is an option and can be done.


Building an image library can be done!

I went from committing to building it, to having a working website in 10 weeks. I’ve learned a lot on the way and could do it faster and more effectively if I was doing it again. But, coming back to lesson 1, if you are considering an alternative to microstock – building an image library can be done.

Lesson 2 – You Don’t Have to Build from Scratch

When I started seriously considering building an image library I had assumed I would have to build the website functionality from scratch. I assumed I would need to write a brief and have a web developer write the code. Good news, I was wrong!

There are several places where you can buy pre-existing capability which is proven in running other image libraries. So it was not a case of wondering if it would work, but buying the capability and tailoring it to my image library.

It was a big short cut and time saver to find that purchasing existing capability was going to be cheaper and easier than starting from scratch.

Lesson 3 – Knowledge of Hosting and Servers will Help

I had assumed that with some common sense and patience I’d be able to work out what was needed regarding servers and hosting for the new site.

On reflection I would say that is true. I also believe I caused myself unnecessary anxiety and worry by not talking to an expert before I started! My recommendation is to find an expert in this space. They will advise what you need.

Time saver

Getting expert help on the technical side will ultimately save you time and help you sleep better!

Save yourself some sleepless nights by asking an expert about hosting and servers.

Lesson 4 – There’s Value in Taking Time to Set Up Correctly

I decided to create a new company to keep the image library business separate from my photography business. If you haven’t done this before, setting up a new company is a relatively straight forward process which an accountant can help with.

Where’s the lesson here? In my desire to get moving I bought the domain name and registered it under my photography company (not the image library company). My speed in doing that then managed to slow me down. I had to subsequently transfer the web address to the new company, and wait several days for that to happen.

In hindsight it was not a big deal. But next time I would establish the new company first and then purchase the web address.

Lesson 5 – Things Take Time

In lesson 1 I outlined that I went from concept to working website in 10 weeks. Some might think 10 weeks is fast, and others will think it is slow. During this process I have learned that things which I assumed would move very quickly can take time.

Specifically I was surprised that setting up payment functionality through the bank would take time. There was plenty of paperwork involved, followed by review from the bank. There must be processes in the background for a bank to make sure everything is legitimate, but I hadn’t expected it to take several weeks. That’s worth knowing if you are setting up payment functionality on your own website or image library.

The second area which took longer than I expected was the legal agreements. The main ones I needed were a licence agreement for the image buyer, and a photographer agreement for contributing photographers. While from a legal point of view this is fairly straightforward, lawyers are not just waiting around for customers like me. They have a range of (mostly larger) projects on the go, and mine was not the A priority. In future I’ll allow more time for the legals to be completed.

Lesson 6 – User Experience of the Website is Key

I made a mistake in launching too soon without properly considering the user experience on the website. I was anxious to move from “build phase” to “proof of concept” on my business plan, and went live as soon as possible.


User experience is a very important piece of the puzzle

I’ve learned that having a working website is one thing. And having a website which is appealing and intuitive to customers is another. Unfortunately that meant that the first 1000 visitors to the site had a “less than ideal” experience.

Both the look of the site and the functionality are now much improved. This will be something we continue to develop. My recommendation is don’t be too anxious to launch. Invest time in making sure your site looks great and is intuitive for your user.

Lesson 7 –  Find a Web Developer You Trust

I have complete trust and faith in my web developer. It is so reassuring to know that the person on the other end of many emails and text messages is completely trust worthy and working to make the website a success. Nothing seems to have been too much of a problem despite there being lots of things to work on some weeks, and nothing to work on in others (thanks Alison!). Having a web expert you completely trust is great for peace of mind.

I have lots more lessons learned on this journey already which I will save for other posts. Thanks for reading 7 Early Lessons Building an Image Library. If you’d like to check out progress, please head over to Melbourne Stock Photos.


Imagebrief Terminate Services

Almost exactly one year ago I wrote a post for Beyond Here called New Ways to Sell Your Images. It looked at a site called Imagebrief which was connecting image buyers with photographers by providing written briefs. My final point in that post raised the question Will It Be Successful? Today that question has been answered. Overnight I’ve received an email announcing the end – Imagebrief terminate services.


Their plan seems to have fallen over. News overnight that Imagebrief terminate services

Directly from the announcement where Imagebrief terminate services

“Dear Craig,

Today, we’re announcing that after six years of connecting agencies, brands and creators, we will be closing down ImageBrief’s photographer marketing services.

