There are many things we seem to forget while we all go about our daily business of licensing images. Some are good, some are bad, some are in between. In order to clear up the horizon, I made a little list.

The Good ( or positive) :

Microstock : Introduced millions to licensing images. Even if it is cannibalizing 8 to 20 % of the existing market, it still has brought 80% to 92 % new clients. Whether these new clients were previously stealing images or just not buying any at all, you have to give credit to the pioneers of this sub division of the stock licensing business for their impressive catch. In the process, it has educated a lot of amateurs about the versatility of image licensing and copyright. Knowledge that will be spread out to the full benefit of the agency world

– Getty, Jupiter and others with deep pocket: made instant millionaires of photo people. never seen before in this industry. It used to be a long hours, no revenue type of business where the only way to leave was to die from a heart attack at your desk. We now have a handful of photo millionaires and hope in everyone else’s eyes. With as simple as a couple of online marketing classes, an idea and a website, photographers are now able to connect with every potential customer out there. For many artists, Internet marketing makes earning a living from their art possible.

– Technology: if used properly, can have a devastating effect on your bottom line and push profit margins really high.

– Multimedia: The renaissance of photo J and the new language of information. Adding sound to still is the true 3D effect of photography.

– Flickr : People taking and talking about photography on a scale never seen before. Who knew that what we do had such an interest ? They love us, they really do.

– Google: Put search on a pedestal forcing photo agencies worldwide to rethink how images are returned and how to keyword them.

– Community driven platform: Photoshelter and likes have leverage technology to allow some independent photographers to attempt to play the stock agency game without being part of a photo agency. Right now it seems only Alamy is achieving its goal but will they be successful ?  At least they offer an alternative that did not exist a few years ago.

The Bad ( or negative):

– Microstock: Suddenly plunged part of the industry in disarming chaos.  From people tearing their hair out to others screaming Armageddon, those bottom feeder agencies have triggered a rush for the most at lesser price in the hopes of asphyxiating their competition. Anything and everything goes. It’s a mix bag of clip art, graphic design, object photography and boring video with a complete disdain to raising quality. Crowdsourcing as overcrowding. Quantity over quality. While it is certainly not the end of photography as we know it, it is certainly not a pretty spectacle.

– Getty: The reigning mega powerhouse with seemingly endless tentacles. Extremely successful as it has done more damage to this industry than all the microstock photo agencies put together.  Has shut down more businesses than anyone has ever done and are the leaders in the price cutting, high volume game. By creating the monthly subscription fee for editorial usage, it has seriously eroded everyone’s potential for growth and stabbed photojournalism in the back. Can they survive themselves?

– Technology : Like religion, if badly used, can be a killer . So many agencies spending more time treating digital files then they used to treat film. Websites that are like Lego assembled without reading the instructions and self proclaimed computer experts that have no clue what they are doing and cannot understand why people are not flocking to their magnificent creations. Off the shelves software that promise heaven and leaves everyone in hell. Overpriced solutions that create more problems for everyone. Photo editors worldwide wishing that they could just call and get slides delivered to them within an hour.

– Flickr: An open door to thieves.  Creative Common has become synonym to Public Domain. High res available without a password is like leaving your front door after leaving your house with a sign saying ” please serve yourself”. Flickr’s selling price to Yahoo has also open the door to Twitter happy West Coast snappers to  proclaimed themselves the messiah of photography with junk tools like Zooooooommmmrrr. San Fransisco was the leader in “useless, business plan empty lets spend all the VC money in parties” websites during the first internet bubble. Seems like they are happy to take the lead again during web 2.0.

– Community driven platform : Seems they are the recipient of the photo refuseniks. Those pro or semi pro photographers that were refused by photo agencies but do not consider themselves as microshooters. The result ? More offer of lesser or bad quality. And the few that are really good disappear under the deluge of useless images.

– The Photo prophets:  Everyone is entitled to their opinions, granted But to a certain degree. Those announcing the end of photography because of microstock or because of video should remain quiet. Forever. If they are so scared, they should change industry. Now. If 4 or 5 microstock agencies are apparently thriving while new royalty free agencies are being created everyday is not a sign of the end of time. Not to me. Editorial has never been so healthy if you pay a little attention to the celebrity space. Sure, there are a lot of changes and some agencies are paying the prices for not seeing them coming but others are adapting quite well and making a little fortune. Photographers have never been so much in demand, as well as so numerous. Its a balance game.

You just have to be on the right side of the balance before it tips.

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