Tag Archives: iStockphoto

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!

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.

Encourage

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.

Puzzle

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.

 

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.

help

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.
Woman

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!

service

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!

 

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

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?

5 Stock Photography Predictions for 2018

As 2017 draws to a close I have been giving thought to what the new year will bring in the fast changing world of stock photography. Stock photography makes up a considerable portion of my business, and it’s a part of the industry which has changed significantly in the last 5 years. It’s now possible to shoot stock images on your phone and upload them to your image library immediately. There’s options to shoot news worthy current events and upload them while the event is still happening. And there’s the inevitable decline of studio shots on a plain white background (thank goodness!). I’ve wrapped up my thoughts into 5 Stock Photography Predictions for 2018 and outlined what we, as photographers, can do to make the most of these trends.

Prediction #1. The Major Image Libraries are going to Continue to Compete on Scale and Price.

When I say the major image libraries, I’m referring to the big microstock players like iStockphoto, Shutterstock, Dreamstime and Adobe. Their business models are built around offering a huge number of files in one place.

SelfieFor customers, this can be good as they can get all of their image needs in one place. For photographers, it can be very difficult to make your images show up in this vast sea of high volume and low quality images.

Photographers who want to compete using the major microstock libraries to distribute their images will need to keep production costs low and volumes very high. (That sounds like a path to hard work and limited creativity to me).

Prediction #2. Subscription Programs are Going to Continue to Drive Prices Down.

Subscriptions have major benefits for image libraries. With the customer paying the same amount per month, the image library can accurately predict their income in future months. And of course if the customer doesn’t use all of their subscription for the month, most libraries are keeping the customers money and not having to pay a royalty to photographers for that month. That can make it a profitable business for the image libraries.

Subscriptions are very attractive to image libraries and they compete aggressively, particularly to win large clients. Unfortunately subscriptions have also driven down the royalty received per download by photographers.

For the photographer to do well financially in this model – again they will need to keep production costs down and volumes very high. Urrrggghhh.

Prediction #3. Customers are Going to Demand a Better Solution

Predictions #1 and #2 are an extension of the current trends in the stock photography market. It is leading to an influx of ‘low production value’ images. And that influx is in high volumes. Photographers are adding more images in the hope of making up for the reduced royalty per download.

santa hat

Customers are no longer looking for generic images

So where’s this all heading? It is making it harder and harder for customers to find the type of image they need in a short time period. They are getting frustrated with the amount of time it takes to find the image to meet their needs. It’s only going to get worse as the large libraries pass 15 million, then 20 million, then 25 million files.

I’m predicting we will see continued frustration for customers, leading to them looking for alternative solutions.

Prediction #4. There Will be Growing Demand for Authentic Stock Images

What do I mean by ‘authentic stock images’? Several years ago there was a time when a ‘generic’ stock image was enough for a buyer. A generic image would help tell their story. We are seeing those days rapidly pass, with much less demand for studio shots on a white background. What are we seeing instead? We are seeing demand for ‘real life’ settings and ‘real life’ people. We are talking about much less of ‘beautiful models in studios’ and much more ‘everyday people in everyday situations’. I recently heard a saying which sums up this trend – less perfection, more authenticity.

What can photographers do to capitalize on this? Shoot images which communicate ‘less perfection, more authenticity’ and you’ll see your downloads grow.

Prediction #5. The Rise of the Niche Image Library

Prediction #3 says customers are going to look for alternative solutions to their image buying needs. They no longer want to wade through thousands of images to find the one they need. And unfortunately, the major libraries have a lot invested in their current solutions. I predict we are going to see customers, in growing numbers, rejecting those solutions and looking elsewhere.

And where will that be? It will be with niche image libraries. Libraries which don’t offer every image type – but they do offer high quality, relevant images for their niche.

What type of niche am I talking about? It could be anything. It could be country specific. I have started uploading my own files to a library which specializes in Australian content – you can read more about my rationale for moving away from the microstock sites here. It could be industry specific (like tradespeople, or mining, or healthcare). It could be content specific (like wildlife photography).

And these libraries will charge higher prices than the large microstock players do.

Coffee shop

Less perfection, more authenticity. Real people in real situations.

How will niche libraries justify higher prices? By saving customers time in looking for the images they need. Customers will save time using multiple websites from niche libraries. They’d rather do that than spending hours wading through pages and pages of images with the large microstock players. And with higher prices come higher royalties for photographers. And with higher royalties comes more money to invest in shoots, which leads to greater creativity, which leads to better images.

Ultimately it will lead to niche libraries having unique and superior content to the big volume libraries.

How can photographers benefit from this prediction? I’m convinced that niche players and higher prices are the way forward. Photographers would do well to research who those niche libraries are and begin a relationship with them. If you shoot wildlife images, start looking at the niche wildlife libraries. If you shoot urban lifestyle images, look at niche libraries that specialize in this content. You get the idea.

As an aside – how might the major microstock players benefit from this trend? They could be the source of disruption to their own business! Rather than wait for a niche player to grow and get traction, the major players could start niche libraries themselves. Much like the major airlines launched ‘low-cost’ off shoots in the late 1980’s, the major image libraries have the expertise and resources to start the niche libraries themselves. (If you are a Getty Images executive reading this – remember you heard it here first! From one bloke down at the bottom of the world in Melbourne, Australia. Your choices are to watch others do this, or lead the change. Be bold. Disrupt your own business model).

2018 is going to be another challenging year in stock photography. Thanks for reading 5 Stock Photography Predictions for 2018. We’ll check back in 12 months and see how accurate they were! Happy shooting.

 

Why I Dropped iStock Exclusivity

This year has been one of big change at leading microstock site iStockphoto. I’ve written about that in many posts. On my recent holiday, as I planned for the future of my business, I had to rethink my position with iStock. That has lead me to cancelling my exclusive contributor status. Here is why I dropped iStock exclusivity.

It is never just one thing which leads to a decision like this. Here are the 5 reasons, starting with number 5 and building to number 1.

palace

Next year will bring a new dawn in the stock photo side of my business

Reason 5 – iStock does not provide photographers with up to date, easy to use statistics.

What am I talking about? I’m really talking about live sales data so that photographers can see what is selling at the time it sells. It is frustrating to wait until the monthly sales report to see what is popular with buyers. If sales were growing strongly and I had faith this would improve, then this alone is not a big deal. But I don’t have that faith and it’s annoying not to have live data.

Reason 4 – it is harder and harder to get images into the Signature+ collection.

Getting images into S+ allows them to be mirrored onto the Getty Images site. Being on GI means your images are available to more potential buyers. Earlier this year I had a lot of files accepted into S+. In recent months, with similar quality content I have had none accepted. It feels like Getty have changed the requirements without informing photographers. It’s hard to justify spending money on shoots when there is no guideline for acceptance into S+. Fewer files in S+ means lower royalty income.

Reason 3 – iStock is almost giving photographers work away.

In my most recent sales month I had 450 downloads of my images. That sounds ok on the surface. Dig a little deeper and we see that for 200 of those downloads I received less than US$1 per download. This is connected to the rise of subscriptions for buyers. I’m not against subscriptions and have actually written about why subs might be good – but when I received US$0.12 in royalty for a download last month that was the final straw. iStock and Getty need to rethink their approach to subs so that the image copyright owner (the photographer) might get some benefit. Currently all the benefit is with the client and the image library.

umbrellas

My personal outlook for iStock exclusive contributors remains gloomy

Reason 2 – new files are buried.

iStock recently introduced some enhanced reporting. I wrote about that in this post, iStock Contributor Statistics Progress. What the reporting does show me is that new files are not getting seen by buyers. It is very clear that the 1700+ new files I have added this year are not getting in front of buyers. iStock have recognized this by looking at issues around ‘search freshness’. This is ongoing. I’m not confident this will improve outcomes for new files as the collection is already so large. With little value coming from newer files, that makes it hard to invest in new shoots.