We’re proud of the products and apps we built, but even more so, we’re grateful for the community that enabled them to grow. More than 70,000 creators earned millions of dollars collaborating with 12,500+ global agencies and brands in 169 countries.

There has never been a better time for creators to thrive. Demand for content has increased, and the tools to create world-class creative are more accessible than ever.

Our talented team of engineers, designers, developers, and curators have worked tirelessly to make ImageBrief a success in a competitive and rapidly evolving landscape, and our immediate priority is to help you transition to other services to support your business.

In the coming days, our team will be in contact with you directly with detailed information about your specific account, license history, and services. Over the next week, we recommend logging into ImageBrief to download and retain your license history and related assets. Further details can be found in the FAQ’s below.

We want to thank you for your participation and loyalty, and look forward to working with you in the coming weeks to ensure a smooth transition.


Team ImageBrief”

How Will This Impact Individual Photographers?

I had submitted images to a handful of briefs but it was a tiny part of my business.

I know 2 photographers who invested significant time and energy working on briefs for Imagebrief. They were positive about the financial returns they received. Those photographers also felt the briefs directly connected them with the buyer, and gave them a better understanding of the needs of the image buyer.

They will no longer have Imagebrief as a source of income or ideas.


Multiple sources of income is an asset to any business

What Can We Take From This?

The email from Imagebrief doesn’t explain why Imagebrief terminate services. I assume the business model was not a financial success.

This reinforces the challenge of working with an online business. If it is not going well, that is very difficult for a photographer to know. I doubt any photographers were wholly relying on Imagebrief for their work and income. If they were, they have very short notice for finding alternatives.

As a business this reinforces the value of having multiple sources of income.

What Other Outlets Does a Photographer Have?

There are significant challenges with the stock photography model and distributing through major stock agencies. However, this is still an easy way to access a global market of image buyers. If you’ve got the time and the commitment to produce a high volume of images, stock photography is still an option.

With the announcement of Imagebrief terminate services it also reinforces to me the value of a photographers relationships in their local community. There is always a pipeline of work, both commercial and domestic, where people want to deal with local people who they know and trust.


Investing in local relationships helps produce a pipeline of business

I recently did a shoot for a dentist who runs his own practice. Ironically, he wanted images which did not look like stock images (!) and featured himself and his staff. He asked me to do the work as he knows and trusts me. He didn’t get quotes from other photographers, and he paid my invoice within 3 days of receiving it. That was great value from a strong relationship built over time. Have you been investing in relationships in your local community? Is it providing you a pipeline of work?

For more reading about Imagebrief Terminate Services see this post on PetaPixel – ImageBrief Shuts Down After 6 Years of Trying to Disrupt Stock Photos

Top 100 Australian Photography Blogs

Thank you Beyond Here readers. Beyond Here has been ranked in this list of the Top 100 Australian Photography Blogs. Thanks to you for reading Beyond Here, and for sending in your questions and comments.

I’m not sure how many Australian Photography Blogs there are, but being ranked in the top 100 feels good. Beyond Here is ranked at number 87. We have plenty of room to move up in the rankings next year!

Photo Blog

Beyond Here has ranked in the Top 100 Australian Photography Blogs

I encourage you to check out the blogs on the list. Australian photographers are doing fascinating work and reading these blogs will give you insight and ideas for your own work. Are you are into wedding, new born, or family photography? If so, you are extra lucky. There are numerous blogs on the list in those genres.

I’ve been through the full list of the Top 100 Australian Photography Blogs. I didn’t visit every blog, but I did check out a lot of them. Interestingly, Beyond Here is the only one on the list focused on the business side of photography. Does that mean we can be the self proclaimed Number 1 Australian Business Photography Blog?!

Where to from here?

Starting 2018 I’ve set several objectives for further improving Beyond Here. These include:

  • More frequent posts. As the Top 100 Australian Photography Blogs list indicates, Beyond Here has been publishing an average of 2 posts per month. I’m aiming to increase that to 4 posts per month.
  • More emphasis on featured photographers. I find the featured photographers session interesting as it gives me insight into what other photographers are doing. It takes a lot of effort to organize and that’s why there haven’t been many posts to date! Look out for an increase in 2018.
  • Keep gear guides to a minimum. There are many good photography gear websites and blogs. Beyond Here is not one of them! I like to post about new or interesting gear from time to time, but am conscious that our focus is the business side of photography.
  • Share the journey of Melbourne Stock Photos. In January 2018 I launched an image library featuring lifestyle images of my home town. I see photographers setting up image libraries as a real alternative to the small returns offered by the major players in the microstock industry. I’ve had lots of questions about Melbourne Stock Photos already this year, and have committed to sharing the ups and downs of that journey.

