Micro Royalties

January 11th, 2011

We don’t need to tell you it’s a tough world out there economically, especially in the picture business. People are buying fewer photographs and paying less for them.

There’s an American photographer whose work I admire enormously. His name is Mike Yamashita and he shoots mainly for National Geographic Magazine. I met him a few years ago at the Frankfurt Book Fair when they built a large gallery showcasing his photographs in one of the halls at the fair. He had traced the footsteps of the thirteenth century Venetian explorer/ trader Marco Polo, documenting his journeys in a stunning series of images.

Great photographer through he is, Yamashita is not the most Pollyanna optimist you’re likely to meet. His glass is rather more than half empty. For some time he has been pronouncing with gloomy relish that “Stock is dead.”

Well, this is simply not true. The proclamation may have been triggered by three of his picture agencies closing their doors over the past year. What is true is that the old established market has been well and truly disrupted. Photo sales used to be the preserve of an elite few, many specialising in one field — jazz, aviation, cricket, ethnic populations — and because communication was twentieth century in its slowness, and photographs existed as physical, analogue objects, they had a scarcity value of their own.

Now of course — and fotoLibra is very much responsible for this shift — anyone can take and sell a photograph. Just before Christmas we were asked for photographs of specific situations in Kazakhstan. Twenty years ago this would have involved the buyer telephoning a series of picture libraries with the request. Each picture librarian would know, firstly, if they had photographs of Kazakhstan or if the buyer was barking up the wrong tree. If they did have pictures, they would charge a search fee to look through the files to see if there were any images that fitted the bill. If there were, they would be despatched in sealed clear envelopes to the client. If the seal was broken, the client would be deemed to have used the image, and would be charged accordingly. If the images were lost, which happened frequently, it would be simultaneously a disaster and a bonanza for the photographer — £400 for each lost transparency, for example.

Today fotoLibra has a number of photographers living in Kazakhstan. We can contact them instantly via email at no cost. One of them is an airline pilot by trade and a keen (and good) amateur photographer by inclination. He is on the spot, and can take precisely what the client wants. We supply the images to the client within the unfeasibly short deadline of 48 hours he has given us. There’s no special thanks — it’s what the client expects. Twenty years ago this would have been completely and utterly impossible.

We break our backs to provide an unsurpassed client service. It’s expected. But it’s still really hard to make a sale.

So we have devised a scheme to make more money for our photographers, with less outlay for our clients at the same time. Impossible? Having your cake and eating it? Barking at the moon? We don’t think so.

We want to make dealing with fotoLibra as easy, as painless and as simple as possible. But Simple and Easy are among the most difficult things to achieve well. Look at the simple Google interface. You don’t need to learn how to work it — it just works. That’s because a large fortune has been spent in making it simple. Underneath it’s very, very complex, like fotoLibra. If you buy a picture from fotoLibra, four simple choices take you to the price. Underneath that is a matrix of 1,447 price points. But you never have to see that. We’ve made it simple and easy.

And our new Micro Royalties initiative follows the same thought process. We want to sell more pictures. We want to pay our photographers more money. How do we solve this? We would move more images if we gave them away. But that wouldn’t benefit us or our members. How about this — instead of selling image rights for a flat fee, how about hire purchase? Deferred payment? Pay nothing now, and the rest over four years? That’s how they sell furniture. Why should pictures be different?

Here’s the plan. We can write a routine so that instead of publishers being billed for image usage in one great lump on publication, they are billed micro royalties six months after publication, when royalties become due. The amounts may be small, but they will come due again every six months. The image providers share in the success of a book. If it sells and sells, the photographer will earn much more for his photograph than if a straight sale had been made.

Of course our normal way of business will be dominating our trading for years to come. This Micro Royalties proposal is simply an alternative option, it’s only designed for book publishers which are one section of a picture library’s business. We don’t expect the take-up to be enormous, until people have tried it and found that it works for them. Maybe it won’t work for them at all. We’ve subjected the plan to all the various SWAT analyses, and we have pinpointed just one downside — if a book doesn’t achieve the publisher’s expected sales, then the photographer’s income will suffer. We’ll make adjustments to the percentages in the next sale to that publisher to allow for that. But this scheme is configured to appeal to the rapidly expanding, untested and as yet illustration-light eBook market, and the joy of eBooks from a publisher and author’s point of view is that they never go out of print. The drip may be small, but it is constant.

