Microstock has completely changed the value of photography for ever !! Or has it?
Ever since the Editor of Time magazine announced that a front cover of his magazine had been bought from a microstock company for a few dollars, photographers have heralded this event as the start of the end of their profession. In some ways the damage microstock has heaped on photography is tremendous. I have had discussions with amateurs who are quite happy to get a few dollars here and there towards their next camera or lens and have no vested interest in a healthy photography industry. So what happens when you want the skills that photographers like myself have built up over 20 years and we have closed up shop? You may laugh but look what happened to typography when desk top publishing destroyed the skill. Today hand headline lettering is hard to find and costs a fortune.
So why should you not buy microstock photos at knock down prices. Well the answer is simple. Is you value your image of your brand, company or product, then do you want to use the same image that anyone else can afford to buy for peanuts. What do I mean? Well Chris Barton in his blog Fair Trade Photographer has come up with a bit of research that shows how several big brands have all ended up using the same microstock photo on their web page (Link Below). So what's wrong with that? Well it does rather devalue the brands exlusivity image if they look like lots of other companies and worse it makes it possible to imitate them so cheaply by any rivals or worse, companies perhaps they may not want to be associated with. Anyone can afford microstock and can use it for anything they like. From selling viagra to porn there is no restriction or control.
The idea of microstock is to make a profit by selling lots and lots of the same photo. This means that if you buy one for your web pages or ads you could end up looking the same as lots and lots of other companies.
How to avoid this?
Unless you buy an outright exclusive license, which can be expensive, the only way of getting any security of who is using the photo you want to buy is by buying Rights Managed. This way you can ask who else has licensed the photo and check for over use and any potential clashes. If you buy Royalty Free at some of the non micrstock companies you will have a better chance of avoiding over use but you have no guarantee.
Of course, if there are any of us photographers left, you could get guaranteed total exlusivity and usage by asking us to take a photograph just for you. If you want several done together you will certainly save money over licensing from Getty. We know that for a fact and we have clients who know this too. How about your own exclusive food photos for example starting from around £200 each to use forever and for whatever? I think that is the same as a hi res Royalty Free photo at some libraries that anyone can use .
One final word about microstock. If you want bland and banal photos go and buy from microstock agencies as this is what they specialize in. Of course this will make your company look rather bland too. If you want photos that have had a little love and creativity injected into them with sometimes years of professional experience selling product and promoting brand images, then search out boutique stock sites like Funky Stock and sites like Photographers Direct or specialist sites that do not pile high and sell cheap.
Photography is ultimately like any other product you do get what you pay for, and that does not necessarily have to be a fortune. Most good photo libraries are sensibly priced or will negotiate fair prices. Just ask.
Bye for Now. Paul Williams.
Here is the link as promised. Happy reading.
Fair trade Photographer. Why you should not use micostock
and if you want to commission me see my portfolio at
Paul Williams Food Portfolio
or of course check out the photos at