Saturday, September 12, 2009

Extended licences boost microstock earnings

I almost titled this post "extended licences and the microstock myth" just to fling a cat amongst some pigeons!

After checking some stats across some of my stock photography outlets I'm again noting how microstock is becoming more and more important as part of my photography business. A couple of new sales really highlight this. On Alamy I found this image of a couple browsing properties in an estate agents window had sold.

It is a common theme for a stock photo and this one has sold a few times over the past year.

Over at istockphoto I found the usual reliable stream of sales with the nice surprise of an extended licence download of this image of a man writing with two pens.

Which sale do you think made me the most money? The extended licence download on a microstock site earnt me double the commission that the RM licence for editorial newspaper use in the UK did through Alamy. Food for thought. Especially when you consider that was my only sale that day through Alamy and most days there will be no sales at all! On istock that EL download was in addition to a reliable daily quota of downloads averaging a return of around $1 each. I'm not exclusive on istock either, so those images are ticking away across six other microstock sites too.

There are still plenty of photographers who ask, with a great deal of incredulity; "why would you sell your images for 25c?" If 25c was the reality of microstock photography revenues they would have some point, but it never has been and it is getting increasingly far removed!

The microstock model has always been based on volume of sales so looking at the return from one individual download makes little sense. Instead the return per image over a period of time needs to be considered, just as in traditional stock photography. Compared on this basis the two models stack up much more closely. In fact micro is currently making me more money! Of course it would only take one or two big licence fees through my traditional agencies to reverse this, but that is only a possibility. The revenue from microstock photography, on the other hand, is much more reliable, and currently growing without me adding much to my portfolios.

This is not argument for focusing entirely on micro, more for not dismissing it as an option. Personally I feel having a interest in both sectors of the market is sensible. The images above are compared simply because sales they made popped up at the same time. The Alamy image is obviously not appropriate for RF use and a good example of how Alamy can offer an outlet for photography that isn't appropriate for microstock.

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