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Google recently announced the launch of some new features in their Google images search tool. Google previously provided a creative commons search but not integrated into Google images. The new filter allows users of Google images to search for images licensed for free use under creative commons licenses. Google is not the first to offer a creative commons image search everystockphoto has been doing it for a while (although they only seem to show me results from flickr and sxc).

Is this going to "spell the end of image libraries like iStockPhoto"? I doubt that very much - not everyone wants a creative commons attribution plastered on their website or printed design. From my tests the results are nothing like as correctly matched as those on a stock photo website.


Yaymicro have announced that Yuri Arcurs has joined as a contributing photographer, some of his images can be seen here. Yuri is one of the leading microstock photographers and his joining yaymicro is a signal to other contributors.

istockphoto have launched a new premium collection called 'vetta'. Images have been specially selected from uploads submitted by istock exclusive photographers (previously known as the premier collection). The launch of the new collection has coincided with updates to the agencies search engine. Press Release

Both Mostphotos and Featurepics have announced they are developing improvements to their sites and asked their contributors for feedback.

Stockxpert contributors will no longer have the option of selling their images via photos.com following the announcement that photos.com will drop stockxpert in favour of selling images sourced from istockphoto. Last months announcement by istockphoto that it would be reselling images via the former Jupiter sites (incl photos.com) caused concerns that duplicates would be found if the same image had been uploaded to both istock and stockxpert. All the agencies involved are part of Getty images.

Shutterstock generated one of the biggest storms we've see so far in the ranks of microstock contributors when they announced that all non U.S. contributors would need to complete American IRS forms or have up to 30% of their earnings withheld from photos downloaded by non-U.S. image buyers. At last count there were 83 pages(!) of comments on their forum. A further announcement advised contributors to await further instructions on progressing the applications. Regarding the 'forum storm', to paraphrase what I wrote in microstock tantrums, "think carefully before going off like frog in a sock".


Fotolia have announced the launch of photoxpress.com, a site which offers free stock images via the fotolia free API. fotolia members have been adding images to the 'free collection' for several years by opting in if their images do not meet the standards of the main collection. Photoxpress currently offers almost 350,000 images.


As a photographer you have probably come across the term geotagging before now, a way to describe the location a photo was taken in metadata embedded within an image file. This geo tagging can be done in camera (some cameras contain a GPS), with a companion device (a geotagger) that tracks your location as you take photos and synchronises later, or manually with software (just like when you embed titles, descriptions and keywords).

From a stock photography point of view, embedding the location coordinates in this way seems to have had little uptake, even though the technology has been around for some time. There are several reasons for this:


It's an incredible number to reach, and it's important to highlight that they are not all licensed for free use in commercial work, nor are they all of suitable resolution to use as stock images. Looking at flickr creative commons I can see that around 17.5 million images have a licence that would let anyone use them as stock (with attribution of course), the remainder have non-commercial licenses.


concept increase in photo sales

The main thing to remember is that microstock is stock photography, it's not a place for the 'art of photography'. While artistic images might be accepted and sell in limited quantity these are probably not the best way to go if you want to make some good earnings. Likewise the photos that a lot of people praise either by word of mouth or in comments on a site like flickr do not necessarily make good microstock pictures; these often look pretty or have a wow factor, but usually lack a meaning or concept, this is a common mistake for most beginning photographers dipping their toe into the stock industry.


So what did March 2009 bring to the world of microstock photography:

Yaymicro anounced a 25% increase in sales during February compared to previous months. The also appointed themselves a new CTO, Oddbjorn Sjogren.

Shutterstock reached 6 million images (actually this was in late February) less than 4 months after announcing they reached 5 million, I've almost given up posting individual articles when the big agencies reach a million mark... until 10 million comes! Shutterstock's Jon Oringer stated that this was "Thanks to more than 144,000 submitters who continue to contribute to our library".

Cutcaster launched support for corporate buyer accounts.

 


Crisis? What Crisis?

It seems to me that the Global Economic Crisis is not having a huge effect on micro stock. At least that's what I see in my earnings which are relatively stable. There are several factors affecting the microstock industry at the moment, but at least one of them I think is positive. Although microstock is changing at an increasing pace, it seems to be quite stable compared to the rest of the stock industry which is, at least from the press stories, exploding, crashing and generally turning upside down.

 


gimmick advertising starWith Chris Anderson's new book "Free" in the pipeline and comments I heard at UGCX like "What about creative commons, it's the elephant in the room everyone is ignoring", there is a lot of interest and perhaps concern about how low exactly the price of some stock images will go. Will the price to the end user of 'ordinary stock images' be driven to zero in the same way as other digital assets and services such as digital music, on-line email, holiday bookings etc.

I think that in a few years time with market saturation of 'ordinary images' as it is, then we will see a fair amount of this type of work being made available for free. I'm not talking about the style of image that sells for 100's as macrostock, but the very easy to shoot, low set-up cost that is the staple of microstock. What would happen to the market if the best 30% of the images that one of the largest agencies rejected were set free on the internet? That would perhaps, be a million quite usable stock images most of them with only very minor defects.


Fotolia have announced a new commission structure including a new option for exclusive photographers in addition to the current options for exclusive images and non-exclusive images.


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