Picture libraries invented the Royalty Free image. They created Microstock. Neither of these plans favoured the photographer particularly — they were skewed in favour of the buyer. The creator of the image was outside the loop, the unwanted presence, the cow in the milk bar, the author at the book fair. This new fotoLibra plan rewards the photographer for his part in the success of a publication. If the writer gets royalties, why not the illustrator? The labourer is worthy of his hire.

No publisher has yet taken us up on this proposal, so we will be running a couple of experiments this year to test how easy this is to implement. Then we can tell them about it and demonstrate how it works.

We wish you a happy and profitable New Year.

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40 Responses to “Micro Royalties”

  1. Ian Shipley says:

    So having spent time and money in creating images, a publisher now potentially gets to pay months after publication rather than on publication. Having licensed a lot of imagery out over the years the one big problem I see for both the photographer and the picture library is going to be auditing the sales of these e-books, also from the publishers point of view will they want to have to start submitting 5-6 or even 20 plus sales/royalties reports for a single publication?

    I commend fotolibra for looking at ways of easing the cash flow for clients but the bottom line is that unless clients start to value imagery full stop, our industry just continues down the slippery slope. Publishers WILL not value the image creators unless its an image based book. Seeing how many books end up in clearance stores like the Works and others I would rather be paid a fair rate up front, especially as many publishing contracts have clauses that exclude copies sold via clearance outlets from any royalties.

  2. Gwyn Headley says:

    Fair point.

    My description is not clear enough. The publisher only has to show ONE royalty statement. We do the calculations, the split and the invoicing. We will already have agreed the variable percentage rate.

    Yes, a publisher can cheat and lie. But not for long. If they lie about their sales, word travels quickly. Perhaps we have more faith in the probity of the companies we do business with than others so.

    We would not offer a Micro Royalty deal to a first time customer, or to a publisher we’d never heard of, who had no track record.

    And there’s no such thing as a remainder with an eBook.

  3. Ian Shipley says:

    I know I only have a few images with Fotolibra and there is a logic to this, I have a large library of images that I am loathe to place with ANY library until the future business models are sorted and settle down, that is why I am in favour of anything that assists in raising potential earnings for photographers and others in the supply chain, and hopefully something that becomes a stable business platform from which to move forward. I have not seen an industry where core business models have changed so radically over such a short space of time in terms of supply, distribution and financials, so I will be watching this one with great interest. I know from experience that a few pence per image, per published article, can add up to a significant amount, this is very similar to the traditional greeting card model where images were licensed, but alas that market is moving rapidly over to buying micro stock images outright rather than a licence/royalty basis.

    A appreciate that the publisher will only have to supply you with one royalty statement but what if others follow suit, it may be a option to say to a publisher that they can only avail of this option if all the images in the publication come from the one source.

    Will this option be a feature that contributors will be able to opt in or out of?

  4. Gary says:

    Interesting idea but I’m very sceptical.

    I would like to see an opt-out feature for contributors – I for one would like to watch from the “outside” until I am convinced it is an attractive route to go down.

    Gary.

  5. rob wildlife2 says:

    MMM interesting proposal.. pictures are not selling as before.. HDMI video is overtaking our wild life shots.. video the whole scene and select an action picture.. as with the now famous sequence of the elephant trunk being bitten by a crocodile.. and the consequently shot.. could be shot with my camera frame by frame but its not its filmed by video as are many chase hunting scenes .. BUT if we do as photographers go this route.. ownership/property of the photo should remain.. as the consequences of many photographic books are not known ..will sell wont sell… gamble .. but over the 3/4 year period of royalties who says that the supplier or the producer or the publisher will not go bankrupt.. no pay .. so contractual ownership etc would have to be inforced.. and these contracts would need to be drawn up between all 3 .. the photographer/supplier/publisher… lots to think about , but new marketing and sales techniques must be looked at for the future… Since not much is selling and this might be an opportunity .. it should be investigated.. GOOD LUCK

  6. Dave Tait. says:

    So what happens if publishers go belly up before paying? I say this because I had experience of this many years ago in Bath when a local rag went bankrupt. Not only did I not get payed for several months work on commissioned articles and photographs, I lost all the trannies and manuscripts for unpublished work when the bailifs moved in.

