My latest images for sale at Shutterstock:

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

A post for Nikon users leaving iStock

Just a quick post for any Nikon users who are considering leaving iStock.  If you are going to go back through your portfolio adding keywords to the metadata then don't use CNX to do this - use Photoshop instead.  The reason for this is that CNX adds the keywords in reverse order, which means that the most useful keywords are then at the bottom of the list.  If you become a contributor on Fototlia you will find that they rank keywords by importance starting at the top of the list.  If you have used CNX then these will be the ones that occurred to you last ie 'colour', 'photo', 'horizontal' etc, rather than 'Christmas', 'Santa', 'presents' or whatever.

There have also been a few occasions using CNX when it has failed to save my keywords and I have had to start all over again.  I think this is something to do with CNX saving them to a separate (invisible) file whereas Photoshop marries them to the original image.  Or something.  I don't really know, I just know it is not a good idea!  All the best and Merry Christmas to you all.

Friday, 23 November 2012

A long-overdue post

Hi, and apologies once again for the gap in posts.

So, what has happened since my last post in January?  Most of the answers can be found on the stats page - I have been steadily increasing my portfolio and my earnings have also been growing slowly. In June of this year I had the opportunity to take part in a lifestyle shoot organised by some of my old iStock friends.  It was the first time I had worked with models and I enjoyed it a lot.  The images have been selling well, but not spectacularly so far, but it is good to finally have some people images for sale.  Having some new stuff to upload has helped me get excited about stock again and get round to uploading some more of my old back-catalogue images, some of which have surprised me by selling reasonably well.

I have improved my acceptance rate at Shutterstock, which has been a great help.  Shutterstock are an agency that I know will sell my images if I can get them accepted there. They have just announced a new feature which allows contributors to make their previously private 'sets' (lightboxes in iStock speak) visible to the buyer.  I know this is something that a lot of contributors had been asking for and one of the few things I missed from iStock.  I would now say that Shutterstock's sets are better than iStock's lightboxes because they also allow you to track earnings for a particular group of images, which is a great way to help you focus your efforts on the most lucrative work.  I also like Shutterstock's keyword data tables, which allow you to see the search terms used by the buyers of your images.  Anything that helps us target our images more effectively is welcome - the unique world map feature at Shutterstock is also a fantastic insight into buyer trends.  From this I can see when a buyer has bought more than one of my images and also my main markets - in my case this is northern Europe - if I want to make more money I suspect I have to shoot more images that will appeal to the northern American market.

My iStock earnings have also increased, which is entirely down to their partner program.  Last month I made twice as much on the partner program as I did via the regular collection.  While it is great to be making some extra cash, I have always felt unhappy about the partner program (as I know many other contributors at iStock do) and see it as a threat to both earnings from the regular iStock collection and also a direct competitor to Shutterstock.  From what my old iS exclusive friends are telling me about falling income levels there, it seems possible that the dire predictions of many at the time the PP was announced may well be coming true - buyers may be moving to Thinkstock and other PP agencies rather than spending at iStock.  The other day I surpassed my previous low-point of a 9c royalty at iS by getting just 8c for a sale.  Can anyone beat that?

Depositphotos is a nice little agency that seems to be going places.  They have accepted all but eight of the images I have ever sent them and sales there have been growing steadily.  This has seemed to happen even when I haven't increased my portfolio for a while, suggesting that it is the agency itself that is attracting more buyers.  The site is easy to use and upload to and my sales are fairly regular and dependable.  They send me an email every time I sell something which saves me having to keep obsessively checking the site for sales.

On the whole, most sites in indie-land seem pretty well managed, with the exception of Veer, who could give iStock a run for their money in site bugginess terms.  Contributors there often find that they can't access their dashboard to view their stats, uploading is as good-as broken for me and payments are frequently delayed.  Some of these issues have been on-going for several months. Their review time is still running at over a month, often closer to two.  It is a shame, because I really liked Veer when I first started, but things don't seem to be going well there.  That said, their contributor relations people do still reply to emails, which is apparently more than can be said for iStock.

Ok, that's it - best of luck to any iS exclusives who decide to drop exclusivity in the New Year x

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Indie BME

January 2012 was an indie BME for me by a long way. I earned $311, which is somewhere near what I was earning as an iStock exclusive, but with far less images for sale. I had my best ever month at Shutterstock, where I broke through the $100 barrier for the first time.

