25 May, 2011 | Posted by: st

Microstock…good or bad?

Those eWarehouse Pix

By Rohn Engh

The warehouse is growing. Some say by 45,000 new images a day. I’m referring to the collective storehouse of all the photos in the online photo storefronts, the stock photo agencies, Flickr, et al.

This mass of unrelated images can be tapped into in milliseconds, thanks to search engine technology. And such access is becoming easier and easier by the minute.

Never before in history have photos been more accessible to art directors, photo editors, and private consumers.
All these pictures can of course be categorized in several ways. But keep in mind that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.What is one person’s treasure is another person’s trash.

So let’s take an overview of what we all, as editorial stock photographers, have played a part in getting us into.

We’re talking ‘microstock.’

Microstock photos. Are they good or bad? Yes, they are good or bad. This article maintains that microstock sites embrace only a certain mode of photography: standard clichés, tourist destinations, fantasy, generalized photos (beautiful scenics, etc.). This ever-popular cliché style of photography is becoming "staticized" (new word). It's being catalogued into microstock e-warehouses and cemented onto static polyester CD-ROM and DVD discs, and other digital storage formats.


Where do you find microstock in the media?

Microstock photos are the generic photos we see in trade magazines and travel brochures, in websites and catalogs, in ads and newsletters and office announcements. They're everywhere. And now that they've become more available, we're going to be seeing even more of them.
Does this affect your stock photo business?
It could. It depends on the way you are doing business.

If you are threatened by microstock, it's probably because you've been producing microstock-type photos your entire photography career and haven't realized it.
In my book, Sell & ReSell Your Photos, I describe what is now defined as microstock photos, as "Track A" pictures-- the lovely exquisite cliches, the generic pictures that fill the pages of most advertising agency brochures and postcard mailings (sunsets, covered bridges, clouds, trees, office products, mountains, -many with an animated young couple or healthy seniors in the composition).


Opponents of microstock usually make a distinction in their assessment of this segment of stock photography.

On the one hand they declare the lower-priced microstock discs ($39.95 and lower) as inferior and not worthy of stock photography. On the other hand, they assess high-end discs ($250 and up) at high value. In reality both types of discs contain typical "Track A" pictures. The major factor that differentiates these two microstock categories is their technical quality.
High-end microstock discs are usually produced by industrial-strength flatbed scanners or by drum scanning (equipment cost: $25,000 to $75,000), and because of their quality can substantially short cut the production process, saving the photobuyer hundreds of dollars. Low-end discs are scanned on low-end equipment (equipment cost: $1,500-$3,000). The resulting images usually can't be used larger than a quarter page, or are used in projects where professional reproduction quality is not paramount (newsletters, brochures, websites, etc.).

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