    I have to confess that I dont like the idea of being payed for royalties later rather than sooner. It would be like waiting for Christmas, albeit a few years further on. But, clearly something needs to be done to spur on sales. I’ve personally steered clear of the $1-00 whore style of getting payed a pittance per pop. However that does not solve the current dilemna in that it is getting harder to sell images.

    This idea is an unknown quantity and I would be loathe to sign up my 4000 plus images into such a scheme. BUT! at the back of my mind is this gnawing feeling that a regular small income generated from such a plan would be better than no income at all. I would only hope that the quantity of sales escalated to make it a worthwile proposition. It would be adding insult to injury if you had to wait years for the usage fees to be made on a small volume of sales.

    Dave Tait.

  7. rob wildlife2 says:

    More of a problem to me is that we do fotolibra assignments.. they go onto the light box for consideration .. eg,. request for scenic winter photos around Romney Marsh photocall.. I gave up my time and travel costs to go to Romney and photograph the requested items plus additional for “someone” and never hear anything more about the requests.. I think a reply or response on whose photographs were used and for what publication would be in order as I have no idea if the photo have/ have not been used by the persons requesting the assignments.. the photographs would be hard to trace in the many many publications.. so what do other photographers think.. We should know the results and who the assignment was requested from .. ??

  8. Gerry Walden says:

    Very simply, I nearly pulled out of Fotolibra a short time ago and was persuaded to stay. If you go down this road I will pull all of my images out.

    Gerry

  9. Gwyn Headley says:

    That’s a separate issue Rob, and I will address it in another posting. I would simply point out that the Picture Call is the raison d’etre and USP of fotoLibra since we went live in 2004!

    There is always the fear that a purchaser will go belly up. We check out all our purchasers very carefully, and in six years we have not had one single bad debt, which in these turbulent times is little short of a miracle. You can thank Yvonne Seeley for that. She is remorseless in getting your money.

    Even when one company did go bust on us she got 100p in the pound from the insolvency people.

  10. The main issue facing the photographic industry is how to move with the times, it took a long time for some to accept digital as the way forward and it is the same with the issue of stock images. Today everyone on the commercial side of the business are looking at ways to reduce costs, they use cheap images from the internet and “make do”. We need to get users to see the value of our images for their business. The idea needs to been placed in their minds that they will sell more and make more money by using our images. This can be done through seminars, trade fairs and our websites and networking events. We also need to accept that the big money is not there at the moment. The idea of scheduled payments is one that could work as the price of the images can be fully appreciated. In the fil industry actors are being paid in royalties and this seems to work for them, perhaps is something we also need to consider.

  11. Norman Smith says:

    I am guessing that if FotoLibra have felt the need to float this propsal, the current model must be under some considerable strain and without prospect of getting better anytime soon. If true, then something pro-active will need to be done.

    I am not particularly happy with the propsals but I think it probably addresses to the stark reality of (a) financial pressures of the day (b) the fact that there are a lot of people with good kit, taking good pictures these days, so publishers have more choice of where to go for their images (c) e-books are about to change much in the publishing world.

    Perhaps a halfway house would be for the book company to pay a combination of an upfront fee and 6 monthly royalty.

    Broadly though. having regard for the fact that Fotolibra management have a vested interest in generating higher income, then I am content to continue subscribing at the moment and to accept that the propsal is probably a necessary business response.

  12. Mike Mumford says:

    Great to see serious issues from creative people, the still photograph is under threat like never before. Quality, uniqueness and common skill values we can all assess, by those who have the eye to judge.
    Now it’s more being in the right place at the right time, and taking the right steps in building one’s future. An old adage, if you cannot beat them joint them so how do you do that easy with a lifetimes experience you learn new skills, consolidate likeminded colleagues into a working team. Bingo, find a product you can all shear in, like providing photographs to match Alfred Wainwright’s Welsh Mountain Drawings, by turning these in to an eGuide with the help of a publisher that’s me. With the correct marketing I will turn them into CD-ROM’s and on-demand-printed books. I have left a number of technical stages and costs out not to put you off. It’s having the original ideas, the right image, the right product, with you nearer to the driving seat. You must be multi-skilled or know who can help you. If you have a special interest in helping to supply a new electronic ePublisher like me with an eBook title, just let me know. Checkout for new eBooks and eGuides over the next few weeks and months, see how I do that, by completing the circle and product to market.

