More players are jumping into the royalty free bandwagon and all you need is a smartphone camera. As long as you have 8 megapixels worth of picture, you're in.
This comes after the relative success of FOAP, EyeEm and Snapwire, three leading mobile stock image agencies which have defied what Instagram wanted to do a long time ago.
Before it was acquired by Facebook, Instagram was aiming to get into the stock image photo business until users rioted. So that left an opportunity for others to jump in but many just could not capitalize on it.
The only one to make the leap from photo sharing to image stock agency was Berlin based EyeEm. The rest followed suit like Scoopshot, Snapcape and Clashshot but these three could not get the same traction of users and buyers. So now we have two more to look at.
Marked Shot AppAvailable for both iOS and Android, the business model isn't new. This Singapore startup is selling your photos for US$5 a pop.
The app is relatively easy to use and they have a very fast image recognition software to boot. A similar system is in use for EyeEm but they don't seem to have implemented it when processing photos uploaded directly but have developed an optional app that does this.
The concept is the same. The image you upload is recognized by the AI and tags are offered to you to use. Tagging your photos makes it easier for people to search for them via the web browser search on a PC. They also offer a credit based system of purchase where a whole bag of credits will get you a bit further than the usual five a pop.
This option is probably useful for bulk buyers but herein lies the challenge. You need big paying agencies to buy in bulk and as long as you do not have the marketing muscle to sell globally, no one would use your services.
The other pain is that you have to wait for a photo editor to approve or reject photos for sale on the site. This takes roughly one day. To earn more than what they sell your photos for, you can take part in the Challenges where they offer up to US$50 a pop for the winning image. As usual, you need also provide a model release upon uploading and if you haven't got one, just make sure no person is identifiable in the picture.
The downside is that you remain relatively unknown, as there is no profile page, no social media contact, nada. Just you and your pictures, and whatever you upload to those crowd sourced projects.
Another agency from Singapore that caters to both iOS and Android, but they sell each picture for US$10 for both editorial and commercial use photos and it rewards photographers with a tiered pricing system. Each time you sell 10 photos on site, you will get a bump up the royalty reward scale.
You level up every 10 photos of yours we license, increasing the royalties you receive:
- Level 1 - 50% royalties
- Level 2 - 55% royalties
- Level 3 - 60% royalties
- Level 4 - 65% royalties
- Level 5 - 70% royalties
The app also offers you a chance to shoot for a crowd sourced assignment just like Snapwire and FOAP. This gives you a chance to earn more money in the process and for those who have models to share, your chances of winning these paid project assignments would be slightly higher between US$20 to US$50.
The only question.... is this worth your while?
As royalty free stock image only gets cheaper, you need to have this figured out before jumping in as winning these time consuming assignments may not be worth the effort.
Again, we see there is a image parsing algorithm at work that automatically selects useful tags for you to include in your uploaded images. The system is a bit slow and the app feels clunky but it works.Even though that maybe the case, the profile you have on the app feels complete. There are a few subcategories in which to explore pictures and rewards that have been given out to successful photographers. This becomes a yardstick of sorts to measure your own photos against.
Hopefully, the guys behind Pictive would be able to get higher paying clients in the future, which is quite doubtful if you don't have foreign offices in countries where stock image photos are regularly purchased. This is probably the only caveat of the whole mobile stock image industry.
Pictures are often purchased in bulk within regions that respect the rule of law and this alone shows how the industry is able to weather the storm in the age of digital image theft. Unfortunately, there is no blanket rule for this. Image theft is a global problem and as long as people have a way to obtain pictures without paying for it, then the whole 'cheaper' than the next guy business model isn't going to cut it.
Clashshot App was one such victim, offering a low US$1 per picture and got a whole load of trashy pictures submitted for sale, in the end, they sold their entire library to Depositphotos. Clashshot no longer solicits direct projects from mobile photographers but uses Depositphotos as a platform to gauge what is popular with buyers.
Which to Shoot For?If you want to test the waters, there is no harm shooting for both Pictive and Marked Shot. These two are still a work in progress and they will need time to grow. People have sold some pictures on both platforms.
FOAP does a good job of selling photos at least for me so far. Snapwire is a hit and miss at the same time since you need to level up to be allowed to partake in some of the paid assignments that can pay you a premium of up to US$1500. But you will be taking on a role of a commercial photographer in order to shoot cheaply for brands.
EyeEm is a bit of a mystery as they are Western centric in marketing so the bulk of the crowd sourced assignments are really more for the Western market. They have their own annual photo exhibition of new talent but it doesn't pay you anything if you win the judges favor. There are challenges where you get offered free stuff, like a new camera or a color photo printer and rarely if they offer any monetary rewards. The most you get is some space on a blog or a photographer magazine which they print.
But photos contributed to EyeEm can be sold through Getty Images as well as their own photo portal. So this bodes well for those who just want to be listed with Getty Images.
The crowd source photo market is getting more competitive while buyers are doubling down on cheaper photography rather than to pay for a commercial photographer. This disruptive business will be in vogue for a long time to come as the cost of digital images has yet to hit rock bottom.