Thoughts from Photographing A Major Gymnastics Competition

Last week I was photographing a major gymnastics competition, the Gymnastics World Cup competition held in Melbourne, Australia. I’ve shot a fair amount of gymnastics in the last year – from recreational gymnasts through to some of the world’s best. Here are 5 thoughts from photographing a major gymnastics competition.

Thought #1 – Subject Matter Matters

Photographing a World Cup event is very different than shooting recreational gymnasts at the local club. The strength, flexibility, and balance of the top gymnasts is quite amazing and leads to unique images that can’t be produced with less capable athletes. So, thought number one from photographing a major gymnastics competition is that subject matter matters. If you want to shoot really unique images, it helps to start with subjects who can do unique things.


Gymnast doing back flip on beam
To produce unique images it helps to start with subjects who can do unique things

Thought #2 – Be Different

In the women’s beam competition there were 9 photographers located to the right and back of the image above. They were literally on top of each other shooting the same subject from the same angle (I took a photo of them to amuse myself). While there is an argument that there is a “best position” to photograph each apparatus, be brave enough to be different. I stood on the opposite side of the floor. It meant I didn’t have a great shot of the women’s beam competition, but I was the only photographer shooting the men’s vault. Vault is difficult to shoot so many photographers decided not to. I like the opportunity to shoot unique images. Be brave. Be different.

Men's vault competition. Gymnastics.
I know the images I shot of the men’s vault competition are unique as I was shooting all alone. All the other photographers were together shooting women’s beam

Thought #3 – Look for Bold Colors

Gymnasts wear unique clothing for their competitions. They range from simple all black or all white, through to multi colored and patterned designs. Looks for bold colors to help create strong images. Particularly look for reds and blues. Bold colors will help your images stand out.

Male gymnast doing rings
Bold colors (especially reds and blues) will help your images stand out

Thought #4 Shoot a Range of Apparatus

At some gymnastics events there are multiple apparatus going at one time. In that case you have to choose which one to shoot, or get lucky and find a position where you can shoot multiple apparatus from one location. At this event, there were only 2 apparatus operating at one time. That made it easy to make sure you created variety in your images by shooting different activity. It reminded me to shoot a range of apparatus so your images don’t all look the same. That’s thought number 4 from photographing a major gymnastics competition.

If you stay on one location your images will look similar. Move to different locations and shoot different apparatus

Thought #5 Interesting Images Aren’t Only of Competitors

At a big sporting event there are lots of people and lots of activity. There are many compelling images waiting to be made from people other than competitors. Keep an eye out for judges, coaches, spectators, and other people involved in the event but not directly competing. Shooting these images well will guarantee you produce unique content.

Keep an eye on judges, coaches, spectators and other people to produce unique images

If you’d like more tips on shooting gymnastics please see:

Thanks for reading Thoughts From Photographing a Major Gymnastics Competition.

5 More Things to Like About Zenfolio

Earlier this month I wrote a post about the positive things I’ve experienced since moving my website to Zenfolio. This solution delivers full transaction capability through my website. If you wish to read that post it is here – 5 Best Things About My Zenfolio Website Solution. Since then several readers have contacted me with questions. While there are some things I don’t like about Zenfolio, the majority work well for me. So here are 5 more things to like about Zenfolio.

1. Excellent Sales Reporting

In rough numbers three quarters of my sales so far have been digital images, and one quarter has been print products. The reporting provided by Zenfolio is excellent and updates immediately a sale occurs. In addition, I am notified by email when (a) a new customer registers (b) a customer makes a purchase and (c) when the customer downloads their images. As a result of the excellent reporting it is very easy to calculate the profitability for each event. Good job Zenfolio! (For frustrated iStock contributors, Zenfolio is light years ahead of iStock in delivering timely reporting which helps photographers run their business).

Zenfolio’s transaction capability is helping me sell a high volume of sports images

2. Timely Funds Transfer via Paypal

My customers pay for their purchases with credit card or paypal and Zenfolio tracks the balance in my account. When I wish to withdraw funds this is done by paypal. To date, the transfer has been very timely – as quickly as the next day and as slow as 3 days. I am impressed with how quickly the transfer occurs and appreciate that I can request a transfer at any time.

3. Support from Zenfolio

There have been several instances when I have had questions about Zenfolio. I have found there is a very comprehensive only database which has nearly always answered my question. Outside of that, there is both web chat and email support. In all cases the responses times have been good, and generally the quality of support has been good. I appreciate that which is why it makes the list of 5 more things to like about Zenfolio.

While not everything has been perfect, there are plenty of reasons to smile using the Zenfolio solution

4. Adding Custom Watermarks is Easy

I display images with a large watermark across the centre (the watermark is removed when a customer purchases). Setting up and adding the watermark is straightforward, and can be done with one action to apply to the entire gallery. This is great as I don’t need to remember to do it for each image, I just do it once for the gallery. Nice.

5. Zenfolio Look After the Financial Transaction

By this I mean that the Zenfolio solution comes with the transaction functionality to accept credit card or paypal. In one of my other businesses I found setting up the transaction capability with the bank to be a slow and drawn out process. I like that Zenfolio look after this.

So there are 5 more things to like about Zenfolio. There are other solutions available, but I suggest checking out whether Zenfolio will meet your needs.

5 Best Things About My Zenfolio Website Solution

When I began my photography business in 2008 I set up a simple website to display my images and advertise my services. Apart from changing the images from time to time, I had not got around to updating my website until recently. 6 months ago I made the switch and am now using Zenfolio as my website solution. (To check it out head over to Craig Dingle Photography). I like many of the features which Zenfolio provides. Here are the 5 best things about my Zenfolio website solution.

1. Simple Templates

I’m not an expert on the technical side of websites, so I need a solution which keeps things easy. Zenfolio is in the business of providing websites for photographers and they have really kept things simple. There are a series of templates to choose from. From there it is just a matter of adding your images and you have a professional looking website. This is the first of the 5 best things about my Zenfolio website solution.

If you are not sure, Zenfolio offers a 14 day free trial. Check it out and experiment with the templates to see if they meet your needs.

junior basketball
The Zenfolio solution has made it easy to sell high volume digital images directly from my website

2. Password Protected Galleries

I shoot a lot of junior sports so it is important to me to have password protected galleries. Zenfolio makes this straight forward with simple settings for each gallery. I set up the gallery, add my watermark, make the settings private, add a password, and upload the files. It is a very easy and effective system for password protected galleries and takes just a few minutes.

3. Selling Images Online is Simple

While I have listed this as point 3 in the 5 best things about my Zenfolio website solution – it is the one which makes all the difference. Regular readers of Beyond Here will know that my background is in stock photography. Based on that experience I know the power of selling and distributing images digitally. Zenfolio has given me the ability to sell directly from my own website in much the same way that stock photography sites do.

(For more information about stock photography please see Starting in Stock Photography).

female gymnast
I’m glad I made the leap to Zenfolio. It’s made a huge difference in digital sales of my sports images.

4. Partner Providers Make Print Products Easy

Within the Zenfolio solution is the ability to sell prints (and other products). This can be done through partner providers which Zenfolio puts in place, or with your own providers. When I use this feature I’m doing high volumes in a short time frame. So far, I’ve used the partner providers and found this an easy way to fulfill print sales.

It is a great, low touch solution. My customer places their order and makes payment. I receive notification during this process but don’t need to take any action. The print order is automatically sent to the partner provider, who print and ship direct to the customer. I have full visibility of the process, without having to intervene in the customer order. Nice.

5. I Set My Own Prices

Now that I’m using a Zenfolio solution for my website, setting up price lists and establish my own prices is a simple process. Making changes to prices is also straight forward and takes just a few minutes.

Conclusions

I find Zenfolio very easy to use. I’ve quickly made the leap from having a very old fashioned website only displaying images, to one with fully integrated purchase capability. If you are considering selling images from your website, check out Zenfolio as a possible solution.

