The next big thing in the web 2.0/prosumer/crowdsourcing will be the user generated photo agency. It has become quite easy to purchase software, of the shelf, that will anyone with little programming skills and a lot of patience to create a mini photo agency. Obviously, the first market to be targeted will be Royalty free as it is the simplest to automate and requires little to no maintenance. With a small investment and some photo buff friends, anyone will soon be able to coop a sizable amount of images and put it up on line. Regardless of quality we have to be prepared for more volume of imagery brought forth by unexperienced amateur that will soon realize that there is more money to be made being the owner of a microstock than a contributor.

This will make it extremely difficult for the current leaders of this part of the industry to continue to grow as market shares will be eaten by its own contributors.  A reasonnably talented part time photographer could tommorrow create a microstock in Turkey, for example, making the content and the fonctionnalities extremely well suited for its market. before any of the big 5 find the time and the resources to enter the Turkish market properly, it will be too late. Take this scenario and extend it to thousands of countries worldwide and you can quickly realize that it is impossible to compete.

The big winners, and some of the microstock guys might want to do this, is those that will supply a starter kit  to anyone, anywhere, willing to launch his own microstock. Start, a la McDonalds, a microstock franchise business. The Image Bank was quite succesful with this business model and it is extremely well adapted to the microstock model.

Otherwise, and as one can already see in some microstock forum, contributors will start their own competing organisation,  creating an extravagant amount of micro microstock sites. Obviously most will fail, but the ones that do not will start grabbing valuable market share to a business that can only survive with high volumes. And the more this volume is segmented, the more damage. Microstock is not the photo El Dorado .

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2 Thoughts on “Drowning in images

  1. Microstock Photography sites follow the Matthew effect. A designer is not going to scan all possible sites but stick to a single site that offers *most*. Most stockers are site whores that upload everywhere. For a designer, who’s only going to pay for one single site, the best strategy is to stick to the largest site which has *most* what he wants.

    A personal site is cool, in as far as it points to its portfolio with the big guys. Time is money and vice versa. A customer is not interested in the art of a single photographer but in the right shot for the right project. “Art” is disposable. Call it a return to the pre-Rennaissance concept of art: an anonymous serf community thing.

  2. Good point, flemishdream.

    Indeed art is now becoming disposable, a commodity that anyone can produce and sell. The RF license is the closest to Open source as it can be, only challenged by the San Fransisco based Creative Commons. Soon it will be easier to legally question the legitimacy of a copyright as the rights are becoming almost unlimited and no one is monitoring usage.
    as for the Mathew effect, describe in the wikiedia as : “In sociology, “Matthew effect” was a term coined by Robert K. Merton to describe how, among other things, eminent scientists will often get more credit than a comparatively unknown researcher, even if their work is similar; it also means that credit will usually be given to researchers who are already famous: for example, a prize will almost always be awarded to the most senior researcher involved in a project, even if all the work was done by a graduate student.” you are also right.
    It has not been brought forth by the microstock emergence, however. It was already a truth in more traditional models.

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