Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Interview with David Negron, CEO of ProductionTrax

ProductionTrax is an online marketplace for royalty free music, sound effects, pictures and footage. As a photo and video contributor, I asked David Negron, founder and CEO of ProductionTrax, few questions about his company:

MicrostockExp: Can you please introduce yourself and tell us the story behind ProductionTrax inception?
D.N: My name is David Negron. I went to USC as a Jazz Major and after school started a company with the intent of getting into the film music production industry. I set Productiontrax up to sell my own music. After a bit of research I realized that I could have other people sell music on the site as well and Productiontrax as we know it today was born.

MicrostockExp:We know now that ProductionTrax started in the music business, but when did you decide to branch out to video and photos?
D.N: We originally sold Royalty Free Music and Sound Effects. About 2 years ago we launched a complete redesign of the site and decided that we needed to diversify our product offerings to keep up with the bigger microstock sites. We were actually the first site to offer all 4 product categories (Music, SFX, Video and Photos).

MicrostockExp:Can you present us the different products you are offering and more importantly what are the incentives for contributors?
D.N: Other than the 4 main categories, we also recently expanded our offerings to include DJ Elements, which are music tracks and music components that are licensed to be used in derivative works, which most royalty free music does not allow for. This lets DJ's use them for mixing and beat making.
Our biggest incentive for contributors is the independent nature of our site and the ability contributors have in controlling their media. We never ask that a contributor be exclusive to our website, we're musicians here and contribute to our own site and I would never limit myself to selling my work in place, so why would I ask other contributors to do that? We're one of the few websites that allows contributors to set their own prices and our 65% payout is one of the largest non-exclusive payouts in microstock.
We also offer customers 2 license options, one of which is a non-commercial license that gives inexpensive options students and customers who have personal projects, and contributors have the ability to set these options at the same price if they don't want to offer their work to non-commercial projects.
We also offer our contributors the ability to easily market their own product. Every contributor page has a RSS feed that contributors can use to populate their webpage or blog with new content they've uploaded. In fact you can even import this information to your Facebook or Myspace page. Every track and profile has a Tweet Me button that allows contributors an easy way to share new content with their Tweeps. We have a weekly newsletter that gets sent out to a large database of people detailing new products on the site, so contributors that upload often will have their tracks show up in these emails.

Another thing that I feel sets us apart from other sites is our personal relationship with our contributors. We make an effort to communicate with them as much as possible. We send newsletters to our contributors when ever we have info that they need to know and will occasionally reach out to them if we feel the site need specific content. For example the Olympics are coming up and I noticed we didn't have many national anthems, so we sent out an email to our contributors and with in a few weeks we started to have a decent collection of anthems for anyone doing olympic projects. We also try to connect with our contributors through social media to help develop a strong line of communication.

What products you are currently have the most and in what sector you want to get more market shares in the future? Can you tell us a bit about your plan in the near future in terms of technical development ? (ftp for example)

D.N: We don't offer FTP, but we do have a nice bulk upload app that is actually easier to use than FTP. It lets users quickly upload large file counts and an excel template lets us populate track info fast so your tracks are up and ready to sell. In terms of product offerings, we have more music and sound effects than anything else, since this is where we started. Stock footage has been quickly catch-up though and we have a good number of video tracks currently. Our photo offerings is where I'd like to focus our content efforts this year. It's the category we have the least content in and it is something we want to improve. Focusing on gaining new photo contributors will be beneficial to all photo contributors, as the more photos we have available for sale, the more we'll sell photos. I'd also like to procure some of the larger music and sound effects libraries that our competitors have and we've already have. As for our technical plans for the upcoming year, they will mainly focus on speeding up the site for a better user experience and building up our infostructure to ensure we are able to grow the way we want to and increase the reliability of the site.

If you want to start uploading your pictures,videos or music to Productiontrax, you can click the banner below !

royalty free music and sound effects at productiontrax.com

Friday, December 11, 2009

Clipcanvas HD footage marketplace review

In this article I review Clipcanvas, a HD footage marketplace I joined two months ago to distribute my clips. Also in this post, an interview with Cato Salter, CEO of Clipcanvas who was kind enough to answer some of my questions about his company.


Clipcanvas is a HD footage and animation marketplace based in Norway founded in 2007. The website site with a black and gold design is fairly quick to load. A large window , on the right hand side of the screen displays continously three different footage every week. Video clips previews use the flash based Flowplayer technology with success: preview window is large (420 by 238 pixels) and the image is crisp and clear making it the best previews I have seen so far on any footage agencies.

How to submit?

You can either run the Clipcanvas uploader application from your desktop or normal ftp software like Filezilla.
The Clipcanvas uploader is pretty straightforward to use: Once logged with your credentials, you just have drag and drop your clips onto a window and click the upload button.
Once submitted, your clip will be placed in the ''tag your clips'' section of the site.The last step is to enter keywords (separated by commas) and minimal informations about the clip such as category,dynamic,handling,camera framing.
Based on my experience, once you have your keywords ready, the final submission does not take more than 30 seconds and if you have a group of similar clips, less than 10 seconds using the available fast tagging. Clipcanvas is by far the easiest and fastest site for your final submission. In addition, clip reviews are very fast, mostly done under 24 hours. I found out that if the Clipcanvas uploader was very slow, uploading using ftp was considerably faster so I will recommend the latter.

