My latest images for sale at Shutterstock:

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: