Category Archives: Stock Photography

Getting Your Head Around Model Releases for Stock Photography

Recently I had the pleasure of speaking at the Victorian Association of Photographic Societies (VAPS) meeting here in Melbourne, Australia. What is VAPS? Taken from the VAPS website “VAPS is a not-for-profit “umbrella” organisation, representing the interests of affiliated camera clubs in the State of Victoria.” It was fun attending their meeting and speaking on the topic of stock photography. There were more questions than I had anticipated, several of which were about model releases and property releases. It makes me think there will be benefit in a post about getting your head around model releases.

What was the context?

I was speaking to a group of around 50 photographers who are members of camera clubs around Victoria. Early in the presentation I began by asking who was a stock photography contributor? There was just one hand raised. So while many in the audience are experienced photographers, nearly all were new to stock photography.


Melbourne
Organise releases first, then start creating images

Getting Your Head Around Model Releases

The discussion was interesting and varied and it was exciting to see some faces light up at the possibilities stock photography has for them. I was planting a seed that they can generate local content in their home town.

Things got interesting when we got onto the topic of model releases.

Most people understand that you can’t reasonably expect to be taking pictures of people without their permission and then selling them as stock images. The interesting part is in how to get the releases.

The conversation went something like this:

Audience member – do you need to get model releases for all identifiable people?

My answer – yes

Audience member – but how do you get around and get all the releases afterwards?

My answer – i don’t

Don’t expect strangers to sign releases. Organise your releases first.

A different point of view

I find this is a major difference between experienced stock photographers and people who are starting out. I would never shoot first and seek releases afterwards. That’s too risky. People may say no, and then I have images which I can’t use.

So how do I do it?

Organise the releases first. When I’m shooting lifestyle images I brief the actor or model first. We complete all the paperwork before we shoot. Then we begin creating images. If you’d like to get serious about stock photography, start planning in advance and not leaving things to chance. Organise your models first. Spend time organising your releases at the beginning of the session. Then start creating images.

Thanks for reading Getting Your Head Around Model Releases for Stock Photography.

Highs and Lows of Microstock Photography Royalties

This week I received my latest monthly royalty report from leading microstock agency – iStock. It highlighted to me the highs and lows of microstock photography royalties.

So What do I Mean?

Let’s start with the highs. One of my royalties was USD$145 for a single download of one of my images. That’s good news. Especially as the image was shot about 5 years ago and continues to sell. Based on today’s exchange rate, that’s about AUD$200 for a single sale. This type of royalty is uncommon, unfortunately! But when it does happen it is a very nice boost to the overall royalties for the month.

Australian dollars

Occasional big royalties make a significant difference

Now for the lows. One of my downloads generated a royalty of just USD$0.02. I’m really not sure how Getty Images and iStock justify such low royalties. This month I’m glad these small royalties were offset by several large ones.

What Should You Learn from Your Royalties?

I’d suggest not reading too much into individual month royalty amounts. Based on a few large sales, your monthly royalty income can vary significantly from month to month. Making any assumptions based on just one month, or even a small collection of months would be unwise.

So How Should You Assess Progress?

If you are looking for measures which reflect your progress I’d suggest 2 measures are worth looking at.

First is the total number of downloads from month to month. While royalties can vary significantly from month to month, your total download numbers are likely to be much less volatile. There will be seasonal differences in what is downloaded, but the variation in download numbers will not be as dramatic as the variation in royalty amounts.

money

Growing the size and diversity of your portfolio is the only sure way to increase royalties

Second is the total number of files in your portfolio. If you are serious about stock photography you’ll be adding new content regularly. Your number of future downloads – and hence your royalty income – will be determined by the size and diversity of your portfolio. If you want a number you can directly control, measure the number of files in your portfolio and make sure it’s increasing!

What’s the Wrap?

Be happy when the larger royalties come your way. Don’t be too unhappy when they don’t. Keep building your portfolio so that it is large and varied.

Thanks for reading the Highs and Lows of Microstock Photography Royalties. Happy shooting.