Video clips requirements

Clipcanvas accepts clips with a minimum duration of 2 seconds and a maximum size of 750MB in the following formats:DV,DVcam,DVCpro 25/50/100,HDV1,HDV2,Xdcam,Xdcam HD,ProResHQ 10bit,ProRes 8bit, AVC intra (must be delivered in ProResHQ),Cineform, 12bit (must be delivered in ProResHQ),Dnx, DnxHD,Photo.jpg/.mjp 75/100%, Digibeta (export to ProRes or photo.jpg before upload).
I did not have so far any rejections by uploading quicktime movies (motionjpeg 95%) rendering from avchd files.

Interview with Cato Cater, CEO of Clipcanvas

Q: Can you present briefly the business in which Clipcanvas operates?

A: ''We are in a competitive industry comprised of so many professionals with high standards, and it is important to us to do our best to meet the requirements and demands that this implies. This goes for our submitters as well as for our buyers. We deliver video footage to our customers in more than 7 different professional codecs and a total of 20 variations thereof, bringing flexibility to our buyers´ digital workflows. Our primary focus is HD. The main bulk of our customers are working in production and post-production houses, and this list is growing by the day, representing companies and buyers from all over the world''.

Q: What can you tell us about your upcoming developments at Clipcanvas?

A: ''With regards to developments in the future, I would like to say we continuously work on making improvements:
- the referral program is in place and will be available from early January - referrers will earn a flat 10% of sales generated by these referrals for a set period of time for each buying user referred
- we will also offer more advanced affiliate solutions for those that want to integrate more closely with Clipcanvas through an API (will also be available in January). For example, the API would make it possible for any of our submitters to display and offer their own clips for sale through their own webpages (if they have one), but it would require some programming skills (with which we might even help out with in certain cases).
- also we are continuously working to improve the service we offer, based on input from all our users, and some of these improvements take more time while others take less, some you notice and some you don´t. We still have a lot of work to do, we are working hard, and I hope our users appreciate this even if some developments take longer time for us to implement than we would wish for''.
''We market our service and the video content offered through Clipcanvas in many different ways, both online and in more traditional media and communication channels. This is something we will intensify in the upcoming year, as we are now at the point where we pack some punch in the market''.


In summary:

Plus for contributors: Euros zone, video previews, referral program (to start in January 2010), ftp, quick final submission, quick reviews, high commission rate (60%), option to set your own prices (from 50 to 500 euros).
Plus for buyers: billing accounts, live support,free H.264 watermarked previews for testing.
Minuses for contributors: did not find any... but feel free to leave a comment if you find some!

Overall, I found Clipcanvas to be a great marketplace to join and I am looking forward to their new developments in 2010. The number of clips doubled in the last 6 months and Clipcanvas has now a library of just over 50,000 clips. For future reference, Clipcanvas is ranked 157,235 in Alexa.com and below is a 6 months trailing of Clipcanvas traffic compare to some of its competitors.

With a bit more than 100 clips on line I already had my first sale and looking forward to have more. Clipcanvas referral program is not ready yet but feel free to join by clicking the banner below. You can also follow Clipcanvas on twitter or join their fan page on facebook.

Clipcanvas Stock Footage - HD Video Clip Downloads
Browse my HD clips at Clipcanvas !

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Experiment 12: setting up your on-line microstock store

In this article, I will be sharing my experience setting up my online stock photography store on Smugmug. For those of you who never heard about Smugmug, it was founded in 2002 as a family business and a picture and video hosting site. It has rapidly grown and is now hosting more than 700,000,000 pictures. To put it into perspective, Flickr has more than 4 billion now.
Smugmug offers three levels of membership including a Pro account which allows you to license and sell merchandise from your pictures. A lot of pro photographers are using Smugmug as a platform to sell products to their customers after a shooting session or to market their pictures.

Below is my list of the PROS and CONS having a Smugmug Pro account:


• No domain name or annual hosting fees, no website design fee ($ 149.95 annual fee all included).
• Customers do not need to register before buying your product; they just can pay by credit card.
• Friendly webpage customization (graphic themes, CSS and Javascript).
• Unlimited storage for your photos and videos.
• Password protected galleries and custom watermarks.
• Reactive customer service
• Ability to set your own prices and retain 85% commission on sales.
• No image reviews
• You can sell three sizes of digital prints (1MP, 4MP and original) but also merchandise (T-shirts, mousepads, poscards, mugs, etc….), prints (glossy, matte, metallic) and canvas (rolled, wrapped).
• Display of HD 1920x1080 videos (up to 10 minutes and 600 MB long)


• Payment only by paper check in US dollars so far … (direct deposit is coming but only for US photographers)
• You are paid monthly if your profit exceeds $500, otherwise you are paid once your balance reaches $200.
• The photo licencing agreement is not as clear as on microstock agencies and extended licences are not available.
• The website is only in English.
• There is no option to sell HD videos yet.
• And of course… you have to do the marketing yourself

Is a Smugmug pro account really for you ?

I think the first thing to consider is that if you are willing or not to promote your portfolio. If you are not ready to do that, the Pro offer is not probably for you as you cannot count to get the same volume sale of Istock for example. Also I believe you would need a quite large portfolio (more than 2000 pictures) to begin with.

How do I use my Smugmug pro account?

I uploaded more about 2500 pictures so far online. Ftp is not available but uploading via the web browser is quite fast and IPTC data are read automatically.
Since sales volume are low, I priced my pictures has the following: $20 for 1MP, $40 for 4MP and $60 for the original (10MP). I have also a macro RF section as well  as Macro RM even if I don't have an e-commerce section for the later.
Stock  pictures are organized in different galleries: people, food, architecture, transportation, nature landscape, textures and backgrounds.
I have also  a special collection of more artsy pictures which would do well on microstock and some pictures I decided to sell at a higher price and are not offered on microstock agencies.
If contacted directly by a client for a special request, I upload the product to a password protected gallery where he or she can proceed to a secure payment. You just receive a confirmation e-mail when the payment is completed.

