Myths of the Microstock Industry
May 6, 2015
It is a constant for new contributors joining Dreamstime so there are always people who are beginning their journey into the business of commercial photography. And thus, many of them invariably ask the same questions over and over as they seek answers for being successful in the world of microstock.
One of the biggest problems they face is being able to separate the good advice from the bad. There are many myths and a general mindset that is perpetuated even by experienced microstockers. This is unfortunate as in many cases it can do more harm than good.
Myth Number 1: "Your Pictures Are Beautiful!"
Telling a photographer his images are beautiful and to be patient because sales will come is not helping. The contributor is asking how to get sales and will fall into the trap of having an ego that was stroked. Yes, the images may be beautiful, but that is not helping the person get sales. Pictures of sunsets, flowers, cityscapes, the database is overflowing with these kinds of images and even the best of the best will see very low sales.
Most contributors start with vacation pictures and landscapes. There is nothing wrong with that but being a good photographer is not enough. If you want sales, then you need to concentrate on CONTENT and CONCEPTS. This is a world of commercial photography and if you want sales, take off your Artiste hat and put on a hat for Commercial photography.
A significant number of new contributors get their ego stroked and then fail miserably because they were told they were good photographers. They never get the advice they really need: Change gears from landscapes to COMMERCIAL!
Myth Number 2: "Just Keep Uploading!"
I cringe every time someone tells a new contributor to just keep uploading and they will see sales. Tell a comedian to get onto a stage and tell a lot of jokes and some of them will get laughs. Yeah, he might have two or three good zingers but he's going to be pelted with rotten eggs.
Quality matters. In fact, quality is the ONLY thing that matters for getting sales. Upload crap and you will get crap for sales. Upload QUALITY and you will start seeing sales. Upload QUALITY in QUANTITY, then you will start seeing the real goal: A STEADY INCOME.
Myth Number 3: "Images Need to be Online for a While"
There are people who will say things like "An image needs to be online for about six months before it starts seeing sales." That is false. False! F-A-L-S-E!
A QUALITY image can start seeing sales immediately. An outstanding image will see sales at a steady rate. It's extremely difficult to upload a "winner" every time but think about this: If an image can earn $100 over five years, then what if you could earn $100 on 1,000 images over five years? For those of you slow with math, that's $100,000 or $20,000/year. I am no where close to earning that kind of money but it's apparent a small percentage of my portfolio is responsible for a large percentage of my income.
You should always be trying to come up with "Winners." You still need to upload the secondary images because they will generate income as a whole but the time an image has been online has nothing to do with its ability to get sales. Good images get sales. Mediocre images see occasional sales. Crap earns nothing. It's easy to tell the difference: Crap images don't sell! There is a reason why they don't sell. The reasons are many- figure out why they don't sell and you will begin to understand what makes a winner.
Myth Number 4: "How Do I Increase Views?"
New contributors are always asking how to increase their views. Views are a great tool for understanding which of your images are getting activity. A lot of views means the concept, subject, or the image itself is of interest. If that's the case, then you should pursue those subjects and ideas.
It should not be surprising if a bad snapshot of your pet cat will get very little views. If an image does not get much activity, it's because the subject is well covered in the database or your competition has similar images that are better in quality.
The problem is people do not use Views as a tool. There are ways to increase views if all you want is a large view count. You can tweet images, post links to them with social media, etc. However, if an image is crap, it's still not going to sell just because you found a way to get everyone to look at it.
You really want to know the secret to getting views? Two things: Keyword the image correctly and do good work. In the end, views do not equate to sales! QUALITY equates to sales!
Myth Number 5: "The Microstock Industry is Imploding"
The industry actually might blow itself up as the agencies rush to sell images cheaper than the next guy, but that's not yet the case. And yes, there are concerns where the industry is going. Dreamstime has changed its policy from being strict on concept and content to accepting virtually any image. This is making it impossible for buyers to find your images as the competition increases by virtue of a flooded market.
However, none of this is true, at least for the contributor who creates original, imaginative, and unique images. If you create images for which there is little or no competition, the market is wide open for you. Being on the cutting edge is easier said than done but you will find greater success being a trailblazer rather than following what has already been done. Just go to the latest uploads section on Dreamstime and you will see a flood of contributors who have failed in their microstock endeavor before they ever really started.
Use your imagination and creativity! Or you can take snapshots of your pet cat or copy what everyone else is doing.
The next time you see someone complaining in the forums about how their sales have disappeared, take a look at their portfolio. Is the industry to blame or the QUALITY of their portfolio?
Myth Number 6: "Giving Away Free Images Gains Me Exposure"
Buyers do not check out your portfolio if you put a lot of images into the free section. The free section serves a purpose for attracting new customers, but the vast majority of people who utilize the free images are doing just that: Looking for FREE images. They are the cheap of the cheap, freeloaders of the industry, and people looking for a free ride. A handful do become paying customers which is why you provide free images but free images do not get you exposure.
Since there is no rule of thumb, I will create one now: "You should not have more than FIVE images in the free section."
A large, robust inventory of free images only serves to take away sales from the collective community. A small, limited sampling of images helps to encourage potential buyers to come to the site and look around.
Are you here to work for free or to get paid for your work? Then give away a slice, not the whole cake.
So there you have it. The above is a set of the common myths that abound in the microstock industry. Simply put, if you want sales, the focus should be on images with COMMERCIAL potential. Keyword images properly. Imagination and creativity and quality execution go a lot farther than copying what everyone else is doing. If images don't sell, then don't make excuses, figure out the REASON why and adjust as needed.
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