Agencies Can Learn From Each Other

Posted on 2/15/2008 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Photographers and stock agencies are polarized between those who favor traditional marketing methods and those who favor microstock. Each side can learn from the other.

The same dichotomy occurred when RF came on the scene in the early '90s. After years of antagonism, many RM shooters now produce both RM and RF and nearly all sellers offer their customers both. Hopefully, we can arrive at a similar point of open and respectful communication between the microstock and traditional RM/RF sides.

Microstock has identified a huge base of customers that the traditional industry had ignored or did not know existed. Many can afford to pay somewhat more than they are currently paying for microstock. Those in the traditional segment of the industry should seek them out. Many RM and RF sellers are so focused on holding onto their traditional customers, they fail to recognize new opportunities.

Microstock photographers have bought into the idea that volume is everything. Read the blogs. Image suppliers believe prices must be kept low enough that no customer will be discouraged from using the images. Volume is more important than gross revenue.

Many talented young photographers can't get accepted by traditional agencies. Microstock has made it possible for them to show their work to customers. Competition is a threat to already established producers.

At the same time, microstock should recognize that those who have been selling images for decades understand what customers want to buy. It is conceivable the vast majority of microstock customers are looking for a different type of imagery than can be found in traditional agencies. But since microstock companies are also pursuing traditional buyers, they may benefit from carrying images traditional customers are buying..

It would benefit microstock seller to encourage experienced stock photo producers (ones who have earned at least $200,000 in their careers from licensing stock photos). Court those who show interest in participating in microstock rather than treating them like children. Be more open to accepting their images. Assign editors with experience in the market. That way, producer and seller can communicate on the same level.

Likewise, traditional sellers need to find ways to be more open and accepting of young, inexperienced photographers. They are the future. Traditional sellers need to make it easier for suppliers to upload images. They need to offer photographers instant information on the status of their accounts and adopt the microstock practice of listing the number of downloads by each thumbnail.

Traditional sellers should offer customers the option of organizing search returns in various ways.

Simplicity in pricing is desirable. But both microstock and RF have bought into a flawed file size pricing system. By failing to take into consideration how the image is used, they shower undeserved benefits on some customers and penalize others. All of this is to the detriment of suppliers. In attempts to work around this problem, microstock is making the RF pricing model as complex, and often harder to understand, than RM. Both RM and RF can be simplified.

Many microstock customers can afford to pay somewhat more than they are paying now. Those in the traditional segment of the industry should try to identify and communicate with these customers, even if they don't want to make images available at the lowest microstock price points.

Clearly, both sides could learn a few things from the other. Hopefully, 2008 will be a time when cross communication improves, both sides begin to adopt the best practices of the other, and everyone makes more money.

Copyright © 2008 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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