Some tips

Smugmug provides some stats but those are quite limited. It is however possible to track your visits using Google Analytics. To do that, go to contol panel, advance site customization and copy paste the code into the head tag.
Smugmug has integrated some social network tools: you can easily share a gallery on twitter and facebook for example. Digg, Stumble Upon and MySpace are also available.
You can link your Smugmug pro account to your own domain name and it is done in few clicks when you have already a domain on godaddy.


Smugmug is a friendly and fast platform to share and sell your digital images. It can be a good complement to your microstock activity if you already have a client base and/or are willing to market your site. However payments for European users are not straightforward since only US dollars checks are emitted.
So far, I’ve sold one digital print (by direct contact) and one print (no direct contact) . This wouldn’t sound like much but it was enough to recover more than 50% of my Pro account cost.
More than 4000 galleries of stock images are already on Smugmug. If you want to join, you can save $5 on a Pro account by entering the following coupon during your registration: 5CnHScGMAvPuA.

You can visit my online store following this link.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

November 2009 earnings


November was on track for a BME until the first half of the month, but the second half was noticeably slower and I ended up finally with a second BME. Only one BME to report at CSP with Istock finishing first, ahead from SS (despite 15 OD sales) and FT. Sales were dissappointing at SXP and DT (with RPD decreasing for the third consecutive month). I am still on the process to upload my entire portfolio at Veer and I am glad to report my first sale there. So overall, my earnings reached almost $600 this month when I include midstock sales and referrals.
A slowdown is expected in December so unless a EL sales spree happens, I will probably keep September in my records as 2009's BME with $508.82.


No sales yet but I managed to increase my portfolio at Pond5 (54) and Clipcanvas (91). I have also 39 clips accepted at Shutterstock, 9 at Revostock, 5 at AlwaysHD and 1 at Istock (this clip was pending for a month in the queue...).One of my clip was on the front page of Clipcanvas for a week but unfortunately it was not sold once :( I noticed that video previews looked much better at Clipcanvas than they do at Pond5...

Update: I just found out that my first HD clip (720p) was sold on Clipcanvas at the end of month. I received for this sale a commission of 30 €. You can see this clip here.

Stay tuned for more blog updates in December and in the meantime, you can read my daily updates on Twitter.

Daily sales graph - Isyndica screenshot

Earnings table (figures in USD)

Upload once - Sell everywhere! iSyndica, the web distributor

Friday, November 27, 2009

Your microstock strategic plan

The new year already started and  and now is  a good time to work on your 2011 microstock strategic plan. SWOT analysis is a very useful tool that can help you with that by identifying Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
In the following paragraphs I will give some examples to illustrate how a SWOT analysis can be applied to a portfolio.

  • Strengths and weaknesses

These are by definition internal factors that you can impact on. I suggest first to step back and have a critical look at your portfolio to identify its strengths and weaknesses. For this it is very important to collect as much data as possible by for example look at your sale statistics and your ranking (if available) in the different agencies.
You can found out for example that one of your strength is few strong best selling images in your porfolio.

  • Threats and opportunities

Threats and opportunities are by definition external factors that are not under your control. Threats can arise for example from mergers/acquisition or bankrupcies in the microsock industry that may decrease the value of your portfolio. Opportunities can be new microstock or midtock agencies that you can start contributing to, new microstock tools that can improve your productivity, or submitting videos to footage agencies.

A SWOT analysis alone is not very useful, so once you are done with it , you will have to define  actions by applying the following rules:

  • Capitalize and develop your strengths
  • Eliminate or limit your weaknesses
  • Invest in opportunities
  • Identify threats
  • But also match strenghts and opportunities and try to offset weaknesses with strengths

A more detailed version (5 pages PDF, $ 5) is available for download in the link above that will help in your SWOT. At this end of this guide you will be able to list a series of actions to increase your productivity and earnings

Sunday, November 1, 2009

October 2009 earnings


Although I did not have any BME in any of the microstock agencies this month and only one EL (Cutcaster), October ended up being my second BME overall. IS finished ahead of SS and FT was third well behind in term of earnings. SXP did pretty well and BSP quite stable. It looks like that sales finally dried out at 3DS which is a shame because it is my largest portfolio with 1500 + pictures. The review process ended up working against them maybe....
My pictures went live later in the month at Veer so it is a bit too early to predict sales there and where it will rank among my other agencies.
I have now more than 1000 pictures online at Shutterstock and on almost all other agencies except BSP and IS.
My total microstock earnings this month are just below $500 but if I add to this midstock, it pushes my earnings close to $600.


No sales yet to report but I am still building my portfolio and learning. So far, my largest portofio is at ClipCanvas with 52 videos and my smallest at Revostock with 9 videos which tells you immediately where is the fastest to push pictures. Pushing videos is definitely more time consuming than pictures because there is no IPTC system, yet...
I was dissapointed so far with my experience at SS and IS because of issues with ftp processing and very slow reviews.
Pond5,AlwaysHD, revostock, Clipcanvas are doing a much better job and it is not surprising since they have more experience in this field.
Isyndica platform was very helpful since I had to upload my 5GB of footage only once....
If you want to see the videos I have on sale so far you can have a look here.

I will see if I can push my microstock earnings pass the $600 mark in November before the traditionnal slowdown of December and the slow recovery of January.Stay tuned for daily updates on my twitter!

Upload once - Sell everywhere! iSyndica, the web distributor

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

An update on RPI and $/dl

This an update of my post published last January about the evolution of  RPI and $/dl across my microstock agencies.

In 2008, my cumulative RPI was quite high (0.82) but constantly went down the second half of the year. In addition my $/dl was  flatlining pretty much all year long.

In 2009, RPI went  up again even if  the  average (0.65) it was significantly lower than in 2008. On the other hand , $/dl gradually  increased to reach $0.95 in december. As my sale volume did not change much compared to 2008, my earnings went actually up (+100 % increase between december 2008 and december 2009).

The increase  in $/dl can be explained by the following things:

  • Microstock agencies increased their prices.
  • A higher ratio of credit to subscription sales (the amount of pictures sold at Shutterstock  went down between 2008 and 2009).
  • More  distribution channels:  I distribute my pictures to 16 agencies in 2009 compared to only 10 in 2008.
  • Having a bigger portfolio (1000+ pictures) increases the odds of extended licence sales especially at Shutterstock.
  • A higher  number of best selling pictures (especially on Istock).

24 months evolution of cumulative RPI and $/dl

Saturday, October 24, 2009

My microstock Do's and Dont's list

I put up a non exhaustive list, not in a particular order, of few things that came to my mind about microstock that I organized in a Do's and Dont's list. I wrote this list with pictures I mind but it can be applied as well to a large extent to other medias such videos and illustrations.


  • Do keep uploading
  • Do spend time on keyworking
  • Do aim to simplify your workflow (by using distribution softwares and platforms)
  • Do submit to multiples agencies
  • Do prefer quality over quantity
  • Do submit small batches of pictures
  • Do backup your data regularly
  • Do find multiple thematic niches
  • Do think about shelf life and seasonality of pictures
  • Do check your pictures at 200% for spots, chromatic aberration and sharpness
  • Do adjust contrast and levels
  • Do shoot horizontal and vertical
  • Do shoot what you like and sell but not always
  • Do shoot with the designer in mind
  • Do learn about new processing techniques and softwares
  • Do resubmit pictures if you they worth it
  • Do learn from rejections
  • Do participate in forums and read blogs
  • Do research
  • Do try to make sense of your stats but not too much
  • Do promote your work on social networks
  • Do invest in new equipment that potentially can add value
  • Do  branch into new activities (illustration,audio,footage)
  • Do follow microstock business news


  • Do not spend too much time on forums and Twitter
  • Do not check your stats every minute
  • Do not use a compact as a main camera
  • Do not take rejections personally
  • Do not take only objects isolated on white
  • Do not think that microstock is a get-rich-quick scheme
  • Do not take the same subject over thousand of multiples angles
  • Do not necessarily submit to every new agencies

Saturday, October 10, 2009

2009 microstock commissions, highs and lows

It is time for an update of  my post of last year post regarding microstock commissions. I added 6 new agencies to compare and lower and upper limit commissions.
To sum it up, sales commission will depend on: amongst over on the type of sales (subscription or credit), image size, agency or photo exclusivity, contributor or photo ranking.

Once again these numbers are not universals but are related to my ranking, exclusivity and my photo equipment: I have a  10MP and 12MP cameras, a bronze level at Fotolia with some exclusive photos there, some level 2 images at Dreamstime, sold more than $ 500 worth of pictures at Shutterstock but less than $ 3000.

These are the highs and lows I registered for 2009 (extended licenses are excluded from the list):

  • Shutterstock : between $0.33 (subscription) and $2.48 (on demand sale). Same numbers than last year.
  • Stockxpert (subs opt-in) : between $0.3 (stockxpert, photos.com, jupiterimages subscription) and $5 (L size, pay per download stockxpert) . Up limit dropped from $7 last year due to the discontinuation of photos.com credit sales this year, drop from $0.5 on the lower limit because I opted-in for subscription sales.
  • Istockphoto : between $0.19 (XS size) and $3.36 (L size). Upper limit is up this year from $2.70 last year:)
  • Fotolia : between $0.31 (subscription) and $4.99 (L size, exclusive). Lower commission dropped from $0.36 last year. I however expect for the upper limit to be lower since my commission for exclusive photos dropped from 52% to 32% in 2009! You have now to be 100% exclusive to get a 49% commission (bronze ranking)...
  • Dreamstime : between $0.30 (subscription) and $3.75 (panoramic image maximum size, level 1). $3.32 (level 2 image, maximum size). Up from $2.70 last year for the upper limit.
  • BigStockphoto : between $0.5 (small) and $3 (panoramic image, extra large). Up limit was $2 last year.
  • Crestock : between $0.25 (subscription) and $1.5 (S size). Up limit up from $1 last year
  • 123RF : between $0.36 (subscription) and $4.94 (Mega High XL TIFF). Up limit up from $4.5 last year

New agencies:

  • Canstockphoto: $0.3 (Fotosearch subscription) and $19.80 (Fotosearch regular)
  • Cutcaster: $4.70 (XXLarge)
  • Yaymicro: $3.69 (S size) - $7.38 (L size)
  • 3DStudio: $2.40 (Small) - $7.20 (large)
  • Scanstockphoto: unique commission at $1.46
  • Fotomind: $0.9 (full resolution)

In the light of last year numbers, few conclusions can be made:

Fotolia is the agency with the more disparity between lower and higher commissions ($0.31 to $4.99).

Sales commissions are the highest for the new agencies, unfortunately sales volume is still very small:(

The difference between higher and lower commissions increased compared to last year (from $7.3 to $19.61).

