Microstock adulthood.

posted on 23rd of october, 2010

Two (of mine) articles back I wrote about the importance of being unique. Lately I've been realizing that I missed one very crucial point, which (imho) is much of the answer to the question why some will make it and some won't (in microstock, at least)... I read contributor's postings on the net, look at how portfolios develop and the unifying term which first springs to mind is puberty. It's not a perfect analogy but since we've all experienced that (some more recently than others) I want to stick with it.

To me microstock isn't in its child years anymore. The industry has made a strong enough impact so we know it's here to stay. By now there is also a pretty large number of "old" contributors - two or more years into uploading. But there's also a certain identity crisis within this group. Just as teenagers want the benefits of adult life but without its "negative" responsibilities, so we want the cash but don't really want to invest. Yes, I know that many are here just for the fun of it, yada, yada, yada... But look at the longest threads on any microstock forum - the vast majority of them discuss... well, money - prices, taxes, subscriptions. :) Certainly not by accident.

Those of you who are here for the fun - you're inclined to accept a couple of payments per year. The rest seriously want a growing income. Have you, however, considered the investment you're making to achieve this? I don't mean just the camera, lens, flash or carton box with bed sheet over it which you've acquired recently. I mean how much of a better photographer you've become in the past, say - one year? Let's bring it up a notch - how much of a better businessman have you become for that period? This includes the money you've invested, the time to learn and the time to practice. Add also the time to analyze what's happening on the market in general - quality and quantity-wise. Not to mention "planning the future moves".

I've been reviewing images for well over 3 and 1/2 years now and in my mind there's three types of users: those who come prepared (in all aspects, ie. the "pros") and immediately succeed; those who come with zero experience but over time progress; those who come with "some" experience but never move forward. It's the latter two groups which are of particular interest and where you most likely fit. I'm in there, as well.

Microstock was a bit like a loving and spoiling grandma in the beginning - making you sweet pancakes with honey and butter just because you made your bed yesterday (or did this actually win you an ice-cream as well?). Three-four years ago you only had to upload something decent and the cash slapped you on the face the next day... pretty much. Today... Today is not yesterday. Today you need to sweat and bend backward to make a payment.

Why is it so hard? Based only on my observations - because a very large number of contributors are still only making their bed. But grandma knows you're older now, so she wants you to do your homework as well... and clean half of the house next to that. In other words, many people have only been improving quantity-wise (if even that) and frankly, collecting mold when it comes to quality/creativity.
Not meaning to offend anyone - I'm speaking to myself as well. ;) But I like to be honest. Yes, your latest uploads are somewhat better than your first files (that's if you even had the guts to not disable them from your portfolio yet), but are they better than the better ones overall? Moreover, is your portfolio exposure (shall I mention "database exposure" at all?) any higher today?

Here's another issue to ponder about - are you doing this anywhere near part-time? Full-time - few are blessed with this, so I won't even discuss it. But how many hours in total do you actually put into microstock per week? I'm talking specifically into microstock. The walk-along-the-river-shoot-all-the-ducks-and-fallen-leaves doesn't count. (sorry) Still a very large amount of uploaded images aren't really prepared or produced with the word "commercial" in mind. Some would probably have been accepted in the past and this makes people demand that they be accepted today as well. We want images accepted, this is how money are made... provided that the images sell. And a lot of these which I'm talking about don't. While you were adding inches up the door frame, the buyers grew up as well. They require higher quality today because (just imagine that:) their competition is using your images from two years ago. How much (of quality work!) you put into it will determine what you get out of it. Plain and simple.

Alright, probably you're getting to the bottom of your coffee mug, so let's wrap this up. You're happy with where you are? - Great. You want to cash out more in six months? - You'll need to work harder for six months. (sorry)

Here's a quick quiz to get you started:
1) What are your expectations from your microstock involvement?
2) Are you ready to invest to meet these expectations (presuming you haven't met them yet)?
3) What are your realistic options for investment (ie. equipment, shooting time, sole training, all of the above)?
4) Are you willing to look at this as a business - with its good and bad sides?

