I’m not a great photographer or illustrator, I’m not even really any good, but I have enough of a range in my portfolio to hit the broad-strokes and make a fair income for only about 2000 fair-to-middling quality images produced mostly about 3 years ago.
I’m more well known, and better qualified to work mainly from a software engineer’s perspective.All my commercial experience was in large-scale project management support systems, so worked a lot with analytics, risk, asset, resource and information management, workflow and distribution... So that’s what I bring to microstock.
Distribution is across (x-axis) any of:about 1,000 active ‘agencies’, about 60,000 active contributors, about 20,000 buyer-search terms,about 30 million image buyers (rough guess).Everyone in this room is ‘probably’ all the way up here already, but only 5-10 people here (of perhaps 100 people in the entire industry) are ‘really’ in the head of the head, everyone below them is producing/earning relatively VERY little.So how do you get from the tail, into the head? The short version is, you probably can’t if you’re not there already. The long version goes like this:
Neither quality or marketing was all ‘that’ important, quantity was more than enough to establish a reasonable level of earnings
Current focus is quality vs quantity, quality is winning.
Quantity will become less and less important if you can produce great quality images, and know how to actually sell them.To sustain future growth and avoid being pushed out of the market by the top-10 contributors, you’re going to have to focus on shooting ‘for your buyers’, understanding their needs and producing to meet those needs, and marketing to those buyers who demand your ‘core work’.
The future is in effective targeted marketingConversion rates matter For researching content For agency search algorithms For social media and online distributionUpselling Free-image users to paid users Selling premium content to existing buyers
Starting outImages were rough, but usableIsolations were easy, and popularPeople shots were originally ‘artsy’Good group-shots were rareIllustrations were very simpleBackgrounds and abstracts were great fillerStyles were slapdash and ill-definedRecent historyNeat, clean shots convert better(Almost) every object/person has been isolated alreadyPeople shots are now rich & commercially focussed Technical quality is reaching a plateau for new workCreativity is now ‘flat’ but well-defined and effectiveIllustrations have become highly-complex/collection-basedBasic footage developed as fillerA select few style-leaders have driven the market
Lifestyle & ‘rich media’ contentBroader internationalised contentContent quality will improve ever moreExpansion into footage is essentialRoom for niche collections is growingYour style needs to be original, and definitively your own
Competition is NOT the only downward driver, as poor quality images are currently still selling occasionally (though mainly to the less-sophisticated buyer)
STOCKinRUSSIA 2011. Robert Davies_picNiche. Identifying Microstock Trends and Maximising Earning Potential in a Mature Marketplace
Maximising Earning Potential in a Mature Microstock Marketplace<br />Bob Davies<br />
Who am I?<br />Microstock Illustrator & (Occasional) Photographer<br />
Who am I?<br /><ul><li>Blogger & software engineer
The long-tail rules<br />This is the 80/20 rule visualised<br />Your position in the head/tail matters...<br />There is no ‘real’ average<br />The head is better for any ‘one’ <br />The tail is good for any ‘many’<br />
Fundamentals<br />Research and preparation are critical<br />Objectivity goes a long way<br />Quality is greater than quantity<br />Conversion rates earn status<br />Monitor, revise and renew<br />
The Thought-Model was:<br />sell<br />MORE<br />photos<br />
The Thought-Model is now:<br />sell<br />MORE<br />PHOTOS<br />
SELL more PHOTOS<br />Analytics & Self-awareness<br />Targeted Production<br />Shoot for your market<br />Accurate and relevant metadata<br />Agencies/photographers markets must ‘align’<br />Marketing<br />Up-sell your market<br />Change your workflow<br />
Aspects of the image (then)<br />Early microstock<br />Images were rough<br />Lots of opportunity for everyone<br />Few barriers-to-entry<br />Recent developments<br />Higher quality is necessary<br />Less space in the market<br />Production costs are increasing<br />
Aspects of the image (near future)<br />Lifestyle & ‘rich media’ content<br />Broader internationalised content<br />Content quality will improve ever more<br />Expansion into footage is wise<br />Room for niche collections is growing<br />New technology makes brings new imagery<br />Your style needs to be original, and definitively your own<br />
What to actually shoot?<br />What is a picNiche rating?<br />Conversion against competition<br />Oversupplied topics rate low<br />Undersupplied topics rate high<br />Not a perfect measure, but a good indicator<br />Search volume data is an issue<br />What I’ve learned from picNiche data...<br />
Downward Trends<br />Downward trends are ALL due to<br />Increased competition<br />Don’t waste your time...<br />If you plan to produce any of these topics:<br />you must be GREAT already<br />...and improve to become AMAZING!<br />
Extra Opportunities:<br />These are moving down, but still have room for sales:<br />Rare animals<br />Bonsai<br />Lacrosse<br />Financial planning<br />Tech. infrastructure<br />Social media<br />Hacking & Security<br />Hockey<br />Medical imagery<br />Boxing<br />Fossils<br />Life insurance<br />Scientific principles<br />Active workers<br />‘Real’ dancing<br />Server hardware<br />Traditional Asian culture<br />Children’s pastimes<br />Mortgages & Loans<br />Angels<br />Maps<br />Juggling<br />Horse racing<br />Under construction<br />Cheerleading<br />Ninja<br />Sports coaching<br />Water sports<br />Dolphins<br />Drugs & Alcohol<br />Lost puppy<br />Magic<br />
Upward Trends<br />Upward trends exist mainly because of:<br />Image-buyers in emerging markets<br />Higher expectations from existing buyers<br />New fashions in imagery<br />Few topics currently upward trending<br />More generally...<br />
General Topics to Shoot<br />Alternative lifestyle<br />‘Luxurious’ life images<br />Exotic locations<br />People at work and play (active, not staged)<br />Highly-styled and cultural<br />Footage with the same focus as successful imagery<br />3D-imagery<br />These topics won’t stay the same for long...<br />
Stay Ahead of the Curve...<br />Research and review are critical<br />Plan each production<br />Assess your market’s needs<br />Read what they blog/write about<br />Follow their news<br />Use Google image-search / TinEye / PicScout<br />Maximise your reach<br />Check the return-on-investment<br />and most importantly...<br />
Tough for Photographers...<br />More competition from new photographers<br />Aggressive positioning from lead photographers<br />More discerning buyers<br />Changing styles in demand<br />Slimmer margins<br />More involved work<br />Higher quality requirements<br />
Not Much Better for Agencies...<br />More competition from new agencies<br />Aggressive market positioning from top agencies<br />More discerning buyers <br />Changing styles in demand<br />Slimmer margins<br />More marketing work<br />Higher quality requirements<br />More complicated third-party relationships<br />More upset photographers<br />
It’s not all negative<br />Countless image buyers remain to be up-sold<br />More people online in non-western nations<br />Some Agencies becoming more forward-thinking<br />Photographers and agencies doing well now have little chance of failure<br />