Agencies where my commissions are stable: Shutterstock,bigstockphoto
Agencies where my commissions are raising:) Istock, Dreamstime,crestock,123RF
Agencies where my commissions are dropping :( Fotolia, Stockxpert

Looking at my average monthly sales commission (including extented sales) for the first nine months of the year, it actualy increased this year to $0.74 from $0.58 last year.

See you in a year to see if these numbers are moving up or down......

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Compilation of HD Stock footage agencies requirements

A quick memo about the requirements of the HD stock footage agencies I contribute or plan to contribute to. I will update this table from time to time but feel free to leave a comment if you find that some informations are outdated...Thank you.

Submit Footage Clips to Shutterstock and make $$$!

Royalty-Free Stock Video at Pond5

Revostock footage

Friday, October 2, 2009

September 2009 earnings

September was a new BME and for the first time my microstock earnings (minus referrals) were above $500 which was initially my goal in 2009. SS had a BME this month (with 2EL and 9 OD sales) , the first one since June 2008 but IS is still number one this month (with 1EL sale), beating SS by only $1...

Another BME to report at BSP with a first EL sale and another BME at SCP with just regular sales which is quite encouraging. Amongst the newcomers, 3DS had a noticeable slow down this month with only two sales and Veer earnings graph is desesperatly flat.... No sign of life at YAY and Cutcaster either...

Luckily, sales at Panthermedia and SmugMug brought my monthly earnings just above the $600 mark.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I started contributing to footage agencies in September by sending HD clips to Shutterstock, Pond5, Revostock, Clipcanvas. My application is still pending at Istock and AlwaysHD. I immediatly wrote off Fotolia from my uploading list due to their low price policy. I will start disclosing my footage stats only next month since a lot of my clips are pending approval at the moment.
The Isyndica platform was very useful to upload these huge HD clips and I can still decide to distribute them later on in few clicks to Stockxpert and Canstock if their footage sales are taking off.

Will October will be another BME? I hope so and you will find daily updates on my Twitter account.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Experiment 11: from Still to Motion !

I recently invested in a HD camcorder (a Legria HF 200, twin of the Vixia HF200 in the USA) to get into stock footage. In this post, I will talk about my first impressions about switching from photo and video and the differences I came across during capture and editing.
  • Equipment and capture
The HF200 camcorder is surprisingly small and light (340g). However, it lacks a wide angle lens. Luckily, I managed to get down to a 31.6 mm (from 39.5 mm) without any loss of quality by adding a WCON 08B converter. Similarly, the TCON 17B brings the 592.5 mm to a 859.1 mm. When I shoot video, my SLR viewfinder is replaced by a very convenient multi-angle LCD screen. If a 8GB card is more than enough to record 10MP raw pictures, it is not so much for HD videos so I am currently using a 16GB class 4 SD card. The Legria comes short in battery life since I can record only about 1h of footage. Often the battery gives up before the card is full which never happened with my DSLR. Unfortunately, replacement batteries are much more expensive than for my DSLR as well…

Like in photo, I use aperture priority quite a lot and occassionaly speed priority. I almost always use manual focus (which is surprisingly precise on the LCD screen) to avoid changes in focus while recording footage which happen sometimes when focus is set to automatic.

Photo and video are quite similar but also very different. The big difference is that in video you have to predict the action and how it will play. If we take the basic scene of a autumn leaf on the grass; in photo, composition, control of the depth of field, exposure will be the main parameters before pointing and shooting.

In video, these parameters are still there but you have to compose also with external elements like the wind and the light that can sometime make your sequence more powerful.
While I do not really pay attention to the wind while taking pictures, I learned that it can be in video, your best friend or your worse enemy. Wind can give some movement to a static scene but also if you don’t have a steady tripod it can ruin all your footage.
In some ways, I found video more restrictive since you cannot do vertical shooting for example and it is, with the HF200 at least, difficult to change the focus while recording. At the same time, video brings more freedom since you can pan and zoom.
  • Processing time….
Instead of processing raw files, I work now with AVCHD which is a compressed format developed jointly by Sony and Panasonic.

I found out quickly that if the AVCHD format sounds appealing (you take your SD card from the camcorder and open directly files from it on your computer), its processing can be quite a headache. Few softwares are capable of rendering correctly AVCHD and its conversion can be tricky (files have to be converted to Quicktime, the format accepted by all agencies). I am still working on a standard workflow but I found out that scenes with fast moving subjects are the most difficult to render properly in Quicktime. Apparently it comes to the fact that I record 1080i (i stands for interlaced) and that computer displays are progressive... I am not sure that HF200 progressive mode is really true progressive so following some advices I will shoot interlaced from now on, the customer can easily deinterlace the video if needed.

It comes with no surprise that processing videos takes longer than processing pictures (even when doing HDR or panorama). Process a 20 seconds clip can take anywhere between 4 minutes and 5 minutes depending on what corrections are applied. It can last more than an hour if you speed up your videos to do timelapse.
Process AVCHD files definitely put my laptop (Core2Duo 2GHz, 3GB RAM) to the test….
Storage of raw footages can also be an issue so an 1TB hardrive should come handy especially if you want   to store these few GB timelapse videos....

  • Uploading
When it comes to uploading, there is a huge difference  between photo and video: if a 10 MP picture  weights between 3 and 5 MB, a 20 seconds HD1080 clip can be between 200 and 250 MB, the equivalent of about 50 pictures.... Uploading 20 HD clips can be a daunting task without a high speed internet access and I would consider that a 1Mbps upload speed is a minimum to have.
As I rather want to upload once, I use picWorkflow (referral link included) platform to distribute my videos across different agencies. Amazingly, once on the platform , my 200 MB clips are redistributed in a matter of seconds......

