Should Customers Set Prices for Images?

Posted on 2/21/2008 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Moodboard has just launched moodboard unlimited, which allows customers to set the price they will pay for an image. Any amount, no matter how low, will get them a 300 dpi file suitable for printing 8.5 inches x 11 inches.

Moodboard CEO Mike Watson says customers might pay as little as a penny for a picture. I felt guilty about going too low and paid two pounds for the one I bought.

Maybe the concept works if there are enough guilty buyers out there.

This may generate a volume of sales if it is marketed to the people currently using microstock. But for the most part, that seems to be a totally different group of customers than typical moodboard users. In addition, it will be interesting to see if customers used to paying significantly more than microstock prices will pony up higher prices without being asked.

Recently, a principle at one of the microstock agencies asked me: "Is it our place to tell customers what they should pay for images? In the Web 2.0 open market, sellers should listen to buyers."

In my opinion, people with this attitude are not listening to specific buyers and determining reasonable prices, given the buyers specific situation. Rather, they are telling all buyers that a company will not charge more than the most impoverished buyer can afford to pay, regardless of image production costs.

An "open market" by this definition can only survive if a significant number of producers are willing to settle for less total compensation than it costs to produce the product. In the long run, this is an unsustainable business model.

Moodboard hasn't reached that point yet. It still offers three other collections with fixed base prices from $15 to $225. It seems to be putting its lowest quality images into the "You Set The Price" collection. The question is whether enough customers will be willing to pay little or nothing for images of slightly inferior quality. If they go to microstock, in many cases, they can get better quality images at cheap rates.

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 301-251-0720, 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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