Microstock has been around for a while and yet professional photographers still have mixed feelings about it. Some observe it with curiosity from a distance, others abhor it and some just decide to ignore it. In the past years various professional photographers have approached me asking for advice.
And if I sum up their fears I can boil it down to two:
- Isn’t it perverse to sell my photos for so cheap?
- What will people think of me if they see me on a microstock site?
Those are valid fears but the benefits professionals can reap from microstock really outstrip those fears. Here are the most common questions I get from professional photographers:
Is there really any potential in the microstock business to earn money?
Yes, of course! Especially if you are a professional! You will stand out immediately from the hordes of hobby photographers. Making money on microstock requires you have a medium to large size portfolio (over 500 images). As a professional photographer you are in a situation to produce more and at a higher quality. You should be able to reach 500 images within a year. And considering your easier access to models, make up and studio equipment, your imagery will market itself much better right from the beginning.
Can I earn a quick buck?
No, certainly not. No matter how good your pictures, it takes time until your portfolio is big enough to be found easily by people. And with time people will even bookmark you and keep coming for new pictures. So do not expect to be a superstar from day one! If you enter microstock do it for the long run, that’s when you reap the highest rewards.
Should I consider exclusivity?
This is a difficult question to answer. My recommendation is that you start contributing at various microstock agencies. Once you see how much work that costs you and how much rewards it gives you, you can then consider what is best for you, whether to stick to all agencies or go exclusive with one and gain from your trust in them. For me exclusivity works best, but other bloggers have written differing opinions.
Yury Arcurs has an article giving some insights into the issue of exclusivity and a comparison of different microstock agencies.
How do you finance your productions? How do you involve other people? Models? Make Up Artists?
At the beginning you will have to finance all your productions by yourself. At one point you will start making enough money to reinvest it into new productions. With every business there is a risk and with microstock it is no different.
I would recommend you find a team which is happy working with you on stock productions. You should pay them a fix amount per production. Paying them a percentage of future earnings might sound attractive but is a nightmare to manage once you start working with lots of different people. So stick to paying a fixed amount and take all the risk yourself.
Microstock photography does not require professional models, so you can find many models which would be very pleased to work with a professional photographer for no money in return. Take advantage of your position as a professional!
Am I not doing a disservice to other professional photographers?
Microstock is here to stay and will not disappear. There is no doubt that it has had a negative impact on professional photographers, but staying out of microstock is not going to change that, because someone else will take your place.
As a professional you are in a better position to benefit from this movement and you should jump into it right now. Selling a picture for 5EUR is not much, but if you sell it one thousand times, then it’s a different story!
Do I have to produce boring business photos?
Not at all! My advice is that you focus on the field you like most and produce all your images in that style and area. Focus and become the expert, earn a good reputation and soon buyers will be coming to you to get that type of pictures. Every style has its potential in microstock so use your creativity to have fun and enjoy what you are doing!
And by the way… you don’t have to use your real name to sell microstock. So don’t worry about others finding you
So what do you think? Should professionals join the microstock movement? Should hobby photographers worry about them?