Microstock: Shooting Photography in the Foot
(October-17-07)


Everyone is a photographer these days, myself included. Prosumer dSLR's have given the amateur a leg up, coming closer to the experienced and studied professional... or at least given them the equipment to do so. Opportunistic entrepreneurs have taken advantage of this abundance of quality files to chip away at the big guys like Getty Images, Corbis and the like.

 

What is this doing to the profession of photography and just who is benefiting from this development?

 

  • Agencies are reaping some benefit; charging relatively the same fee for stock images regardless of provenance. They do the research and use their trained eyes to weed out the really bad images after all.
  • Perhaps the majority of images on these sites comes from the causal photographer who likes the idea of earning a few dollars a month to put against the purchase of equipment. No harm, no foul as they're not devaluing their product.
  • Aspiring photographers are getting their work out there earning dollars for them. They can continue to practice their craft and will most likely improve through experience alone. Some are even making a dollar.
  • Most professionals are staying away from microstock as they understand that they can make a better living selling one image for it's real value versus selling multiple images for a pittance.

The biggest winners in this new marketplace are the microstock agency owners. Once the infrastructure is in place they have the overhead of equipment and maintenance. There's no need for them to develop new storage or transmission methods; advances there are made everyday by video sites. Nope, they really don't have much to do other than sit back and watch the amateurs upload images as they head to the bank.

 

One thing that will win out in the end is talent. That is the one thing that cannot be bought or for that matter even taught. So long as the talented pros refuse to sell to these organizations, the quality of photography in general will just be brought up a notch... the art form will remain just that.

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