Microstock - the mp3 of photography? - Dreamstime

A few years ago, music was available to masses through record producers only - vinyl or CD, the support didn't really matter. The producer started to act as a director, setting trends, creating stars, shaping new generation' addictions based on his own vision, creativity and knowledge. As money was involved, the artistic vision may be surpassed by financial reasons, giving birth to monster kitsch productions. You might think that what you hear at the radio is what the DJ likes. Is not really so ( link)... The producer or label dictated the playlist more than ever.

Then a revolution begun, nurtured by the technological evolution. The MP3 file was born. The audio digital format was there before, but now, the MP3 allowed users to send each other files thanks to its very low file size. It has its drawbacks. The bitrate that controls the size can also control what your ear hears. You lose quality... But this is not the point of this post.

The point is that in a similar way the digital cameras affected the market of stock photography. They allowed a huge army of amateurs to pursue their passion. Nikon and Canon are the first to be blamed/acclaimed for this.

Blamed by the industry in the beginning, just as the MP3 format was, the digital cameras are now part of everyone's gear. And so will microstock be. Think how popular the MP3 has gotten. We may have tapes, vinyls, audio CDs...but the new generations are armed with Mp3 players and they purchase music by song and not by albums.

That's IF they "purchase": distribution got democratized and demand&offer are now in control, not a single person or a group of persons.

The days of the collection CDs will be over. Nobody will buy 300 images of the same theme, no matter how low the price. They want control and the right tune/ photograph. Sellers are no longer controlling this, but the buyer. The customer is in control, the agency does the marketing, gives the right tools and lets him decide.

Anyone can make the perfect photo for the perfect buyer. Veterans and newcomers compete on equal grounds. It's their imagery that makes the difference as well as the buyer.

Where did the last DJ go? To MySpace, to Itunes, to Dreamstime...

Photo credits: Barbara Helgason.

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January 07, 2009


Lee, your main income is not photography, right? See the other point of view.

May 06, 2008


During the early days of MP3 it was the established artists, most vocally Metalica, who complained. They were the ones who's income was under threat.

No we see the same thing in the stock photo industry. Those complaining about an even playing field are the ones whose income is under threat.

Photos will pass the same way as music. Microstock, like MP3 peer-to-peer trading, will account for the bulk of the quantity traded, but 'talented' macrostock photographers will still be able to earn their living from within the protection of agencies (well, perhaps after the current slowdown in that part of the market).

It's simply a case of technological advances causing a more even spread of market forces, or more simply, power to the people!

May 06, 2008


so time is changing youpla boom.....
hip hip hip... for the buyers...

May 05, 2008


Hey Serban lets partner on a new Microstock Music company... I already have my own music label working on this idea :P I have the music knowledge and you know the market .. :D

May 04, 2008


Well put! However, I have one fear...... that the market will make it easy for lower quality images to flood the industry. It is true that the customer will search out the best quality (content and resolution) but for those new customers entering the market, I only hope for the best.

May 03, 2008


Great article!
And I love this cute doggy!

Democratized related image searches