The difference between:
- Being a passionate photographer/filmmaker
- Being a producer of content for Microstock sites
is that the latter knows what the market wants and what he needs to sell (which is not just a good camera). My website is becoming popular and haters are coming. Ok, we all have friends on Facebook that want a better world, but their problem is that they think to be the best person on earth and they have to destroy any who have different ideas, such as:
- A politician.
- A multinational.
- Or simply their noisy neighbor.
Haters in Microstock are a little different. I have always said my filming technique is good but is not the best, so every photographer who is better than me, talking about technique, hates the fact that I have sales reports like this:
My best sellers on Shutterstock
Because they probably have been in those places where I shot my best sellers on Shutterstock. For the record, they are the cities of:
I’m sure they also have created Microstock there, but they haven’t earned that money. That’s the point when I become someone to hate. So, thanks for your mail guys, and sorry if I didn’t answer.
If you attend one of the many photography courses you can find online and offline, you’re making the right choice. In 1998, I switched myself to one of those places, greatly improving the knowledge of filming technique I had (I was 21 and thanks to that thousands of my photos were better).
The easiest way to repay equipment, travel and maybe even pay you for the time you spent, however, is not to be technically perfect. It’s easy to make a good shot in Paris, like my top seller on Shutterstock, but it’s not easy to earn more than $1000 for a 5 seconds time-lapse as I did. Here’s a few reasons why that happened:
- I chose to shoot 20 minutes after sunset, not daytime and not in the night.
- I shot in May, which is the best month of the year to create Microstock, but not to take normal pictures.
- Weather was perfect.
- I found a place to put my tripod to shoot traffic but without any car or bus to stop in front of the camera.
And many other things I don’t remember because it was a long time ago. Is this due to my technique or to the experience I gained as a successful Microstock producer?
Numbers are not opinions. The fastest man in the world is Usain Bolt, because nobody can say someone is faster (just look at the time runners set during competitions).
Now another question: who’s the best soccer player in the world? Probably many people would say:
- Leo Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or Neymar
But nobody can say who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s just an opinion.
Microstock is like 100 metres at the Olympics games. In Microstock, the winner is who brings money home, regardless of the filming technique he has. In photography and videomaking there are no winners, but only opinions. Like deciding who’s the best football/basketball/rugby player in the world.
The first camera I bought, back in 1995: a Philips VHS-c
Let me tell you a story about the history of stock images and stock footage.
Getty images was founded back in 1995 by selling pictures and video to large televisions, cinema industry or big brands of international journalism. The average customer at that time was who had major budget because prices were very high and only brands like:
- The New York Times, Hollywood Studios or CBS
can afford. Do you remember in the movies when you see the exterior of the White House? Instead of sending a camera crew, asking permission and losing a lot of time and money to pay people, Hollywood Majors called Getty, and they gave them the shot they needed. Of course, we are talking about 1990’s, there could not be a digital delivery, but DHL knocking at the door with a 35 mm film reel.
The early 2000s were the turning point. Microstock sites were born and the paradigm shifted. The photos went from $500 to $50, and then the average customers of such content were not just multinational millionaires, but
- websites, independent film productions and low-cost television programs.
Istockphoto’s business plan was different from Getty (or Corbis and Artbeats). Istockphoto (or Shutterstock and Pond5) had cheaper prices, more customers and different contributors and the most important thing:
They deliver contents with user friendly websites in few minutes, so their older competitors started losing revenue.
After a few years, Microstock agencies won the battle, even if they started from a basement or from a garage. Today, Pond5 is quoted in the credits of most of the programs aired by National Geographic. In 15 years, everything has changed, and freelancers working with €1000/1500 of equipment produce 99% of content for sale on Microstock websites, the same content that buyers like National Geographic want today.
In the meantime, Artbeats is practically dead (I remember with some nostalgia when I started contributing to their collection in 2008 and a single sale was paid $300). Corbis was sold to a Chinese Company and Getty, who in 2006 bought istockphoto, survives today thanks to that. By contrast: Pond5, Shutterstock and all other agencies invoice hundreds of millions of euro a year and don’t stop growing, as happens to many brands born with the web who know the meaning of the word resilience.
Ok, but what does this story mean?
It means that sometimes buyers do not buy certain types of content simply because they do not yet exist. As webmasters have begun to fill their sites with photos only when istockphoto launched its low-cost collection 15 years ago, the same way there are many niches that us producers, especially those of footage, should consider if we want to start earning more. Given that, in a world that is changing every day, people who have the ability to figure out where to go before the others can win their battles.
Try to think how many newscasts there are around the world? Today, if something happens in a small town, news channels with a budget send a reporter with a cameraman to shoot generic images of the town where the event occurred. A low budget TV buys videos from news agencies (or use Google Earth, or even Google images). Other channels download from YouTube the videos produced by others (but if you put a nice watermark in the middle, they will struggle to do so without asking for permission).
Here I was filming a time-lapse using a pocket tripod in 2008 (and my friend was smoking).
In my opinion, Microstock agencies are ready to beat news agencies, as they beat Corbis and Artbeats 10 years ago.
Pond5 has tons of clips of the main cities of the world, but almost nothing of places with fewer than 50,000 inhabitants (at least if they are in Europe). If any of you set your mind to overcome these gaps, after doing serious research on Pond5 (as I teach how to do in my course), I’m sure that the sales of stock footage would earn back his commitment. Consider that when a clip is unique and can be purchased through a user friendly interface like that of the Microstock agencies sites, it can be sold at $79.99 (if you can decide the price like it happens on Pond5).
I hope this can be a good idea for you. I would have made this in person, but I’m busy and my mind is thinking about other projects now. There are also many other ideas that wait for somebody to turn them into stock footage or stock images.
In life sometimes you have two options:
- Invent a job.
- Hope that the rain from above will bring a solution (while you complain about the world sitting on your sofa).
Make your choice. I made mine many years ago.