I haven’t been actively posting for quite a few weeks. We had a very nice summer in Berlin so far, I have been busy taking and processing images, there were quite a few other opportunities and tasks that came up. But mostly: I feel it got a bit boring.
The stock photography market right now
It is quite hard to find out where we are right now. On one hand, I have seen lots of people – especially many who were successful in the best years of microstock – who got frustrated by the sales levels that seemed to have dropped for many. There is a huge amount of images being added to all libraries each month, and that seems not to get any better soon.
Then again, there also is a number of new offerings coming up, the EyeEm Market, 500px Prime, the new Flickr offer which we don’t know much about. But also services like ImageBrief which is gaining popularity with photographers, or Fiverr on the low end of the design market. All of these seem to still believe there is money to make with images, one way or the other. It does not necessarily say much about the amounts that can be made for the single photographer but companies investing money, time, resources mean they expect to get something out of it.
What’s in it for me?
That is a good question I keep asking myself. As I had reported earlier this year, mostly on Facebook, I had a very bad June in royalties but July made up for it. I expect new record numbers in fall with the upcoming holiday season which typically adds a few dollars to the bank account, even if you only have a small number of images serving that market.
But what about long term? Is there still a market big enough to allow the small single photographer to earn a decent amount of money from his images? I honestly don’t know. I feel still as I’m at the beginning, even though I’m 18 months into building up my different sales channels. My time is limited and all those opportunities take a lot of thinking and doing to get started. Is it worth it? I don’t know – and especially it’s hard to predict which of them will take off and which of them will become wasted energy.
The only thing I’m convinced is that microstock is not the way to go forward – at least not all of it. Microstock has taken over a big part of the market and will certainly keep that. But it seems there is a trend – both on contributor as in customer side – to move to more unique, less standardized images, and buyers are more willing to pay a bit more for images that make them look different.
I am not going to stop providing images for microstock. There is still money to be made, and when I can easily take 50 images for microstock it’s probably going to pay off more than making the same effort to come up with 5 images for higher priced markets. So I’ll have to split up even more, divide my energy into catering different needs.
I am trying to explore many paths to make money from my images, and there are so many opportunities coming my way that I almost feel overwhelmed. I also started to offer a first few images for print sales and will try to continue opening up that part of the image market for myself.
There is also a certain market for services developing around the masses of photographers who are out there. With all the technology available to everyone, many of them discover their passion or just want to get better to get more responses in their social environment, online and offline.
I have decided to start a second blog covering those topics that are not part of my stock photography business. As it’s more personal, I am writing those stories in German but if you can read that (or Google translator returns decent results), you are welcome to have a look at the new page www.michaeljberlin.photo or the Facebook page going along with it. That blog is also a reason why I won’t publish as much here as I used to because the more personal stories will end up there.
All these things are outside of the stock photography world I’ve known best in the past. But I’m curious and want to figure out how they work. Some of them might be part of my personal future, and some of them will bore me more than making money.
The process is interesting but exhausting
But all in all, I am in the middle of a development, both externally and internally. It is really interesting to see all the opportunities we have these days to take, process and share images within shorter time frames and larger scale. It is scary to know that everyone else has the same opportunities. The true “democratization of photography” is taking place these days, though it was announced to happen earlier.
I don’t feel angry, frustrated (not often at least) nor lost in all of this like some other photographers seem to. I’m trying to take the chance to get to a new level myself. In stock but more in general photography. Taking the freedom to do projects that are not stock, not commercial at all. Discover what is beyond selling. And this is interesting. But exhausting at the same as I still have to keep thinking how to pay the bills in the future.
So please be patient if I take my time and spend it on discovering new frontiers for myself and my camera. And don’t always have the energy to report about the progress.