What's the future of microstock industry? Where is microstock going?


posted on 9th of july, 2011

I would really appreciate your opinions on this matter, fellow dreamstimers (contributors, photogs, illustrators or admins). I have some thinkings that I can't get out of my head...



Stock photography began around 2004, when the first digital cameras were becoming very popular, I read once the Dreamstime history: it began being a traditional photography agency and started as stock in 2004 I think. Many stock agencies were created those days: It was a easy, economic and great way to designers to find photos in good prices and in large amounts.
© Maigi (Help)


Large amounts of shots that we have today distributed among 30 or more sites. Dreamstime only has more than 11 million images...

So... what's the future for our, microstockers? Years ago you only needed quality photos but now... grazillions of quality photos are send every day, professional photos with any single fault, with the WB ok, the lightings ok, the focus, etc...








Subjects and ideas... I think that absolutely everything has been shooted. I'm not talking here about animals, landscapes or flowers, I mean more conceptual or elaborated ideas. You can find tons of very good shots showing all the ideas, concepts, situations, people of different ages and colors....








So, what's the next step? how will this industry survive? How could stock industry reinvent itself?






And I'm only a very very very small fish in a big pond
I would really appreciate your comments and opinions









Comments (32)

Posted by Fotopassu on July 26, 2011
I agree, it does sound a bit like a 'quick fix' solution.Surely you can never be 100% absolutely certain that something won't go wrong.
Posted by Tan510jomast on July 18, 2011
ABSOLUTELY AGREE with everything Maigi wrote, as contributors will see more importance to DPI as opposed to just being happy with many approvals (but no downloads),
. Without this incentive change, contributors could decide to submit less new work ie to cash effectiveness "leaner and meaner" workflow.
Posted by Meryll on July 18, 2011
I am sure stock agencies are going to stop uploading new pictures very soon so hurry up! Upload some more yet! :-))
Posted by Jirsak on July 15, 2011
I see the future of microstock industry in:
a) better marketing of agencies - segmentation, diversification and marketing researches helping to understand buyers needs
b) new technologies like digital publishing for tablets or stereoscopic technologies (3D)
c) local content (traditions, props like local money, bills etc.)
d) search results based on buyer behavior
Posted by Titania1980 on July 14, 2011
The purpose of the blog was asking for all kind of opinions ;-) all of them very interesting :)

thanks Jitka
Posted by Starblue on July 14, 2011
Interesting to read not only the blog, but also opinions under it :-) Thanks, dear Ingrid!
Posted by Creativei on July 12, 2011
Well Microstock is going to stay, well being in the advertisement industry, I see so many demand, as Mani said, even clients look for fresh image, not repeated once. so the images with least sales will be in demand.

One instance, recently for a client i wanted to download a image from a different stock site, client selected some images, but most of them had many sales, and he wanted to know in which part of the world these images were used. i said Sir, i have no idea, so there are clients looking for different things,

Another client wanted some images, which wasn't available in 12 stock sites, finally found in a RM site and had to pay a huge fee.

Stock site will stay.

One subject which will always sell is editorial.
Posted by Titania1980 on July 12, 2011
Em, no @Dessie, I haven't posted thos blog a year ago :O do you suffer from time-lag? LOL

@Maigi, I wish you are true!!!

Great reading your opinions to all
Posted by Littledesire on July 12, 2011
hm, I just got a deja view :) Ingrid, are you sure you haven't posted that blog like a year ago? :) Checked the date on all replies ... weird 2011 :))
Well, nice blog, I think stock will go higher and higher, they just need to clean all old crapy pics we have made, while trying to learn what stock is heheheheheh.
Thanks for using my image, good luck!
Posted by Arne9001 on July 12, 2011
I have a lot to say regarding this issue. In short: I do not see the end of the microstock world simply because pic piles get higher. We all knew that there are technically no barriers of entry to this marked. But indeed there will be further segmentation. I hope it's okay to add a link here (if not, dear Admin-Team, please feel free to delete this): I do outline this much further in a four part article on the industry in my blog http://www.kzenon.info/, so far only two parts have been published though. The contributor side, however, is already covered.
Posted by Heathse on July 12, 2011
A picture will always be worth a thousand words and appreciation of art is one of the things that seperates us from animals, so as long as agencies keep up with the trends (or set new ones) microstock will survive. Advertisers will always need images, and are always looking for something new and unique. It's up to us to provide it. My hope is that soon images of office workers isolated on white will be a thing of the past! :)
Posted by Xiaofeng123 on July 11, 2011
I only know I do not get the revenue as more as I think with the image number grow.So I think maybe it is not because DT,maybe because the microstock market.
Posted by Maigi on July 11, 2011
I think microstock industry is on the rise again. It has reached the craziest lowest commissions point for photographers and the only way is up again now. I believe we have been at the lowest point, and there's no stimulation for photographers to create new interesting, creative images, what need more that 2 minutes work, at lower price that industry currently offers. So we should and I think we will see improvement in this. Dreamstime is doing very well with its price structure. And it helps photographers to have more faith in the future of the industry. I think more agencies will rise prices soon. Quality is raising and photographers must spend more time per image in the creation process to reach that quality. And it means higher prices for customers per image, but higher quality as well. I think small agencies who started with the hope to make a quick money will die out and those agencies who care equally well about photographers and customers will flourish. We'll see.
Posted by Janceluch on July 11, 2011
Yes, I agree that industry has evolved and now seems to be oversaturated... you can find hundreds of image, when searching for something, but after browsing dozens of pages none of them suits your needs - majority of images you already know from your competition prints and you avoid them, but new "simmilar" content gets rejections because "we do have enough of these pictures..." I think the future is in agencies who understand, that buyer needs choices and to brows them effectively. So the improvements in searching and filtering is a key - the client wants certain image and he cannot find it, because database is already not accepting more of that kind. I also think, that there should be something like conceptual keywording - something that you don't see in the picture, but the picture relates to - like lets say "sad drunk man with empty bottle of whiskey" might illustrate divorce and loss of close person for someone... but standard keywording would not permit the word divorce, because it...(More)
Posted by Mrallen on July 11, 2011
Stock Photography has been around for a long time......
I agree with 'Silent47' that the 'golden age' of stock is indeed over. I'm a full time professional 'stock' photographer, I have been since 2002, but I started shooting 'stock' way back in 1973 when I was a commercial photographer. I started by submiting to the 'Telegraph Color Library' for a bit of extra income. They were soon taken over by 'The Image Bank', so I became an Image Bank Photographer. I also entered the field of RF when I joined 'Brand-X Pictures' in 1998. RF was new back then, but took off in a big way. By 2005 I was earning over $500,000 a year from stock.
But, by 2007 both the 'Image Bank' and 'Brand-X' had both been taken over by '******** Images'. I was given a 'house contract' which enables me to submit to any of the ******** agencies. This was the peak of my earnings and things have slowly gone downhill from here. Earning are now only around $200,000 per year.
I joined DT a couple of years ago to have some place...(More)
Posted by Hypnocreative on July 11, 2011
It's not about !! So let's say, I need an image of a girl talking on the phone, angry and distressed. I did a search on the site and more that 2500 images appeared. The biggest part of them are absolutely not what I am looking for. The images are mostly tagged in a strange way I have no idea what people are thinking while tagging them. OK, I found 20 images that fit my design. But what about the colors, dress code, skin color, ethnicity, place, sizes (square or rectangular), framing etc..... Well, one of them really meets my need. I buy it from the site. What if I need the same concept for the second edition of my design? Do I have to use the same thing? No! I need people to shoot more, add some nuances and details up-to-date. Otherwise, not only me, everyone using the stock images all around the world would have to use the same images everywhere.

The same thing with the vector designs..
Posted by Arenacreative on July 11, 2011
The business will be here for a long time. Don't believe naysayers. If I listened to what everyone was saying about 5 years ago, I would have made a huge mistake - because they have been saying "the sky is falling" ever since back then. After 7 years in this business, about 4 years full time, here is my opinion on what you will need to do if you want to make a sustainable full time living in microstock: http://tinyurl.com/6h5z43k
Posted by Titania1980 on July 11, 2011
Very useful comments all of you! I like to read different opinions

@Wysiwygfoto sorry, I had no idea. I started to become intersted in photography with digital cameras, I found out about microstock in 2006 and I confused micro with stock photography
Posted by Wysiwygfoto on July 11, 2011
Stock photography did not start in 2004. It's been around for a very long time before that and it had nothing to do with digital cameras - stock was around when people were shooting film.

Essentially the concept of "stock" was the use of any leftover images from a sanctioned photo shoot. As an example, say a photographer did a corporate shoot for a company's annual report. The company licensed (or purchased exclusively) the images it wanted to use in the annual report. The photographer had images left over - he would then market them as stock in order to make "extra" money.

In the 80's this gained a lot of popularity - so much so that many photographers decided to create "stock" on a speculative basis (much like many of the contributors do here). They would finance their own shoots in hopes that they could turn those images around. Many of these people were still shooting film slides.

