As I was writing my post about the exploitation of the masses by a few, I realized I was missing one very important point regarding microstock: it is a pass time of rich people.
For one, you need reasonably good quality camera equipment that still runs in the thousand of dollars. A lot seem to be using a canon 5D which is $4000 out of the box. You also need a decent quality computer and appropriate software, which still also runs in the lower thousands. And finally, you need a broadband connection which might not be so expensive but yet not available everywhere.
Second, you need time. Either you are supported by someone else, as we see in the housewives model, or you are personally so indescribably wealthy that you can spend hours working on something that will bring you back pennies. If you can afford to spend a lot of time on something that has little chance to pay your bills, let alone cover the cost of the equipment, you must have some other reasonable income. Nothing new here as photography was always the protected playground of rich kids. Niepce, Lartigue, Bresson, and many others came from wealthy families.
But make no mistake, Microstock contributor is not an activity that will lift third world nations out of poverty and into the realm of the most powerful nations. It is not going to help a starving family of five come out of misery and live a life of decency.
It is an activity for the few, the wealthy, the somewhat educated that have enough leisure time to dedicate to an activity which is not a profitable one for the mass majority. Even superstars of the microstock world had to rely on other income before they reached those legendary six figures income. On a side note, if famed Istockphoto shooter Lisa Gagne is really making $100,000 a year, why aren’t any of her images on the Getty site ? After all, if she is that good, shouldn’t she be rewarded by having her status elevated to being one of the “Big Boys” ?
Besides being a “dumping” business model, where creators license images at a lost, illegal in certain countries of the world, Microstock is also a club for the few and privileged that can afford to spend time on a non profit activity that might satisfy their ego but not their wallets.