Dan Heller on the Convergence of Social Photo Sharing and Stock Photography

Dan Heller’s Photography Business Blog: “In 2000, I wrote an article called, ‘The Five Truisms of the Photography Business’, and Truism #1 is ‘There are more people who have photography as a hobby than as a profession.’ While an obvious statement on its own, it has enormous weight when you consider how the internet has brought down the barriers that have kept consumers out of the photo business in the first place. Now that they’re here, they have fundamentally altered the photo industry, whether intentional or not, and whether other photographers like it or not. “

Dan Heller has an excellent post up that is pretty much spot on about the future of social sharing photography and the stock photography business.

Many people think that the brilliant photography that is being produced and shared today by people on photoblogs and at places like Flickr and Zooomr has no potential in the traditional stock photography market. They think that at best this work represents potential images for the microstock market. I disagree entirely and agree with Dan that there is a market between traditional stock that you would find at Corbis, Getty and Jupitermedia and the microstock sites. This is what we are working on building at Zooomr right now.

Dan’s article is well worth a read.

Thanks, Joe!

7 Replies to “Dan Heller on the Convergence of Social Photo Sharing and Stock Photography”

  1. People today are already confusing stock photography and flickr users photographs. Nothing new, really, but The Consumerist.com (part of Gawker Media) admitted to it yesterday, that they take images from flickr and, without credit or even a link most of the time, they reproduce the photos alongside their stories.

    They’ve since deleted the article and discussion where this was admitted.

    Discussion about this here: http://www.flickr.com/forums/help/33525/

    The editor, Ben Popkin is pretty unrepentant about the practice:

    “I have now removed the link [to the artists flickr page] because we realize that this policy would be more trouble than it’s worth. If people want credit, they can ask for it. If people want their photo down, they can ask us. Otherwise, we’ll just go back to using the best photos we can find in order to illustrate our posts. If you guys want a bunch of ugly ass retarded stock photos all the time, you’re in the fucking wrong place.”

    “Credit is more [trouble] than its worth because then we would have to deal with people bitching all day that we didn’t spell their name correctly, or they want their name and not their Flickr ID and so on and so forth… when my time is better spent looking for the next post to write. The next post that will save you time or money, or reveal some corporate skulduggery or whatnot. What is the greater good? To use the best photo possible to illustrate the post and move on!”

  2. The ironic thing about consumerist.com stealing images from Flickr is that consumerist.com is supposed to be against businesses ripping off the little guy. Popkin’s solution to needing images to use for his own gain is to steal the little guy’s photos because ‘credit is more trouble than it’s worth?’ What a hypocrite. They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but it’s also jammed at rush hour with jackasses like Popkin.

  3. Two things to revolutionize the business of photography… the web and the digital camera.

    Sure it seems obvious but to most new to the idea of selling images online the real revolution (and for old film photographers the destruction) of the business is use for web versus print. As mentioned in a previous comment and post on my blog there is no doubt that there is a middle tier to stock, but these lower tiers will have a tougher time on the print side of the business. Personally I think you get what you pay for, but there is greater latitude on quality when you’re dealing with web publication. Once you get to 300 dpi high resolution images the quality breaks down. I could ramble on about this… for Zooomr or any other company venturing into this there’s going to be a lot of work to do. And sadly the tech side of the setup is going to be the easiest step. Training amateur photographers how to prepare their images (resolution, spotting, keywords, etc.), editing/selecting images to submit, and the resulting quality checks are going to be the most labor intensive and time consuming portion of the equation.

  4. I really liked Dan’s post- I’ve followed his writing for years. Small groups of people selling images is how it used to be done. Getty helped the industry make the leap to the internet- in the process they took out the ‘people’ part. Things change for a reason- maybe buyers will want a connection with sellers.

    Most social networking photo sites will find it’s more difficult than just putting a price on an image. Large volumes of images might enable sites to make money, but not all of their users are necessarily interested in selling their work. For a site to leverage the social network, the community must be invested in the initiative.

    There are many hurdles to overcome to insure quality, consistency and good customer service. Ultimately new buyers in this large new market will need support to understand licensing imagery. Leaving it to the photographer may not work. It’s not all just fun.

    The opportunities abound- execution is key to making this type of venture succeed.

  5. The “Stock photography business” is vulnerable to the same disruptive forces as other markets. Their main enemy is their own “groupthink”.

    Non-professional (i.e. don’t do it for a living) photographers generally aren’t contaminated by the same “rules” and thus will ultimately produce new things.

    One must also keep the following in perspective: Even if only 1% of output of the collective non-professional photographers is really good, they outnumber “professionals” by orders of magnitude.

    The secret sauce then, is in finding the really good ones.

    Flickr (and similar sites) do a great job of bubble sorting and ranking.

    Harnessing this source successfully will result in a large (although perhaps slow) transformation of the stock photography industry (I hope).

    Disclosure: I like to see any established industry, especially with large cartel-like companies get turned up side down. Can you say “Recording Ass. Of America?”

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