There’s so much talk about how hard it is to be a professional photographer these days, especially if you rely on income from stock photo sales for a living. To be honest, there’s a lot to be said for the difficulties of being in this industry, watching supply soar and thanks to the profusion of microstock, prices dive to the lowest point on the ladder.
At times, I find myself being lulled into a strange mental state, a hint of fear, a touch of doubt, etc.. Then, just yesterday, I found myself on a microstock site, having followed a link in from some forum or another. As I do with any agency, I did a general search, and in this case, “California Coast”. The results of that search showed 90% of the images were qualitatively at or below an entry level camera clubber. You know the one, has an SLR, uses auto everything, tripod lives in the garage, still in the box; favorite time to shoot, 11:30 AM – 3:00 Pm; Put the horizon in the middle and skips sunset so their spouse can eat. I scrolled through eight pages of search results, and thought, “Not my Competition” – Mood goes up.
Then I do another search, broadened to “California”. Here, I start seeing a few ‘better’ images, and on each of the first few pages, there’s one or two really decent images (out of 50). So I click on one, to see the photographers name, and then to his microstock site portfolio. I was taken a bit aback by the overall quality, and sadly thought, “Dude, what are you doing selling these for pennies? Some of these are really nice shots.” $10 for an extended royalty free license allowing resale of his work on posters, T-Shirts cards, etc.. Sheesh! Mood goes Down.
Then I asked myself, “I wonder if this guy has his own web site?” My motivation here is that I’ll often wonder if a mircostock’r would sell images directly from his web site, or somewhere else, and if so, would the prices be the same or different. Sure enough, within a moment my search revealed another site where the same image sells as standard RF, with a starting price of 140 GBP for a 1Mb image, up to 600 GBP. This just strikes me as off, like a snake-oil salesman completely uncaring if the guy that spends several hundred dollars could have bought the exact same photo for $10.00. Do you think this ethical? Is it merely a case of “tough beans for that buyer”? Or is it just marketplace dynamics? Now I’m just confused.
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