My latest images for sale at Shutterstock:

Tuesday, 29 November 2011


I have come across a useful little prog called Lightburner. It is free and beta, so a little bit clunky at the moment, but I think it might be a lifesaver for me.

In short it is an image distribution service for independent stock photographers. You send them your images then tell them which agencies to submit them to. You need to supply your login details for this part obviously. They will then send your images to the agencies, from where you can add categories, releases etc before submitting. What this cuts out is the need to upload the same images from your computer to the servers of the respective agencies. I only need to upload the images from my computer to the servers of Lightburner and they then do the rest. As someone on a very limited wifi allowance (15GB a month - nowhere near enough for serious uploading to ten or so sites), this saves both time and my precious upload/download allowance.

As someone unfamiliar with FTP, I found it a bit of a challenge to set up, but once I had achieved it the prog was remarkably simple. I would recommend ticking the box to tell it to put the images into the upload area rather than the queue, particularly on Bigstock as otherwise you will be stuck with the sometimes bizzare categories they autogenerate for you. You do this via the 'preferences' tab on each channel.

The main drawback with Lightburner is that it only stores your images for three days. You get an email before they delete them so you won't get too caught out. Online storage is expensive and as I mentioned before, this prog is free, so it seems fair enough. Mostly this shouldn't be a problem, but if a new agency opens up sometime in the future you would need to upload directly to them as your images won't be available on Lightburner any more. For this reason I won't be using their metadata editor, which is a shame as it would be quite useful to ex-iStockers like me and is also quite nicely laid out and easy to use.

The site is hosted via Amazon's servers so should be fairly secure from hacking (if you are worried about giving them your login details).

Friday, 25 November 2011

My apologies.....

My apologies, it has been an awfully long time since my last post. I had some 'real life' issues I needed to deal with and photography had to take a back seat for a while. I am now submitting again, trying to get my back-catalogue uploaded to all my agencies, as well as adding a couple of new agencies to the mix.

I have been asked recently whether I am going to continue as an independent or go back to exclusivity with iStock. Right now going back to iStock is as unthinkable as it was in Oct 2010. I do not regret my decision to leave and am enjoying being independent a great deal. My income has roughly halved, but I think that is because I have not been able to complete uploading my back catalogue. I feel I did the right thing at the right time by leaving and I have no doubts or regrets about it at all.

I have updated my income stats page, so you can now view more than a years worth of indie income figures there. As you can see, I faltered at around the 115 uploads mark and stayed stuck there for a while.

iStock: My iStock figures were fairly steady for a while, then took a dive about six months after I had cancelled excusivity. Since then they have been poor, but fairly steady - as much as I would like to jump on the 'iStock is failing' bandwagon, I'm not sure it is borne out by my stats. I know that others (both exclusive and indie) have reported that their sales on iStock did not recover from the traditional summer slump this year but have continued to fall, but I can't really see that in my sales - mine fell at around April. (I have however seen the corresponding increase in sales at other agencies though - more about this below). I imagine my BM position has been fairly well trashed as a result of non-exclusivity and failing to upload there anymore, but I don't bother tracking it so I can't offer any figures for that. I have to say that earning 16% and sometimes as little as 13c per sale leaves a sour taste in the mouth and I would love to build my other agencies up to the point where I could drop iStock altogether, but just can't afford to yet.

Shutterstock: My sales on Shutterstock have been better than I had expected considering the size of my portfolio there, with regular daily sales. In August and September they beat my iStock earnings in spite of having only 10% of the number of images for sale as I do at iStock. I have now passed their $500 earnings threshold to begin earning higher commissions, which has been very welcome. It is nice to be earning more without it costing the customer more and so leading to lower sales volume. While the jump from 25c to 33c for subs is not huge, the difference between $1.88 and $2.48 for on-demand sales is more significant. A large number of indie contributors have reported stellar sales figures across all other agencies as iStock's figures have fallen this year. Although my sample is admittedly very small, I think that is definitely borne out in my Shutterstock sales stats. I have also earned a total of $14 from two photographers who joined Shutterstock using my referral link, for which I am very grateful.