Letter to Mark Getty from an iStock Contributor

I have been reading in Petapixel that Getty Images to be Fully Controlled by the Getty Family Once Again. According to that article the Getty family have taken a majority stake in the business, and will take full control. Mark Getty led the negotiation and purchase on behalf of the Getty family. I know very little about the broader Getty Images business, but I have been a contributor to iStock since 2008. I used to love iStock and the high volume, low price business model. With major changes to iStock over recent years it no longer looks like the site I joined in 2008. With this post, it’s time to write a letter to Mark Getty from an iStock contributor outlining the issues and to make suggestions to make iStock great again. 

“G’day Mark,

My name is Craig Dingle. I live in Melbourne, Australia and have been an iStock contributor since 2008. I’ve been reading in Petapixel that the Getty family has taken a majority stake and full control of the Getty Images business. I’m sure you are doing that as you see potential for a good investment. In the stock photography side of the business, and specifically iStock, I see considerable potential but not on the current trajectory. I’ve outlined the issues and potential solutions from a contributors point of view.

Background

When I first joined iStock it was a vibrant community made up of photographers from around the world. iStock was known as the micro stock industry leader, and for the high quality content on the site. It was a badge of honor to be an exclusive iStock contributor. There was a dynamic contributor forum, and contributors who were submitting strong content were making a considerable income. That’s not the case today.

money

Up until 2012/13 contributors could make a significant income in microstock

Where it All Changed

Many things have changed about iStock since 2008.

Where the fundamental shift occurred was when iStock stopped selling licences to contributors images – and starting selling subscriptions. At this point, the most important change in iStock history happened. The interests of iStock and contributors were no longer aligned.

iStock is interested in selling subscriptions. I can see why. With a subscription iStock’s monthly income will fluctuate much less than if it were based on a percentage of image sales revenue.

Where is the misalignment? The contributor is still receiving a percentage of the amount to licence their image.

In my case, I was exclusive and on a 35% royalty. I decided to drop exclusivity last year and now receive 15% royalty as an independent contributor. That means I see many royalties of less than USD$0.20 per download. The lowest royalty I have received for a download is US$0.02. (Some contributors report seeing royalties of US$0.01 but I haven’t had one of these – yet!)

Contributor Royalty Rates Versus other Microstock Libraries

So, one issue is the misalignment of Getty Images interests with contributors interests. The second issue is how the royalties are structured and what it means in royalty per download for your contributors.

Contributors are sometimes receiving US$0.02 royalty when a customer licences one of their images via iStock. Let’s let that settle in for a moment. It’s worth repeating. Contributors are sometimes receiving US$0.02 royalty when a customer licences one of their images via iStock.

iStock’s major competitors overcome this by offering minimum royalties. I now contribute to Shutterstock. My minimum royalty there is US$0.33. It’s not much per download, but it is 16 times higher than iStock is paying on some downloads. iStock is paying contributors much lower royalties per download than the other major microstock agencies.

What’s the Implication of Paying Contributors so Little?

At the level of an individual contributor – the implication for me is that it no longer makes financial sense to contribute images to iStock which have any cost of production. That means I only contribute content that has cost me nothing to produce.

All my other content goes to other agencies where there is a greater financial reward for the contributor.

Again, let’s pause and let that settle in.

Melbourne lifestyle

My stock photography has focused on lifestyle content in the last 3 years. I don’t upload it to iStock as the financial returns are not there.

Other contributors will be in the same boat. I expect that iStock – previously the market leader in microstock – is becoming a dumping ground for contributors of low cost of production images. That’s not likely to make any difference to the iStock collection or business in the short term. But in the long term, iStock risks being the low quality, low price image library. I presume you’ll need to do massive volumes to make that business model work.

Contributor Reporting

An outcome of the royalty structure is that iStock contributors see a major delay in reporting. We get visibility of what content has been licensed at what prices on the 20th of the following month. So for August sales, I see reports on the 20th of September.

Mark, I imagine Getty Images has a monthly board meeting in the middle of each month. I imagine financial results are tabled at that meeting plus management commentary for the previous month. Can you see the irony here?

While Getty Images reviews the previous month’s financial results, contributors are still waiting for their financial reports.

To compound the issue for iStock – your competitors are miles ahead in this area. Each time one of my files is licensed on Shutterstock I get instant notification on my smart phone. It tells me which image was downloaded, what my royalty was, and the total amount Shutterstock now owe me.

The process I take to receive the same information on iStock is – wait until the 20th of the following month to receive data. Then, I download a text file. I save it to my computer desktop. Then I upload it to Qhero stats function to see what has sold for what amounts.

Shutterstock is leaving iStock behind by making it easier for contributors to run their business.

New Content Visibility

When I look at the Qhero stats functionality I see it is mainly my old files which customers are licensing. I’m not getting a return on recent files, which is a major disincentive to upload new content. You can read more about that in this post iStock Shutterstock Comparison.

iStock has identified issues with ‘search freshness’ but there is no evidence that it is taking action. The lack of sales of recent content is a further disincentive for contributors to add fresh material.

Melbourne lifestyle

My new stock content is going to other stock libraries, not iStock

Priorities to Make iStock Great Again

I have more than 10,000 files on iStock so I have a vested interest in seeing that business succeed. As the Getty family take majority ownership and full control, these are my suggestions for priorities to make iStock great again.

Priority 1 – Align the Interests of Contributors with iStock. When a customer licences an image (who’s copyright belongs to the contributor) there must be a financial benefit to the contributor as well as to Getty / iStock. Please don’t suggest that US$0.02 is a fair financial benefit to the contributor.

Priority 2 – Get Serious about Reporting for Contributors. Ironically, iStock doesn’t have a business without contributors content. We are partners. iStock need my content, and I need iStock’s distribution strength. If you want me to produce current, fresh content, you are going to need to build reporting which supports that.

Priority 3 – Find Ways to Reward High Quality Content. The first 2 priorities are the necessary first steps. Priority 3 must be finding ways to reward high quality content. I can tell you directly that I won’t invest in paying models, hiring venues, and paying assistants to receive US$0.02 per download. If the iStock team think back to the high quality collections of the past (Vetta and Signature+) these were real incentives for contributors to excel.

Priority 4 – Clarify the Business Model. iStock is getting confused as to whether it is an image library for royalty free content, or a broker of contract work between customers and contributors. The Custom Content initiative would not be happening if the core stock photography model worked better for contributors and customers. I see this as a distraction from iStock’s core business.

Conclusion

Mark, I genuinely want the iStock business to be successful – and much more successful than it is now. I would love to be proudly telling people I’m an iStock contributor. That’s not the case today, and I fear that the current trajectory means poor outcomes for contributors in the short term, and for the iStock business model in the medium term.

I hope the Getty family taking majority ownership and full control is an opportunity to steer the ship on a new course.

Kind regards,

Craig Dingle”

Note, I don’t really expect Mark to read this content, nor to respond. But I hope that it is helpful for photographers considering stock photography options to understand the current market and make decisions appropriate for their goals. Thanks for reading this letter to Mark Getty from an iStock contributor.

What to Expect Starting in Stock Photography

This month I had the opportunity to meet with a new stock photographer. He is excited about the possibilities stock photography presents, and we had a great discussion over nearly 3 hours. It reminded me that stock photography can be overwhelming at first. That’s prompted me to help new stock photographers by outlining what to expect starting in stock photography.

Concept for pay day

Your first pay day from stock photography will take time. Be patient. Keep learning. Keep going.

Beginning in stock photography is straight forward. You get online, open an account, and start uploading. I outlined some of my experiences in this post. If you haven’t already, go ahead and open an account with a micro stock site now. There is a link to shutterstock in the margins of this blog.

Once the account is open, that’s when many photographers let their doubts takeover.

Here are 5 things to expect starting in stock photography and how to deal with them.

Each Micro Stock Sites Upload and Review Process Seems Confusing.

While some are simpler than others, most new stock photographers deal with a level of frustration with the upload and review process. If you expect some frustration and be patient as you learn the process, you will succeed. Remember that thousands of people are uploading to these sites every day. If they can learn how, you can too. Be patient. Persevere. If you need help, ask other contributors to that micro stock site. They have gone through the confusion you are dealing with.

There Will Be Highs and Lows in Your First Year.

