Category Archives: Craig’s Comments

Comments from Craig

Shooting Stock Images During the Coronavirus Shutdown

It is very challenging times right around the world as we deal with the coronavirus. Here in Australia the government is encouraging people to stay at home and only go out when absolutely necessary. I recently wrote a post called Coronavirus Realities for this Photographer. Today, it’s shooting stock images during the coronavirus shutdown.

Background

We had a small amount of advance notice that there will be restrictions in daily life as the world tries to ‘flatten the curve’ in growth of coronavirus cases. During this small window I was able to do one outdoor coronavirus themed stock photo shoot. I also made a visit to the craft shop to stock up on supplies which I could use in stock photo concepts.


Shooting stock images in the coronavirus shutdown. I was able to do one outdoor themed shoot recently.

Early Feedback

There are currently a lot of coronavirus themed images being added to microstock sites. To date, I have been concentrating on local themed images like the one above. Why? Firstly, because it is relatively easy for me to shoot this style of image, and secondly there is very little competition. Encouragingly, there have been immediate sales on each of the microstock sites where I submit images.

From Here?

Now, with daily movement restrictions increasing, I’m not expecting to be able to do outdoor shoots in the near future. The increasing requirements around ‘social distancing’ are going to make this impossible in the short term. So where will I focus? I built a small home studio several years ago and am planning to shoot a series of simple stock images there.

There is strong demand for coronavirus themed stock images right now

What Can You Shoot?

Right now is a unique time to be able to shoot specifically themed images. The whole world is reporting on the virus, and there is high demand for relevant images.

You don’t need a studio to shoot coronavirus themed stock images. With the large push to stay at home, work from home, social distancing, and ‘flattening the curve’ there is real opportunity to use your own home surrounds to shoot relevant images.

Final Thoughts

In a world turned upside down I am grateful for the small amount of revenue coming in through stock photography. All my booked jobs for the next 2 months have cancelled, with no current time line for when normal activities might resume. In the meantime I’ll be staying home, keeping safe, and doing what I can with stock imagery.

Social Distancing is a theme to consider for your stock photo shoots

Thanks for reading Shooting Stock Images During the Coronavirus Shutdown. Good luck!

Coronavirus Realities for this Photographer

Wow, we are living in interesting times! Right now many events and activities around the world are facing cancellation or suspension as we try to halt the spread of coronavirus. This is already having a major impact on all industries and is clearly impacting photographers. In my business, all my jobs for the next 2 months have been cancelled or are likely to be cancelled. Here are the coronavirus realities for this photographer.

Coronavirus is having a major health and business impact around the world

Immediate Impacts

The response from health officials and governments has been significant this week. Here in Australia, gatherings of over 500 people are being discouraged. This is causing the cancellation or postponement of major events. As the majority of my work is in sports, the cancellation of many sports has meant my pipeline of jobs for the next 2 months has disappeared.

How Long Will this Last?

I wish I knew! With 2 weeks left in the local school term followed by Easter holidays I can’t see any change being likely until at least the end of April. I really don’t know what to expect from there. I am now planning for an extended period without major sporting events.

What to do in the Meantime?

The cancellation of sports events will have a significant impact to my business. To keep busy I am planning to shoot stock images and upload them to my online portfolios. My income from stock is well below what it has been in previous years but it is steady and comes in every month. Unfortunately I don’t know how long this challenge is going to last, but for the next few weeks I plan on creating stock images relevant to the current health crisis.

What will that look like?

I am conscious of helping to reduce the spread of coronavirus by limiting social interaction. For me that will mean shooting stock images in my home studio. I can see I’ll need a break from that at some point (!) and plan to visit wildlife areas close to home.

Do you have an action plan in place to get through the next few months? These are the coronavirus realities for this photographer. What are they for you?

Helpful Resources

If you’d like to look into stock photography please check out

Lessons from Pricing this Photography Job all Wrong

Last month I was asked by another photographer to assist on a shoot. I like helping other photographers and appreciate the opportunity to expand my contacts in the industry, and to learn from the way they shoot. The shoot was great, but I badly misjudged the pricing. Here are my lessons from pricing this photography job all wrong.