    Mike Mumford.

  13. Len Sparrow says:

    I prefer the up front payment rather than the never never but that is a lot to do with the fact that I am over 80!

    I agree with Rob about Picture Calls results being advised as soon as you have received payments, with advice as to whether Fotolibra had been successful with any sales ( not necessarily giving names of successful photographers) but it would be nice to know the name of the relevant publication.

    Len

  14. owen elias says:

    We have seen the prices Alamy charge for images reduced over the last 18 months, and yet Photographers Direct continues to bring in substantial sums for images. If you never ask you never get, and if you offer micro-payments the publishers will of course accept. The answer is still to produce unique images and command a reasonable price for the photographers skill and endeavour.

  15. Lee Res says:

    A combination of (a lower) upfront fee combined with royalties sounds good to me.
    Hang on though… wont eBooks, by their very nature, contain small/short videos in the future and not photographic stills?
    Lee

  16. I’m new here and still not have many photos with FotoLibra! But let me say that many of you pointed out important points with which I agree, and few of which I disagree! Besides agreeing with what Ian said in his first post, I must say that I think the same, and I have a situation much like his with respect to what I intend to do with the rest of my collection, which is hundreds of times greater than the that is currently in FotoLibra. Situations like this that is emerging, only cause uncertainty and delay even further the growth of my collection.
    Maybe Gary has expressed a good and comfortable position to assume. But wait a minute Gary, if everyone thinks like that, the new scheme may never work!
    Dave, I’m with you! I do not like waiting for Santa Claus! What if some reindeer get sick or refuses to work, and he decides not appear!
    Now we arrive at an important point, the money we spent to meet the customers’ requests. How many months each of you can continue investing in equipment, paying for travel expenses, models, objects, etc., etc., without receiving anything, for a promise of a nickel up front a year or two?
    Oh! and what Rob said, althought not strictly relevant to the present discussion, is a very important point, wich shouldn´t be forgot ! Gwyn, I’m waiting for this report too !

  17. Nick Kinson says:

    New ideas and intiatives should be applauded otherwise the industry will continue down the slippery slope of lower value recognition in the photographers skills to create a great image and also in the value that image brings to any media be it traditional or a fancy new “e-something media”. A Lot of libraries, fotolibra included I believe, already offers opt in – opt out for the royalty free versus rights managed sales process so adding a third option of opt in – opt out for micro royalties should be avialable. Offering different purchase schemes gives choice to both sides of the process (image makers and image buyers) so that they can chooose the best one that suits their business needs. As far as deferred payment to the photogrpaher is concerned perhaps fotolibra should share the risk to share the reward i.e fotolibra take the initial risk and pays (or at least gaurantees) to pay a minimum amount equivalent to an outright sale. Once they have proved that the new business model works – i.e. fotolibra can minimise bad debt from image buyers and recieve correct and timely reported royality numbers then the scheme could be introduced as it was intended. After all it was fotolibra’s idea ! In order to help fotolibra prove the business model perhaps photographers could offer a small proportion of their work as micro royalty images. Photographers then get to share the risk and the reward. Also change the name from Micro Royalties to something more positive like Repeat Royalties. Who wants to sign up for Micro anything when it’s your income 🙂

  18. David Walker says:

    Brilliant idea, good lateral thinking! Looking forward is the only way forward.

  19. john hill says:

    What as happened to the PR company that was employed for eighteen months?Fotolibra is still not a well known name,yet it as images not to be seen amongst the other agencies,this should be used as a selling point for an agency that offers great images.
    Myself and many other photographers have joined because of the great website, friendly staff, freedom of image download,and to get AWAY FROM MICRO SALES.
    Fotolibra requires EXPOSURE,lets make fotolibra an household name like alamy,once the images are seen with the right buyers,they will SELL.
    This Agency is unique lets sell it ,the images will sell themselves.

  20. Gary says:

    On further reflection I’m afraid to say I’m not happy about this initiative. I’m not interested in giving publishers images free up front in the hope of “micro” royalties somewhere down the line.

    If there is no opt-out facility I will, sadly, be another contributor who closes his Fotolibra account – a shame because I’ve always found the people at Fotolibra a pleasure to deal with.

    Gary.

  21. Nicolas Pohl says:

    We are all facing a constantly changing world. Those that learn to adapt and make changes to these radical changes will be the benefactors. With the advent of Digital Technology, video and now 3d video we will see exponential changes in the ways that media is bought and sold just like fish at a daily fish auction.

    I think that the world wants things for 1 Euro or less, look at iTUNES, it took many years of convincing the many main stream musicians and their publishers and producers to agree to the royalty program that iTUNES has created.

    I am willing to agree to Micro Royalty Payments over time, why not? As long as the Client is reputable and accountable, there should be no problems. I know that we all shed a lot of blood, sweat, and tears for a perfect photo, not to mention our time and investment in cameras and lenses and strobes, etc. Hopefully we can get the ball rolling and start making some money again! I hope and pray that all of us have a Prosperous New Year!

    Airline Pilot from Kazakhstan……Over and Out……..

  22. Toni Allen says:

    It’s an interesting concept and one that isn’t cast in stone yet and can be explored. Having self published a book and consequently converted it to an ebook, I have read loads of articles that claim that due to the introduction of the ebook ‘the picture book is dead!’ Certainly some of the new digital platforms find it difficult to succesfully include high quality images. For example there is a limit to the overall file size that one can upload to Kindle.

    My point is that it’s all change out there in book production, and unless new ways of generating income from images, and of sucessfully selling them to book publishers, then the ‘photographer’ is a dying breed and every kid with a point and shoot will be able to take a few snaps for their book and not took towards professional quality images.

    Sheesh…I saw a card the other day from the Wetland Trust and the image was atrocious! Was it a freebie, I wondered. Did they buy cheap? Do people care any more about quality?

    With the ebook revolution anything is possible and to be in the forefront of experimental ways of generating income from images has to be good. If we can opt in some images for the scheme and set others aside, then we should all give it a go. I like Nick’s idea that they should be called Repeat Royalties, it suggests an ongoing income rather than a tiny one.

    Toni

  23. Gwyn,
    Bad move. Search for a better idea, after all marketing and sales is how you earn your part of the commision. Being a Getty contributer also for many, many years and having seen them do this, it is just unprofitable. One of the reasons I am trying you out is because of exactly this reason. Commisions fell to $1.00US per sale, so whats the point for $0.50 my end. And the volume they were hoping to increase never happened, infact sales dropped. Unfortunatly I have no thoughts for you and if I did I would no longer need a picture agency. Just to let you know whom you are dealing with, my history goes back to the late 70s. I have been with Sipa press, Gamma, Liason, Gamma Liason, and now Getty. Heres a bit of insustry reality for you. When Getty accuired Gamma Liason they returned all my original films and digital images along with a mean letter from my years with them. Then after a few months they suddenly contacted me from London begging me to submit. Strange eggs you agency people.

  24. Sheila Smart says:

    I think that if there is not an opt out ability, photographers like me will remove their images. Alamy has novel use but I have never opted in because of the very poor returns. I think its high time that stock libraries went in to bat for photographers rather than join the throng of the sell at any cost (and very little to photographers) brigade. I appreciate that Fotolibra has to make a living but, heck, so do we!

    Sheila

  25. Gwyn, I have yet to submit any images to your requests, but would still like to contribute an observation, that this sounds more like a cash flow problem than anything. Payment is now 60-90 days.

    We are all getting ripped off by the textbook publishers for years. If you can, find the Thursday 18/11/2 of PDNewswire where the lead story is an admission by an executive from HMH has admitted lying about their print runs. Dozens of American photographers have successfully this and other publishers, and lost millions over the years.
    Will forward the story to you which you can forward to your photographers.
    Ottmar

  26. Chris says:

    I appreciate the way that Fotolibra runs ideas past members before going live, but like so many others I don’t like this idea. I can see the thinking behind it but who wants micro-payments in this financial climate. Not only are there bad debts to contend with, there are rogue publishers who mis-declare publications and reprints to make ends meet, however hard Yvonne and her team work.
    I have to say, I’ve avoided micro-payments photo libraries and if Fotolibra go down this route without an opt-out feature, even as repeat micro-payments, then I’ll be withdrawing my images and taking my portfolio elsewhere.