Highs and lows might continue well beyond your first year (!) but they are almost guaranteed when you are starting out. There is usually a period of great excitement and optimism when a photographer begins, followed by the realization that stock photography is not ‘easy money’. When the inevitable lows hit, just keep going. Persevere. (There’s that word again!) Don’t let the lows knock out the optimism of the highs. Push forward. Stock photography can provide great rewards, but it does take time and consistent effort.

Other Photographers Work Seems Better Than Your Own.

There is good and bad to looking at other photographers work. The good is that you can be inspired and it can motivate you to shoot better and better stock images. The bad is that you feel like your work is not good enough. Try not to let the negative comparisons overcome you. If the quality of your work keeps improving you will succeed in stock photography.

Sales Will Take Time.

Please don’t expect sales to begin on day 1 and continue every hour. While in theory that is possible, you are likely to experience no sales to begin with. Check that you are applying appropriate keywords, but then remind yourself that it is the image libraries job to make sales. The photographers job is to shoot and upload relevant content. There’s an old stock photographer’s saying which might help you – in good and bad times, shoot, upload, repeat.

You Will Doubt that the Effort is Worth the Reward.

There will come a time when you wonder whether the time and effort is worth the reward. Stock photography is not like a job. You don’t get paid based on the hours you put in. You get paid based on how much useful content you are generating. When that doubt gets to you, remember that all successful stock photographers started in the same way as you – uploading and key wording one image at a time. The more images you upload the more likely you are to have financial success.

letter blocks

Don’t let the doubts get to you. Keep learning, keep working, and success in stock photography will come to you too.

Thanks for reading what to expect starting in stock photography. The first year in stock will be challenging. Keep going. Shoot better and better content. Enjoy the process. Best wishes.

Improving Stock Photography Results for Wildlife Photographers

Wildlife photography is a very competitive genre. It can be challenging to achieve returns from stock photography libraries. On the positive side, there is lots of demand for high quality wildlife images. If you can shoot a great portrait of a lion at sunset on an African tour you will likely be able to pay for your safari just from that shot. However, no matter what wildlife you are photographing, you are going to have stiff competition. I’ve written this post for the wildlife photographers wanting to make money via image libraries. Below are 5 tips for improving stock photography results for wildlife photographers.

emu

Animal behavior creates more interesting images than just the animal

Tip #1 Photograph Animal Behavior

An image of an emu standing still in the outback is not likely to be as compelling as the animal doing something interesting. In this image, the emu is drinking from a water hole. The quick movement makes this much more difficult to photograph than an emu walking or standing still. By its nature that makes this image more unique. Tip #1 look to photograph animal behavior.

wallabyTip #2 Cute Baby Animals Sell as Stock Images

I’m not sure you can have universal rules in stock photography.  If you can, it would be that baby animal images will sell. Look out for baby animals and try to photograph them at their cutest. There is a large market for these images and photographing baby animals is likely to bring you a stronger financial return than photographing adult animals.

fruit batTip #3 Look for Groups of Animals

Individual animals can be fascinating subjects, but groups of animals nearly always are. There is a natural chemistry that occurs as the animals interact and are aware of each other. This can make for captivating images as animals display individual and group behaviors. Look out for groups to help create interesting wildlife stock images.

lorikeetsTip #4 Focus on Color

Bright, vivid colors can help you generate interesting stock images. Here, the amazing colors of the rainbow lorikeet in Victoria, Australia add strength to this image. Vivid colors occur in many places in nature. Look out for color to add interest to your wildlife stock images. More interest equals more potential sales. And more sales is the way to buy your next lens.

Tip #5 Capture the Relationship Between Animals and Humans

Animal – human relationships occur with animals in the wild but more frequently with pets. The relationship between animals and their owner can produce great stock images. Next time that you can’t get away for a trip into the wilderness, consider whether you can generate images which show the animal – human bond closer to home.

horse on farmThanks for reading. Wildlife photography is a very competitive business. I hope these tips will help in improving stock photography results for wildlife photographers. For more reading please see 5 Tips for More Compelling Wildlife Images and 5 Tips for Making Images of Fast Moving Animals.

