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Monday, November 30, 2009

Microstock: Good vs. Evil

There is a big discussion going on right now in the photo world on whether microstock is good or evil for the present-day photographer. The discussion started with a controversial blog post written by John Harrington. In the blog, John discusses his opinion on what the microstock market has done to the existing photographic market, comparing it to pollution and illegal drug circles.

I have to say that I do agree with John in the sense that microstock has "polluted" the current photographic markets, which were once revered and respected. The fact that you can get an image for a penny doesn't sit well with photographers who are actually trying to feed a family and pay for a roof over their heads.

From where I sit, I see the future of the professional photographer being a part-time-only gig. There are only 24 hours in a day, and at least half of those hours have to be spent sleeping or doing other daily activities. Let's do the math; At a penny each, a photographer would have to sell four thousand photographs each month in order to make $2,000 per month. That is if you have a nice stock agency who only takes 50% of each sale. A photographer can't cover business expenses and personal expenses with only $2,000 each month. I spend, on average, several thousand a year on equipment upgrades, software, business licenses, insurance, etc. So in order to cover expenses and make $4,000 a month, a photographer would have to sell eight thousand images per month.

8000. It's impossible to shoot, retouch, categorize, keyword, submit, and update the number of images needed to sell eight thousand images a month.

The market is at a point now where there is no turning back either. I used to hear people say, "When people realize the value of a photographer and their knowledge the market will turn around." That's not going to happen. Digital photography is too accessible & there are enough people out there who know how to read a manual.

It is what it is and only time will tell what will happen with microstock and the present day photographer. Just make sure to keep on your toes.

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