Thank you

Thanks for reading 5 best things about my Zenfolio website solution. Best wishes.

What to Do in Quiet Times for Your Photography Business

Every photography business has periods when things are quiet, and most have times when they are crazy busy. This month is a quiet time for my business. Most sports are having a break over the Christmas / New Year period, and it will be another few weeks until I am really busy again. Here are 9 suggestions for what to do in quiet times for your photography business.

Suggestion 1 – Get Away for a Break

Everyone needs a break from their business from time to time. Physically getting away is a great way to refresh mentally and physically. I’ve just spent a week away near Geelong in Victoria, Australia and have come back refreshed and ready to tackle the new year.

You don’t have to fly, but getting away for a break is a great way to refresh physically and mentally

Suggestion 2 – Learn a New Skill

When your business is quiet is the ideal time to invest in yourself. Photography is a big field, and no-one knows it all. I’ve been working on simple editing skills while my business is quiet. Last month one of my client’s wanted a collage print. I’ve been working on adding borders to images in Lightroom so that they look great as part of collages. It’s very simple stuff, but often it is hard to spend the time when you are busy. Take advantage of quiet times to learn a new skill.

Suggestion 3 – Shoot Personal Projects

I don’t know about you, but when I am busy I have very little time (or inclination!) to shoot personal projects. What to do in quiet times for your photography business? Obviously, tackle some personal projects. I enjoy wildlife photography, and have set aside time to shoot wildlife images in the next 3 weeks.

Quiet times for your business are ideal for personal projects. I’ll be creating wildlife images in the next few weeks.

Suggestion 4 – Make Your Quiet Time a Health Break

When I’m really busy I struggle to make time to exercise and eat well. It makes complete sense to use that extra time while business is quiet to get some exercise. This month I’ve been playing tennis with my son and walking the dog a lot more!

Suggestion 5 – Review Your Business

Quiet times are the ideal time to review how your business is going and to set goals for the year ahead. Last year was a very good one for my business. I’ve shot fewer weddings, and a lot more sports which was the plan. While I’m pleased with the year that’s gone, I’m focusing on making sure I’m producing more printed products for my clients next year. They are really the thing that keeps the memories alive – and I’ll be aiming to produce a lot more albums, canvas prints, and standard prints.

I’m planning to produce a lot more albums, canvas prints, and standard prints next year

Suggestion 6 – Get Your Gear Serviced

When times are really busy I’m reluctant to get my camera bodies and lenses serviced as I don’t want to be without them. Quiet times are the ideal opportunity to have this done when you are not likely to need them for a short notice job.

This year I’ve bought no new gear – so it is very important that my existing equipment is serviced and ready to produce high quality images. Get that equipment serviced while things are quiet.

Suggestion 7 – Organise then Clear Out Digital Files

I pride myself on being well organised and having digital files well organised and easy to access. Quiet times are ideal for making sure those files are well organised. It is also the time that I check my back ups are all in place, and then I move the images to external drives.

While I do this activity all year round, quiet times are ideal to make sure my digital files are organised and backed up, and my main working computer has capacity for the year ahead.

Suggestion 8 – Explore Your City or Town

How often do you get to explore your home town when things are busy? For me, it’s almost never as I seem to be finding my way through traffic and looking for a parking space! Quiet times are ideal for exploring your home town. Find an interesting subject to photograph. Find a new area. Shoot like only a local can shoot. Explore your home town when things are quiet.

Get out and about and explore your home town when things are quiet

Suggestion 9 – Write Your Blog!

Blog post ideas don’t always flow easily for me! Do they for you? Either way quiet times are great times to write or to put together a content plan for the year ahead. When things are quiet, dedicate some time to your blog.

Thanks for taking the time to read What to Do in Quiet Times for Your Photography Business. Wishing you a successful year ahead.

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.

Photographing 1000 Junior Basketball Players

Last month we photographed the Southern Peninsula Junior Basketball Tournament. It is an annual tournament held in November just before the start of the rep basketball season. This year the tournament featured 440 teams and was held at 14 stadiums and 34 courts around the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria. Those numbers speak for themselves – it is a very popular tournament with over 4000 players participating.

What were we photographing?

This year we photographed the under 12 division. We were shooting action portraits as the players competed. (Ironically the photo below is from the one under 14 game we photographed!)

basketball

Low light and fast action was a challenge

My understanding is that this is the first time the tournament has partnered with a professional photography business. The under 12’s featured 107 teams and over 1000 players. It was quite a challenge photographing 1000 junior basketball players.

How did we manage that?

We had 6 photographers across multiple venues on the Saturday and Sunday of the tournament. We aimed to shoot each team at least once, and photographed 70 games over the 2 days. That resulted in close to 10,000 action portraits featuring everything from young players new to representative basketball, through to some of the best under 12 players in the state.

Behind that was a lot of planning and scheduling about which photographers needs to be at what location shooting which game. I won’t sugar coat this – the planning was a very significant logistical challenge.

How was the lighting in the stadiums?

Tournament play was on 34 courts in 14 different stadiums. Some stadiums are new and well lit while, on the other hand, others are 30+ years old with no natural light.

We were aiming to shoot at 1/1000s to freeze the action. To achieve that we were shooting at high ISO – up to ISO8000 in one very dark stadium. It is amazing that today’s modern cameras can shoot fast moving action in this environment.

The wrap up

It was fun to see the kids in action, and a thrill to see them excited about the photos. Prints and digital downloads are available to order through password protected online galleries. The galleries are open for another 2 weeks and already it is a nice surprise to see how how popular prints are. I’ll save more of that for another Beyond Here post. Hooray for prints!

It was great to work with a strong team of photographers and reassures me that we can tackle bigger sporting events in the new year.

Thanks for reading ‘Photographing 1000 Junior Basketball Players’.

Suggestions When Applying for Photography Work

Later this month I will be shooting a large junior basketball tournament. It’s run over a weekend and is very popular tournament. The dates are the  week before the representative basketball season starts making it an ideal preparation for the season ahead. I’ve been looking for several photographers to help across one or both days. This hasn’t been a smooth process! So, for all the photographers out there, here are some suggestions when applying for photography work.

Be Clear on Dates and Availability

I posted a job ad on Starnow outlining that I am looking for sports photographers. It clearly outlines the dates of the job, yet I have had some photographers apply without being available for the specific dates. It isn’t much good applying for a job when you are not available. Check dates and availability before you apply to avoid wasting time.

job

Respond to the Specific Requirements of the Job

For this shoot, photographers will need to provide their own equipment. I want to know that the photographers are using camera bodies and lenses which can produce good quality images in indoor stadiums. To all the applicants credit, they have all outlined the equipment they will use. That has reassured me they are using equipment which has the capacity to produce the quality needed.

Be Ready for Photography Job Opportunities

This job is photographing players under the age of 18. For that reason I’ve advised that photographers will need to have a current Victorian Working with Children Card. I’m really surprised that some photographers don’t have one, and yet still apply for the role. I’ve responded to them immediately advising that they can’t be considered for the role without one.

I also ask that photographers have their own public liability insurance. If something goes wrong they won’t be covered by my insurance. Again, there are people applying for the role without insurance. You will struggle to convince me that you are a professional photographer operating a business without insurance.

If you want to get regular photography work, have the basics in place – insurance and working with children permits are important. Having them will open up many more opportunities for you. Go ahead and get them in place.

Provide Links to Previous Work

Several of the applicants would like to get into sports photography or have done a small amount of similar work. That’s not what I’m after for this job. I need people who I know can do the job, because they have done it plenty of times before. If you want to immediately establish your credibility, and reassure the job poster that you can do the job, provide a link to an online portfolio of related work.

basketball

If you have relevant experience be sure to mention it in your application

Respond Promptly

With a job which is two weeks away, it’s in everyone’s interest to communicate quickly and clearly. If an applicant doesn’t respond for several days, I will assume they are not very interested in the job. On the other hand, if they respond very promptly and make themselves available for a face to face meeting in the near term, that demonstrates a level of commitment and a willingness to take on the work. Respond promptly. It will impress the job poster and make organizing the job easier.

