After more than 4 years of microstock activities, with different efforts and directions, I’d like to start from some personal experiences trying to draw a general and current state for the microstock contributors.
1) 2010 seems to have shown the peak of my microstock earnings followed by a sensible loss of “power” of selling.
2) My incomes are supported by some old shots/series that are still covering niches and have reached a good visibility thanks to their high positions when sorting the search results for number of downloads. These images are not “special” and I can now produce with a better quality, the are just “visible”. For example, the Wood Pellets series on Fotolia and the Electric Car (level 5 on Dreamstime).
3) All the new photos – I can say starting from the 2009 – are not selling a lot, just with some exceptions of centered concepts/niches.
That’s coming from other sources
1) During the last CEPIC New Media Conference, both Yuri Arcurs and Andres Rodriguez, two of the top selling microstock contributors of the world, declared that their RPI (Revenue/Return Per Image) is going down, even in a significant way.
2) Many microstock contributors announce that are still reaching Best Month Ever incomes. But how many of them with higher RPI? Doubling the portfolio size drives you to a BME but it doesn't mean doubling incomes…
3) In the interview with Robert Davies published on this site, you can find some important trend information coming from the picNiche system:
- the mainstream topics (such as business, backgrounds, textures, family…), are showing slight downward movements in rating suggesting that the market has become saturated for those subjects;
- “the figures still indicate a significant growth in sales, but it's caused mainly by an increase of available images leading to a likely drop in the RPI…”
- good performances are still offered by the right niches
4) Just published by Jim Pickerell, the article Has Demand for Microstock Photography Peaked? tries to deduce that sales over the past year have been flat.
5) We've already talked about the long-tail of thousands of contributors that hardly will reach the payouts.
6) 2010 seams to be the year in which a huge number of professional stock photographers has been entering in the microstock arena, with strong presence of quality portfolios composed of thousands of images. They are trying to balance the drop in selling of the traditional stock photo industry. The most active are also joining the new Gold Rush, stock video production.
This is my “photography” of the current situation for the microstock contributors and we can find a plethora of sources and thoughts that would enforce this feeling. If we should give some conclusions for a “normal” contributor, here we are, not a catastrophic view but the good money and the top are in the past; always the same suggestions:
- create good quality photographic production keeping low the costs
- find niche subjects to avoid the saturation
- feed the beast with frequent submissions
- think about the stock footage market
Is it easy? No, it isn't and it's harder than in the past. I predict a lot of unsatisfied contributors that will leave this kind of photo business model. Now, let's smile, it's still a good and funny circus 🙂