Quality versus quantity versus time
A simple example illustrates the point. If spending twice as much time on an image produces an image with better 'quality', then I can either spend the same amount of total time on images and produce half as many of higher quality, or I can double the time spent and produce the same number of images as I used to, but achieve more 'quality'.
The is a very important discussion when it comes to stock photos and how you focus your time. Dreamstime makes it pretty clear that with the level system you are better off having fewer images with more sales, than more images with the same number of total sales. But that isn't the whole story. If I spent more time on an image, it may generate more sales, but it may not. What is clear is that it will take me more time per image. The more time I spend on an image, the more I expect to get out of it in terms of sales. The trouble is, I get royalties when it sells, not when I upload it. My strategy has been to try to minimize my time spent on images, while maximizing the quality for the time spent. Furthermore, I'm not very happy when I spend hours on an image and get $0.42, whereas even that sub sales makes me happy on a five minute image.
If I spend 10 minutes on an image and it makes me $5, I've made $30/hr for my time. If I spend 2 hours on it, it needs to make me $60 back to pay the same. This is a huge problem - because I don't believe that time spent increases sales in a linear fashion. For most of my images spending twice the time on them would hardly change what I did. Spending a lot more time on images will surely improve them and their sales, but who benefits? Dreamstime benefits for lots of reasons, buyers benefit with better content, but does the contributor benefit? Sure I'm more likely to make more per sale on a higher quality image, but it is at the cost of the number of images I can produce.
Ultimately the issue I have personally is that I see no relation between time spent on an image and its sales. I have images I spent hours on that don't sell, and trivial images that are my top sellers. I count myself as fortunate because the new upload limits aren't really cramping my style, but I would be very frustrated if I was working full time at this and found myself producing more images than I could upload. What do you think - do your images sell better when you spend more time on them?
I'll leave you with an example - here is a "multitasking" shot that I thought about, planned, setup a tripod, and spent time merging images in Photoshop. Totally not worth it if I could have known it would earn me $2. The time clock shot above I took while I was waiting for my kids to put on their shoes, and it has made 4 times the revenue, for a few minutes work... I think this is kind of where the new limits on uploading are coming from - trying to get us to not submit those shots that will only earn a few sales or pull sales from other images already online. The problem is that as often as not my guesses on what would sell are wrong.