The microstock photography industry is going through a period of change. This post is my take on microstock – and whether it is still possible to make a financial return through microstock.
I have been actively contributing to microstock photography sites since 2008. This was firstly through sites including Shutterstock and Dreamstime, and since 2010 as an exclusive contributor to istock (owned by Getty Images)
In 2008 the istock discussion forums were very active. Contributors were reporting strong growth in download numbers. It seemed that every day there were people posting they had “ditched the day job and were now full time istockers!”
Those times have changed. Today the istock forums are not as active, and there is almost no-one reporting increases in download numbers.
So what’s changed?
- istock and other microstock sites have increased prices. It is no longer “cheap” to buy good quality stock images.
- there are more competitors. The number of stock photography sites has increased and continues to increase.
- there are a lot more contributors
- there are even more images
My average royalties per download have increased fourfold over the last 3 years. On the surface, that sounds great. But the trade-off has been a reduction in the number of downloads. Overall my total monthly royalties have remained steady, despite an increase in portfolio size.
The total market has seen a very significant increase in the supply of stock images, without the same growth in demand.
What does the future hold?
If you are a customer looking for stock images, the growing supply of images is going to give you a huge range of images to choose from. Given the very competitive nature of the market, you should be able to get these at fair prices.
For contributors, I see it being very difficult to make a full time income from microstock photography in the future. That said, microstock continues to generate a significant supplementary income for me and many others. I expect to be able to continue to build my portfolio and maintain the current level of income. It is a very worthwhile part of my photography income and I encourage others to commit to microstock.
Are you a contributor to microstock? What is your experience? What are your expectations?