In 2004, the business model of "microstock" was started - the idea being...(More)
Posted by Yelo34 on July 11, 2011
Difference is in the nuances so the possibilities are endless.
Posted by Martingraf on July 11, 2011
luckily I see stock photo as a chance to learn and not as income - well would be bad for me anyway with just a few pics - but I trust in the industry that they will come up with new requests and we as the photographs might come up with new ideas - at the end both will have to follow the flow - I reckon in 10 years the industry will have more need more pictures about things to do with life style and nature and I want to still be part of Dreamstime with their 100 millionst picture - but that will probably already be in 7 or 8 years....
Posted by Meryll on July 11, 2011
What will the future of stock photo industry I do not know. The price of stock pics is getting lower and lower so I hope our pics will not be for free some time (moreover generally it is harder and harder to get approved). Here is a good reading about history of this industry till now, I am sorry I was not in the business at those golden times :-)

http://www.bjp-online.com/british-journal-of-photography/opinion/2072022/stockpiling-trouble-stock-industry-ate
Posted by Mani33 on July 10, 2011
... and thanks for using one of my images in your blog! Cheers :)
Posted by Mani33 on July 10, 2011
Funny cause I think this business is back to the beginning! With all this fast going technology I think this business will have a break point that would send back the data base of big agencies to a smaller one! Only real art will survive! Some how this is encouraging for serious ones!

Can you imagine microstock sites to start involving with the 3D images!
It's easy to see that we are at the beginning! ;)

About the new blood of images, believe it or not.... Seeing some familiar highly downloaded images has started to annoy me! I think when I use an image I really want it a unique one or one that was not used that much before to impress the viewer!

I agree with what Wisconsinart had said! So many uncovered subject...
I've tried to find some specific images that I couldn't find anywhere!
So I ended up changing the plan or making them by my self!

The future is our's! :)))
Posted by Egomezta on July 10, 2011
I also think that stock photgraphy will get stronger and stronger everyday since everyday there are more and more clients.... There are many new subjects to explore.
Posted by Justmeyo on July 10, 2011
I am sure the stock industry will survive for many years from now on:)Many subjects are not covered ,beside that our life change everyday and we can find new subjects in what happen everyday.
Thank you Ingrid for using one of my photos and great article:)
Posted by Silent47 on July 10, 2011
The Golden Age of Stock is over. People made a lot of easy money five years ago because there was no competition. That`s not the case any more and it`s going to get even harder with improving technology making it easier for amateurs.With that said I think the sky`s the limit for those who are talented and work hard. There are so many subjects still not covered, believe it or not.I also think the industry has a narrow mindset; many of my rejections are from studio photographers who lack the experience of what sells outside the traditional stock image (I`ve been selling art longer before some of the Reviewers were born). So much sales potential is lost when the industry is unable to think outside the box.Therefore... I see unlimited growth potential for those with the imagination and determination to overcome the current obstacles.Those who continue to shoot Girl-With-Cell-Phone and wonder why they have no sales...

What subjects do you mean?I'm very curious.Like you...(More)
Posted by Llareggub on July 10, 2011
It is a million dollar queestion and if anyone knows the answer then they will be well ahead of the curve and make a lot of money, as a few other folk have mentioned the industry will continue to grow along with societies desire to consume vast quatities of media. However likewise competition will continue to grow and those that will be successful are those that will learn to adapt to changing market conditions and find innovative subjects and avenues for distribution... It really is no different to anyother marketplace or business!

The stock photography market as it is in its current form may date back to '04, I am not sure... However stock photography has been around a great deal longer, I remember having catalogues of stock photographs and illustrations to browse through when I was at college in 1990 (Tony Stone) and you had to order through snail mail and then receive a floppy drive with your file on :D And I have spoken with other folk over the interweb that were doing it 20...(More)
Posted by Wisconsinart on July 09, 2011
The Golden Age of Stock is over. People made a lot of easy money five years ago because there was no competition. That's not the case any more and it's going to get even harder with improving technology making it easier for amateurs.

With that said I think the sky's the limit for those who are talented and work hard. There are so many subjects still not covered, believe it or not.

I also think the industry has a narrow mindset; many of my rejections are from studio photographers who lack the experience of what sells outside the traditional stock image (I've been selling art longer before some of the Reviewers were born). So much sales potential is lost when the industry is unable to think outside the box.

Therefore... I see unlimited growth potential for those with the imagination and determination to overcome the current obstacles.

Those who continue to shoot Girl-With-Cell-Phone and wonder why they have no sales...
Posted by Mvogel on July 09, 2011
The stock industry and the micro-stock industry will survive. I just can not see how the need for pictures will all of a sudden disappear. The better question would be will you or I as a contributor be around. Will we be able to continue to push ourselves to explore and create new content.

Think of this like the music industry. After all of the thousands of years that music has been around there are still musicians. Sure the music industry is on hard times but there are still a lot of people making money. The same goes for the stock industry. There will always be people making money but not everyone will be at the highest levels. Many of us will have to settle for what little we can get.

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Comments (32)

This article has been read 3031 times. 3 readers have found this article useful.
Photo credits: Serban Enache, Dmccale, Gabriel Blaj, Desislava Vasileva, Maigi, Maen Zayyad, Susan Leggett, Saniphoto, Wildmac.

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