How to Ruin Potential Sales

Lately I seem to be particularly sensitive to poorly targeted promotions which leave me feeling like a number rather than a client or partner. I’ve called this post ‘how to ruin potential sales’ as the people who send me these promotions are ruining their chance of me buying from them.

So What Are We Talking About?

Yesterday I received an email promotion from qHero. If you aren’t familiar with qHero – they are a business which offer services for stock photographers. I have been using qHero to upload stock images to iStockphoto since early 2017. More recently they started offering a stats feature and a retouching service. You can read about that in this post – qHero Stats Feature.

Flinders Street

I shoot a lot of Melbourne lifestyle stock content, so am a potential customer to qHero retouching service

What Was the Content?

Taken directly from the email, here is the offer from qHero.

“Retouching Special – 50% Off

With the summer over us, we feel that at least you should get to enjoy the sun. We know how much time and effort retouching takes, and it seems even longer during the summer. Whether the time is spent on managing retouchers inhouse or outsourced, or even worse doing the retouching yourself, it is guaranteed to keep you out of the sun.

We offer you 50% off on up to 200 files in retouching.

Convert the time saved from retouching, into time in the sun, makes it an easy choice. We are happy because we get to show you how awesomely easy it is to manage retouching directly in the tool you use already for uploading.

All you have to do is to use the promo code XXXXXXXX when ordering. This promo is valid until August 31st 2018, and as always we would love to hear what you think after trying our retouching service.”

Why is This Going to Ruin Potential Sales

This is going to ruin potential sales as it is poorly targeted!

I live in Melbourne, Australia where it is currently mid winter. It’s dark, cold and wet. At this time of year we spend more time indoors, and I spend some of that time doing post production work.

The idea of “convert time saved from retouching into time in the sun” is a nice idea, but would require me to book airline tickets and head to the airport! Hello Queensland or Fiji!

weather Melbourne

Today was a maximum of 12 degrees celsius in Melbourne. It’s not exactly summery right now!

What’s My Take Out from the qHero Email

I understand that the bulk of qHero customers will be in the northern hemisphere where it is currently summer. However, as they’ve sent me a summer promotion in the middle of winter it leaves me to think:

  • they don’t care about customers in the southern hemisphere
  • qHero don’t want customers in the southern hemisphere
  • they don’t have much attention to detail. (It would be ironic not have much attention to detail for a retouching service!)
  • although I have 10,000+ images at iStock and have uploaded more than 300 batches of images through qHero, I am just another ‘anonymous user’ to them

So, unfortunately qHero have ruined the chance of a sale by sending me a poorly targeted email promotion.

What Can We Learn

I am a believer that every business, big and small, can learn from experiences like this. I run a one person photography business, and many of the readers of Beyond Here are also running one person creative businesses. We have an advantage over big businesses because all of our customers are local. There’s no chance of me sending a summer promotion to a customer in mid winter (unless they have moved overseas without me knowing!) While it’s not likely that local businesses can make this ‘mistake’ there are lessons to learn.

Female tram traveller

Right now it’s cold in Melbourne. People are wearing coats and hats. Not quite the right time for a summer promotion email

Key Take Outs

I see three key take outs from this experience.

Number 1 – Personalize offers where possible. Being offered a summer promotion in the middle of winter tells me this is a mass mailing to a large number of people. Immediately I know that it is not targeted to me. Small business owners who really know their customers won’t make this mistake.

Number 2 – Know your customer. In this case, it seems qHero haven’t taken the time to really know their customer. I can’t remember whether I provided location information when I signed up for their upload service. I expect I didn’t. But I have uploaded more than 300 batches of images to iStock through qHero ….. and more than 290 of those batches would have the keyword “Australia”. A similar number would have the keywords “Melbourne” and “Victoria”. It would be fair to assume that I live in Australia based on those numbers. And right now in Melbourne it’s definitely not summer.

Number 3 – Don’t treat everyone the same. This point is similar to point 1 where we can learn to personalize offers. I wonder if qHero segmented their users based on how often they upload through qHero? or how many batches they upload? It feels to me like they didn’t, and that reinforces the lesson – don’t treat everyone the same.