I got four extended licence sales - two from iStock for a total of $47, one from Shutterstock ($28) and one from Veer ($35), making a total of $110.

I am hoping my good sales figures are a result of my hard work, rather than just a seasonal fluke (apart from at iStock of course, where I have done my best to trash my sales by removing my best-sellers). I have been uploading a lot more lately and have nearly doubled my Shutterstock portfolio since the end of last year. I still have less than 200 images for sale on my new agencies though. I find it interesting to look back at at my old iStock exclusive income for the sub-200 image mark. In February of 2009 I had 181 images in my portfolio and made $127 for the month, considerably less than I have made this month as an indie, even without taking extended licences into account. I admit that this isn't a valid direct comparison as it doesn't take price increases, new exclusive income streams (ie Vetta, Agency, Getty) or improvements in my portfolio into account, but it is still interesting.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Shutterstock download ratios

Just a quick post regarding Shutterstock download ratios. Although there are a whole bunch of different price plans and income streams on Shutterstock, I really only sell via three different plans: the 25-a-day subscription plan, on-demand downloads and enhanced downloads (extended licences in iStock-speak). My income can be roughly divided as follows:

25-a-day subscriptions: 50%
On demand: 25%
Enhanced: 25%

To start with, I received 25c for each subscription download, and either 81c or $1.88 for on-demand downloads. Once I had passed $500 in total commission revenue this increased to 33c for subscriptions and $1.07 or $2.48 for on-demand sales. Enhanced downloads stay the same at $28 each. The next goal is to pass $3000 in lifetime earnings, after which subscription sales will pay 36c and on-demand $1.17 and $2.70. The maximum possible is 38c / $1.24 / $2.85 once $10,000 in lifetime earnings is reached.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Lightburner not working properly

Hi, I just thought I would let you know that Lightburner is not working properly at the moment and hasn't been since around Christmas. So if you are banging your head against a wall trying to get it to work then it is not you - it is Lightburner. David that runs the program is aware of the issue and has been trying to fix it. At the moment I can only get it to distribute to Shutterstock, Dreamstime, Canstock and Bigstock, which is helpful, but not as great as it was before.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Applying to Shutterstock and Dreamstime while still exclusive at iStock

With the stock world all abuzz with news of staff layoffs at iStockphoto, I thought I would post a recap of information regarding applying to Shutterstock and Dreamstime while waiting for the iStock exclusivity 30 day notice period to pass.

Shutterstock: In order to contribute at Shutterstock you first have to submit a sample of your work for consideration. Of the ten images you submit, seven or more must be deemed acceptable in order to pass. If you do not pass the test then you must wait 30 days before you can apply again. As Shutterstock are likely to be very important for your indie income it obviously makes sense to apply as soon as you have made the decision to leave iStock. This gives you time to reapply if you don't pass at first without losing potential income. The only problem with this is that (unlike at iStock), any images that pass the test are automatically accepted for sale and go live on the site very quickly after. Clearly this would violate the terms of your iStock exclusivity agreement if it happened before your notice period had expired.

The good news is that it is possible to make your application and be accepted without images being released for sale. This is done by 'opting out' of sales on Shutterstock. The way to do this is to first open an account at Shutterstock (my referral code is 661795 btw *wink, wink*), then go to your homepage (the one with the world map on it). At the top of this page you will see a tab marked 'Resources'. From this menu select 'Your Account', then scroll down until you see a list of sites with 'opt in, opt out' radio buttons beside them. Select 'opt out' on them all and your images will now remain in the dark until such time as you go back and select 'opt in'.

So, assuming you pass the contributor test and have followed the above steps to hide your images from the buyers, there is no reason not to upload the bulk of your images to have them ready to go live on the site at the click of a button once your exclusivity falls. Or is there? Well, people who have done this have reported very poor initial sales on their images. It would seem logical that the Best Match position for an image be determined by its sales since acceptance, as it is unlikely the system will be aware of whether you have opted in or not and when that happened. With huge numbers of images being accepted on Shutterstock daily, it is very important to gather sales in the vital but short-lived window when new images are at the front of searches. This ensures they will remain there - images that do not sell during this window may struggle in future.

Dreamstime: Dreamstime don't have a contributor test so there is no urgent need to open an account early (referral code for when you do though! res2635685). While they will temporarily suspend your account if you email them and ask them to do so while you wait out your exclusivity notice period, there are no benefits at all from doing this. Any images you upload while your account is suspended will not be inspected and will only join the queue for inspection once you get the suspension reversed. *edit* I have since heard that this may have changed since I opened my account there in October 2010. It may be best to check with Dreamstime directly to see what the position is now if this is something you think is really important to you.

So in short it would seem a good idea to apply in advance to Shutterstock (unless you are very confident of passing the test first time) but not to upload any further images ahead of time. Of course this means that your Top Ten images used in your application would suffer from poor Best Match placing once they did finally go live for sale, something you would have to weigh up in your decision. It would seem best to bide your time and wait at Dreamstime too. Their queue tends to run at around 4-7 days, so starting to upload a couple of days before D-Day should be safe enough. Best of luck to any iStock exclusives that decide to try independence over the next few weeks. Whilst I would be pathetically grateful to anyone who decides to use my referral links there will be no hard feelings if you don't. It would be good to hear comments from those of you who are considering making the change - these can be made anonymously if you prefer.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Making Cuts - Images and Agencies

I have started removing some of my images from iStock. So far these have been my best-selling images that I feel have found a worthwhile new home elsewhere, be it Shutterstock, Dreamstime or wherever. I took nine down last month and have taken a further eight so far this month, so not a lot, but a start.

I found it painful to see these images being sold for just a 16% return which sometimes equated to as little as 13c in commission (other indies have reported receiving just 9c in commission for some sales *edit - I have since had a sale for just 10c commission!*). I can just about stomach it with some of my old junk images, but not my best stuff, such as it is. I also did not want to support ThinkStock (against my will) and removing these images now was the only way to prevent them being mirrored onto ThinkStock's site. I see this site as a direct competitor to Shutterstock, which I have a good relationship with and do want to succeed, so supporting the competition would seem a foolish thing to do.

I have also stopped uploading to some of my agencies. 123RF recently announced a cut in contributor's pay for anyone below a certain threshold of portfolio size. This ensures that all new contributors will be on the lower commission rate and will stay on it, regardless of their portfolio size in the future. I say 'announced', but by this I mean they emailed a couple of contributors and left them to pass the good news on to the rest of us. No announcement was made on the site at all. I was not at all happy with the way that they acted, but as they have also rejected a vast number of my images for nonsensical reasons, I am happy to drop them from here. I will leave my images there for now, but may well delete them in future. The same goes for Crestock, who reject a lot of my images but hardly ever sell any either. I can understand Shutterstock being picky - they can afford to be, but when 'lower tier' agencies turn their nose up at images that have been accepted at 'top tier' agencies I feel it isn't really worth the effort. For this reason I have also stopped uploading at Photodune for now. A lot of indies have reported high rejection rates there, with the feeling being that the 'out-of-house' inspection team are not as sophisticated as they might be. I have certainly had a lot of rejections there, which is a demoralising process. My sales (which started reasonably brightly) have now completely dried up and I am left wondering if Photodune were a bit of a flash in the pan.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

100 up

I have finally managed to get 100 images accepted at Shutterstock. I did not ever dream it would be quite this difficult, but I have made it at last, having learnt a lot in the process. My acceptance rate has improved a lot there lately (careful, don't jinx it now), so I am hoping to build my portfolio up a lot more rapidly from now on.

Although it was very frustrating at first to have so many of my old iStock images rejected, I have come to view Shutterstock as having the highest quality standards in the industry and I know I have benefited from having to look really critically at my work again. There have been times in the past year when Shutterstock has beaten my iStock earnings with just a tenth of the number of images, so it is obvious how important it is to build up a sizeable portfolio there.


There is an interesting new agency that has appeared lately - Warmpicture. It is run by an ex-iStock exclusive, who left at about the same time as I did. He has established the agency on the admirable principle of providing stockers a place to sell their work without making a profit. As such the agency takes just 20% of revenue. It is still in it's infancy and portfolios are vetted before you can be accepted. Once accepted though, you are expected to self-police and be responsible enough to only submit work that is technically and legally sound. It is a worthy endeavour and I really hope Dan succeeds with it. Please check it out and pass the link on to any of your buyer friends: