How microstock was born

Today in Design Mania there is a guest post about microstock by Nadezhda Shipilov – photobank Photogenica is the largest Russian microstock.

Photo: Photobank Photogenica

Microstock – the budget segment of stock photography, offering high-quality images for a penny, is rapidly gaining momentum. Which is not surprising: high-quality photography has never been so cheap and affordable. Today, in microstock, photos are bought not only by regular customers of photobanks, but also by those designers who did not even look towards buying legal photos before. It is logical: earlier they could not afford it. Now it is available to everyone.

Stock photography and design – misalliance or happy marriage?
By definition, design is the creative process of creating an object, image, object, etc. But it is far from always advisable to create a design from scratch, personally developing all of its elements. There are many building blocks that, provided they are properly laid out, can make a good design. One of these building blocks is stock photography – images that are ready to use in any section of graphic design: newspaper and web design, packaging and poster design, corporate identity, TV design and other media products.

Classical photo stock

Photobanks – intermediaries between the photographer and the buyer of photographs – appeared in the 60s of the twentieth century, when the market for professional buyers of images (advertising and publishing industries) realized that buying a finished photo is cheaper than ordering photo sessions, and the exclusivity inherent in an individual session is not always advisable.

Before the advent of the Internet, the scheme of interaction between a photo bank and a client was quite laborious: the image was selected to order by the employees of the photo bank or by the client himself in paper catalogs (now electronic media are also used), the purchased photo was provided in the form of a slide that had to physically come to the client.

Until recently, a finished photograph could only be bought in traditional photobanks at a price commensurate with its use (medium, circulation, industry). Prices started from a few hundred dollars and reached mind-boggling tens of thousands of dollars per license.

Emergence microstock

But the development of the Internet also influenced this industry, giving preconditions for the emergence of a new market segment – micropayment photo banks or otherwise microstocks, where you can buy photos at a price of several tens of cents.

The low price is achieved due to several factors:
• Type of license. Microstock images are licensed under Royalty Free, a non-exclusive, one-time royalty-free license. Royalty Free allows you to reuse an image without restrictions on the industry and territory and with very democratic restrictions on circulation (rarely less than 250,000 copies per medium). Royalty Free is a general type of license; the details of licensing in different photo banks may differ slightly.
• Self-service. Microstock is an online store where the user himself searches, buys and downloads an image, referring to those. support only in case of problems.
• Highly competitive market. As in any other segment of the Internet business, microstock competitors are “just a click away”, which forces market players to constantly work on their competitive advantages, including pricing.

The emergence of microstocks was fertile ground for the growth in demand for cheap images, fueled on the one hand by the internet boom (every website must be illustrated) and the 2000s financial crisis on the other, which triggered an outflow of funds from traditional advertising and hence from traditional advertising photography.

Photo: Photobank Photogenica

What is interesting microstock for designer
Microstock photo stocks are a cheap, fast and convenient way to get a quality image. You just go to the site, choose the desired picture, pay (prices start from forty cents), download and you can work further – embed the photo into the project. The purchase process, when the photo has already been selected, takes about fifteen minutes, no more.

Why buy, you can download it from the Internet! ..

Each image has its own author and is protected by copyright law. The right to virtually any use, including editorial, commercial, and even non-commercial, must be documented.

If you have discs with cliparts, but there is no documentary evidence that you can use them in commercial or editorial activities – such use of these cliparts is illegal. The use of images from resources that provide stolen stock content or any other sites, unfortunately, is also illegal.

Stealing photos is not worth it for several reasons:
• for this threatens administrative and criminal liability;
• it is not ethical in relation to the customer of the design – you make him an accomplice in a crime, push him into a legal “minefield”;
• it is not ethical towards brothers in the shop – photographers and illustrators – whose work should be fairly rewarded. And what if your finished project will be used not only by the customer but also by several completely leftist offices, without paying you a dime? And a few dozen leftist offices? I think that the calculation of the lost profit happened in your head instantly, causing a fair protest.

Russian market micropayment photobanks

Photobank Photogenica
Photo: Photobank Photogenica

Microstocks appeared in Russia only a few years later than in the West. Here, as in many other sectors of the Internet business, we have something to be proud of – these were not clones of Western projects, but ideas created on our soil. At the end of the 2000s, there were dozens of photobanks in the Russian segment of the network, working according to a model close to a microstock. But only a few managed to fill up with images above the critical mark – the photobank should offer at least several hundred thousand photos, so that the client has plenty to choose from and survive.

At the moment, the “long-livers” of the industry are overtaken by “young wolves” who are building a business along the best path of development and, due to this, can offer the client a large database of photographs at lower prices. A good example of a Russian microstock is the Photogenica photobank, which, having appeared in 2011, immediately offered the client the lowest price in Russia and 13 million photos (the base is several orders of magnitude larger than that of other Russian microstocks).

A spoon of tar
The main, and probably the only disadvantage of microstock is the non-unique content. Each image – in theory – can be sold several times and it is possible that several companies use the same image. But given the volumes of the leading microstock databases – usually more than 10 million images – the probability of choosing the same photo tends to zero.

In addition, in most cases, the purchased photographs are processed (cropping, color correction, etc.) before being included in the final project, which makes them only vaguely similar to the original.

Initially, microstock was associated with low quality photography. But, with the development of this segment of photo stock and technology (how many amateur photographers could boast of a digital SLR in a backpack ten years ago?), The quality of images in microstock is growing and the boundaries between traditional stock photography and microstock are blurring. Lately, it is almost impossible to determine how much was paid for an image used in a design, $ 10 or $ 500.

Let s draw conclusions
For the client – the buyer of photographs, the emergence of microstocks is a solution to the problem with the source of materials for design, advertising and marketing. Previously, it was necessary to choose from expensive (traditional photobank, ordering a photo session, hand-made production) or illegitimate (pirated discs with cliparts, stolen content) solutions. Microstock is the optimal solution for designers and agencies that include the cost of images for the production of design in the cost of the entire service. Here the price of photography plays a huge role, and if it is only tens of rubles, it is affordable, profitable and legally clean. It has become unprofitable to steal! At last…

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