Photokore to Shut its Service in Decemmber 2015


It is sad to see another one go but times are a changing. Photokore, a stock image library that's been around since 2010 is finding hard to find paying customers for pictures from Asia. And by December 2015, it will shutter its site for good.

One of Photokore's strong points was it capitalized on photos made available to them from photographers based in Asia. That however hasn't translated to sales. People in Asia just don't buy pictures!

It has of course sent out alerts to both subscribers and photographers on the impending closure.

Problems with a Paying Market

One of the trends I notice is that Asia isn't a big contributor in terms of revenue to stock photography. Many prefer to lift images off others from social media and don't give a hoot until they get found out. In south Asia, where the weather remains relatively the same, you don't find much changes in the environment as say in four season countries. There are no distinct differences besides the rain and the sun shine. North Asia, aside from Japan and Korea, no one really bothers about buying pictures either. The respect for copyright is a right to copy. China, well, need I say more?

Western based markets are only slightly better as collateral has to be purchased before hand and this contributes somewhat to the revenue base. In fact, a majority of these stock agencies from the west make decent living from selling photos.

The paying market is shrinking, while the contributor base has been increasing, thanks largely to mobile photo sharing sites that have opted to jump into the stock image business.

Instagram briefly flirted with a stock image revenue model in 2012 only to have their users go up in arms about it. Now users will pay the price for this with lots of advertising. Which is the other way to get around the problem.

There is no two ways around this. Monetize or die.

Stock image wasn't the first choice for EyeEm or but they now offer a library of photos to would be photo buyers as well. Competing and sometimes complementing big names like Getty Images, they offer a cheaper option.

Not sure how long this model will survive but there isn't much in the long term to look forward to in the stock image business as we are already been inundated with photos from around the world in social media.

I have sold some photos but not enough of it to pay rent. That's my observations so far and I don't think it will change in time to come.


Consolidation of Stock Image Agencies


When Adobe bought out Fotolia, people were saying that it was a good thing but seriously folks. You have all been mistaken.

Back in June, Adobe announced its own photo bank called Adobe Stock. You sign up with their cloud services which can run into hundreds in a year, you get 40% off all your stock photo purchases.

For me, it was a WTF moment.

In doing so, and charging your customers less, and you're selling it at a lesser price which in turn benefits the agency and not the photographer. If Adobe sold your photo at a retail rate of dollar, you get only a few cents from it. And if they sold it cheaper, you get less than peanuts.

This is a problem I have with stock agencies which sell stock imagery for cheap. You want the best photos taken on a DSLR with Leica lenses, have a model or property release as well, then charge buyers a buck for a download. Maybe a little more than a buck if you want a higher resolution version. And if you give discounts to your buyers, you also discount the return on commission to the photographer. So where does this end?

Challenging the Microstock Market

I don't give a damn about long tail marketing or mass market buying. Adobe isn't a premium company that is going to pay you well for your photos. Fotolia made a name for itself as a microstock for everything. Adobe hopes to do the same.

From images to clip art and vector files, the creative effort behind it is getting valued much lower.

Sure there will be some winners but even on Wallstreet, the losers outweigh the winners. So who are the winners here? Adobe of course because they don't own the intellectual property behind your image but so long as you give them the permission to sell it for you, they can set a price and give you a percentage of the retail price. Technically speaking, they won't give you a higher rate if they sold it lower because of their promotions.

This is how it all works these days. You the photographer gets your foot in the door by providing royalty free with property and model releases, it is a classic case of having you do more and earning less. It is a disruptive model of business that only benefits the business owner. That is, unless you are some rich millionaire with plenty of time on your hands and want to shoot some really awesome photos and sell them for beer money.

The Two Faces of Microstock

Currently, don't think that you can challenge the big guns of photography with your amateur attempts to make money from photography.

There are two types of microstock agencies, one that only validates and takes in DSLR high spec imagery and those who don't. These stock agencies want only the best imagery shot on DSLR cameras to be listed as Royalty Free. Photographers who are desperate enough to sell will list them there as they have no other choice. You might think that rights managed is the way to go but seriously, unless it was a big corporation going on a global spending spree, your chance of getting something sold for such use is next to zilch.

Image buyers are spoiled for choice since they can get the best imagery for the cost of next to nothing.

The other type of Microstock will be more forgiving with your imagery but they don't make money from them because you used a mobile device to capture those photos. Not that it's not any good but compared to the quality of those using DSLRs, your photos suck.

Why buy a photo for a buck that was captured with mobile devices compared with those using DSLRs. They cost the same. Do the maths and you'll know what value it is. As a buyer, I want to pay the least for the best. 

I have seen pretty good pictures listed on royalty free, with model releases and stuff required for commercial use. And they go for cheap. As an ambitious photographer who wants to break into the business, you have to hedge your bets on a better camera, pay for models if need be and photoshop the hell out of them so they look great. All for the return of a buck. Don't think you can hijack the big boys by setting up shop. People have tried to set up coffee stalls outside Starbucks just to do the same and they never work.

