PhotoPlus 2008: Microstock Superstars

Further notes from the Microstock Superstars session

Kelly Cline takes questions after the panel discussion. Photography by Mark Lyndersay.

The strata of stock photography today are microstock, midstock and traditional or macrostock.
Different agencies have different maximum sizes available as the largest files they sell, these “extra large” sizes command the largest fees in the microstock business. Prices also go up based on the sales figures of the stock photographer, the more photos sold, the higher the selling price for their images in the library.

Yuri Arcurs makes 30 percent of his sales income from extra large and expanded licenses.
Kelly Cline is the only one of the four panelists who is exclusive with an agency (iStock Photo), and experienced a 100 percent rise in income, faster inspections turnover an exclusive queue and improved exposure as a result.
Yuri produces 1200 or more images per month for his stock submissions, well above the 60 per month limit for iStock Photo.
Yuri Arcurs: “Many agencies are running on the edge, so prices are likely to rise.”

Some stock photographers have had success with software that handles uploading to multiple agencies at the same time, Torrens suggests ProStock Master and Cushy Stock.
Two hundred thousand images are being inspected every month and arbitrary rejections for unsatisfactorily specificied issues are far too common among stock image inspectors who focus on technical quality.

Successful photographs are clean, simple designs, focusing on lifestyle imagery, no composites, no sharpening, no postproduction work on images. Keep the focus on end-use.
Kelly Cline: “when you shoot, think like a designer, leave space in the composition for copy, use white backgrounds on objects to make them easier to drop out.
Kelly Cline has successfully carved out a niche in people and food photography, with many successful images showing people interacting with tasty looking dishes.

Yuri sees naturalism to be a growing trend in the future and he finds that a lot of microstock images look posed and stilted. In lifestyle photography, styles are changing faster than ever and images can become stale quickly. ”Big sellers will generate income, but all your other images will sell as well. I’m developing my photoshoots around the idea of a storyboard. We develop a situation, but we also think about what happens before and after that situation and plan the shoot around that as well.“

Key to success is ensuring that stock photographers find the right balance between spending on producing images and the expected return per image (RPI). Kelly Cline averages a return of 125 percent on her image collection.
Andreas Rodriguez: “as long as you keep uploading, your revenue stream will keep going up.”
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