I hope you will find plenty of content that is relevant to you and your business. (That way we can feature higher up the list of the Top 100 Australian Photography Blogs next year!) Thanks again for being a reader of Beyond Here. If you have specific business issues you would like addressed by Beyond Here, please add a comment to this post or send an email. Thank you.

Potential Markets When You Are Starting a Photography Business

Last week I was contacted by a photographer who had been reading Beyond Here. She had received some inquiries in her local community, and had local businesses re-sharing her social media content. We had a brief exchange of emails which has led to this post – Potential Markets When You Are Starting a Photography Business.

The photographer who contacted me was doing some studies to help her with the business side of photography (great idea!). Her initial question for me was about pricing.

That’s a very broad question as there are all sorts of different customers with different budgets (I wrote a post about this called Find The Right Clients). It’s also a hard question to answer without really knowing the photographer, her work, or the market she hopes to address.


There is opportunity in the faces and the places of your region

Let’s look at what I do know. The photographer lives outside a main city in an attractive coastal location. She has a diverse and interesting range of landscape and lifestyle images from her local area. She has done some work for a local luxury accommodation provider. Given that information, here are some potential business opportunities for this situation.

Business Opportunities

There are lots of potential markets when you are starting a photography business. Below are some immediate ideas. My suggestion would be to experiment with several and decide what suits you and your work. Not everything will be a success, but finding your own way forward is part of the excitement of running a successful photography business.

Opportunity 1 – Sell Prints to the Luxury Accommodation Provider.

Accommodation businesses are great to speak to about prints. They need prints for their rooms, and having a range of local images can enhance their guests experience. As a photographer it is attractive as the luxury accommodation provider will likely order at least one for each room plus more for their shared spaces. Keep in mind they won’t order 40 of the same print. Make sure you have a range of images of the local environment.

Opportunity 2 – Talk to the Accommodation Provider about online images.

Nearly all businesses need quality images for their online use. I would start by researching the accommodation providers website and social media accounts. Then I would approach them to shoot images of the property for use in both. Website images is often a once a year job. Images for social media can be ongoing regular work.


Businesses, as well as individuals, can be your clients. The costs are going to be an expense to the business, so likely can be offset against their income for tax purposes

Opportunity 3 – Shoot images for Local Tourism Body.

Tourism bodies need a regular supply of high quality images to help them promote the region. In my experience, big organisations promoting tourism for big cities or large regions are less inclined to engage with an individual photographer. Smaller regional tourism bodies on the other hand love to deal with local people. Local people know the area and can be relied on. I’d suggest she gets her current portfolio in front of the local tourism body. From there she can start a conversation about helping to promote the local area.

Opportunity 4 – Shoot Images for other Businesses

Again, because nearly all businesses need images for their websites and social media use, there is lots of opportunity to shoot images for businesses. Local people like dealing with other local people, particularly in regional communities. I’d suggest this photographer has the potential to approach other businesses and see if she can help them with their image needs.


Pricing can be tricky. Have you considered deciding on your price and then looking for customers in that price range?

Opportunity 5 – Sell Images as Stock

The photographer who contacted me appeared to have a relatively large existing portfolio. If that is the case she could upload several hundred images to micro stock sites to get started in stock photography. Keep in mind that stock images of a major city are going to have a bigger market than a regional town. She lives in a regional area so her stock portfolio is likely to have a limited market unless she can produce generic images.

There are 5 immediate business opportunities for this photographer as she starts out in business.

For more resources for starting a photography business please see:

Thanks for reading Potential Markets When You Are Starting a Photography Business. There are lots and lots of potential markets when you are starting a photography business so don’t be limited to just these five! Happy shooting!

qHero Stats Feature

Since early 2017 I have been using qHero to upload images to iStockphoto. It is a very easy to use application (and it also makes the key wording process straight forward). In February 2018 they have announced 2 enhanced features. The first is that they now offer a retouching service. To me, that was interesting but it is not a service I plan to use. And this week they have announced a qHero stats feature.

Now the qHero stats feature is very interesting! Regular readers of Beyond Here and iStock contributors will know that providing good reporting has been lacking on iStock for several years now. (It seems strange that 10 years ago when I first started contributing to iStock you could tell in real time what was selling. 10 years on and now the contributor only finds out at the end of each month what has sold.) That’s not a great experience for a contributor and is one of the reasons why I dropped iStock exclusivity.


