After a hiatus of a few months I am back on the blog front. Back in January the Getty/Google deal got me to start this blog. In the mean time there have been some developments and I have now started up my own site. Basically the Getty / Google deal kind of rejuvenated this project because photographers and illustrators basically want the royalties for their work they believe is fair. Micro stock agency’s pay royalties of 15%-50% to the artist. The bigger agency’s pay the lowest royalty and the agency with a more fair cut for the artist don’t have many sales. Catch 22.
Also the constant lowering of the royalties and one sided changes to the contracts are reasons that many artists are now taking control back in their own hands. How? By opening their own websites and selling direct. Whats new about that you ask? Well, we are artists, not web developers, its not easy to build a website to sell images, and basically every out of the box solution also costs money, in the form of a monthly subscription, or in the form of, yes, a commission for the host. So here comes Symbiostock, created by Leo Blanchette of ClipArt Illustration, a WordPress theme, simple to install, opensource, free of any charge and enables fair trade for the artist. Why, we get to keep 100% royalty of the work we create. Getting 15%-50% of a sale of your own work is just not going to cut it. I call it Fair Trade, as finally, its a deal fair for the photographer. Fair trade according to Wiki:
Fair trade is an organized social movement that aims to help producers in developing countries to make better trading conditions and promote sustainability. It advocates the payment of a higher price to exporters as well as higher social and environmental standards. It focuses in particular on exports from developing countries to developed countries, most notably handicrafts, coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea,bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit, chocolate, flowers, and gold.
OK, we are not working in developing countries, but having to give up 50%-85% of sales is quite a big cut. Its not considered to be fair. Getting 100% paid for the images and illustrations we create does sound fair. Back to Symbiostock. This network of artists, linking their Symbiostock powered WordPress sites with each other is giving us a chance to offer the images and illustrations we create directly to the buyer. No middleman, no agency, just the buyer and the artist, doing business. Sounds fair, doesnt it?
Symbiostock, the WordPress theme that makes this all possible, is developed by Leo Blanchette. Leo is an illustrator and developer who came up with this idea about 3 years ago. He is also a great guy and I asked him 5 questions he kindly answered:
So who is Leo Blanchette?
I’m just a guy who likes to build/create stuff, which is what attracted me to Stock Illustration. I was especially excited to get involved with Stock illustration because it allowed me to be home with my family during the children’s young years.
Why and when did you come up with the idea for Symbiostock?
I came up with Symbiostock 2 or 3 years ago. The initial idea was called “Microstock Machine” after much pondering and experimenting Symbiostock was chosen because it sounds better, and the “Symbiotic” relationship it gives would be more emphasized. But with Symbiostock’s present functionality, you can see why “Microstock Machine” was the initial inspiration. I think lots of people have had the idea of a “network” solution to microstock, but it generally never progressed beyond a forum idea thread. The seed was sort of progressively planted as I started to learn web design and it became obvious it would be a need with some of the negative changes Microstock has undergone. It became an “official” pursuit when the G/G deal happened, and a certain Illustrator advised me I would have to make my prototype Microstock Machine public or people would not have many options in the future.
I understand at some point you were putting in 10 hours a day, and worked on this project for several months. Why do you offer Symbiostock for free?
Why free? The question is more “Why Open Source?” This model gives much more power for progress and community strength, as well as a good product. With times changing people cannot afford the expensive options, and the cheap ones are not necessarily helpful either. But finally I’m going to be able to start charging for various things, as I hope many people do, so its not a completely free option. The most powerful / significant options are free, however, putting everyone on pretty strong terms with their own marketing.
Where do you see Symbiostock in 5 years?
Symbiostock in 5 years? A personal hope of mine is that it gains both webmasters and an audience in touch with the sciences and education. I hope to see a rather self-motivated and self-regulating community who can give quality and meaningful content to customers. I hope to bring the “symbio” model out of Stock Photography/Illustration into things like electronics, programming, natural sciences/conservation, etc. But of course the Symbio-community will be nicely scattered among most subjects. The entire idea behind Symbiostock is creating a sort of “collective intelligence” which helps everyone to benefit and profit.By way of example: Wiki-pedia and wiki-answers is well known as a knowledge base. I hope the Symbio-model becomes a dual knowledge base and profit engine for hobbyists and professionals to expand their opportunities and skills, allowing publishing and distributing of content which is useful. What better place to begin this concept than Microstock?
Thank you for answering these questions, Leo. One bonus question; what is the best illustration you ever made?
I don’t know about best – but I have some personal favorites! You can guess why Here they are:All images purchased directly from Leo, showing the force of Symbiostock. Leo received $2.50 per image, instead of $0.37c
Now Symbiostock is released into the public, its our job to get the word out there. Feel free to quote this blog, link back, ping back, share, whatever is needed to spread the word. In short:
Symbiostock is a powerful WordPress theme for illustrators and photographers to sell their images. Symbiostock, as its name implies, creates a symbiotic relationship among microstock professionals. Sites connect into a vast network of shared results, allowing customers to migrate around, study their options, and most importantly, connect with the talented artists who supply them.
Get on board with Symbiostock – Fair trade licenses! Artists keep 100% of their sales and will share their portfolios to offer a variety of images for every buyer to find the images they need. And the buyer is guaranteed to purchase directly from the artist.