Several traditional royalty-free production companies—including Image Source, Moodboard, Blend and Cultura—have begun to explore microstock to determine if it offers a growth opportunity in a difficult market. Each has a slightly different strategy, with Cultura’s being particularly interesting.
Image Source has put some images into the Fotolia Infinite Collection; however, these are traditionally priced. Still, they appear in the search results side-by-side with Fotolia’s micro-priced imagery. Fotolia’s strategy is to offer royalty-free image content at a full range of price points. This also enables some traditional sellers to price a portion of their collection at midstock level, while other images retain higher-end royalty-free prices.
Blend plans to launch a collection, on Fotolia, in the near future. This offering will also be priced at Blend’s standard royalty-free rates. In addition, some of Blend’s founding photographers are putting micro-priced images with several of the leading microstock companies.
Moodboard’s strategy is to sell at all price points through its own distributors, but not through existing microstock Web sites. In theory, Moodboard’s prices are as low as $1, but visitors to the U.K. agency’s Web site will find it hard to find a micro-priced image: most extra-small files (500 by 332 pixels at 72dpi) are licensed at $15.00, which is more in line with midstock pricing.
Moodboard’s London neighbor Cultura has created a separate microstock brand: the recently launched Photoconcepts is non-exclusively distributed through the most key microstock agencies.
Photoconcepts is managed and distributed by the same team that created Cultura’s high-end royalty-free offering. Images submitted to the micro collection by Cultura’s over 100 photographers are edited and marketed across a range or price points through micro, mid-stock and even traditional price points. According to the Cultura chief executive officer Anthony Harris, many company-represented photographers were interested in submitting to the micro market. “After looking at the currently available imagery and the potential returns, we decided that we could create a compelling offer for interested photographers and agencies wishing to distribute our collection,” he elaborates.
Cultura has also placed some midstock-priced images into Fotolia’s Infinite Collection. Given the vast price difference between quality images that can be purchased for $1 to $10 and images that cost hundreds, one might expect the higher priced images not to sell all that well. However, Harris says that in the short time Cultura has had images on Fotolia, the company has been very impressed with the sales volume over the entire range of price points.
Cultura holds regular photographer meetings to introduce them to new opportunities, such as microstock. The meetings are also used to share tips and experiences, so photographers stay informed and able to produce cost-effectively. Photographers are further supported by art directors and editors and also have access to comprehensive databases of image needs and trend information.
Harris says: “Shooting and distributing microstock is a whole new ball game, one with a steep learning curve that requires a new approach to everything, from production and keywording to quality control and distribution. We take care of the entire process once the images have been submitted.” Cultura works with a leading microstock distributor on keywording and quality control, to make certain that the images pass microstock’s stringent technical requirements and are easily found across the network.
Cultura is looking for new professional photographers. Photographers receive 55% of image royalties, regardless of whether the image is licensed at micro or traditional stock prices. Those wishing to work with Cultura should submit a portfolio of images to the company’s creative head, Ashley Jouhar, by rznvy. Jouhar and a panel of three of the founding Cultura photographers review the work and decide whether to offer contracts. Those offered Photoconcepts contracts might also have the opportunity to submit images to Cultura RF and the company’s new non-exclusive rights-managed collection Cultura RM.