Reason 1 – the big one – monthly royalty income continues to fall.

Today I have over 10,300 files on iStock. In 2012, I had 4,000 files. Wonder how my royalty income compares? Today, my monthly royalty is roughly half what it was in 2012. Yes, with two and a half times more files, my royalty income is half. Income falling, new images not getting in front of buyers, and no useful stats to understand performance – I think you can see why I dropped iStock exclusivity.

So where does this leave iStock?

I don’t imagine my move to drop exclusivity will make any difference at iStock. But if my experience is replicated by others, eventually iStock will have less and less exclusive content. With less exclusive content they will only have 2 areas to compete on – price and website functionality. I expect price will be the main driver. That will be good for buyers and very bad for photographers. That’s a risky strategy for iStock and only time will tell whether they ‘win’ by selling the same content that is on other sites at low prices.

What else?

It is interesting to see other photographers making similar decisions. When I started contributing to iStock in 2008 one of my ‘heroes’ was Nicole Young. She had a great range and quality of images in her portfolio. This blog post she wrote back in 2014 sums up many of my own views – I just wish I’d come to the decision back in 2014 when she did! See Nicole’s post  Why I Canceled Exclusivity with iStock.

So, iStock contributors they are the reasons why I dropped iStock exclusivity. What is your experience? How does your monthly income compare to previous years?

 

iStock Contributor Statistics Progress

This year has been one of significant change for one of the leading microstock companies iStockphoto. Having been owned by Getty Images for several years, a lot of the functionality and backend processes have been integrated into Getty Images this year. You can read more about that in these posts – iStock Unification One Week Along and Five Months After iStock Unification. One item that had been outstanding was iStock contributor statistics. In this post I update the iStock contributor statistics progress.

iStock had recognized the need for improved contributor statistics and had committed to delivering something by the end of September 2017. After a very humorous countdown to the big date in the contributor forums, iStock did deliver shortly before the end of the month.

So, if you are an iStock contributor where do you find your contributor statistics?

Head over to ESP (this is the Getty Images contributor site. ESP stands for Enterprise Submission Platform) and log in. Then look for the “My Performance” area and click on the heading which reads “Content Statistics”. Right, now you are in.

Money

Better iStock contributor statistics should lead to better outcomes for photographers, customers, and iStock

What will you find?

Once you enter the Content Statistics area you will find 3 pieces of information for your files based on activity on iStock and Getty Images in the last 30 days. They are:

  1. Views. This is the number of times an asset has been viewed on the asset details page by a registered user.
  2. Interactions. This is the number of times an asset has been added to a board by a registered user.
  3. Countries. This is the number of times an asset has been viewed on the asset details page and added to a board from registered users in a specific country.

What Did I Find?

I have found that the statistics provided are interesting but not particularly useful.

Views tells me what are potential buyers looking at. I have over 10,000 images on iStock and was surprised to find that one photo has 3 times more views than any other individual file. It is an image which has been downloaded many times, and is one I shot 5 years ago. It’s nice to see it is standing the test of time, but disappointing that other files (particularly more recent work) are not receiving more views.

The interactions again is interesting, and I can make assumptions about files being added to a board to be considered and potentially downloaded in the future. That said, the number of files being added to boards is a tiny fraction of my total monthly downloads. That suggests buyers aren’t using boards extensively, and so perhaps it is not giving much insight at all to future downloads.

The countries section gives some insight into where buyers who are interested in your content are based. For my account the top 2 countries were Australia and the United States. I live in Australia, and a lot of my content is Australian, so I expected it to be the highest ranked country. The US is the world’s largest stock photo market and so I expected it to be the second largest. So I really didn’t learn anything new here.

anger

Unfortunately iStock contributor statistics continue to be a source of frustration for contributors

Conclusions

The updated iStock contributor statistics are disappointing and contributors reaction to them indicate I’m not the only one who feels this way. There was no real insight from the data which has been delivered, and no progress towards getting real time data on downloads. Unfortunately contributors still need to wait for their monthly reporting statistics to see what has actually been downloaded and how much royalty the photographer will receive.

Concerns

For my portfolio the statistics have provided confirmation for me that recently uploaded files are not receiving many views. This makes it difficult to justify investment in higher production shoots if the files are not being seen. iStock have recognized this by communicating with contributors that ‘search freshness’ is an issue and they are putting in place some ‘test and learn’ activity to see if it can be improved.

Take out

My personal take out is that Getty and iStock are not really taking contributor statistics seriously. They have delivered something, but it doesn’t enable me as a contributor to get more insight and to be able to turn that into shoots which have greater sales potential.

For long time iStock contributors like me, we can remember when there was real time download and royalty reporting. One contributor summed it up beautifully in a Facebook group post where he said “We used to have real time stats. Everyone loved it. It had to go …”

How are the iStock contributor statistics working for you?

 

4 Lessons from this Month’s Stock Photo Sales

I have written extensively about stock photography for Beyond Here, and it continues to be a core part of my photography business. I shoot a lot and often have several stock photo series on the go at once. As a contributor to iStockphoto sales are reported once a month (around the 20th of each month) and payment is also made once per month (by the 25th). We are now near the end of August 2017 and so I’ve just received sales reports and payment for July 2017. July is often a fairly weak month (read this post on What is the Summer Slowdown in Stock Photography) but this year July has been my second best month of the year. Why would that be? I’ve done some analysis and here are 4 lessons from this month’s stock photo sales.

Let’s look at the analysis first.

graph

51% of my iStock sales generated a royalty of less than USD $1 each

For the month of July you can see that I had a lot of downloads where the royalty I received was very small. For just over half of my downloads (51% to be precise) the royalty I received for the client licencing my image was less than USD $1. It’s scary how little the photographer makes from these downloads. For 30% of my downloads I received between USD $1 and $5. For 10% of the downloads I received a royalty of USD $5 – $20, for 4 downloads I received a royalty between USD $20 and $100, and for 2 downloads I received a royalty of more than USD $100.

graph

Royalty income of between $5 and $20 per download generated one third of total royalties

When we turn that into total revenue you can see that the 51% of downloads which generate a royalty of less than $1 combine to add up to just 6% of my total royalty income for the month. And at the other end of the spectrum, 2 large sales account for more than 10%.

When we combine these, you get the picture below.

graph

Royalties of over $5 represented 13% of total downloads, but 70% of total royalties

So what does this all mean? And what are the 4 lessons from this month’s stock photo sales?

Lesson 1 – Expect volatility in your monthly stock photo income.

A few large sales had a significant impact on my royalty income for the month. Without those larger sales July would have been very mediocre. Unfortunately those larger sales don’t happen every month, and so there is going to be a lot of volatility in monthly royalty income. The larger and more diverse your portfolio is, the less volatility you will have. And a smaller portfolio with a narrower range of content is likely to have much higher volatility.

I have more than 10,000 images in my portfolio and still experience a lot of volatility.

Lesson 2 – Higher value sales do still happen

My highest royalty from an individual sale this month was USD $114. That is a good royalty from the sale of just one file. I’d prefer if these types of royalties occurred more often but it is nice to know they still happen.

Lesson 3 – Larger sales happen in unique collections

My larger sales this month all happened through the Getty Images website rather than the iStockphoto site or partner program sites. To get images onto the Getty website I upload through iStockphoto and nominate them into the Signature+ collection. If they are approved in the Signature+ collection they are automatically mirrored onto the Getty website. So getting more images into Signature+ is important for generating higher value sales.

Lesson 4 – There’s no money to be made at the low price, high volume end of the market

51% of my total sales this month generated very little income. Most of those sales were of very generic imagery where there is high demand but also high supply. While it’s nice to have your work downloaded, my experience is that there is no money to be made in low price, high volume generic images. I’m going to continue to focus on unique imagery and leave this end of the market to others.

It was nice to have a strong royalty income month in July. I hope the 4 lessons from this month’s stock photo sales are helpful in your own stock photography journey. Keep shooting!