  • Final submission
Unfortunately, there is not yet an equivalent to the IPTC system for videos which means extra work: you have to copy paste title, description and keywords in each agency. Until such system comes up, the best option I found is to keep a document with all my metadata  and simply copy/paste the different fields from there.

  • Conclusion
Stock footage has definitely its technical challenges: processing and uploading are both much more time consuming than for photos. On the bright side, it is an opportunity to learn video capturing and editing. Also on the money side, there are much less submitters in footage than in photo, prices are higher so it might be a good time to enter before it is getting too difficult (see my previous post). At the time of writing, Shutterstock have 138,000 clips on line (with more than 8 millions pictures) and Pond5 200,000 clips. In January 2011, Pond5 has more than 510,000 clips, Shutterstock more than 230,000.

If you want start selling your footage online, I would recommend for a start  Pond5 and Revostock . My referral links are below!

Revostock footage

Royalty-Free Stock Video at Pond5

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Is microstock still open to hobbyst photographers ?

Competition is fierce in the microstock industry between agencies but also between photographers. In this article, I will try to answer the following questions : who is responsible of lowering or raising barriers of entry for hobbyst microstockers and is there a scope for them to make some money ?

  • Camera manufacturers
Camera manufacturers played a big role in the inception of microstock business model giving access to DLSR to a large number of people. As a reminder, back in 2002, the 14MP Kodak DCS Pro14n had a price tag of  $ 4,995 ! Today, a entry level DLSR kit or a high end compact is the minimum required to get into the microstock market as a photographer and represents an investment of about  $1000.
Few full time microstockers are getting an edge using top end DSLR (Canon EOS5 MarkII 21MP, Nikon D3X 24.5 MP) or digital medium cameras (Hasselbal H3D-II-39 39MP, Phase One P65+ 65MP).

  • Agencies
Leading agencies as Istockphoto and Shutterstock are doing an initial evaluation, like an entry exam if you prefer and it looks like that this exam  got more difficult the past few years.It is quite easy however to get into some of the new agencies as they do not have initial review but sales volume is low.
  • Knowledge and time
A less obvious barrier of entry is the knowledge that photographers need to acquire about the microstock industry, photography and post-processing techniques. All the information is widely distributed on blogs, forums and social networks but processing this knowledge can be time consuming and time is by definition a scarce resource for hobbyst photographers….

  • Internet access

Microstock photographers share their time between shooting, research, processing, keywording and uploading pictures. As far uploading concerned, lot of photographers are taking an initial strategy to distribute their pictures to multiple agencies (up to 20 or more) to see which ones are working for them. Beside time, uploading to multiple agencies be an issue with a slow internet access and become a barrier of entry. Some solutions came up recently to get around this issue like the Isyndica platform which allow multichannels distribution by uploading the photo once to their server.

  • And now, the money side of things……

Even is money is not the main focus of hobbyst photographers, they can rely on it to finance new equipment. If it was possiblle few years back, you should not expect now to make a lot of money with only few hundreds of pictures on line.....

Initially microstock agencies advertised themselves as a quick money scheme: according to them you just have to upload your vacation pictures from your harddrive.

Things are certainly very different now as the quality of pictures increased considerably. Recently, some agencies took the step to promote special collections within their database (Istock Vetta, 123RF EVO, Fotolia Infinite) but getting into these collections is almost impossible for hobbysts. Agencies are usually putting some size restriction on images and we can imagine that in the near future they will list a recommended or required list of cameras like it is done already by Alamy and Getty Images.

Full time microstockers are not only improving the overall quality (technical and creative) of pictures but also producing a large quantity of pictures making it more and more difficult for hobbysts to compete. If a hobbyst can produce up to 100 pictures a month, full time photographers can produce thousands….

With a low volume of production, it looks like that that the only way to make some money is actually to produce pictures in one or more selected niches.

  • Conclusion

Leading agencies and full time microstockers raised the barriers of entry for hobbysts. Even if photography equipment to get into microstock is affordable and web distributors like Isyndica exist, it appears more and more difficult for hobbyst photographers to get accepted from leading stock agencies and therefore make some money. Time and knowledge are also serious barriers of entry. However microstock is definitively a good learning experience and a chance to interact with an active and diverse community which is priceless:)

Also, every year few hobbysts made it full time and make a living out of their passion so I would say that everything is possible !

This article reflects of course my own opinion and I welcome every constructive comments!

Barriers of entry in microstock

Monday, August 31, 2009

August 2009 earnings


There was a bit of reshuffling in my top 6 this month as 123RF and BSP were forced out by a new player....


August was a good month considering the period of the year and it even end up being my BME, beating last May by few dollars. I had 3 EL this month (1 EL at SS and 2 EL at DT). SS claimed back its number one spot from IS, DT made a new BME.

I will write a few words about an agency I started submitting to called the3Dstudio. It is an established marketplace selling 2D and 3D products since 1996 that just opened a stock pictures section. 3DS has been receiving a lot of attention due to the fact that pictures go immediately on-line for sale and because of the generous 60% commission they redistribute to photographers (they also allow you to fix the price of your pictures). More importantly, customers are actually buying stock pictures! Uploading pictures at 3Dstudio is quick and reliable and I was able put online more than 1400 pictures this month, 3DS being my largest collection right now. Stats speak for themselves since on its first month, 3DS made more that FT and SXP, where I have been uploading for 2 years ....
If you want also to join the3Dstudio, you can use my referral link below, they even have a good referral program:)

Visit The3dStudio.com

Veer marketplace was a big dissapointment this month with only 1 view and ... no sales . I do have less than 100 pictures on-line there so I need to send more before drawing some conclusions....
Midstock sales brought my earnings just above the $500 mark this month:)