Now, some photographers would prefer to sell their images on dedicated sites like Photoshelter.  You get to make all the money on your own but hey, have you forgotten the marketing part? Do you not see those online search adverts inserted into Google for stock image or stock photos? Seriously you want to take o the big boys with millions to spend so that your Google Ad bid will never get seen? Advertising is the only way to get your site shown to the world and if you were hoping some guy who wants to buy an image for his website is going to land on your web image fire sale page, well think again.

What the Future holds for Image Agencies

The market is worth roughly US$4 billion a year. If a hundred image agencies were to battle for that same market, you can see the fragmentation. Some will fall off a cliff. Others will exist only in name.

The future is marked with consolidation. Too many agencies and the market isn't growing fast enough.

Adobe Photos have subscription models, and so do some of the more popular microstock agencies, and if a client were to download photos with a their paid subscription, you will get pennies in return. 

For the up and coming photographer, listing on a stock photo library might turn out to be a bad idea. If they get bought out, turned inside out to a microstock model, you have to agree to stick with them or delete your albums for sale.

Selling your photos might sound as easy as uploading it to a site but in the end, it is the retail prices that will eventually inspire you. Why would you waste time on a business that demands not just your time but money as well if you want to compete in the big league with little or no hope of ever achieving a decent income? Think for a moment about those stock photographes who earn hundreds of thousands every year and ask them how hard they work and how much of a dollar investment they put into their business. Does the end justify the means?

That, unfortunately, can only be answered by you.


The SL is the new Crown Jewels of the Leica Family


A long time ago in an era far far away, there was a film camera called the Leicaflex SL, and it was a monster of a camera in terms of size and handling.

Enter the new SL. The Type 601 is built like a German Tiger Tank, with a deadly canon of a lens as well. It is heavy. And heavy is good. The germans have been building big things while the Japanese are opting to make it smaller. Remember the Rover Mini, the diminutive car that BMW bought over and turned it into a BIG car? Mini apparently is just a moniker to the Germans to reinterpret what is small into something bigger.

It is a beast that is milled from a pure aluminum block which can be used as weapon against your detractors who say you can't take a good picture even if your life depended on it.

Many of you would have wondered why the Leicaflex even existed, well there was a time when rangefinders fell out of favor with users and Leica had to innovate. Out came a film SLR camera and this is what you get from German technology. It used R mount lenses and it was later replaced with the R series SLRs during a brief interlude with Minolta. That didn't take off either so off with their lenses. 

So why the SL? Why now? Why the fuck would someone pay US$7000 for a camera body?

Just as there are mountains that people wish to climb, there are people out there who would buy and use a Leica SL for whatever the reasons it has been uncalled for. 

I have been a fan of M lenses. But the SL lenses are something to be avoided. 

The M lenses are manual and come in a nice compact size. The SL lenses are fully AF and will scare any mugger if you swung it at him like a weapon. 

The reason why I opt for M lenses is because of its timeless nature. Being a manual lens, you don't have to fear that some AF motor inside the lens would go broke. The M is also full frame, fits like a charm to M43 cameras with a M adaptor and can be paired with those nice Fujifilm APS-C sensor cameras as well. 

The M lenses are not bulky, and is comparative to what you find with M43 lenses. 

Carrying them around and having a close look at the quality of the imaging will convince you enough to own them for life. And should you sell it, you will find ample buyers on the second hand market. 

The SL lens hasn't got a lens adaptor as yet. If you bought it and didn't like the lens you have for it, you don't have much of a choice on selling it since the number of people opting to buy such lenses are restricted to AF users who are themselves SL camera owners. 

This is probably the only clear reason that I won't be buying into a SL camera. Sure, you get the same Leica imaging but I want my hardware to last too. Digital isn't built to last. It was built to kill time when you needed something fast. 

I am decidedly old school for good reason. I see the value in old school lenses because that is what I feel will last. 

There is nothing like having a camera and lens system you can pass them to someone who can continue to use it. It is renewable technology compared to the throw away technology modern cameras are made of. 

I could for example continue to use a Leica CL rangefinder with a M lens, and pass that down to someone who wanted to experience film photography. They can also mount that M lens on future cameras through a lens mount since full frame is the direction everyone is going these days. 

The last thing you want is to double down on those latest SL lenses only to find out ten years later that the SL cameras no longer exist and there is no mount to reuse it for other similar cameras. 

Photography isn't like what was used to be. Technology has democratized the skill needed to take a nice photo and any fool with an iPhone is qualified enough to be called a photographer. 

Then you have the pros, who keep wanting to upgrade to new equipment for better imaging without really bothering to upgrade their skill. Everything is Photoshopped these days and if you are good with photoshop, you will have plenty of customers who will subscribe to your services. 

Which brings me back to the Leica SL. 

Buy this at your own peril.