Category: Scotland

RF Microstock analysis: Dreamstime.com

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This image of the M1 motorway taken originally as a weather picture for the UK national newspapers sold recently for US$0.25. But is there any meaningful revenue from Dreamstime with editorial RF Microstock images?

Continuing my adventures in RF Microstock, I signed up some weeks ago with Dreamstime.com and began uploading various stock images, including some recent reportage stuff from recent years and some stock images I took in the summer here in Portugal.

I’m now heading for over 400 files on their servers and it will continue to be interesting to monitor sales on the RF Micro license (especially on the RF Microstock Editorial). At the time of writing, I had sold four downloads and made the princely sum of US$1.29.

It is of course, early days and I am quite sure the sales will look quite different in a few month’s time.

One nice feature about Dreamstime is their simple upload and submission system. It is pretty easy to put a file for submission and you can achieve a reasonable workflow.

As most of the RF Microstock market since they appeared on the stock photo scene almost a decade ago is commercial, I am expecting that high-quality editorial images are likely to earn less and be more erratic than an image which falls into the category of being a commercial RF Micro image.

So far, this analysis seems to have been borne out. Though, I have sold two images from the same set and also with work that has rarely ever sold on the Rights Managed Editorial licenses. Three of the images were of Nicola Sturgeon, the current Scottish First Minister, who I photographed on several occasions in 2014 during the Scottish Independence Referendum.

The other was a weather picture originally shot on spec for submission to the UK newspapers of the M1 motorway. The first one I have – to my knowledge – sold from that set.

My reasoning on RF Microstock is that Rights Managed licenses have been heading south for some time and it is hard to make any money at all from an editorial collection.

I have about 400 images on Getty Creative and the sales in 2016 to September are disappointing, under US$200. If they are averaging out at US$0.50 per image/per year, then it is not a tempting prospect to supply.

It should be interesting to see what happens with RF Microstock Editorial stock images in the coming months, as much of the clients have driven down prices to micro levels, though it remains to be seen (for me at least), whether this is actually sustainable in terms of resulting sales.

Time will tell, as they say. I have a broad range of editorial stock images on Dreamstime and will be publishing more posts in the future to see if indeed it is a good earner or not?

Adventures in RF Microstock

In late August 2016, after many years of being highly-critical of Microstock sites, I decided to follow the old cliche of “if you can’t beat them, join them”. And so began my adventures in Microstock.

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How did I get here? Well for many years, I have edited an editorial stock image archive of my own work as a photojournalist and even used to shoot images especially for stock. Back in the days of slides and prints, I was doing pretty well. Then in the late 1990s, the digital era dawned, I began putting my slides and negatives into 35mm film scanners and learnt all about IPTC (now XMP) metadata.

The world looked exciting, but scanning was very slow and quite tedious to edit all the dust spots and scratches off the film. Nevertheless, more of my work was digitised and I had some success in the early days of Alamy – before falling subject to the machinations of a certain Alan Capel (Head of Content at Alamy – I’ll leave it to the reader to guess what nickname I gave him!), who I suspect may have been bullied at school. This situation was repeated some years ago, when he had my collection deleted (after years of tagging and just as I was making money on the site again). Thanks Alan Capel! What a great chap!

Naturally, this plunged an already struggling photojournalist into poverty. Compounded by the inroads microstock sites were making in the market. Rights Managed was getting very difficult to earn anything from and gradually, the license fees dropped and dropped.

Thus, the large Rights Managed collection with TopFoto.co.uk began earning less and less. It was a similar story with Rights Managed stock images I have with Photoshot (now Avalon Media Group Ltd). On top of all that, UK newspaper budgets were slashed over the years and now in 2016 remain quite pathetic, large newspapers like The Daily Telegraph paying just £25 for a live news image on their web site.