Dreamstime are my number 3 agency - they pay fairly well but it is not unusual for a week or two to pass between sales. I know this is due to the small size of my online portfolio, but that is all I have to go on at the moment. Some of my images there have begun to move up the levels and so become more expensive to the buyer while earning me higher commissions. This is very welcome as long as my images keep selling. Again, with such a small sample it is too difficult to draw meaningful conclusions about this yet. My acceptance rate has been good and I feel positive about my experiences as a contributor there so far.

All the rest: My sales at Fotolia are fairly regular and things have picked up a lot at Deposit and BigStock lately too. Veer have been a bit of a disappointment, but have saved the day with a couple of generous ELs. Although sales there are very intermittent, when they do come they are usually for a reasonable amount. With CanStock the gimmick of getting images accepted ten minutes after submission is wearing thin in the face of low sales, though a nice wee Distribution sale (Partner agency) doubled my earnings and allowed me to collect a payout over the summer. Sales at StockFresh are very slow as was expected, but I have heard a lot of grumbling online from other independents who believe that they are not spending enough on marketing themselves to properly take advantage of the opportunity presented by any dissent amongst contributors/customers at iStock. I guess it can be difficult for a new agency to find the funds to do this. One new agency that apparently does have a significant marketing budget is Photodune, by virtue of their place within the Envato design stable. They seem to be making a concerted pitch for new business and it will be interesting to see how that plays out in the future. In general there is a feeling in 'Indie Land' that things in the microstock industry are changing with iStock possibly on the wane, although it is still early days yet.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

A plan for smaller agencies

I am now getting up to the 100 images accepted mark on most agencies (apart from Shutterstock - of course). I think these are 100 fairly saleable images so I would be expecting to see reasonably regular sales. It is clear that some agencies can achieve this and others can't. I have come up with a new benchmark with which to measure agencies to decide if I should carry on uploading there:

I will stop uploading to any agency that I haven't been able to take a payout from after one year. I will stop uploading sooner to any agency that is overly picky about which of my images it accepts and/or makes the uploading task so arduous that it stops being worthwhile.

So far the following don't look like they will make the grade:


Bigstock and Deposit are definately on notice.
StockFresh I will cut a lot of slack to give them time to get up and running properly.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Panthermedia - a warning

I applied today to Panthermedia, a German mid/micro stock site. I really can't recommend them, in fact I would suggest you avoid them.

At first I was given a strange set of account options to chose from which made little sense to me. Having picked one that sounded most likely I was then told that I had to pay 35 euro cents to register my paypal account with them. This made no sense either but I went ahead and paid it as it isn't a huge amount. It didn't seem to be possible to bypass this stage and continue with the application. I then had to complete a childish and frustrating contributor quiz before I was allowed to upload.

With over a hundred images sitting waiting I was looking forward to firing these up with the sort of speed I have achieved elsewhere, ie Crestock recently. But oh dear, the upload interface is dreadful. All fields have to be filled in prior to upload, which means no reading keywords etc from the metadata. They also require you to go through and select all kinds of options ie age of model, emotion displayed by model etc. I didn't bother.

I did some googling and found some forum posts from July 2009 by Panthermedia staff promising a new upload interface imminently. As far as I can tell this hasn't happened. A lot of other photogs were moaning about the paypal payment and upload time. Those that had persevered complained of long inspection wait times and a poorly managed site.

I feel ripped off (even if only for 35c) and annoyed by them. Don't bother unless you fancy wasting either your money or your time.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

First quarter results

It is now three months since I dropped my crown at iStock and started uploading to multiple sites. In spite of some fairly challenging life events which have prevented me from spending a great deal of time on stock I have still managed to upload over a hundred images to each of the sites I am contributing to. It has only been the addition of keywords to the metadata that has slowed me down - actual uploading is pretty quick and painless as I have said here before.

I have now uploaded most of my iStock bestsellers to all sites and so I am hoping for some more positive results soon. One of my favourite images (my Viking fire shot) was immediately downloaded as an EL on Shutterstock, which netted me a very welcome $28.

Acceptance rates have broadly followed those of my 'first fifty' images ie 80-odd percent on most sites, 50-odd percent on Shutterstock (although I have not yet begun to downsize the rejections to resubmit there).

In total since independence I have earned $571, of which $358 came from iStock and $213 came from other agencies. The end of December and beginning of January were pretty poor, as was to be expected, but my sales have begun to heat up again. The new earning structure at iStock has now kicked in, resulting in my royalty percentage there being cut from 20% to a miserly 16%. Obviously this will see a sizeable fall in my future iStock income. This does not inspire me to want to upload more images there, in fact with my recent revenues being as low as 13c for an XS, it makes me contemplate removing images from the site. If I do this I may well remove the images that have been accepted at other sites and leave those that have either been rejected elsewhere or which I haven't bothered to upload as I don't think they will sell.

