iStock Photographers=Suckers

I must admit, I've been avoiding microstock, but in lieu of the failing health of many agencies I once trusted (Digital Railroad was my favorite... R.I.P.), an eye-opening experience with my cousin, and an interesting conversation I had the other day with an up and coming photographer in the area I decided to look into iStock.

The thing that finally drove me into considering this avenue at last was when I went to see my cousin who lives in the area. I saw her browsing iStock. I didn't even know she bought photography. I asked her what she was doing- after all, I'm her cousin, I would totally hook her up. She brushed me off and said she needed an image right there and then of a salesperson that instilled confidence (or something to that effect) for a brochure for her work. I do have images like this in my stock files, but she just kept on looking at iStock. I was bewildered. It dawned on me that iStock ads are everywhere, and that even though I am not a fan of microstock for several reasons, this is the future of photography. Scary realization.

So, today I decided to see what there is to see on the website and exactly what kind of legal I would be running into. It all seemed to be on the up and up. Pretty standard. Then I decided to check on their most downloaded stuff and the "Requested Images" forum. I wanted to see what categories of images were most needed. You know, general sort of things that would be downloaded again and again. That was when I found the above which made me want to cry.

The author of the original post of the thread requests specific images for a cookbook of specific recipes. Each of these shots would require you to buy the items on your own, cook them, arrange them artistically, light them and shoot them. You have got to be kidding me. All of that for the opportunity to be considered for one download, which at best would probably make you $1.20 (USD). The chances of having that image needing to be downloaded again are next to zero.

I originally had myself a good laugh at the post. I thought to myself, "Seriously! Who is going to go through all of that for so little in return? And what he is asking for is so specific! What a cheapskate that guy is! He should just hire a photographer!" And since I couldn't post these thoughts myself (you have to be an approved member before you can post on the forums), I started to look down at the replies to see if anyone told this guy off for me. And that is when I wanted to cry. In the replies I found all these photographers that were jumping at the chance. Then in the posted replies came the suggested images. Images people actually spent their own money on to buy the ingredients, cook, arrange, light, and post. Wow. So, it has come to this.

I once did a job for a friend of mine who was in a pinch. He was a graphic designer trying to start a business making menus for restaurants. Because I really really like this person and we are pretty tight and we've been through some stuff together I let him talk me into paying me $75(USD) to make 8 images of food in natural light in the restaurant itself. Since he is a graphic designer that I have worked with before and trust, I agreed to hand over the RAW images to him without touching them or even looking at them myself. The owner of the place was there and made the food himself and it was out of his own kitchen. He even did the initial styling with the help of the graphic designer. There was a very clear understanding that I was doing this graphic designer a favor and he did feel really bad. He paid me on the spot and embarrassed-jokingly added, "Don't spend it all in one place!"And even though this was a while ago when I had first come back into the country and took smaller jobs to get going again, I really did feel it was not a lot of money, but it was okay because it was about more than just money.

After what I have seen today apparently I should have been more thankful for my $75.

What is the world coming to?! Come on people! Do the math! Have more respect for yourselves! I remember when I was in photography business class (OCC is one of the only schools I know of, at any level- junior college, university, whatever- that teaches business to its photography students) and objections like this were brought up in class. We talked about competing with newbs and others who were undercutting the market and my teacher called it a "self-solving problem" because these people would go out of business all on their own if they didn't start charging more. However, these days with the advent of the conviences of the internet it brings all the suckers together in one place so that there is a never ending stream of people who undercut the market and make it impossible for anyone to make a living off of photography. Scary.

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