I now run a photo agency myself called Atlas Photo Archive, though it is not earning much revenue and I am near to closing it down. This is because UK newspapers (my main clients) quite often use a news image submitted on-spec, though through a variety of accounting tactics (though scams may be a more appropriate word), do not declare the use. I have had to suspend several picture desks from my news syndication list as a result of catching them red-handed. In particular the Daily Mail, who coughed up almost £2,000 in undeclared image licenses in the spring of 2016.

The excuse of their accountant in New York, Patricia Pohl, was that my agency credit was the wrong way around. That it should be: Atlas Photo Archive/Jonathan Mitchell, rather than Jonathan Mitchell/Atlas Photo Archive. The system is unable to pick it up on the self-billing otherwise, she told me.

Not having a lot of time to consider it at the time I complied, then realised recently, that this is, well, quite a large porky – as all other agencies with images published on Mailonline put their agency credit on the end like this: Andrew Parsons/i-images!

Needless to say, my subsequent ‘self-billing’ statements have not been encouraging and I suspect that the good old Daily Mail accounts department has slipped into it’s old, dodgy, fraudulent ways.

The accountants at UK national newspapers know full well that little agencies like Atlas Photo Archive cannot possibly monitor their entire print and web output. In my experience, unless you present them with a ‘sighting’ of the image used, their policy appears to be not to pay the contributor. I’m no lawyer, though it appears to me, to be tantamount to fraud.

Hence, the collateral damage from this kind of accounting policy has damn near put me out of business and has diminished my profits no end, due to spend many a tedious hour dealing with these accountants in [an often vain] attempt to get the money from images they’ve published actually paid. Gallingly, these awfully clever corporate accounts types probably get a bonus for these dubious practices as well!

So I decided to sign up on several RF Microstock sites, like Shutterstock, Bigstockphoto, Dreamstime and a few others. The results have been quite interesting.

Thus far I have about 340 images (many editorial) on Dreamstime and have sold just 4, earning US$1.29. Shutterstock have less than 70 images on their site (at the time of writing) and a set of images from a archaeological site in the Shetland Isles has been doing OK. I have made around US$9 with Shutterstock at the time of writing.

One problem is haphazard and sometimes unprofessional editing. Around two-thirds of the images I submit being bounced out, which is quite frustrating when you have spent several hours editing a submission for them.

I am now learning how to up the rate of acceptance, though it an unpredictable business. Sales seem quite steady on Shutterstock and I hope to add more work in the future and build it up as a good revenue stream. I also contribute HD video stock footage, though I have been doing this with various agencies since 2009 and find it does not sell very well.

I hope to write more about the RF Microstock industry in the future and where it can fit in with some photojournalist’s workflow and cash flow.

If you want to look at my 1080p HD stock video footage, then please visit my YouTube channel: AtlasHD



The magic of photographing the Shetland Islands of Scotland

UK SCOTLAND Lerwick -- 25 Jul 2011 -- The crew of the Colombian tall ship GLORIA wave goodbye as they depart from Lerwick in the Shetland Isles on the second leg of the Tall Ships Race 2011. Over 50 ships begin the second leg of the race to Stevanger in Norway -- Picture by Jonathan Mitchell/Atlas Photo Archive
UK SCOTLAND Lerwick — 25 Jul 2011 — The crew of the Colombian tall ship GLORIA wave goodbye as they depart from Lerwick in the Shetland Isles on the second leg of the Tall Ships Race 2011. Over 50 ships begin the second leg of the race to Stevanger in Norway — Picture by Jonathan Mitchell/Atlas Photo Archive

In 2011, I left my flat in Edinburgh and headed to the far north of Scotland to Lerwick in the Shetland Isles to cover the 2011 Tall Ships Race. I stayed in Lerwick several weeks and was also working on a feature for the Scots Magazine on the Neolithic culture of the islands.