Earnings for the first three months:

iStock - 358.25
Shutterstock - 105.32
Veer - 51.45
Dreamstime - 29.84
Fotolia - 18.26
Canstock - 5.50
Deposit - 1.78
Bigstock - 0.50
Crestock - 0 (started uploading Jan 2011)
StockFresh - 0 (started uploading Jan 2011)
123RF - 0 (started uploading Jan 2011)

For three months worth of exclusivity with iStock (including Christmas and New Year) I would have expected to bring in about $900-1000, so I am currently about $300-400 down.

For the next three months I want to get at least another hundred of my back catalogue uploaded plus another hundred new images. I am also hoping that this period will see my earnings back up above $300 a month to be comparable with my old iStock exclusive earnings. I won't be uploading all of the 661 images I have currently on iStock to other agencies as I don't think all of these are worth the effort.

The EL at Shutterstock put me over their minimum payout threshold of $75 for the first time. My understanding is that payouts there take place automatically at the end of the month in which you earned more than your set payout threshold (this can be altered by the contributor). It will be good to reach the point of getting regular payouts across the sites - so far it has just been iStock that I have been able to take payments from, which has meant some pretty lean times.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Oh dear iStock, what have you done?

The latest stats from a forum poll on iStockphoto make uncomfortable reading. This may not be a representative sample, but it is all we have to go on at the moment. The figures show the winners and losers under the new royalty structure (excepting of course iStock and Getty, who will be the biggest winners here - they will make far more money in 2011 than they did in 2010).

272 Exclusives reporting (4.6% of Exclusives)
Down: 205 (75%)
Same: 50 (19%)
Up: 17 (6%)

5 Black Diamond Contributors reporting
Down: 2 (40%)
Same: 3 (60%)
Up: 0 (0%)

90 Diamond Contributors reporting
Down: 78 (87%)
Same: 11 (12%)
Up: 1 (1%)

75 Gold Contributors reporting
Down: 64 (85%)
Same: 10 (13%)
Up: 1 (2%)

78 Silver Contributors reporting
Down: 53 (68%)
Same: 18 (23%)
Up: 7 (9%)

24 Bronze Contributors reporting
Down: 8 (33%)
Same: 8 (33%)
Up: 8 (33%)


I have begun submitting images at StockFresh - as I said earlier, I am not expecting any sales for quite a while though.

My contributor application went through in five days and my images have been inspected in under three hours, so StockFresh seem to have got their earlier backlogs under control. So far my acceptance rate has been running at about 70% with the majority of rejections being for soft focus once again. I would suggest that anyone using a D300 or similar camera downsize their images before submitting there. If you do have images rejected then you need to click on the wee red dot next to them to find out the reason - I initially thought they didn't give a reason, but actually it is just well hidden. StockFresh have an upload limit of 50 images per day.

My images have been in Crestock's queue for well over a week now.
ETA - Crestock images inspected after a week and a half, so not too bad after all.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

New agencies

I have begun uploading to Crestock and have been accepted as a contributor at StockFresh. Uploading is very fast once you have the keywords in the metadata and so I was able to load my Crestock queue with 100 images in an afternoon. I have been waiting a week so far for them to be inspected - I will let you know how they get on once they have been reviewed.

Stockfresh are a very new site and have not yet begun to market themselves fully. It makes sense that they would want to wait until they have a sizeable catalogue of images available before they spend a lot of money on marketing. I understand that they are waiting until they have at least a million images on their site, but so far have only half that number. As they offer download stats for each image it is possible to see that Yuri's best-selling image on StockFresh has only seven downloads. I will upload there as it may well be good to get in at the start of a new site, but I am not expecting much income from there for at least a year or so. Just FYI - my application took five days to be passed.

I have had my contributor application accepted at 123RF, but have not begun to upload there yet. I was a bit perturbed by their requirement that I agree to cover all their legal costs in the event of them being sued over one of my images. I was a bit confused by this as I understood legal liability to rest with the artist, but I am not keen to write their lawyers a blank cheque in any event. If anyone with more experience of this sort of thing wants to take a look and report back here then that would be great.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Spread the word

With the new royalty structure about to begin at iStock, this would be a good time to spread the word about this blog and the forum. Please feel free to pass the links on to anyone in your CN etc who you think might be interested.