The qHero stats feature is a big help in analyzing the performance of my iStock files

The qHero stats feature doesn’t provide real time stats, but it is very easy to use and does provide useful information.

How to set up the qHero stats feature?

  • Step 1 – you need to be a qHero user. If you aren’t already, set up your free account on qHero.
  • Step 2 – at the top right of the screen is an option to choose stats, profile or logout. Click on the stats options.
  • Step 3 – you are now in the qHero stats feature. In the top left is a button to “upload sales reports”. These are the reports which you first need to download from Getty Images ESP site. It is a very simple process to download the text file from ESP (under My Performance / Royalties / Export). Save it somewhere on your PC, and then upload the text file to qHero. It is that simple – it took me less than 5 minutes to do that for all data since beginning of 2017.
  • Step 4 – you are now set up with your sales data in the qHero stats feature. Easy.

If I upload my shoots in batches I can tell at a glance how each is performing using qHero stats feature

What does the qHero stats feature tell me?

The qHero stats feature immediately calculates from your data – the number of downloads, and then provides analysis for each batch you’ve uploaded. That includes the $ return per batch, return per file, and return per download. Reports are available for ‘all time’, ‘last month’, ‘this year’, and you can also create custom reports.

At a glance the data tells me immediately:

  • What is selling and what isn’t
  • How much I’ve earned from an individual batch
  • Which batch is earning higher or lower amounts

And that insight immediately helps me to focus on producing the type of content which is producing the best returns. Nice!


qHero stats feature is a step forward in service for it’s users

Any weaknesses of the qHero stats feature?

I’ve just started using this feature and I see immediately:

  • the data is split by files uploaded using qHero and ‘other’. If you have always uploaded using qHero this is great as all your data will be available to analyse. I’m a long term iStocker and most of my files were uploaded before qHero existed. So only my more recent files have the useful stats of this feature
  • if you are not a qHero user this is no good to you! So if you were considering using qHero the qHero stats feature is another plus for it.

In summary:

I like the qHero stats feature! It provides immediate insight into the financial return of each shoot, and helps me to focus on producing images with the highest likelihood of a strong financial return. Well done qHero!


Use Events to Drive Business

I often hear photographers discussing (or complaining!) that they don’t have enough paying clients. My response is to ask what they are doing to generate more business. And generally the response is a blank stare which implies ‘isn’t my website and social media presence enough to have people knocking down the door?’ No, it’s not. People have lots of pressures on their time and money – and will only shoot with you if you give them a compelling reason to do it now. There are many ways to drive additional business. One way is to use events to drive business. Read on!

Australia Day

Special events drive sales of stock images

What do you mean events?

By events, I mean special occasions. Demand for a range of products and services picks up very predictably when these events occur. Let’s take an example. What do you think happens for sales of chocolates and roses every February? They boom just before Valentine’s Day! And they boom just before Valentine’s Day every year! It’s predictable.

How can you take advantage of that? Have you considered offering a couples shoot before Valentine’s Day? Or sell a gift voucher for the couple to shoot with you after Valentine’s Day? Do you get the idea? You use the event to create a reason for the shoot to happen now.

Want More Examples?

Regular readers of Beyond Here will know I shoot a lot of stock photography. Do events help sales of stock images? Yes! A resounding yes! Here in Australia there is a peak in sales of Australian themed images just before Australia Day at the end of January.

How do I capitalize on this? I shoot Australia Day themed images in October and November, and have them available in my stock portfolio by early December. That’s almost 2 months before Australia Day and ready for the increase in demand.

And there are lots more events during the year which drive similar spikes in demand. Think about Valentine’s Day, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, and your national holidays. Could you use events to drive business? I’m sure you could. It just requires a little planning and a compelling reason for clients to have the shoot now.

How can family photographers take advantage of this?

Lots of photographers specialize in families and portraits. Here’s how I recommend you make the most of events.

Australia Day

Got a national holiday coming up. Can you use events to drive business?

Events Specific to Your Clients

Once you have a client base you can generate your own ‘events’ by focusing on key moments for your clients. What are some examples? Your clients anniversaries and birthdays are obvious places to start! If you have a gap in your shooting schedule, contact a client who has a birthday next month and offer them a special for a shoot plus prints in time for their birthday.

Even better is when you have remembered your clients children’s birthdays. Offering a tailored shoot on the kids birthdays will show your clients you care (and really listened!) and can offer something unique to them.

Events Which Apply to ‘the Market’

If you don’t have an existing client base to tap into, use events which have broad appeal.

How about special family packages:

  • for families right before school starts
  • during the school holidays
  • for kids birthdays
  • before Christmas

These are all straightforward ways to use events to drive business. If you are waiting for clients to contact you because you have a great website and post regularly to social media – you may be waiting a long time. Grab the initiative and use events to drive business.

Shooting Moving Objects

Over the last 2 months I have been working with 5 other photographers to build a new image library. I didn’t know the photographers before we started the project, and it has been fun and challenging to work with them. One area that has become clear is that there is room for improvement in shooting moving objects. I have ‘grown up’ shooting sports and wildlife and selling prints. In that environment the images have to be in sharp focus. The 5 photographers are all younger than me and have ‘grown up’ in the era of Facebook and Instagram where there is less importance on fundamentals like having the image in really sharp focus. So here are a few pointers for shooting moving objects.

Focus Mode and Focus Point

Below is a straightforward lifestyle image of a woman walking across the road. This image can be very boring if she is standing still. Having her moving adds an energy to the image. So how do we maximize the chance of having her in sharp focus? Firstly we shoot in continuous focusing mode. I use Canon equipment, so on my Canon camera bodies that is AI Servo mode.

woman walking

Use continuous focus mode and a single focus point to maximize your chance of a sharply focused image

Choose a single focus point to tell your camera where the focus should be. In this case I pre-selected this point before we walked across the road, and I aimed it at the model’s eye closest to the camera.

Shutter Speed, ISO, and Depth of Field

For the shot above I wanted to blur the people in the background so I shot at f2.8. It was an overcast but bright morning, so I used ISO400. I knew at this ISO and f2.8 it would mean I could keep a fast shutter speed which again helps keep sharp focus in the image. The shutter speed in this image was 1/1600s.

In older DSLR bodies I would be very careful about raising the ISO as it would result in grain in the image. But with modern DSLR’s this is not a concern, and is not a consideration at ISO400.

What Shutter Speeds Should You Work With?

The answer to this question is to practice extensively. I know from taking thousands of images of moving objects what shutter speeds maximize the chance of a sharply focused image.

Of course the speed the object is moving has an impact on what shutter speed you will need. Again, from experience, I know that in the case of the image above any shutter speed at 1/400s or faster will give me a good chance of a sharply focused image.

Woman crossing

An image like this will have greatest chance of being in sharp focus if you shoot at 1/400s or faster

In the case of kids sport – I have shot many basketball games and know that 1/800s might not give me sharply focused images when the kids are running at full speed. At 1/1000s or faster I have a much better chance.

And for fast moving wildlife like the grey headed flying fox below, I’ll be aiming to shoot at 1/1600s or faster.

Shoot A Single Frame or Multiple Frames?

Like everything in photography (!) the answer is up to you. I like to shoot multiple images to give me choice among the images and as ‘insurance’ if one shot is out of focus. I shoot images of fast moving objects in burst mode and shoot 3 or 4 images each time.

Flying fox

This image was shot at 1/2000s to freeze the action of this fast moving flying fox. It was shot in burst mode.

If you are serious about your photography and committed to producing sharply focused images you’ll need to master shooting moving objects. Think for a moment about the possible scenarios – sports, live music, lifestyle portraits, stock, wildlife, wedding, events. The list goes on. If you can’t shoot moving objects well you are going to significantly reduce the options for earning money from your photography work.

I hope these quick pointers will help you with shooting moving objects. Next step – lots of practice! Happy shooting.

Sneak Preview New Stock Photography Site

Happy 2018 to all Beyond Here readers! I hope you’ve had an enjoyable time over Christmas and New Year and are ready for the photography year ahead. Let’s start 2018 with a sneak preview of a new stock photography site.

What’s this all about?

Regular readers of Beyond Here will know I am a big fan of the stock photography model. A well planned and executed shoot can generate the photographer an income for many years into the future (read Why I Shoot Stock to catch up on some of this thinking). But stock photography has changed. I was an exclusive contributor with iStockphoto for nearly 8 years before deciding that the exclusive model was not working for me (see Why I Dropped iStock Exclusivity). I was investing more into each shoot, and seeing lower royalties per download. That’s not a recipe for success unless your download numbers are growing very strongly.

