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What camera slinging aspiring pro photographer wouldn't want to be a part of a “Photo Quest” these days? A “quest” conjures up Indiana Jones-esque expeditions for the perfect picture – explorers searching for just the right photo to satisfy the “photo gods of exposure.” Who could be so ignorant or desperate? Apparently quite a few, like the natives worshipping a false sun god because of a solar eclipse. Some 840 clueless photographers submitted 6,000 images for the chance at winning the “great honor” of having their creative work product commercially exploited along with 50 others whose work was selected for a FOR PROFIT Lonely Planet book, according to MobileMarketingDaily – “500px Launches Photo Quests, Allows Brands To Crowdsource Original Content” (5/23/16).
We've written extensively here at Photo Business News about the seriously flawed “SPEC” business model, yet, these models continue to proliferate, counting on photographers (pro and amateur alike) to line up like lemmings and mindlessly follow each other over the cliff of unsustainability. In February of 2015 we wrote “ImageBrief: A scourge on the photographic industry” yet photographers continue to ask questions in various photography forums. Advertising agencies and design firms are using predatory content resellers like Image Brief to source free ideas and content for their pitches, before they even are awarded the projects. One photographer on the STOCKPHOTO listserv reported watching 50 different briefs and none of them were awarded. According to that same poster, Image Brief is now charging photographers to make a submission for the “privilege” of consideration.
Photographers following these models are destined for failure or otherwise are ignorant to the realities of being in business. According to the MobileMarketDaily article, “…it allows photographers a chance to have exposure on a much larger scale than they may readily have access to.” What is especially troubling is that the article cites Canon as one of the brands that has run a “Photo Quest”, and had thousands of submissions.
Jim Pickerell, over at Selling Stock (subscription required) reported back in April “Drastic Royalty Cuts Change Photogs View Of 500px” reports that photographers are now only getting a 30% royalty on licensing of non-exclusive images. Consider the concept of “agents” in other businesses, like actors, book agents, and musicians, for example. Their commissions hover around 20%. The idea that organizations like these can take 70% (or more) and leave the creating artist with a pittance, is just abhorrent. Especially when you're one of several participating in the “quest” and standing a one-in-many chance of winning the gross, and then having to take a pittance of income as your paltry percentage.
Less than a year ago, Visual China Group led a $13,000,000 round of funding (source) and Visual China Group is most recently known for acquiring the assets of Corbis Images and then folding them into their other investment – Getty Images, as we reported here (Corbis Sale to Unity Glory (and Getty)). This money must be being used to buy servers and hard drives for all the hopeful photographers, as well as the overpaid sales agents – Glassdoor reports (here) that a Product Marketing Manager earns over $80,000. How is that reasonable at a company which has, according to LinkedIn “51-200” employees and Glassdoor currently has 18 job openings? It seems everybody is earning a very nice living on the backs of the starving-artist photographer.
These organizations will eventually find that the crowdsourcing/”Photo Quest”/ImageBrief model is not a viable solution, but by then the hopes and dreams of photographers will have even been further dashed, and content consumers like ad agencies and design firms will be further down the line of devaluing photography.
500px is apparently intent upon flushing the photography business down the toilet while reaping profits from their deals with large corporations seeking content and ideas for pennies on the dollar, if not free.
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