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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Micro, Macro and all the disappointments in between 

A quick update. I have had no sales at dreamstime and their interface is as annoying as ever. I've had a sale at snapvillage and two sales at 123rf. I finally got accepted to fotolia (what's their problem, it's microstock, you're selling my images for pennies, get over yourselves) and had 2 sales.

One of the sites I had wanted to review was photoshelter. They were different. They weren't micro, they were about the photographer and they showed promise. They accepted my images and they had a great community going. I was ready to pull out of micro altogether. Then on September 11 (how auspicious) they shut down. Those that had been with them awhile claim to have seen the warning signs and I suppose given time I might have seen it too.

So Photoshelter collection is no more, as of October 10 they will delete all images in the collection. I didn't have that many images there (a bunch waiting in the queue though). There are some very disgruntled people. I partly understand that, it is work to upload all those images. Still, I think putting on our big girl panties and moving on is appropo, in fact, it's the only recourse aside from wallowing in self-pity. Of course if you like that sort of thing then have at it, for myself, I've already moved on.

One of the members of PSC (short for photoshelter collection) opened up a forum where the mostly genial community could congregate, lick wounds and decide what to do next. It's an interesting community, it is certainly trying to be forward thinking and pro-active. Through no fault of the founder/administrator of the forum it just isn't all that helpful. There are still those whining over their "time wasted" on PSC and how the founders of that site did them wrong (as if it were a tragedy and not a disappointment that things didn't work...get real). Additionally, there are a lot of pro's (and by that I mean egotists) that either a) think they are the only ones who ever figured out an f-stop or b) completely forget that they once didn't know their aperture from their iso. It's a bit snobsville. I must say the administrator is trying, he really is, to include everyone but if you're a hobbiest and poor no one talks with you. Not so bad for me, I have dealt with that ilk before, I feel bad for anyone else trying to glean some information from the alleged pros.

My biggest beef with the people that call themselves pro is that they have lost all objectivity. I know I shoot some great stuff and a whole lot of garbage. But I've scoured the macro sites and frankly, there's a whole lot of garbage being sold as pro. For every 100 images I can count maybe 5-10 that really show some artistry as well as technical brilliance. And ok, you sold an image for a few bucks maybe a lot of bucks. Are you really so afraid of competition that you can't help out a newb? If you really are that good, you wouldn't worry about it because you would know it took years to garner your skill and your talent comes naturally as far as composition and artistry so throwing a hobbyist a bone wouldn't make a ripple in the ocean.

So, I've posted in those forums, been duly ignored and click away when I see another of them whine about their wasted time. Pfft. A pro picks himself up, dusts himself off and gets on with things. A pro doesn't snub the little guy because he's starting out, he gives him a boot up because ultimately improving the craft can only help. A pro has class.

I want to meet a real pro.

dolly's world: the fine art of bitchcraft

Friday, August 08, 2008

Three stock sites I am unsure about 

These are a few sites I recently joined up with (within the last month) so I don't know much about them or how well we will work together.

The first site is SnapVillage which was recently re-designed and now out of beta. It's run by Corbis which is owned by Bill Gates. They have a reasonable upload interface which allows you to upload up to 5 images at a time as well as create "sets" for series of images. They accept most of my images and you can set your own price for each from $1 to $50 for per image sales. They have an opt in/opt out subscription offering which gives contributors $.30 per image on downloads. The review time is very good, within 24 hours. They have forums which seem friendly and helpful, if not a bit sparse. I'm not sure anyone has made a sale there yet but the site does have Corbis backing it up, so maybe as it becomes better known.

This is a fairly young site and I think as they grow and get more popular they will become more stringent with their acceptance. It's nice to be able to set your own price for images but pretty much useless if they don't sell. We shall see how it all works out.

The next site I've recently joined is 123rf. Like SnapVillage they accept nearly everything I have submitted. They have many upload interface options and there is no limit on how many images you can upload at a time. That is a very nice feature. Review is lightening fast, with hours. The forums are pretty active and but not much interaction between contributors yet. Judging from some of the posts some people have made sales and there are some good images on this site.

Again it's young and no sales for me so far, but we shall see how it goes.