Woman and tram

Melbourne Stock Photos is a niche site providing specific content

So Where to From Here?

As part of my decision to drop iStock exclusivity I considered where iStock seemed to be heading. Quality standards have dropped. Large numbers of files are coming in. High quality images are getting lost among thousands of low quality images.

That strikes me as providing a great opportunity for an image library that goes in the opposite direction, swims against the tide of low quality images, and instead maintains high quality standards. (It makes me think of the success that Stocksy is having with a high quality model.)

What does the current state mean for microstock photography customers?

Microstock customers are spending a long time searching through thousands of images to find the ones they need. They are swamped with low quality images. Image buyers are spending more time looking for what seems like the needle in the haystack. They can’t be sure the image is of good quality or even in focus.

So what about the new stock photography site?

The points above have prompted me to build an image library.

We’ve been working on it for the last quarter and will launch in the next few weeks. You can find it at Melbourne Stock Photos. It is a niche site specializing in lifestyle images of Melbourne, Australia. We are aiming for it to be the high quality source of Melbourne lifestyle images. It will save customers time searching through thousands of images at microstock sites.

Customers will be able to request specific content. In a radical, old fashioned way, they can email or call with content requests. They can have a relationship with Melbourne Stock Photos and not just a transaction. We’re going to partner with our customers to provide the content they need, and save them hours hunting around on microstock sites.

Our launch content has a small number of images. We have a small team of photographers shooting new material and will build our content month by month. Melbourne Stock Photos will never compete on scale or breadth with the large stock photo sites, but it will provide a specialist site with high quality content.

Melbourne is a fabulous city and it should have a fabulous image library to help promote it to the world. Melbourne Stock Photos is aiming to be that library.


Thanks to Nicola, Tim, Teri, Julie, CK, and Greg for the skills and experience they’ve brought to this adventure already. Special thanks to Alison for leading the IT work – she’s been critical to getting us this far!

Your Sneak Preview

We will be launching the site in the next few weeks. I wanted to give Beyond Here readers a sneak preview of the new stock photography site. Go ahead and check out Melbourne Stock Photos. I’d welcome any comments, feedback, or suggestions. Here’s to a great 2018!

iStock Increasing Targets for 2018

In late 2017 I decided to give up my iStock exclusive status. That means I now receive a lower royalty rate from my sales on iStock, but I am able to make my images available through other sites. I outlined my rationale in this post.

The royalty rate that iStock exclusive contributors receive is based on their previous year results. The more your files are downloaded the higher royalty rate you receive. In December 2017, the new targets have been announced and you might not be suprised – iStock is increasing targets for 2018.

table of rates

I’ll focus on the photo information as I don’t contribute illustrations and have not submitted any new videos in the last 3 years,

So what does this information mean?

Firstly, as soon as you become an Exclusive artist you will receive a 25% royalty from your sales. Once you pass 550 downloads for the year, you will increase to 30%. That is a straightforward target if you have a reasonable sized portfolio. Then it starts to get hard. To move up to a 35% royalty you need to have 5,500 of your files downloaded. How hard is that? I have a portfolio of 10,000 images and will finish 2017 with around 4,300 downloads. So 5,500 is going to be difficult for most contributors. And from there the targets sky rocket. To achieve 40% royalty you need 22,000 downloads and to reach 45% you need 330,000 downloads. I would expect very few contributors are at these levels.

How does this compare to the previous years levels?

Achieving the 30% level is straightforward, so the key here is the 35% target. 5,500 downloads is a 10% increase on this years target.

What’s the context?

iStock recently announced that it has added 9.6 million files to it’s database in 2017. That’s likely to be dominated by photos (although iStock does accept other files as well).

How likely is success?

If you are striving to reach the 35% level you will need to achieve 5,500 downloads in an environment where there is a large increase in the number of files available. That is going to make success very difficult.

What to Do?

For a contributor to succeed in this environment they have 3 choices:

  1. Produce very high volumes of images to continue to grow income
  2. Produce very unique images so the influx of other contributors files doesn’t significantly impact them
  3. Look for other alternatives

These announcements from iStock reinforce my view that we are going to see the gradual decline of the micro stock libraries in favor of niche image libraries. Why? In niche libraries the customers will save time by only searching through relevant content, and contributors will be able to get higher royalties per download. I outlined those thoughts in 5 Stock Photography Predictions for 2018.

Plenty of iStock exclusive contributors will stick with the model they know despite iStock increasing targets for 2018. I won’t be one of them. What about you?