    Looking to the future, I fully agree with JOHN HILL who says that PR and getting the name out there is key. Why can’t I simply link to my Fotolibra library by giving the address http://www.fotolibra.com/username to clients? Why doesn’t Fotolibra utilise Facebook and social network sharing and promoting? eg: I’ve just uploaded this to my photo agency etc…

    Also, another income stream that I personally offered to Fotolibra was a sister website where customers could order canvases from the vast Fotolibra database. This was never followed up. (Gwyn, the offer is still there!). Surely trying other income streams is more beneficial than diluting photographers renumeration over months and years?

  27. give it a good extensive trial and then let us see how it works

  28. Ian Shipley says:

    The fundamental issue facing all of us, photographers, picture agents/libraries is one of MASSIVE oversupply and ease of entry to the buyers/sellers market. Back when a lot of film based togs were taken down the digital path, the one element not in the mix then was that of distribution and very few could foresee how the availability of content would expand to the level it has. But that aside, whether its micro fees, royalty free etc the main issue facing any of us that wish to turn a dollar is that of how do you compete with a massive supply of content that is available for free? Where the togs are just happy to see a picture printed with or without a credit, but more importantly where publishers are now actively seeking these sources of free content out and judging by a number of calendars I have seen for sale happy to let general quality slip to the level of snapshots. Another key problem here is that not all the free stock is bad stock, I have seen some stunning images given away just for the joy of the tog seeing their picture printed. The answer? I’m willing to explore like everyone else….

  29. Gwyn Headley says:

    We are certainly going ahead with this project, because we see it as an exciting new way of making money for our photographers. We’re also confident that it will be safe, because of our past record in NEVER having had a bad debt and NEVER having failed to get payment from a client — see COMMENT NUMBER NINE above.

    But I understand and sympathise with those of you who are terrified by Change & Progress — I’m a nervous sort of chap myself — so There Will Be An Opt-Out!

    There will be an opt-out option built into your Control Centre, and you will be alerted before the scheme begins. Don’t tell me now because I’ll lose it. And yes, we may change the name!

  30. Gary says:

    Thanks Gwyn for the opt-out.

    That prompt response – and the willingness to take into account contributor opinions – is why I like dealing with the people at Fotolibra.

    Gary.

  31. Mike Reed says:

    I like a number of folk have already written in this blog. have avoided “Microstock Libraries and collections, believing that a Picture Library would give you a better return on your images with them. I have been surprised and in some ways shocked at the change in the way photography has developed since the advent of Digital Photography. Almost any Digital Camera and even Mobile Phones can produce images which some publications, newspapers etc.,will use providing they can use these images for a very small fee or FREE if that is an option. I am not in favour of the microstock approach, but if fotolibra want to try this approach, I think the contributors should have an option to OPT-OUT if they desire. One alternative is to allow contributors a Trial Period of perhaps a year to see what if any benefits are derived using this method of approach if they are agreeable. Mike R

  32. john hill says:

    An alternative way to micro prices is micro tactics.offering buyers a monthly or quarterly account with
    a percentage reduction on the number of images that are purchaced in that period.
    Probably you have already tried this,but it is an alternative.
    Thanks again for the OPT OUT.

  33. With the increasing level of giveaways on offer, trying out repeat (not micro) royalty payments must be worth trying. It may help, but be aware of what some contributors have said about experience elsewhere. To make the system work for photographers surely we must have AT LEAST 50% upfront payment coupled with checkable repeats based on genuine figures.

    Unlike Len who is over 80, I am merely approaching 70, but the same thoughts can apply!

    We OAPs who have been involved in photography for many years – I go back to the late fifties – will be aware that the trend for people to want something for nothing is not new, whether in sale and purchase of images or anything else you might think of. The big retailers offering 70% off sale prices are well aware of people’s desire for a ‘bargain’. The problem in most cases is the item offered is designed to sell at ‘70% off’. Within our lifetimes (Len’s and mine) seasonal sales offered genuine bargains on ends of lines and similar. The trouble with selling images is that far too many ‘photographers’ are taking pictures of good technical quality with the mentality that ‘selling’ the image for a £1 is a good result.