And lastly, let me reveal what appears to be a super top secret piece of information - it takes time and perseverance to make money (by means that won't get you in prison, at least). Yes, yesterday you only had to make your bed to get the pancakes. Today... Today is not yesterday. But would you just imagine how much better tomorrow could be! ;)

Comments (41)

Posted by Martingraf on February 11, 2011
Cool, was really impressed when reading this blog - the only thing I never liked is putting people in boxes - regarding the 3 different types of photographs.
I'm new here, and in the middle of learning. New with DSR, new with micro stock new with uploading etc. but what I've already learned with those many rejections is to get my view away from quantity (at this stage) and deliver quality - try to find where I have an eye for which at the same time meets a demand out there - I thank the guys at dreamstime for every rejected picture with a plausible reason and I see that as an investment.
Posted by Serjedi on November 22, 2010
very good blog, thanks for the advices! :-)
Posted by Anhong on November 21, 2010
Haha, good! Thank you for sharing.
Posted by Bluwarrior on November 16, 2010
Interesting post Petar..Thank you for your contribution.Cheers
Posted by Almaterra on November 11, 2010
Learning a lot from you!
Posted by Theblackrhino on November 10, 2010
Thank you for the encouragement!
Posted by Sarito on November 10, 2010
Very honest and useful article.. makes you think :).
Posted by Paulcowan on November 09, 2010
We all want money (it makes us happy :) ) but for me it is important to use stock to create the lifestyle I want, rather than allowing stock to control my life in order to maximise the amount of money.

I've just spent three weeks touring Venice, Corfu and Crete, gathering piles of photos that will not earn a great deal but should eventually cover the cost of the journey. For me, the enjoyment of the lifestyle that involves completely outweighs the money I could (probably) make if I slaved in a studio creating high-commercial-value model shots for eight hours a day.
It also happens that stock sites need niche LCV photos, travel etc. to prop up all the shots of smiling 18-year-old "businesswomen" with their "teams", jumping goldfish and happy families living in fantasyland.
So I would say using stock to improve your life is better than allowing it to control your life, if you are able to make it work for you in that way.
Posted by Gowanco on November 08, 2010
Absolutely wonderful article!!! And very true. I am a buyer of the photos and I am continually looking for better quality photos.. I love the the greater variety I'm starting to find that is geared for business use. Excellent work by the photographers who put in the effort and think about what the customer wants and needs.
Posted by Ziprashantzi on November 07, 2010
Excellent article. Thank you for sharing.
Posted by Alvera on November 07, 2010
"it takes time and perseverance to make money"... or you need money to make money :D
Posted by Dmccale on November 07, 2010
great blog and awesome port
Posted by Bowied on November 06, 2010
Good work dude, you are interesting to read, many new things I've known
Posted by Sweetheart29 on November 04, 2010
True, good article!
Posted by Alexhor on November 02, 2010
Motivating article with excellent points. Keep up!
Posted by FabioConcetta on November 01, 2010
Nice article,well done!
Posted by Emmacharles on October 31, 2010
So true...your advice applies to everything in life one wants to succeed in. Thanks.
Posted by Komar on October 31, 2010
Good read. Yes there are a lot of different reasons why people are here. However, there would be far fewer if money wasn't involved.
Posted by Yuritz on October 30, 2010
surely a great article,really clear and focused on some interesting points
Posted by ibreakstock on October 28, 2010
Great articles and all points well made :)
Posted by Patpat on October 28, 2010
Good article and thanks for the memory refreshed ...
Posted by Thaipro on October 28, 2010
Excellent articles. Your point of view made me wonder about my own reasons for entering microstock. Food for thought. Thank you, Petar!
Posted by Demonike on October 27, 2010
Literally very well put, Petar! :)
Posted by Unregistred on October 27, 2010
I really like your blog, continue to wright , I Knew many new intersting things
Posted by Songbird839 on October 26, 2010
Well done! :)
Posted by Gennaro86 on October 26, 2010
Beautiful blog. And Great article. Thanks
Posted by smartview27 on October 26, 2010
Great blog. Thanks.
Posted by Xiaofeng123 on October 26, 2010
learn more。
Posted by Petarneychev on October 25, 2010
@Mani - Yes, reviewers are able to see the name of the contributor.
Posted by Cteconsulting on October 25, 2010
Great article. I am very thankful that about 3 years ago I was able to transition my microstock involvement from part-time to full-time. Since then, I continue to build my portfolio, with the goal of getting to 10,000 images in the next 3 years. Looking at this as a business, I have also decided to leave California and move to Nevada so that I can take advantage of much greater tax savings. I agree that it takes plenty of time and perseverance to make "real" money at microstock. I remember making my first $100 a month. I thought..."Wow! I guess microstock can pay for some groceries" Then, I started making $500 a month and I thought..."Wow! I guess now it can pay for my groceries AND utilities! How cool is that!" Then, I started making $1000 a month, etc. That's when I realized that microstock could be a full-time opportunity, and that's why I focused nearly 100% of my energy on making this a living nearly 3 years ago. Fast-forward to today...I'm still not making what I would...(More)

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Comments (41)

This article has been read 4820 times. 34 readers have found this article useful.
Photo credits: Ecophoto, Eti Swinford, Petarneychev.

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