The first half of 2013 has passed, and so did the first half year of my independence. I have summed up my experiences of those six months in a separate blog post last week. Now it’s time to draw some conclusions from those experiences and adapt my plans a bit.
How I plan to distribute my images in the future
I had made a plan how I wanted to distribute my images in the future when I decided to go non-exclusive at the beginning of 2013.
The plans I made had to be adapted for several reasons: If you compare the image on the left to what you might have read in my blog in the past six months, you will find out that none of my images made it to PantherMedia nor Zoonar so far. Both are based in Germany, that’s why they were on my list in the first place. However, I was not satisfied with their conditions for different reasons, so I did not spend time putting my images up on their sites. I might still try both of them at some point but my priorities are different right now.
Also, you will find that the “Premium Images” part in the bottom has changed completely: Well, I still have a few images at Getty Images through the Getty-Flickr program but it is not my first priority anymore. The ImagePoint logo had to be exchanged because they rejected to accept me as a photographer – I had submitted images to them back in 2002 when they (and me) had just started, so it was my first agency. However, times changed. Certainly their requirements have risen over time and probably I have submitted the wrong images in my new application. Anyways, they are based in Switzerland and have a focus on Swiss images which I won’t be able to provide.
Instead I have found Westend61 as a new home for images that I value higher than microstock does. Also, the “TBA” mentioned in that picture was Stocksy United which I could not talk about before it went live end of March. Those are the two places I will try to shift my focus to. Stocksy is pricing images in the mid tier of the market, ranging from $10 to $100 for standard uses and potentially up to $1,000 for extended uses. Westend61 is in what today is the higher end of the market with web sizes starting at about € 50 and large resolutions at € 500 – though the images are distributed through partners around the globe and prices vary a bit. In addition, Westend61 also offers rights managed images, priced depending on uses.
On the low end, I have put up most of my existing images on Shutterstock, Fotolia and Dreamstime first as planned originally. I also added a few more agencies to my list: GL Stock Images and Pond5 to allow more variety in pricing and paying higher commissions; Depositphotos, CanStock and 123RF as additional outlets for the same microstock images I submit everywhere else. I might have reached the end of this list for the time being.
I will experiment submitting some images exclusively to Fotolia and Dreamstime in the near future, both of which offer higher prices/commissions for exclusive images. I will also try submitting a few images only to GraphicLeftover/GL Stock and Pond5 because they allow higher prices and generally pay a higher commission.
Upload goals for the second half of 2013
As stated above, I will try to shift my focus to higher value productions a bit but not completely. Right now I don’t feel I can just go out and produce top quality images whenever I want to, so each shoot will be a risk if the images are going to match the agencies expectations. I might end up with a few shoots wasted completely – either because the agencies reject them or the buyer won’t buy them in the end.
But my goal is to get at least 100 images into my portfolios at both, Westend61 (currently 6) and Stocksy United (currently 68). This would probably mean that I will have to organize at least one dedicated shoot per month to achieve that. As those shoots require more planning and thinking ahead, this will keep me busy for a while. I have hopes that I will be able to adapt my work better over the course of time, so I will try to move more of my work to those two places in 2014.
In the microstock range, I have uploaded about 1,000 images in the first half of 2013 to all agencies. Not as many as planned were old images but a lot of new stuff made up for that. I have hopes to at least double my portfolio at all microstock agencies. I still have a few images in my back catalog which I can easily distribute after the summer break. I also have a few hundred images shot recently, part of them already processed, just waiting to be uploaded.
But I estimate I will also need to shoot at least 600 new images for microstock, making that 100 images per month. That seems achievable but still requires me to show some discipline and adapt to my new profession. In the past, I mostly shot in breaks from my office jobs, vacations, weekends. Shooting and processing regularly is still pretty new to me, so I will have to balance the planning, shooting, processing and uploading tasks – and the time I need for my family.
Financial goals for 2013 and beyond
I am not a big fan of setting “income goals” from microstock – there are too many factors involved that I can not influence like search algorithms, market fluctuations etc. My sphere of influence ends with the images I upload.
However, to make decisions for the future, I will have to review the financial results derived from my images regularly. The “final goal” obviously would be to not only make a living but also be able to invest in new shoots and equipment regularly. I would also love to do a bit more photography with low commercial value, currently I just do not have much time for that.
But a first goal I had set when I went non-exclusive was to get back to the levels of royalties I had received throughout 2009-2011 from iStockphoto which was in the range of $800 – $1,000 a month. I was well aware that I needed to do more than I did in the past to achieve that level again. Currently I am back to about $400-450 a month which was the base earning I had last year. As I plan to double my portfolio size in the second half of 2013, I am optimistic to also double my royalties. It will probably take about 2,000 images in my portfolio to reach this first goal but I can already see the path to get there. I am quite optimistic that the usually good fall season will help me to get there.
Beyond that, I will need to work even harder. $800 a month obviously will not be sufficient to pay for rent and food, even if I’m probably living in one of the cheapest cities in the industrial world. We had to cut down our costs and make compromises already, and maybe we can make a few more but not many. But I like photography and the job I am doing right now much more than I had hoped for, despite some set backs and problems. Also the freedom and the time I can spend with my kid is very valuable to me, so I will do my best to get better, more efficient, more productive and produce more valuable images to make it work. I probably need to put in some more efforts to add income streams outside of stock photography as well but so far I’m quite satisfied about the progress in just six months.