The last site in today's review is one that I am probably going to pull my images from, it's called UnlistedImages. There are no forums, there is no way to see where or if your images have been used. There is no interface between your upload account and the site(s) that are selling them. They are allegedly connected to several sites which provide CDs of image collections. It's damn near impossible to navigate those sites in hopes of seeing if your images are on them. Review time is good and I don't think they've rejected anything that was within their image size requirements. I did email to ask how to tell where my images might be used and got a quick but unsatisfactory response of "we're working on it".

I might leave one or two images up there to test and see if they ever finish "working on it" but as of right now, I'm not impressed.

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dolly's world: the fine art of bitchcraft

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I started to contribute to istock back in July '05 so this is likely the first microstock site I signed up with and was accepted. I was thrilled, and my first sale happened in October of '06, it was exciting. My sales were sporadic after that but the per sale amount was good. IStock was a top site then, their prices were reasonable and their collection was pretty extensive. We used them somewhat in the first Worth1000 book (which I was main administrator/editor for) and damn near exclusively (the exception being if we found a worth1000 photographer) for the second worth1000 book, for which I was an assistant editor. Oh how we loved our istock.

So wtf happened?

Review times have slowed to a crawl. Don't even consider complaining about that in the forums, I saw someone banned for that. They reject for some pretty shady reasons too. Which isn't to say all their rejections aren't justified but many are just pure crap, they reject over lighting when all other sites accept the same image and those images sell on those sites. Not to mention their favorite players whose images get accepted with some gawd-awful lighting, this isn't sour grapes, how do you have a half orange/half white isolation (not going to link here out of respect to the artist but search on strawberry there if you want to see what I mean)?

While the per image subscription payout is better than shutterstock and not as good as stockxpert, I don't get any warm fuzzies from istock anymore. They come off as elitist without the clout to back it up. Sure they have long standing and exclusive contributors who make them some money, but for the average photographer giving them the icing on the cake they do not treat us as equals or even as humans. They even have some sort of weird algorithm for uploads/acceptance rating vs searchability or prominence. I have yet to see one of my images on the "newest uploads" area and believe me, I've looked.

Now I'm being somewhat harsh but that's because I've looked at what they let through and what they reject on istock and it seems to be a popularity/personality thing there. I haven't participated in the forums, it really seems cliquish there and after I saw the guy banned for voicing an opinion about review times (which really are abysmal) I don't think I want to join in the revere of them.

I wish that were the most negative but they lack in upload interface too. They have no interface for multiple uploads for PC users (there's a third party one for MAC users, can't comment on it since I don't have a MAC and haven't tried it, but it's third party, they didn't even bother making it easier for their own contributors). Their upload process is arduous at best. You have to click through multiple screens and checkboxes and their disambiguation (interpretation of keywords to over-simplify) is seriously lacking. They have 2 definitions of layers and peel, neither of which could fit my description of an onion recently submitted, yet both are pertinent to the image. In fact my most recent rejection was for keywording which was inappropriate. Mind you I'm probably the most careful keyworder in microstock, and I also have an extensive vocabulary. I put an old jalopy on the site, it was an old Fleetline truck with a "for sale" sign on it. I did take out the phone number and the copyrighted truck name but they were completely pertinent to the image in keywords, if only the reviewer had looked at full view and/or had a clue.

To summarize I think the reviewers are burned out or disinterested, for the most part, on istock and the whole site needs an overhaul. Shutterstock and stockxpert have moved along with the times, gotten fresh people in (or multiple opinions) on images before a rejection, neither takes anywhere near the time to review an image and they don't have the punishment/reward thing for searching on images that istock has (how archaic and just stupid that system is).

I hope that if Avi and Worth1000 ever do another book that they will consider a different site to negotiate a deal with too. Just getting them to agree on a contract for book 2 image use was agonizing and damn near stopped us from meeting a deadline.

All in all they have a professional facade and not much backing it up. Have I made sales there, yes (not enough for a payout though), but I almost wish I hadn't (then I could walk away, because really I like them less with each passing day). They should take this as advice and do something to improve the site, grow with the times and not rely on their "once was" status. Instead I suspect they will do their usual and punish the observer.

istock rating: B


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