Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Three Questions for Those Who Support Micro-Stock

Just so we are all straight, I do not think that microstock has been a good thing for anyone. Period.

Well, except Getty.

So I have three questions for microstock supporters:

1. In what way has Microstock been a plus to the business of photography?
(And here I mean the Business of Photography - not the ability to make a few bucks for those who couldn't before.)

2. In what way would Microstock be considered a new 'business model' seeing as it is based on traditional business models, just not charging even a fraction of what the going rate was at the time it started?
(There is no new business model at play here, it is simply the 'flea market' with photos... bring in as much as possible and take a percentage of the sale.)

3. In what way does Microstock help photographers sustain their work and create a viable business?
(Do they protect markets or styles? Do they have a complete and efficient screening system? Do they actively promote the work of photographers who have a definitive style, or seek clients who want special work?)

Of course you may call me a 'Trad' and that is fine. And if you do, I will simply mark it off to the inability to discuss this all important topic... oh, and that you are an asshat.

Discussion means discourse and the presentation of positions that can be backed up by data, hopefully empirical, but any kind of data is welcome.

So here is my answer:

1. I can find no way that Microstock has driven the business of photography forward. I think it has enabled some photographers to create a level of income that at a point becomes considerable. It is a commoditization of something that is not a commodity - and that creates tension and allows people who feed on chaos to create ways to monetize and do very well.

2. I don't see any way that Microstock develops any kind of relationship with photographers at all. Featured website articles are little more than 'credit' and are mostly read by other contributors - not the clients who purchase. The reality is that most clients in the $25 per image range are looking to save money, not find the next hot shooter. The next hot shooter is not shooting for $7 (royalty) a shot with no consideration for usage. Sorry... they just aren't.

As with any commodity, the middle man is simply looking for the cheapest vendor to supply a product that is as good as it has to be. And no more. The clients are looking for cheap, the middle man supplies cheap, and puts a markup on it.


3. Microstock is not in the business of helping photographers do anything. The recent cutting of percentages is a shot over the bow of their only suppliers. Ask yourself if there is an agency at all if there are no photographers. But they also know that those who want to quit will be quickly supplanted by those wanting the thrill of the photo credit and a chance at a 'feature story.'

And where will they go? Trained to believe their images are worth less than a Happy Meal, there is certainly no entity currently that can sustain enough sales to make that $4 image sale in sufficient quantity.

And the agencies cannot provide a ton of support... hell, they cannot even find a way to pay their vendors a decent percentage.

So the cycle continues.

And in the end, there will be nothing that can change the world of our business other than us.

That is both comforting and terrifying at the same moment,

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