Respond Professionally

At this event, the photographers will be representing themselves and also my business. I want to know they will treat the players, officials, and spectators appropriately. That will include displaying a high level of professionalism. It won’t help your credibility if your communication is unprofessional from the outset, so take the time to make sure all of your communication is professional.

Outline Relevant Background

There are not a lot of photographers out there who have shot lots of junior basketball. That said, it is worthwhile outlining other relevant background. For this type of job, if you have photographed other fast moving indoor sports that is worth mentioning. If you have played and watched a lot of basketball, that is worth mentioning too. Both elements would increase my level of confidence that the photographer can do the job with minimal supervision.

Thanks for reading Suggestions When Applying for Photography Work. I hope it is helpful to you. If you happen to be in Melbourne, Australia and would like to shoot some basketball later this month, please make contact!

 

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.

One More Photography Business Contingency to Plan For

Running a photography business I find myself planning for all sorts of contingencies. What will I do if a camera body fails? If there is a problem with a lens? What if my second shooter doesn’t turn up? What would I do if my computer hard drive fails? Or if my customer doesn’t pay? This week I’ve found one more photography business contingency to plan for.

Couple St Kilda

I wouldn’t be able to do an outdoor lifestyle shoot today given the state of my back

What Happened?

Yesterday afternoon I went for a run. It was a nice sunny day and I enjoyed the break in the middle of the day getting some exercise. When I got home I do what I normally do after a run – absolutely no stretching, a glass of water, and resting on the couch. When I went to get up suddenly, my back didn’t like it at all.

Where I’m At?

So today I’m immobile, but feeling grateful that I haven’t got any jobs in the next few days which can’t be rescheduled. I am pleased that I don’t have a wedding to photograph this weekend. If I did I would be in trouble. So I’ve been lying around the house today, doing whatever jobs don’t take much physical effort and thinking about one more photography business contingency to plan for.

Contingency Planning?

Have you planned for this type of contingency? I generally enjoy good health and so haven’t done much planning for a scenario when I might be out of action. If I have a big shoot when I have the flu, I generally fill myself with cold and flu medicine and carry on with the shoot. Perhaps through good fortune I haven’t yet had a scenario where I physically couldn’t do a shoot I had committed to.

stretching

I’m going to do a lot more stretching in the future, but nothing quite like this

Today has been helpful in prompting me to think about what I will do if I have a shoot which wouldn’t be possible to move. It may be a Friday night basketball game? It might be a weekend wedding? Or it may be like the shoot I did last weekend, where we shot family portraits as the grand parents were visiting from overseas. In these scenarios I would need to find another person to tackle the job at the agreed time, as there is no way to reschedule.

First Choice

So what am I thinking about? First, I am fortunate that I have several second shooters and other photographers I know who could step in for me at very short notice. That would be my first choice.

Second Choice

My second choice would be photographers I’ve worked with before but don’t know so well, or haven’t been in touch with for some time. This is less than ideal, however, I will try all options so my client gets looked after.

If I Am Struggling to Find Someone

My third choice would be to call on my professional membership colleagues. I am an Accredited Professional Photographer through the Australian Institute of Professional Photography. It has a very active (and very helpful!) Facebook group of AIPP members. If I am really stuck I will ask for help in that group. I will outline details of the job to find someone willing to help at short notice.

exercise

Sports will not be possible for me for at least the next few days while my sore back recovers

Can My Experience Help You?

Have you planned for contingencies in your business? Considered what you would do if you were physically unable to do a job? Has this scenario happen to you? I hope my back gets better soon because I’ve got a commitment I can’t break in the middle of next week. In the meantime I’m trying to strengthen my business by considering one more photography business contingency to plan for. Thanks for reading. Happy shooting, and good health to you! I might do some stretching exercises more regularly in the future!

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.