What was the job?

The photographer was looking for assistance on a shoot for his sports wear client. The client is a large international sporting brand pushing hard in the Australian market. The photographer has worked with this client on several shoots, most of which he has done on his own. For this shoot he was looking for someone to assist on action shots.

money

What Happened

The intention was for the main photographer to lead on both studio stills and video, and for me to be an extra pair of hands to assist and to shoot action images. Straightforward – or so I thought!

When the shoot got underway the client had very specific requirements for the video component. That meant shooting video in a different part of the stadium away from the studio area and the court we used for action images. Can you see what’s coming? Yes, instead of playing a support role, I am now leading all studio and action photography while the ‘main photographer’ is elsewhere shooting video. (Note, I’m not blaming the main photographer. He did a great job meeting the client’s needs, and is clearly talented with both photography and videography.)

It was a terrific, enjoyable shoot and the images are currently being used by the client in a national campaign. Great. The drawback – I hadn’t priced this job in a way which reflected doing the majority of the photography on a major national campaign. So here they come! The lessons from pricing this photography job all wrong.

Lesson 1 – Be Clear on the Brief

I should have been clearer on making sure I understood the brief and based my pricing on delivering those services. That would have given me room to renegotiate the price given I delivered a very different set of services.

The job was a success, but mis pricing any job is not a “slam dunk” towards financial success

Lesson 2 – Put the Quote in Writing

I had assumed this would be a straightforward shoot and didn’t provide a written quote. The business side was simply a discussion and a verbal agreement. Again, that makes it very difficult to renegotiate should the brief change. While I could have tried renegotiating, that didn’t seem like ‘good form’ after the shoot was completed.

Lesson 3 – Industry Contacts are Valuable

Despite getting the pricing for this job badly wrong, I got on well with the other photographer and know that, should our paths cross again, we have the foundations for a strong working relationship. He has already been in touch with me to see if I could help on another shoot, which unfortunately clashed with one of my own. Such is life! When the opportunity comes, you can be sure I’ll price it more appropriately.

Lesson 4 – Working with Others is a Learning Opportunity

Many photographers, myself included, often work alone or with the same people. In this case, we had never met before and it was a great opportunity to see this experienced commercial photographer in action. Most impressive was the way he was able to move effortlessly between video and photography, while also managing the needs of his client who had 4 people on set. Nice work, and valuable lessons.

Lesson 5 – Don’t Undervalue Your Services

This job was at a quiet time of year and I was keen to take on the role. Combined with being interested in this type of shoot, I may have undervalued the skills I could bring to the role (despite the brief changing). I feel like I’m too old and too experienced to make this mistake, but don’t undervalue your services!

Thanks for reading Lessons from Pricing this Photography Job All Wrong. I’m determined to take the lessons and make them into a positive – much like in this post Turning Negative Experiences to Positive. Happy Shooting!

Common Sense, Real World Experience, and Practice

Thanks for being a reader of Beyond Here. I’ve just taken an unannounced 6 month break from writing this blog. A visit to the bookshop and the library this week have been enough to kick me back into action! Why the sudden return? At both the book shop and the library there are no resources for people wanting to learn the business side of photography. Literally I couldn’t find a single book. I’m not planning to write a book anytime soon, but I can add to Beyond Here regularly. So today I’m back, and here is common sense, real world experience, and practice.

Why the 6 Month Break?

I started Beyond Here 5 years ago, thinking it would be relatively straightforward to write at least one post a month about the business side of photography. Most months it was, even though I am not a natural writer and the words don’t always flow. But mid last year I finally missed one month, and soon realized that became 2 and 3 and 4 months. I enjoyed the break, and spent a lot of time shooting and working in my sports photography business.

Writing a blog, it’s not always easy to know how well (or not) received it is. Readers don’t tend to comment on blog posts anymore. They are more inclined to add comments on Facebook than to bother commenting on the blog. Even though Google Analytics makes it easy to see how many people are visiting and what they are reading, that doesn’t always equate to knowing the information is valuable. So in one of those months where I felt like I might be the only person reading what I was writing (!) I took a break, and here we are 6 months later.

Consistency of effort is key in sport – perhaps in blog writing too!

Common Sense, Real World Experience

One of the reasons I sometimes doubt the value of the content here is that it is not rocket science. It is not brilliant insight which no-one else in the world could possibly have. Common sense and real world experience make up most of the content. It is trying things in my own business, and sharing what works and what doesn’t. If you are expecting amazing insight, I’m going to let you down! But if you are looking to speed up your learning, and apply that to your own creative business then I might be able to help.

I do like the saying – common sense is not so common – so maybe I can add some value there. I can certainly add my real world experience from the ups and downs of my own business.

Sport is a great example where you can’t perform without practice. Are you practicing your photography skills?

Practice

And now for today’s dose of common sense! We are very lucky today that it is easy to start a photography business. It is literally a matter of some basic equipment, a few clients, and you are away.

While it is easy to start that in no way means your skills are at a professional standard. In fact, they are likely not to be when you are starting out and your portfolio consists only of family portraits taken of friends. It takes time and practice to build skills so that you can meet different photographic briefs, and produce high quality images in a variety of lighting conditions.

So what’s the answer? The answer is really a question – are you practicing and building photography skills? For much of this blog I assume your photography skills are strong and we focus on sales and marketing and other topics. But I see too many photographers who have not built their skills and are not practicing. I’m a sports lover, and to draw a sports comparison, can you imagine a pro sports person who doesn’t practice? They are not likely to last too long. Are you practicing enough?

I wrote a post called Photographing Different Commercial Jobs. Sometimes we get in a rut shooting the same types of jobs in the same way. Doing those commercial jobs was challenging, and helped me build new skills. Sometimes it’s best not to take on paying jobs to learn new skills, the key questions is are you taking on different challenges?

Thanks for reading common sense, real world experience, and practice. I hope it has given you food for thought. Invest in practice, and go ahead and comment on the blog. Happy shooting.

Turning Negative Experiences to Positive

I recently wrote a post for Beyond Here called Choose Your Photography Jobs Carefully. It outlines my experience doing some interesting sports photography work but having issues with payment. In this post I have an update, it’s called turning negative experiences to positive.

My recent experience, like this basketball player, had me down but not out

What Happened?

I was dealing with a reasonably well known business, but having issues getting paid. I remained polite through all communications and provided details of which invoices were outstanding, when they were due, how long they were now overdue, and copies if requested. There were a series of reasons provided about why payment had not yet been made, and then steadily, one by one, each was paid over a period of weeks. So there’s the good news – payment came through ok.

Ready to rise again

A Choice to Make

I’d committed to shooting another job for them, but hadn’t received payment for the earlier jobs. What to do? I considered what was my best course of action, and perhaps they anticipated this as payment was made a few days before the job.

Turning Negative Experiences to Positive

So with a degree of uncertainty I shot the additional job – a 5 hour sports photography assignment shooting a cross country event. I was shooting alongside the owner of the business. How did I go about turning negative experiences to positive? It turns out I had many things in common with the owner of the business. Perhaps the biggest and most important was a common enjoyment of photography and sport. We got along reasonably well, and were able to put aside the slow payment issue and focus on doing a good job photographing the cross country event.

What Is the Positive?

There were three clear positives which came from this experience.

First was that I enjoyed the cross country photography assignment and made stronger industry contact in the process.

Second, while on the job I was asked if I could help with an additional job. This is the sign of a good relationship.

And third, payment from the cross country assignment came through 4 days after the invoice had been sent through. I am expecting that prompt payment will be the norm in the future.

There it is! Thanks for reading Turning Negative Experiences to Positive.

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.

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!

 

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.