I am looking forward to September with, maybe, a new BME ?
You can follow me on Twitter for daily updates of my microstock adventures:)
To finish this update, if you want like me make your uploading less painful and see your live stats use Isyndica ! My Isyndica stats for this month can be found below along with a detailed Excel spreadsheet.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

July 2009 earnings


Here my top 6 agencies this month ranked by decreasing monthly earning:


No BME to report this month but it was more or less on the same level than the previous one with SS continuing losing ground against IS, DT and SXP. Microstock earnings were 14 % higher compared to July 2008 earnings despite the fact that some of my portfolio doubled in size. With midstock sales this July actually ended up being slightly better than June just above the $ 400 mark.
For the third consecutive month, IS is my strongest agency and if it was not for some OD sales, SS woulld have been very close to DT and SXP this month.
After encouraging early sales reported by some photographers at the new Veer Marketplace I decided to join and started uploading my portfolio.
Hopefully sales will help offset a soon expected drop of earnings at SXP......

Earning figures in USD

Isyndica stats screenshot

Monday, July 6, 2009

June 2009 earnings


My top 6 agencies this month ranked by decreasing monthly earning:


A small decrease in earnings was observed compared to May (which was my BME) mainly due to the fact that I did not have any EL. For the second consecutive month IS is ahead of SS and I expect this difference to increase in the coming months. Shutterstock is at an all time low with a RPI of only 0.1 despite six on demand sales this month. Fotolia did better than normal, with just enough earnings to rank number three. With a new BME, Canstockphoto is not far behind followed by Dreamstime.

Stockxpert is on the decline and I do expect this to continue when the subscription scheme Jupiter/Photos cancellation will be kick in. 123RF,SCP and BSP have still low sales and no sales to report on new agencies YAY and Cutcaster:(
I got few sales at Panthermedia though which pushed my earnings very close to $400 this month.

I changed quite a bit my workflow this month using Isyndica platform which I found very useful especially when using a limited broadband access. Although SS and IS are not reported yet, a screenshot below shows respective earnings for the months of June 2008 and June 2009. I found also Deepmeta very useful to submit to IS and I hope to get to 500 pictures online in the near future.
The $ 500 milestone is within reach but I don't see it happening before September.

Figures in USD

June 2009 earnings (Isyndica screenshot)

June 2008 earnings (Isyndica screenshot)

Monday, June 1, 2009

May 2009 earnings


Like last year, May sets up a new high for microstock earnings.The most strinking development is that after 24 months, SS lost its number spot to Istock. Two BME to report at IS and SCP this month and a record of $ 0.77 per dl.
I joined Isyndica this month to make my uploading task easier and spread pictures to more agencies . It will be interesting to see if it will help reach my long expected $ 500 target. I will blog on this subject later on.

Microstock one by one

  • IS. Put all other agencies in the dust this month and sets the record for the most money made by one agency. Even without the 2 EL, IS would have end up ahead of SS. RPI=0.51
  • SS. 9 OD's sales and just above $ 100 this month . Earnings down 20% compared to last year with 500 more pictures online ! Growing earnings at SS appear quite limited for the future.... SS represented this month only 25 % of my total earnings compared to 37% last year.
  • FT. Back to number 3 spot but still on the same flat line despite continuous uploading....
  • SXP. Down from last month but overall satisfying earnings. It looks like that since Getty got on board some files were desactivated because of IP problems. I noticed that some reviews were not very consistent this month.
  • DT. Big drop this month , looks like level 2 and level 3 images are not selling anymore.....
  • BSP and 123RF: quite far from DT in term of earnings with RPI of 0.01......

  • Less than 1 % of earnings:CSP, CT (got my 1st payout :)

Earnings in USD

Friday, May 1, 2009

April 2009 earnings


This month sets a new high for my microstock earnings just above the $ 400 mark (previous was in May 2008). Several sales contributed to that: 3 extended sales at SS,FT and DT (my first one), a first fotosearch credit sale at CSP. All this translated to 3 best months ever at DT,SXP and CSP and a new record of $ 0.76/dl in average. If 2009 follows the trend of last year sales, I expect May 2009 to be as good or better but we shall see...

Microstock agency ranking by $

  • Shutterstock: 1 EL and 4 OD's sales this month, 1 zero sale day. It looks very difficult to increase earnings at SS despite a rather large number of new pictures added this month.
  • Istock: Very similar to last month, but it always slow to growth my portfolio: upload limit combined with slow review and high rejection rate. Should take over SS one of this day if I manage to get more best sellers (my best seller made alone exactly $ 214.97 in one year with 164 dls).
  • Stockxpert: For the first time in a while, credits sales were largely superior to subscription sales and a single image leads to a BME due to a favorable ranking in the search engine towards the middle of the month. It will interesting to follow up on this one !
  • Dreamstime: My first EL there and quite a lot of regular downloads made a BME. Working towards a 1000+ pictures portfolio there.
  • Fotolia: Despite constant uploading my earnings in FT did not really change in over a year: low search engine ranking ??? If it was not for a EL, FT would have been at the bottom...
  • Canstockphoto: A nice fotosearch sale the last day of the month :) Hope to have 1000 + pictures on line soon.
  • 123rf: An average month at 123rf, it is the first agency where I have 1000+ pictures on line.
Low earners this month with 1% or less of total sales are BSP, SCP and CT (I am 50 cents shy from my first payout there....). No sales to report at YAY and Cutcaster.

Earnings table (figures in US dollars)

Lookstat screenshot

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Experiment 10: Infrared photography and Microstock

I've been experimenting lately with infrared photography as I did previously with HDR and see if eventually such pictures are accepted and sold on the main microstock agencies.

  • How does it works ?

Light is an electomagnetic radiation with visible light made of wavelenghts in the 400-700 nm and infrared light in 700-1200 nm range (near infrared). Longer wavelenghts will fall in the range of mid-infrared and far infrared (used in thermal imagery) just before the microwaves.

The IR filter placed on top of the lens blocks most of the visible light and let near infrared hit the CCD. Unfortunalely, IR sensitivity is decreased quite a lot by the hot mirror placed on top of the CCD sensor which job is to protect it :(

  • Why infrared photography ?

Mainly because it gives a dramatic, surreal effect to the pictures. Foliage and grass have the property to reflect infrared radiations and appear much brighter in IR giving an ethereal white glow (in some pictures grass can be mistaken with snow). Different foliages have different IR reflectance as well as foliage affected by disease or insect infestation. Blue sky and water will appear dark. Shadows can be interesting in IR with more subtle nuances. Depending on the light, textures can be revealed in more details as well. Skin also can give interesting tones.

  • Challenges in IR photography

Focusing and depth of field

In IR, focusing is different than in visible so producing sharp images can be tricky. If you are lucky your lens have a IR focus mark on it. If not the technique is to take several shots at different focus distance preferably with a small aperture. An universal technique is to use the hyperfocale distance but once again you will have to experiment before to found the settings for your camera.


Because the IR filter is very dark, indications given by the camera cannot be trusted and most of time several seconds exposure are needed. I used typically 2 to 15 seconds exposure time so a tripod is necessary. On the positive side, long exposure can give interesting results on water and clouds for example.


You will get variable results with IR photography as it depend to what extent your CCD sensor is IR sensitive: most manufacturers add a IR blocking filter (also called hot mirror) in front of the CCD ! It looks like that few year back the protection was not so high…..

Also it depends on the lens : some lenses are known to cause flares or hotspots in the pictures making them not usuable at all….

  • My gear

I am pleased with the Canon Powershot G9 so far using a Hoya R72 filter on the 58 mm Lensmate lens adapter. To obtain longer exposures, I select the ND function on (3stops) and/or put a ND4 filter (2 stops) on top of the R72.

As its name suggests, the Hoya filter blocks wavelenghts below 720 nm. The cut-off actually follows a curve a 50% is blocked at 720 nm so the filter let pass through a tiny amount of visible wavelenghts.

As the settings I use the hyperfocale distance and follow mainly this excellent tutorial : http://www.flickr.com/groups/545326@N21/discuss/72157603843667732/. I shot raw at 80 ISO to limit noise as much as possible.

Although quite expensive, a lot of digital cameras can be modified to remove the IR filter in front of the CCD and make it possible to take handheld IR pictures.

  • 10 steps workfow

Here is my workflow using Photoshop CS3 and Lightroom started with the raw file. It tend not go for the usual B&W processing to keep some blue sky.

Open Raw with LR2

Set color temperature 2000, tint -50

Remove noise Luminance 60

Chromatic aberration : all edges

Export as jpeg or tiff

In CS3 swap red and blue channels: red 0 blue 100, blue 0, red 100

Image--> adjustements levels blue and green

Image ---> curves define gray point

Import in LR2 adjust hue/saturation on the different channels to get the desired results.

Export as jpeg

  • Microstock and IR photography

Although not popular, IR pictures can be found in most agencies. As the time of writing, a search with ''infrared landscape'' and ''infrared buiding'' as keywords returned 545 and 117 pictures on Shutterstock respectively.Very similar search came up on Dreamstime with 537 and 128 images. Istockphoto is very pickup about IR pictures: ony 137 hits returned for ''infrared landscape'' and 45 for ''infrared building’’ !

The most challenging is to have IR pictures accepted as they tend to be noisier and less sharp and downsizing from 12 to 5 MP can help the picture to pass the inspection.

Despite a high rejection rate, I managed to have some IR pictures accepted at Shutterstock (29), Dreamstime (31), Fotolia (9), 123RF(46). However it seems quite impossible to get those kind of pictures accepted at IS which is reflected by the low amount of IR picture on their database.

As far as sales concerned, two of my IR pictures are in my 10 most popular pictures at SS, I had 9 sales so far on DT but 0 on Fotolia.

IR can be combined with HDR or panoramic stitching to produced spectacular pictures but of course noise has to be kept low somehow. Here is one example below:

Useful links

My IR photos gallery on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ldambies/sets/72157616326739659/

Flickr groups dedicated to infrared photography

Digital infrared: http://www.flickr.com/groups/55027594@N00/

Infrared: http://www.flickr.com/groups/infrared/

Canon G9 infrared: http://www.flickr.com/groups/545326@N21/

Infrared UK&Ireland: http://www.flickr.com/groups/infrareduk/

Infrared panoramas : http://www.flickr.com/groups/898089@N25/

Infrared Scotland : http://www.flickr.com/groups/infrared-scotland/

HDR infrared: http://www.flickr.com/groups/92588351@N00/

Converted digital infrared cameras: http://www.flickr.com/groups/lifepixel/

Further reading

http://dpfwiw.com/ir.htm A lot of detailled informations and links about IR photography

http://www.lifepixel.com/index.html Services and tips about converting your camera to Infrared

Joe Farrace. Complete Guide to Digital Infrared Photography. Lark Books, 2006, 160p.

div style="width:425px;text-align:left" id="__ss_1276163">Infrared photography and microstock
View more presentations from ldambies.