Thursday, October 15, 2009

Is the gold rush over in microstock photography?

Let me start by making it clear it has never been easy to make any significant money in microstock photography. The contributors making good money have worked hard to build successful collections over time that bring them the rewards for their efforts. However, a few years ago it was realistic for many "Mom and Pop" point and shoot snappers to upload their photos and earn some cash on the side. Some of these discovered they had real talent, saw the potential and went on with work and perseverance to become the people who now make significant income.

The question now is whether it is still possible for a new contributor to start from zero and build a portfolio in the microstock industry that will make them a reasonable return, at least, for their efforts. My short answer is a qualified yes; it can still be done but it is a lot harder with the level of competition now in terms of both quantity and quality of images continually being added. A talented contributor prepared to put in sustained effort could still build an asset - a portfolio - of images that will earn them residual income and possibly develop a career shooting for stock if desired. However the days of submitting snapshots from compact cameras and making a little second income, I think, are pretty much over. Any new contributor needs to being going into this with a high level of skill, good gear and the stamina for the long haul.

Kind of ironic in a way. The barriers to entry into the microstock business have started to rise! There is an interesting discussion on this going on over at the shutterstock forums which is worth a read for anyone considering their next move in microstock. A lot of valuable insight from experienced contributors is being shared in addition to some inspiring examples of what can be achieved.


36Clicks said...

Hi Alex,

Interesting article. I agree. Newcomers can make a substantial income through stock. One thing I find missing in your article, though: taking into account that the marketplace is changing, and adapting to those changes is vital. Most contributors fail to evolve. Effectiveness should supersede the diligent input and needed effort you refer to.

AlexH said...

Yes, very good point. Despite stolk folk lore it isn't simply a numbers game and as you suggest it is very important to try and work 'smart'. A portfolio of 100 well considered images will certainly outperfom 1000 random shots thrown up without much thought.