The Wrap Up

I hope there are some key messages in here which will help your business and will make sure you don’t ruin potential sales. If you have had a similar experience, please share it in the comments. And finally, if the good people at qHero ever read this post, I think your upload and stats services are great. In your promotions I’m much more likely to buy something if you make me feel like a client or a partner. Thanks for reading ‘How to Ruin Potential Sales’.

Win Win Win Photography Business Thinking

Yesterday I came across a great example of win win win photography business thinking. Let me tell you about the experience.

I like to meet with photographers from time to time. It’s a great opportunity to share ideas and experiences, and I normally leave with ideas to implement into my business. Yesterday, I had separate meetings with two photographers. Both were very interesting and valuable, and in the second meeting I came across a great example of win win win photography business thinking.

woman pulling hair

Are you tearing your hair out looking for new clients? Can you use win win win photography business thinking as an alternative way to drive your business?

What’s the background?

There are not a lot of photographers in my home town producing high quality stock images in reasonable volumes. However, I recently came across one photographer in that category. We both contribute to an Australian image library called Austockphoto. I have been following her work there and on social media. I contacted her to see if she would like to meet for coffee and to discuss stock photography, and that led to our meeting and an exchange of ideas.

 What type of photography are we talking about?

The photographer has a background in advertising and visual media and, especially relevant, she has an eye for shooting home interiors. That started when she was renovating her own home. She had found a healthy market for home interior content in the image libraries she contributes to and, as a result, she continues to add that style of content.

thumbs up

Projects where there are multiple winners are good projects

What’s the win win win photography business thinking?

Among the things we discussed were the photography projects we were currently working on. As she has found a strong market for home interiors she is actively adding to her portfolio of these images.

Where’s the win win win? One project she is about to shoot is home interiors for an Airbnb property owner. As soon as she mentioned Airbnb property images, I immediately thought what a booming market she was tackling.

So, let’s break down the 3 wins

  1. The property owner. The photographer had asked the Airbnb property owner for a property release in exchange for professionally shot images of her property. Win number 1 – the property owner gets up to date, high quality images of the property at no cost.
  2. The stock photographer. Finding new material to shoot is a stock photographers biggest challenge. This is an example of getting access to a new location at no cost. Win number 2 – the stock photographer gets to generate new images for her stock portfolio with no financial outlay.
  3. The stock customer. Win number 3 is for the customers of the image libraries. They will have access to high quality, fresh stock images at fair prices.

What’s especially exciting about this idea is that she can replicate it over and over again. There is almost an unlimited opportunity in today’s sharing economy.

plan

Can you implement win win win photography business thinking in your business plan?

Can you implement win win win photography business thinking?

Is there an opportunity for you to implement win win win photography business thinking into your business? Do you know Airbnb property owners who you could offer your services to? Are there other parts of today’s sharing economy where you could provide photography services which benefit multiple parties?

I hope this example has given you some ideas which you can implement into your photography business. Thanks for reading win win win photography business thinking.

Would You Give Your Images Away for Free

Every once in a while I receive an email asking to use one of my images for free. This happened earlier this week. The email was from a conservation organisation doing work to protect endangered species of animals. The request was to use one of my tree kangaroo images. I wonder, would you give your images away for free?

Here’s what happened

The email request provided me a link to the organisations website. I’m interested in issues around conservation so I took time to check out their site. They seem to be doing good work, and certainly had a very functional and well presented website.

tree kangaroo

This is a Goodfellows Tree Kangaroo. I don’t know if this is the image they were referring to.

There were 2 interesting things about this request:

  1. All my requests for free use of images come from animal welfare and conservation organisations. That may be because I have a lot of animal images available through image libraries. Or it may be that they have found that asking for ‘free use’ often gets a positive response, and they can save money this way. Who knows?
  2. They didn’t attach the image they wanted to use. Most requests do include the image they have found and want to use. I’m not sure if I’m too cynical, but this makes me suspicious. I do wonder whether this was a genuine request from an organisation doing good work, or was a copy and paste effort sent to hundreds of photographers?

So, my dilemma was what to do. Would you give your images away for free?

My Views

I have come across this situation before, and my opening stance is not to give images away for free. It’s not in my interests, and it’s not in the interests of other photographers. I have made exceptions in the past, but my opening position is that the user should be paying for images.

