January 13, 2017
This article deals with the advantages and disadvantages of submitting the same photos to multiple agencies. We will reflect expectations of photographers and image buyers as well, because meeting these expectations means a big step towards selling success of both photographers and agencies. This question involves some considerations of choosing microstock or macrostock, so we will deal with it as well.
alpineSTOCK.com is clearly a macrostock agency. As such, our business is not about a huge mass of images, instead it is about quality. Our catalog contains thoroughly reviewed and handpicked images only. On top, alpineSTOCK.com is by far no generalist agency, covering all and every image subject. We are part of a selection of highly specialized agencies, focusing on one dedicated category of photos. This specialization leads to different requirements our photographers have to keep in mind, and it leads also to different expectations of our customers.
Depending on contractual details agreed on between photographers and agencies, the exact same images may often be submitted to multiple agencies, of course, unless exclusivity of images is stipulated. Our photographers are free to submit their images to our agency and to others as well, and some do so.
Everyone welcomes the greatest freedom possible. Why should photographers limit their selves to only one agency, all the more if it is unknown how sales may perform there? Wouldn't it be a better advice to submit any photo to as many agencies as possible? And why not microstock and macrostock at the same time?
There is a simple answer: Yes and no. First of all, the individual photographer's expectation is the crucial point.
Let your own portfolio be the starting point for any further consideration. If it contains symbolic images, stills and highly processed photos, microstock could be your option (although many macrostock agencies accept such images as well). Does your portfolio mainly consist of images created with some effort of planning, timing, composing, hiking or even climbing, then you should go macrostock. If you manage, beyond that, to clearly select the very best of your images by your own and to avoid uploading tons of nearly the same images to your agency, macrostock could be your choice. Needless to say: Technical-optical quality must be top notch and you should be able to submit photos in high resolution.
Once you managed to mentally classify your own images, answer your expectations. Do you intend to earn from a myriad of sales, each valued not more than a penny, or do you like the idea of realizing much less but fairly high priced sales? Will your images stand out from a mass of billions of images and (a prerequisite to generate sales), or may they perform well in a high quality environment?
Simple math will do: You offer the same image at three agencies, priced USD 1.00 at agency A, USD 10.00 at B, and USD 100.00 at C. To generate the equivalent revenue of one single sale at agency C, you would need a hundred sales with agency A (factor 100). How likely is that to happen? There may be a certain likelihood for low priced images to attract image buyers more, but it is hard to match a factor of 100.
Sometimes, the decision for microstock or macrostock is based on certain amenities like unrestricted uploads, absence of quality checks, extremely loose keyword culture etc., which leads to superficial feeling of saving time. On the other hand, if you have to dig into professionalizing your selection process and into strengthening your meta-data skills, you may well decide to save time on that.
For any photographer intending to push an extra income, the latter of the options given before will win the race. In most cases the result will be a much higher willingness to analyze and evaluate your own portfolio. Once this is done, a wisely made choice of images will be uploaded to a few well picked agency in order to get the best care for each individual photo possible.
Once a basic decision is made, finding the adequate agencies is the next challenge. Because specialized agencies usually run the macrostock business model, you may find yourself already checking agencies in that range. The more specialized your portfolio is, the better it will fit a specialized agency. Their professional competence on the covered area is much bigger by nature. Your images will get much more attention by the agency's editors than elsewhere.
Things which matter besides professional competence are, of course, reputation and company size. If you find a generalist agency which is able to sell your specialized images well, you may decide to stop here. However, there is a great deal of chance that specialized agencies have access to a big number of potential image buyers who are constantly looking for specialized photos. These image buyers value the fact that they can find the required images with a higher probability and within a shorter time. Photographers can benefit from this close supply and demand.
The agency's view on the basic positions and decisions and is not much different from the photographer's point of view. Most macrostock agencies will most likely reject submitted microstock images, but differences start when it comes to individual requirements. These are as diverse as the respective clienteles are, no matter if generalist macrostock agency or specialist ones. Every macrostock agency focuses on different characteristics, surfacing in special themes, size of catalog, exclusivity, approval criteria or a limited circle of approved photographers. It's up to the photographer to carefully analyze the given options, but once this is done properly, the resulting business relationship may lead to pretty much image sales.
If you decide to sell your photos exclusively with just a single agency, this will make your agency happy for sure. Albeit, this will only be true for a small number of images and agencies. The rest is left to hope that their contributors may refrain from spreading their images around the whole world, using every suitable and unsuitable commercialization channel - or they may introduce contractual requirements to limit such activity and maybe they may insist on the compliance of such agreements.
We think it's a bad option to submit the very same images to every agency you found so far. You should be aware of the fact that your images will then compete with each other, especially when they are offered for completely different prices. Depending on agency and selling channel it is well likely that potential image buyers may find the same image at many places, which can be a very distracting experience. In case there is a good customer-relationship to the potential image buyer, the sale may be successfully achieved by a macrostock agency for a reasonable price, but there is no guarantee that the person who likes to buy your image will be happy with every penny saved and purchases the same image for a fraction of a reasonable price. Suffice to say that you missed a lot of revenue by the competition of your own images - we're back at "1x100 or 100x1".
It's quite evident that limiting your uploads to a single agency won't be much of a great deay in most cases either, and most images are available at more than one agency. As always, a well-balanced solution can do best in most cases. Every photographer's portfolio comprises images of good quality and images of less good quality. We think the better ones belong to macrostock selling, the quality segment. If the rest of your images manage to earn some money with microstock agencies, all the better.
Make your thoughts about the resulting overall pricing scheme of your photos. Even if you take the macrostock road, avoid huge differences in price range. Should you notice the same image to be available for a difference of a hundred bucks or even less, you know something went wrong. With this, you let potential image buyers know that this image is obviously worth just the lowest price. Your revenue will drop as will your other agencies' turnover - which will make them unhappy of course.
The best solution is to subdivide your selection of very good images into batches for a handful of carefully choosen agencies, providing each with the "right" images, matching their specialization. You could as well send each of a row of similar images to a different agency. The most important fact is to sell each image for the pricing it deserves.
Use a quick selftest to reveal your own thoughts about the ideal pricing of your images. A growing number of photographers uses direct links on their photographer's site which point to their image portfolio held at their macrostock agency. Visitors can easily buy the showcased photos by visiting the photographer's agency of choice by one simple click.
To which agency would you send your visitors? Answer this and you know your favorite image pricing.
Few photographers would send their potential customers to a whole bunch of agencies, selling the same images for a penny as well as for high prices.
As a photographer, you should analyze your image portfolio in detail and subdivide your photos in quality categories. Select not more than a few macrostock agencies and try to submit only images matching their requirements. Cross-check your resulting overall pricing scheme for consistency and set a link from your photographer's site to your portfolio at your favorite agency. Start right now.