Upload limits and inspection times.

I have been meaning to post something here about upload times and limits and with other ex-iStockers beginning to join me this is probably a good time.

Upload limits - as you can see from the spreadsheet I haven't really taxed my upload limits yet. Shutterstock don't have any limits, nor do Fotolia, Bigstock, Canstock or Depositphotos (or at least I can't find any on the site anywhere). Dreamstime start you off with an allowance of 210 per week, which will stay the same as long as your acceptance ratio stays north of 80%. (ETA - not sure why, but mine now shows 350 per week - perhaps they love me...) Veer are the most restrictive, with a 50-a-week limit, recently reduced from 100 in order to tame their wild queue. Now that the queue does seem to be under control this may increase again, but it may not. If you can demonstrate that you have a lot of high quality images to submit then I would suggest contacting them to see if anything can be done. Either way, the limits certainly aren't as restrictive as those imposed upon non-exclusives at iStock (15 per week if I remember correctly). (ETA2 - StockFresh have an upload limit of 50 per day).

Inspection times are also very good in indie-land. I will put some approximate times in a list below as it is easier to read that way:

Canstock: 10 mins to 1 hour. Seriously.
Fotolia: Usually around 1-3 hours, has been as quick as 2 minutes, occasionally 1 day.
Shutterstock: 1-4 days (1 day lately)
Bigstock, Depositphotos: 3-5 days
Dreamstime: 4-7 days (4 days lately)
Veer: 2 months initially, 4-7 days now.

Inspections have been getting much quicker across all sites lately, but this probably due to less material being submitted at this time of year. I usually process a batch of five or ten or whatever before I submit, but often I can't resist pinging a couple up to Canstock as I work - I like to think of the poor lonely inspector sitting there waiting to pounce on them as they arrive and its fun to find them approved and live by the time I finish my editing session.

Other random stuff that might be helpful:
  • Keep your keywords to a maximum of 50 (Shutterstock and Bigstock's rules).
  • Always use American-English spellings otherwise you will spend a lot of time correcting them in Shutterstock.
  • Dreamstime's Java upload app always crashes for me when I use it on Firefox and WinXP. On IE or Chrome it works fine.
  • Dreamstime offer you the chance to sell the copyright to your image and set the price for doing so (SR-EL). You might want to think about that before you upload so that it doesn't throw you when you first start. The suggested price is $250 but I heard of someone who puts $850 down. I don't tick that box as I would rather not sell the right to ever earn any more from my image in this way, but it might suit some.
  • Dreamstime can be a bit slow at transferring your new uploads from the upload area to the editing area. Make a cup of tea or upload somewhere else and when you come back they will be there. But don't worry if you don't see them right away.
  • One site (I think it is Bigstock, but it doesn't really matter) doesn't like trade names in descriptions - this includes camera names so don't put in the description that it was taken with a Nikon D3x or whatever.
  • Fotolia require you to put keywords in order of relevance. This is a pain as CNX writes the first keywords which I add (ie the most relevant as they are first to occur to me) to the bottom of the list so it needs reversed once it gets to Fotolia. I tend to just grab a bunch from the bottom of the list and drag them to the top and leave it at that. It would just take too long otherwise.
  • Veer's keyword suggestionator is a hoot. For some reason it always suggests that I add the following keywords to my image: anthropomorphic, cornucopias and hubcaps. Apart from that it is quite helpful.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

A good start to the New Year

Anyone who managed to make it to the end of my last post will remember that I had my best-selling image (on iStock) rejected at Shutterstock for 'limited commercial value'. I sent it back to them last night with a message to the reviewer telling them that it was a successful image on iS and giving them the link to it's page there so that they could see download numbers, date of submission etc. The image was approved overnight and had already had a sale when I woke up this morning, bought by someone in the south of Mexico.

I was pleasantly surprised by this and makes me feel hopeful that I can get some of my other Shutterstock rejections overturned, either by downsizing or by way of a specific plea.

Another bit of good news - Veer seem to have their queue under control now - my last submissions were reviewed in less than a week.

Happy New Year everyone...