My Response

Here is my email response:

“Hi XXXXXX,

Thanks very much for your email. I checked out your website – congratulations on the fantastic work you are doing.

It’s good to hear you are going to feature the Goodfellows Tree Kangaroo. I follow the conservation efforts for them, particularly the work XXXXXX are doing with communities in Papua New Guinea.

In terms of images – I’m glad to hear you like one of mine. I hope you’ll understand that as a professional photographer I rely on royalties from licencing images to support my family, so I can’t provide it for free.

That said, I have many tree kangaroo images available to licence very inexpensively on iStockphoto. This link will take you there XXXXXXXXX

It should display prices in the local currency where ever you are. In Australian dollars it costs $13 for an individual image. If you need multiple images look at the one month subscription which lets you download 10 images for $40 (you can cancel after one month if you don’t have ongoing image needs).

I hope this helps.

Very best wishes for your work. I’ve signed up for the email updates and will look forward to the piece on Goodfellows Tree Kangaroos.

Regards

Craig”

money theme

Subscription programs make stock images affordable. I felt I did the right thing introducing this organisation to an image library where they can licence images cost effectively.

How would you handle this situation?

I feel like I’ve done the right thing by myself and other photographers. I also hope the organisation feel I’ve done the right thing by them – by introducing them to a cost effective way to licence images. The final piece of this story is just to add that my reply was sent 5 days ago. I haven’t had any response.

What do you think? Would you give your images away for free?

iStock Shutterstock Comparison

Regular readers of Beyond Here will know I have been a long time contributor to microstock. How long exactly? Well, this month takes me past 10 years of selling through microstock sites. For many of those years I was an exclusive contributor at iStock. I moved away from iStock exclusivity 6 months ago as I explained in this post Why I Dropped iStock Exclusivity. Since then I have primarily been building the Melbourne Stock Photos content. I’ve also been submitting my generic content to iStock and Shutterstock and that leads to this iStock Shutterstock Comparison.

Melbourne tourism

My Melbourne content is being uploaded to Melbourne Stock Photos

iStock Shutterstock Comparison 1 – Ease of Upload

I upload to iStock through qHero, and to Shutterstock through the Shutterstock contributor website. Both are intuitive, well designed processes which are straightforward to use. I like the keywording tools that both provide, and overall they are both easy to use. Well done iStock and Shutterstock. For me, one is not better than the other, they are just slightly different.

iStock Shutterstock Comparison 2 – Review Times

Ok. Review times is where we start to see a signficant difference. This week I uploaded the exact same content to both sites. (I find it interesting to see how the same content performs on the respective sites).

Keep in mind this is not an exhaustive, well researched comparison. This is just what I experienced this week. So what has happened? Shutterstock have reviewed my content within 4 hours for each of my uploads this week. iStock has been variable. The fastest has been 3 days, and the longest is still waiting to be reviewed after 5 days.

While it’s not likely to have a significant bearing on the long terms performance of those files, it is nice to see work being reviewed promptly. Well done Shutterstock.

iStock Shutterstock Comparison 3 – Getting New Content Live

Comparison point 3 leads on from point 2. Reviewing files promptly is important, but getting them live on the database and making sales is what really counts.

This is an area where Shutterstock seem to excel. Last night I had 4 files reviewed within 2 hours, and a sale made 1 hour later. I was surprised, as the content was not ‘news worthy’ but just solid stock material. This is not the first time this has happened, and Shutterstock appear to be excellent at getting new content in front of buyers. Well done Shutterstock.

Woman on horse

I am uploading my generic stock images to both iStock and Shutterstock

iStock Shutterstock Comparison 4 – Minimum Download Royalties

Today I received my monthly sales report from iStock. It was reasonably depressing reading with a minimum royalty received of USD$0.14. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so down beat, as I’ve received royalties as low as $0.06 in recent months from iStock.

At Shutterstock my minimum royalty per download comes from their subscription program and sits at USD$0.33 This is still a very low amount and I am going to have to have a lot of downloads to make any meaningful returns, but it is a long way ahead of what I am receiving from iStock.