UK SCOTLAND Lerwick -- 25 Jul 2011 -- The Dutch tall ship WYLDE SWAN (right) and the Norwegian tall ship STRATSRAAD LEHMKUHL under full sail as she approches the start line of the second leg of the Tall Ships Race 2011. Over 50 ships departed from Lerwick to begin the second leg of the race to Stavanger in Norway -- Picture by Jonathan Mitchell
UK SCOTLAND Lerwick — 25 Jul 2011 — The Dutch tall ship WYLDE SWAN (right) and the Norwegian tall ship STRATSRAAD LEHMKUHL under full sail as she approches the start line of the second leg of the Tall Ships Race 2011. Over 50 ships departed from Lerwick to begin the second leg of the race to Stavanger in Norway — Picture by Jonathan Mitchell/Atlas Photo Archive

Sadly, my meagre budget did not allow for extensive travels and much of the work I shot there was subsequently lost. However, luckily, I had edited and backed up quite a lot of the select images and still have quite a nice portfolio.

UK SCOTLAND Sumburgh Head -- Puffin ( Fratercula arctica ) in flight at Sumburgh Head in the Shetland Islands of Scotland UK -- Picture by Jonathan Mitchell/Atlas Photo Archive
UK SCOTLAND Sumburgh Head — Puffin ( Fratercula arctica ) in flight at Sumburgh Head in the Shetland Islands of Scotland UK — Picture by Jonathan Mitchell/Atlas Photo Archive

The story I did on the Iron Age pub of sorts at Jarlshof got published (with a different byline) in The Daily Record and OK! magazine and has sold in one or two other places as stock. Not much else from my Shetland portfolio was published aside from news images from the 2011 Tall Ships Race (in The Daily Telegraph and The Scotsman).

UK SCOTLAND Shetland Islands -- Great Skua ( Catharacta skua ) -- Picture by Jonathan Mitchell/Atlas Photo Archive
UK SCOTLAND Shetland Islands — Great Skua ( Catharacta skua ) — Picture by Jonathan Mitchell/Atlas Photo Archive

Although by then my Canon 550D was incapable of long telephoto shots (and I lacked one anyway), I could shoot at around 300mm with a slight sensor crop and so I tried to get pictures of birds and other animals in their habitat.

UK SCOTLAND Shetland Islands -- Gray seals ( Halichoerus grypus ) on rocks on the Isle of Bressay in the Shetland Islands of Scotland UK -- Picture by Jonathan Mitchell/Atlas Photo Archive
UK SCOTLAND Shetland Islands — Gray seals ( Halichoerus grypus ) on rocks on the Isle of Bressay in the Shetland Islands of Scotland UK — Picture by Jonathan Mitchell/Atlas Photo Archive

Again, most of these have never been published. If you would like to use them in your project, then please contact me for details on how to license my images.

UK SCOTLAND Shetland Islands -- 09 Aug 2011 -- Fishermen from Lerwick recover lobster and crab pots in a small boat off the coast of the mainland of Shetland - watched closely by fulmars and great skuas -- Picture by Jonathan Mitchell/Atlas Photo Archive
UK SCOTLAND Shetland Islands — 09 Aug 2011 — Fishermen from Lerwick recover lobster and crab pots in a small boat off the coast of the mainland of Shetland – watched closely by fulmars and great skuas — Picture by Jonathan Mitchell/Atlas Photo Archive

While the conditions can sometimes be harsh so far north and in the summer, the sun goes down about 3AM, I enjoyed working there and the combination of good light (sometimes!) and great subject matter made it a magical experience.

Highland landscapes in the southern Cairngorms of Scotland

SCOTLAND Near Pitlochry -- 05 May 2014 -- View from the summit of the 841 metre peak of Ben Vrackie near Pitlochry in the Highlands of Scotland provides spectactular views of the surrounding hills and peaks -- Picture by Jonathan Mitchell/Atlas Photo Archive
SCOTLAND Near Pitlochry — 05 May 2014 — View from the summit of the 841 metre peak of Ben Vrackie near Pitlochry in the Highlands of Scotland provides spectacular views of the surrounding hills and peaks — Picture by Jonathan Mitchell/Atlas Photo Archive

I often think landscape photography is a little like a writer writing poetry. Most landscapes have no commercial or editorial value and especially so if they are black & white.

Though, I never stop shooting landscapes, if only as a personal memento of my extensive travels. This image is part of a great portfolio of landscapes I took recently while climbing up Ben Vrackie in the Scottish Highlands for a post on a travel guide blog I now edit.

Scotland’s landscape, like much of the northern latitudes of the British Isles, is magic to photograph (if you know what you are doing) and I am thinking about putting these landscapes into a limited-edition coffee table book at some stage in the coming years.

Landscapes reveal themselves to the photographer and have a mystical quality when the picture magically comes together. Much like the combination of words that make up a poem. While I can probably write passable poems, I prefer to do make one with my eye and I hope, if you see this blog post, that you connect with that as I do when I see it and click the shutter.

In the 19th Century, many Victorians saw something in the Scottish landscape which connected them with the divine and this movement was labelled ‘the Sublime’. I don’t disagree…There is something about much of the Scottish landscape which is very much sublime in a way that is not immediately apparent, making it, I suppose, truly sublime. If I managed to capture just a hint of that, then I would say this photograph may have worked.

New (and old) Scotland stock images now available

Trawlers Pittenweem Fife Scotland UK
SCOTLAND Pittenweem — 13 Feb 2014 — A fishing trawler returns to the harbour at Pittenweem in Fife Scotland UK shortly after a deal was announced for mackerel quotas with the Norwegians, EU and Faroese fishermen. A deal with the Icelandic fishermen has yet to be reached — Picture by Jonathan Mitchell/Atlas Photo Archive

Having recently relocated back to Scotland, I am now based in Perth (pretty much in the centre of Scotland) and will naturally be beefing up my archive on Scotland – which was already considerable from travels in 2010-2011, though was mostly lost when my laptop and external hard drive were stolen in Seville in 2012.

Cairngorms National Park Scotland UK
SCOTLAND Cairngorms National Park — Trekkers climb up the trail to the peak of Cairn Gorm in Cairngorms National Park in Forest of Glenmore Scotland UK — Picture by Jonathan Mitchell/Atlas Photo Archive

With the new database for Atlas Photo Archive now established, I have been busy uploading a lot of new and old images to make them available to picture researchers, editors and graphic designers.

Beinn Ime Trossachs National Park Scotland UK
SCOTLAND Trossachs National Park — Beinn Ime with pine forests in the foreground on the shores of Loch Lomond in Strathclyde Scotland — Picture by Jonathan Mitchell/Atlas Photo Archive

As I am now also editing the travel magazine/guidebook ScotlandTravelGuide.info (STG for short), I will be shooting a broad range of stock images ranging from adventure sports to well-known landmarks and landscapes.

Union Jack and St Andrew’s flags make a great generic illustration for Scottish independence stories

UK SCOTLAND Edinburgh -- 17 Sep 2013 -- Flying the flags...The flags of Great Britain - the Union Jack (right) and the national flag of Scotland - which is the flag of St Andrew (left) on top of the Lloyd's Bank PLC headquarters (formerly the HQ of the Royal Bank of Scotland) in Edinburgh Scotland UK. Scotland is due to vote on an independence referendum in one year's time. File image dated 11 April 2011 -- Picture by Jonathan Mitchell | Lightroom Photos
UK SCOTLAND Edinburgh — 17 Sep 2013 — Flying the flags…The flags of Great Britain – the Union Jack (right) and the national flag of Scotland – which is the flag of St Andrew (left) on top of the Lloyd’s Bank PLC headquarters (formerly the HQ of the Royal Bank of Scotland) in Edinburgh Scotland UK. Scotland is due to vote on an independence referendum in one year’s time. File image dated 11 April 2011 — Picture by Jonathan Mitchell | alamy.com

It is an emotive issue for many north and south of the border…That of the Scottish Independence Referendum due in 2014. With less than a year to go, the debate on this issue is hotter than ever. I shot the image above in the summer of 2011 to illustrate the issue and so far, it has been used on four occasions in The Times. It is one of the better images like this available and you can license it direct from me by emailing lightroomphotos@icloud.com or from alamy.com.