The Best of Both Worlds?

If you’ve been around GlobalEye/OzImages for a while you’ll know I’ve always  encouraged photographers to work with Rights-Managed licensing and to hold out for fair and reasonable payments.

I’ve always been a Microstock-skeptic but I’ll also acknowledge that there are times when RF licensing makes more sense for a Client… so I’ve upset more than a few people on both sides of the licensing debate.

So with that said, I don’t want this to turn into yet another debate on the various photography licensing models… I just want to be clear on where I stand so people can focus on the marketing option I’ll cover shortly, and decide if it’s a reasonable option for them.

In short, I believe Microstock is a business model that favours the image  distributor, not the creator, and I just don’t believe the photographer’s compensation is appropriate for unlimited use of high quality images.

I think the success stories are probably the exception rather than the rule, and when someone is getting good results, it seems far too common for the less-creative to simply copy their ideas and dilute their return.

OK, that’s just my opinion on the matter to put the following into context…

As much as I believe Rights-Managed licensing is the best long-term business model for stock photographers, I’ve got to admit, sometimes it can feel like a losing battle.

Especially when you get a few photographers giving up and going over to the dark side and start giving their work away for peanuts, just to make something

But then we have a run like this week just gone where we see some serious sales go through, and I know there’s still a very real and lucrative market out there for  high quality rights-managed images.

There’s no question that the market is tough, competition is ridiculously high and there’s a lot of buyers who want cheap images…

But… there’s also plenty who demand high quality work, who need to know the publishing history of any image they use, and often need some control over how it might be used in the future.

And they’ll pay a premium for those options.

So I’ve got no doubt that any photographer who can identify those buyer-types and create images that meet their requirements, still has a very sound future in rights-managed stock photography.

As a stock library operator though, I’m constantly looking at how we can improve our photographer’s returns, and I’m always looking for things other people are doing that we can adapt to our own business.

And I’ve got to admit, I’ve often looked at Microstock and wondered if there was any way to get the best of both worlds?

Some way to pick up the regular hands-free income from micro-sales WITHOUT giving up the rights to your images and WITHOUT forfeiting the option to license them rights-managed in the future?

I have seen plenty of photographers try and work it…

They put their A images into a Rights-Managed library, B images into a Royalty Free library, and dump everything else into a Microstock library.

And while it sounds reasonable in theory, in reality, I get the distinct impression from these guys that they’re spending the majority of their time trying to market their weakest images!

Personally I’d rather spend that time shooting more A images or finding new ways to promote my best work… than messing around with dime-a-dozen pics that are going to face a tsunami of competition for every $5 sale.

Well there may just be another way…

Someone sent me a link this morning that really got me thinking, that just maybe, there could be a way to get the best of both worlds…

It was a link to a new training product teaching people how to create and market illustrations to various microstock libraries.  (It’s called Paid To Draw & you can check out my review here)

My first reaction was “Just what we need… even more low-quality images out there messing up the place…

But then I got to wondering… 

What if instead if iPhone-snapshots, it was high-quality images being transformed into high-quality stylised illustrations?

What if you created multiple  illustrations/variations  from each image?

What if you set up Photoshop Actions for each variation, so the creation process was just a standardised  step in your existing workflow?

You’d be working with your best images… not messing around with the C images… so you’d be focusing on quality rather than quantity. You’d be adding a revenue stream based on your best work, not your worst.

Best of all,  your originals would still be OK for rights-managed licensing, (with suitable disclosures of course).

I’ll admit this all came about this morning so I haven’t given it a whole lot of thought and I certainly haven’t tried it myself, but at first glance, it really does seem like it could be a win-win?

So I’m really interested to hear what some RM photographers think about it?

What are your thoughts? Like it? Hate it? Think it’s a slippery slope?

Please post a comment below and we’ll see where it ends up! (If you don’t do Facebook, there’s the standard comment option a little further down!)

I don’t really want this to be a discussion on RM vs RF vs Microstock though … we can agree there’s a dozen different opinions on all that… but for now, I am very curious to see if RM stock photographers think this might be a viable outlet for your work?

UPDATE 25/7.  I've had a few queries about the PaidToDraw package. Rather than get distracted here, I've posted a short review of the package and answered a few of those questions/concerns in a separate post. You can read the review here if you're interested.