Well done again Shutterstock. (If this post makes it through to Shutterstock head quarters – how about raising that minimum amount? Not just once, but year after year. Photographers would love you for it. You heard it here, you heard if first from one bloke down at the bottom of the world in Melbourne, Australia!)

iStock Shutterstock Comparison 5 – Sales Reporting

If you are a current iStock contributor you’ll have been seeing little progress with iStock’s sales reporting. Today I received my monthly sales report in text file format. Thankfully I can now upload the file to qHero to turn the data into something more meaningful. Unfortunately that ‘something more meaningful’ highlights to me the issues iStock have in getting new material in front of buyers. My old content continues to sell well, while my content from the last 12 months leaves me scratching my head and wondering if I will ever recoup the money invested in those shoots.

Shutterstock on the other hand have excellent reporting.

When a sale is made I receive notification on my smart phone. This shows me which file was sold, how much the royalty will be, and the current balance which Shutterstock are due to pay me. Excellent and immediate reporting. Well done Shutterstock.

It’s been very interesting for me to experience the Shutterstock process after nearly 8 years as an iStock exclusive contributor. The ultimate comparison will be which site has stronger sales and highest total royalty income. When I compare the tools available to contributors and my experience this week, Shutterstock is shining.

Thanks for reading iStock Shutterstock Comparison. Happy shooting!

4 Tips to Maximize Your Next Stock Photo Shoot

I have spend a good part of this month shooting, editing, and uploading to my stock photo portfolio. This included a shoot at a farm with a young woman and her horses. Experience has taught me that an authentic location like this would provide great opportunity to shoot strong images. It was a fun shoot and I’m pleased with the images. Based on that experience, here are 4 tips to maximize your next stock photo shoot.

Horse and woman

Different wardrobe helps create variety in images

Tip 1 – Have Your Model Change Wardrobe Mid Shoot

In this shoot, the model was well organised and prepared. We planned to shoot farm style images with her wearing casual clothes, and equestrian images with her wearing her usual competing outfit. Bringing the clothes and getting changed was easy for this shoot as it was held at her home. If you look at the images in this post, the lesson here is having your model bring a change of clothes can help you to produce a broader range of images. Of course, a broader range of images helps to produce more stock photo sales.

Horse barn

Different colored horses helped produce different looking images

Tip 2 – Changing Your Props Generates Variety

For this shoot, I considered the horses to be props. I hope that doesn’t offend horse and equestrian lovers!

The model had informed me in advance that she had two horses which she would be happy to have in the shoot. Fortunately the horses look quite different – one was a chestnut brown and the other a palomino. We shot with both horses, together and separately, near the barn. When we went to riding images, we used the horse the model was most comfortable riding and jumping.

You can make much more subtle changes to props which will help generate variety in your images. If your model has long hair, you can shoot with the hair down or tied up. If it is a sunny day, shoot with and without sunglasses. You get the idea. Tip 2 of our 4 tips to maximize your next stock photo shoot is to change your props throughout the shoot.

Equestrian

Shooting against a plain background produces a very flexible image which could be anywhere in the world

Tip 3 – Shoot Both Vertical and Horizontal Orientation

On Beyond Here I generally use horizontal orientation images as they look best on the blog. But don’t think I only shoot horizontal images.

Our goal in stock photography is to shoot images which will be downloaded and used by our customers. And our customers need choice between vertical and horizontal orientation images.

When I shoot vertical orientation I think about magazine covers. Nearly all magazines are in vertical orientation. They also need space at the top of the image to add the magazine name and edition details.

When I shoot horizontal orientation I think of web sites and how the images might be used online.

Tip 3, remember to shoot both vertical and horizontal orientation.

Show Jumping

The different locations shown in these images demonstrate how location can help produce different images

Tip 4 – Change Location

By changing location, we change the background of our images.

In this shoot we used:

  1. the barn area
  2. the holding pens
  3. a paddock with cross country jumps
  4. a show jumping area

These locations were all within 10 minutes walk and enabled us to create different images in each location. To maximize your next stock photo shoot consider which locations you will use, and plan for what type of image you will create at each location.

Thanks for reading 4 Tips to Maximize Your Next Stock Photo Shoot. Happy shooting!