    After part-time freelancing for many years, we opened a quality portrait studio in 1979, which ran until Johm Major’s recession in 1992. So we have a huge collection of pictures from around 1957 to the late seventies.

    After a lot of searching around and looking at terms and what was on offer, we joined fotoLibra because they look like getting proper fees for accepted pictures. After joining, we found the Picture call for sixties pictures. Targetting 30+ pics to upload, we managed over 300. With more time that could easily have been trebled. As Rob said about his Romney images, we would like to know something of how the sixties book is progressing or has progressed or what, if any, pics have been sold. We have also been putting in a lot of time on follies within fifty miles of us and will do more when we have extra info from Gwyn and more daylight hours to justify log trips. After years of selling through agencies and direct to publishers, we know that all speculative work is risky, the rewards should allow for the risks taken. From what we understand of fotoLibra, any images sold should get a sensible reward.

    When I first started freelancing it was reckoned (by the BFP) that if the print was well exposed and sharp it had a good chance of selling. During the time I was doing wedding photos – before and during the time at the studio – we started with an average situation where reprint orders would be about the same value as the album. By the time we had to close the studio (along with hundreds of other high st studios and small businesses) we considered ourselves lucky if we got a reprint order. I worked fast arranging groups and walked into the picture for those shooting over my shoulder with cameras that could now produce sharp and properly exposed images every time, and insisted on time alone with the couple for the ‘best’ pics. But it made no difference because, as Toni said above, too few people are no longer interested in quality.

    The other degrading of quality comes from TV. In 1980, I won a Kodak Portrait Award for a pic of a little girl with ribboned hair. The local paper ran the story of our ‘KOJAK Award’. BBC East used the story in a spot on press boobs, giving us extra publicity – then PAID US £19 for the use. Now we see every day ‘send us your pictures of this that or whatever and we will use them for nothing!’ What a cheek!

    But then, we now sell books on Amazon where we regularly try to compete with books that are going to cost £4+ to send by post being sold for 1p at a cost to the customer of £2.81. On my arithmetic, after commission, that give the seller a considerable loss and, worse for us, no chance for us to sell those books at a sensible and fair price to all.

    So howewver much we may moan, it isn’t just photographers who are suffering. It isn’t entirely ‘the recession’ (though that must be a factor). It is the way too many people expect to get things these days and too many people are stupid enough to give it to them.

    If you want to make easy money become an MP or get into banking!

  34. Gordon Nicol says:

    I have read with interest Gwyn’s proposal and the following responses and must say I am intrigued . Like many above I agree that there is a need to explore alternative and new ways of generating cash from our creative endeavors. I support Fotolibra in its attempt to explore the possibilities and I am delighted that there will be an opt-out option. I would echo the view of some contributors above that the term “micro” may be detrimental in the same way that “free” is in “Royalty Free”. I look forward to seeing how this new proposal develops.

  35. rob wildlife2 says:

    Hi all fellow photographers.. lets face it the times are hard for all of us.. and I still stick to my point of nothing ventured ..naught won..so Gwyn you will have my support. I think that marketing Must improve . It would be interesting to see what the new Marketing team achieved or shared their ideas with us .. I am sure we would all do something to assist.. be it stand coverage, talks what ever.. but, I still feel that although Gwyn does not feel that this is covered in his proposal that we should be advised of success or progress as insentive.. Gwyn what happened to the Romney Marsh photo`s that were going to be published in Janaury? ..

    But as I said with careful financial control of the customers using our photos Fotolibra should succeed; but in the purchasing of our pictures I would like to know who purchased them and where they were published ..title.. so that we could monitor or promote these books.. e books etc.. which would be an additional advantage to the publisher and in the long run ourselves..

  36. Sorry my fellows, but I don´t think the opt-out option as a good idea, nor, even I see this as a “lifeline” ! If FotoLibra addopt this “micro scheme”, the photographer in the opt-out , will be seen as an arrogant guy, and will be marginalized by the customers ! In another words, you will be out of service anyway !
    The “micro” idea is not bad by itself, if it could conduct to a proporcional increase in the sales, but in pratice this is absolutely not, what we see ! Micro is good only to Getty that have one zillion images, from two zillions of newbies, who every day feeds the server, seeking a dream! It’s very cool to have your photo published ! no matter the price they pay to you !!!
    Ask to some old guys, who were on Getty before they turn “micro” !
    Unfortunately, based on my own age (over 60), and from some of our fellows who had also manifested about this item of our “lugg-age” , I can´t preview that happening to fotoLibra !
    It’s not a matter of progress, or the fear of it, it’s only a matter of not succumb to the pressure from the “FREE WORLD idea ! Where every one wants to sell their products, but wants to pay absolutely nothing to other !
    About this matter there are a very funny video, that I don´t know if I can put a link here,but any way here’s it http://youtu.be/ECmxh2RNDjA ( if I can´t, please, remove it, with my apologies) but I think it worths to watch, at least is a bit of fun in this sad “world” we live nowadays!

  37. […] fotoLibra Blog « Micro Royalties […]

  38. Roy Morley says:

    Surely the Micro Royalties option is another way of selling photographs, allthough this may not appeal to everyone. It is a proposal to try to encourage people to look at the site knowing that if they see an image they like they have a differant way of paying for that image.
    Over the time I have been with fotolibra I have had no major concerns regarding payment, and I am sure that if this route is followed it will benefit each and everyone of us, also the staff will be monitoring it very well as it is in their interest to keep the photographers on their books supplying that keep the business running in these uncertain times.

    January 17,2011 @16:24

  39. Mark Goodwin says:

    The way I see it is that if you wish to stay in business today (any business) you cannot stand still. Unfortunately, historically we in the west have a mantra that goes like : “if it ain’t broak don’t fix it!” Whereas those businesses in the east such as Japan have always said “I think this method works very well…how can we do it better?” (Kaizan). We have to learn to welcome change, to try new things, to continually be trying to do things different and better than the rest. If you do what you have always done, I promise you, you get what you have always got! (Not my quote but I can’t remember whose).
    I for one I applaud what Gwyn and his team are trying here, and it will get my support, and I guarantee if (when) it works all the agencies will be quick to follow suit.

    I understand the call for Marketing (I have been in it for 40 years) and this proposal by Gwyn IS marketing! The definition of marketing is, ask the customer what the want and then provide the product/service they require. It’s the simplest form of selling. What colour do you want, how much do you want to pay for it…OK is this it? Yes..OK how many do you want?… and it is now up to me to ensure that I keep that customer satisfied or be prepared to lose them. If you go and ask any publisher today what is their main concern, I would bet that the majority will say Finance, Cash flow, budgeting, keeping costs down etc etc. So if they need to buy pictures to keep themselves in business, and I can supply them with that service and, at the same time help them with their financial targets, then I am going to have a USP that my competition don’t have.

    Finally, the facility to link your photo from your portfolio on fotoLibra to your Facebook page is already there. I have been doing it for a number of weeks now.

    I personally have made a couple of business decisions for 2011, one of which is to make fotoLibra my main agency, this proposal from Gwyn and the team has only made me think that I have made the right choice. I only have a couple of hundred of pics up at present but that is planned to change significantly this year.
    Well that’s my penneth, I wish you all the ery best for the coming year.

  40. I’m sorry,Mark, but I can’t agree with you. What you are defending and saying something as supposedly modern times, is totally unrealistic. Let’s take some examples: The most wanted photos by the editors,are photos of people, right? Ok, now, try to find models for your photos, promising to pay them, one, or two, years from now with the royalties that you will supposedly receive from your customers, and IF they succeed, of course!
    Try to convince the folks at Nikon, to provide you with a new camera or lens, saying you’ll pay them in installments every six months, beginning one year from now, within the same scheme, again,of course,if your clients will succeed !
    C’mon Mark, within this framework we will all be bankrupt before we can, with a good amount of luck, get the first of these so promising payments!
    How can you expect that the basis of the supply chain, could support the rest of the process without a guaranteed return ? try to find employees for your “factory” , promising to pay their salaries, six months after, and if, you’ll have sucess !This is absolutely not a marketing strategy ! It is an absolute suicide!