In the photography field there is a term called “microstock photography”. While I am pretty sure that experienced photographers have been familiar about this term, or probably have been involved in it, newcomers to photography might haven’t known much about it. So, what is microstock photography?
Microtock photography is a part of the stock photography industry. It is one of the types of stock photography other than macrostock photography and midstock photography. A company that runs a microstock photography business is called microstock agency. Shutterstock, iStock and 123RF are the examples of microstock agencies.
Since selling photos independently is not an easy job, microstock photography can be the answer for photographers, whether pro or just a hobbyist, to generate revenue from their photography activities. But first, there are several points you need to know about microstock photography before taking part.
Most microstock agencies apply subscription model to sell photos
Microstock photography is how buyers can get lots of photos with a lower price. On average, a single photo is sold between US$0.20 to $10. The characteristic of photos sold by microstock agencies are for the end use. The consumers of a microstock agency are vary from individuals to digital agencies. To sell photos with such cheap price rate, most microstock agencies apply subscription model in selling their photos. Each agency has different subscription plans. Shutterstock, for instance. This microstock agency offers four major monthly subscription plans. The cheapest plan allows you to download 10 different images per month.
Photos are released as royalty-free products
As a photographer, you obviously have to truly understand of how your photos will be treated if you submit your photos to microstock agencies like Shutterstock or iStock. Thus, you don’t need to make a complain if you find your photos get used by other parties. There are several terms regarding the legal use of photos you need to understand as a photographer. One of the most common ones is royalty-free.
If a product is released as a royalty-free product, it means that anyone can use it without having to pay for the license from the creator. Since most microstock agencies sell photos as royalty-free products, anyone who buy the photos from a certain agency where you submitted your photos to don’t have to ask your permission to use them. And most importantly, they don’t need to pay you the royalties.
iStock is known as the pioneer of microstock photography
Today, there have been tens or even hundreds of microstock agencies. Websites like iStock, Shutterstock, 123RF, Bigstock to Adobe Stock are the examples of microstock agency. But, can you guess which was the first one exists?
The answer is iStock. This microstock agency was founded by Bruce Livingstone in May, 2000. Since then, many similar businesses sprang up like Shutterstock (2003), Can Stock Photo (2004), Bigstock (2004), 123RF (2005) to — the newest one — Adobe Stock. iStock itself currently is a part of Getty Images. Getty Images bought iStock in 2006 for 50 million US dollars.
Photo is not the only visual content sold by microstock agencies
Despite photograph is the main product sold by microstock agencies, it’s actually not the only content that is sold by microstock agencies. In addition to photo, most microstock agencies also provide other types of visual contents including vectors, illustrations and even videos. The high demand of non-photo visual contents, in the social media era in particular, open a new market for microstock agencies. Graphic designers who don’t know where or how sell their work can also take advantage of microstock agencies to live from their creative works.