An interesting thing to do to test the market and understand what sells is using the search engines of Microstock agencies:
Write down a keyword on Pond5 like buyers searching for that subject:
Look at how much content already exists:
List the results by sale and find what’s first:
Did you expects those results?
Ok, now you’ve got some information to start producing profitable stock images and stock footage. Or maybe first you need my course to do that.
If you’re a newbie, Agencies search engines are the best way to start your career, because the worst thing you can do is to trust your opinion too much regarding things you don’t know. Something like:
I’m going to sell my cat stock footage, because on YouTube, cats have millions of views.
Another big mistake is to think about Microstock like it’s contemporary art. Something like:
I’m in the city to create stock footage, and as I’m waiting for inspiration I record two minutes of video in one day.
99% of people who approach this world have this things on their minds.
As you know, the karma of this site is:
Be better than your competitors
So be happy now: as long as the mentality of others is this, it’s really not that hard to achieve that goal.
Now I ask you a question, even if I already know your answer will be wrong:
In your opinion what sells the most with the keyword “sport”?
Answer honestly, imagining the page that you will be facing once you click the “search” button. Focus on what kind of sports you will find there.
Let me give you a mini-tutorial to teach you how to do this test on BigStockPhoto, the low cost agency owned by Shutterstock that sells subscriptions (five images/clips a day for one month) for €49: a great reason for a producers of Microstock to stay away from them.
The default search in agencies usually sorts the results based on a secret algorithm that combines a number of parameters (number of uploads, number of purchases, clicks, etc.). Beware though, you just need to know what sells more. It depends on the agency you are testing, but next to the search string you will find how they order results, and you need to order them for
- Sales (it can also be called popular)
Now connect to www.bigstockphoto.com and enter the word “sport” in the search box:
Sort your results for “most popular” (filtering to exclude illustrations and vector files):
You will see this screen appear:
The first 20 results are:
- Eight people running.
- Two images related to football (a baby kicking the ball and a workout bag).
- Two indoors sports.
- Two winter sports (snowboard and trekking).
- Two car racing.
- One mountain bike.
- One stopwatch.
- One kite surf.
- One swimming pool.
Is that what you expected?
Apart from football (soccer), there are no mainstream sports, especially those popular in the US:
- Basketball, American Football and Baseball
The reason is simple:
The photo of a person who runs at the park can be used in thousands of situations and is representative of millions of amateurs who practice this activity in the world (no major distinctions between different countries).
By the way: Microstock buyers are usually from North America and Europe. Rarely from Australia and Asia, almost never from South America and Africa (despite the fact that Yuri Arcurs, the largest producer in the world, runs his business from that Continent). It’s easy to know because Shutterstock tracks your sales position.
Photos of team sports are distributed (for the moment) in alternative circuits to Microstock agencies. You can get an idea looking at the number of photographers on the sideline during major sporting events. They’re professionals with expensive equipment, so there’s a place where they sell their photos, and that place is not Microstock agencies. Buyers who want that content don’t search on Shutterstock or BigStockPhoto.
A general rule for Microstock:
News events: political, entertainment or sport do not sell. If you want to specialize in that kind of content, apply to news agencies, but don’t expect to find a producer friendly environment like you find on Pond5.
Maybe in five years online newspapers will buy those kind of images on Shutterstock, so Reuters and Associated Press will be like record companies back in the days of Napster, but for now this is not happening. If you take the foolish decision to go to France just for shooting content at the Cannes Film Festival or to go to San Diego at Comic-Con, you’ll lose a lot of money.
Don’t trust your opinion, trust data, especially if you are a newbie.
Your opinion is the same (admit it!) that was sure to find Cristiano Ronaldo’s photo in the search results page of Bigstockphoto after writing down the word “sport.” Imagine how much you were going to lose if you booked a flight to Madrid, with stops at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium. Hundreds of euros spent for content that simply does not sell in our beloved agencies.
The good news is that the photo of the runner you can find above is third place in the results. So, the Cristiano Ronaldo that interests you maybe is racing at the park 100 meters from where you are now and just waits to be photographed (remember the signed release!).
There are many categories of readers who visit this site, ranging from amateur teens to photographers who used to work in 6×6 until 10 years ago.
When the latter wrote to me asking an opinion on the marketability of event subjects (city celebrations, car races, plays in theatres…) and I say that it’s a waste of time, on the other side the reaction I get is often an annoyed one, as if I did not understand the value of a job that maybe has received many awards and “likes” on Facebook. Microstock sites do not sell only quality, they sell what the market wants. If you have received a lot of positive comments on photography blogs, this means you have a good technique, even better than mine, but having a good technique is not enough to sell.
To make money, you have to learn to listen to buyers. Otherwise, with your art, you have certainly helped to improve humanity, and I’m the first one who wants to say:
Thank you for that, but don’t waste your time with Microstock.