Thursday, March 13, 2014

Mobile Microstock Photography to grow in 2014

The definition of a snapshot is perhaps more relevant now than in the days of Instant film. Anyone with a mid to high end smartphone will be able to capture good quality picture in daylight and send that around the world with a click of a button. This has prompted the likes of 123RF Stock, Foap, Clashshot, Scoopshot to jump into the micro stock market by offering a way to monetize those snapshots.

Alamy, which toyed with the idea sometime back has come out with a new iOS app called Stockimo to get people to submit mobile device photos. As a current Alamy contributor, you'd be given a 40 percent cut on the royalties whereas those without Alamy credentials will get 20 percent. Early bird sign ups starts now till April 2014 where you get a 40 percent cut of the royalty before it reverts back to 20 percent. The Stockimo app is very easy to use, all you have to do is...
  • Upload your smartphone photos
  • Describe each image with a caption and tag key features and concepts to be used as ‘keywords’ to help customers find your photos
  • Submit and get your photos rated
  • Photos are rated out of 4, if you get an average score above 2 the photo gets in
  • If your photos are accepted, they’ll go on sale at and its distribution network
  • The app will tell you when your photos sell
  • You’ll get paid your share every month if you’ve made over $10
  • There’s an early bird offer where you’ll earn 40% commission on every sale, after that it’s 20%.
EyeEM to Market Mobile Photos

Photo sharing site, EyeEM has announced its intention to compete in the microstock business with a similar model, by offering 50 percent of the revenue from sale to the mobile photographer. The photo sharing site has a built a loyal following among users and the transition to a market model should be smooth since it already has a growing library of images. It has partnered with Getty's iStock image division to sell royalty free photos. Right now, you have to take a number to be invited but with Getty's backing, EyeEm hopes to extend the market reach by submitting the best photos of the pool to Getty.

This is probably what is lacking today with new microstock start ups. Some offer royalty free commissions which are at best, pittance, and have too little of an exposure in the market to make a dent. is heading in the same direction after it updated its iOS mobile app to allow for digital mobile photo uploads and a 500px prime site for selling photos. The site is still in beta and only invites are sent out to suitable photographers for participation. 500px hopes to sell royalty free photos at a flat rate of US$250 a shot with 70 percent of the revenue going to the photographer.

How Much is Your Photo Worth?

This is probably the golden question that is in everyone's mind right now. How much do you think a customer is willing to pay for a photo? Imagine for a moment that you are looking for a picture of a seagull for a promo you have to seek out a suitable picture for it. When you find one, would you prefer to take a license managed photo or a royalty free one?

Currently, there is no magic number on how much your photos is worth. Some microstock agencies offer you the freedom to set a price for the photo you have, while others pay you a flat rate. Royalty free image fees is all about the race to the bottom in terms of pricing. So far such agencies have done a damn good job and now, with mobile microstock photography, they hope to bring down the value of rights managed photos. 

Why Rights Managed Photos are being targeted

The value with rights managed photos are two fold, a larger file size (which means they can be blown up to poster sized prints) and have higher dynamic range quality.

For the former, anyone who has experienced print related publishing will appreciate that a larger file size will be much appreciated but with smartphones already offering between 16 to 20 megapixel cameras. This means that the humble 20 megapixel image coming from a mobile device camera can compete effectively with those shot on a DSLR when captured in broad daylight.

Nokia has a 41 megapixel shooter that allows for DNG RAW files to be saved. So size wise, a well captured moment using a mobile device camea is suitable for print use. For web use, a humble 5 megapixel picture is all you need. Let's not also forget that with the advent of 4K HD video, there is nothing stopping people from taking a still frame from a 30 fps video feed and selling that as a mobile microstock image.

Rights managed photos shot on a DSLR will be severely affected by the new slew of mobile device cameras boasting 16 megapixels or more. On a sunny day, you can only tell the difference if you held a magnifying glass to the image.

For the latter, we have dynamic range. This is where the last frontier of the imaging war will be fought. Dynamic range is probably the weakest point for mobile devices. It does not have the capability to capture light in the same as a DSLR sensor and for this, smartphones have some way to go before it gets to that quality when shooting in low light or highly contrasting scenes. 

Dynamic range can be milked from a RAW file but even with the newest crop of smartphone camera sensors, these are no match for the likes of a full frame DSLR. Nokia's Lumia 1020 can only manage to equal the dynamic range of a digital compact camera for the time being.

What is the Future of the Stock Photo Market?

Images are valued cheaper and cheaper as the years go by and for one simple reason. Photo buyers are not willing to pay more and are resorting to royalty free images to cut cost. This means that once mobile stock photos meet the desired quality they need, rights managed photos will be undercut.

The market for mobile stock images will grow, and with good reason. The humble snapshot is now worth something and for that alone, more will dip their toes to see if they can earn some beer money. That said, please don't quite your day job over this.


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