Wanda Merritt Anthony

Wanda Merritt Anthony

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Arrogant Or Practical

Some stock photography agencies sell subscriptions to buyers.  With a subscription a buyer pays a fee which allows them  to download a set number of photographs or clips in a certain period of time.  For example,  Shutterstock has a 25 per day plan.  Of course a video subscription is more expensive than a photo subscription.  Agencies tout subscriptions as good for buyers and photographers alike.  Buyers can afford to get more images and presumable more sales are spread over more photographers.  The payout on work sold via subscription is miniscule, twenty-five to thirty cents per photo and between a dollar fifty and two dollars per video.  I opted out of selling videos on subscription.  Too much time and effort goes into making a video to sell for such ridiculous prices.  Microstock photos sell for cheap anyway, starting at a dollar or so for a small image suitable for the web which is split at various percentages between agency and photographer. But subscriptions are the bottom of the barrel. 

I started out at microstock agencies.  I was glad when I made a sale and even happier when the sale was a regular sale instead of a subscription.  Fotolia sells its large photos for seven dollars on a regular sale which would be split with the photographer.  All subscription sales are large and the photographer gets all of twenty-seven cents for the sale.  Fotolia doesn't allow photographers to opt out of subscriptions for photos. 

I was willing to put up with these terms until I was diagnosed with Glaucoma and discovered Pond5.  I can tell my vision is changing and one day I may be unable to photograph.  I want to have a great number of photos and videos online before I'm forced to stop.  I'll need the royalties to supplement my income in my old age.  Pond5 is based on a different model.  The photographer sets his or her own prices and there are no subscriptions.  I struggled with pricing because I had so many pictures up on other agencies selling for low, low, prices.  Will buyers pay my prices when they can get the same photo at subscription prices? 

On Pond5 I priced my photos according to how difficult they were to make.  Then I priced all sizes the same price.  I did this because I think most photos will be used online and buyers will default to the large because psychologically it's a better buy for them.  With all sizes the same price I'm splitting a higher amount with Pond5.  When a photograph sells five times I raise the price.  I priced my standard definition footage at $25 no matter the duration and HD footage at $50.   I priced a few at lower prices to see if it made a difference.  Pricing is a hot topic in the forums on Pond5.  Some say price low to make lots of sales.  Others say price high or you're not going to make any money.  I like the ones who say produce high quality work and buyers who need what you have will buy it no matter the price. 

Some of my work has sold at one place or another while some other has sold across both formats.  When I don't know what to do I usually do nothing.  That came to a head for me today.  I got three emails from Fotolia telling me I had sold a photograph.  All three were subscriptions so I got a total of eighty-one cents for those three photographs.  I'm glad for the sale but I keep thinking if I had sold the same three pictures on Pond5 I would have gotten seven dollars and fifty cents. I consider the photos that sold at Fotolia today as specialty photos.  The subject was LDS related so it isn't something everyone would have around to photograph. 

I decided not to submit any more specialty or difficult to produce photography to agencies that sell subscriptions.  Anything new having to do with my religion, blindness, or anything I spent hours on the computer making will not be offered on subscription based sites.  I'll decide later if I will take these subjects off subscription based.  As for generic shots, I don't know yet.

I want to be practical about this.  I need to bring in as much as I can and it seems counterproductive to sell specialty photos at subscription prices when other viable options are out there.  

I'm also thinking of doing the same thing with pictures with Models.  I pay my model when a photo she is in sells.  Has arrogance and/or greed taken over?  Am I simply being practical?  the more money she makes the more willing she is to model. 

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