More than once a day, I wonder if I am working my way into the right business. As though the travel photography market wasn’t already terribly competitive, the rise of crowdsourcing has made the business that much less profitable for professionals.

This Wired article on crowdsourcing explores the issue of micro stock photography’s role in the diminishing profits of professional stock shooters. This is a central issue right now in the world of stock photography and I have often witnessed heated debates on message boards when the the two sides have met.

Good discussion on the issue can be found at the site of author of the above article (Jeff Howe): In particular, a good discussion can be found in the comments of the site’s mission statement.

As a professional photographer, I have a bias against the micro-stock sites, but it’s not merely because of the smaller profits for the pro shooters. Just as outsourcing tends to have an exploitative side to it with third-world citizens being paid a pittance for their work, the crowdsourcers, in this case the amateur photographer, gets a similar pittance. Hobbyists are content with $1 sale and the knowledge that their image has been used by someone else. What many of them either don’t know or don’t care about is that their images could fetch much higher prices for similar uses.

The amateurs, however, do not rely on the income generated by their photos. Their day jobs pay the bills. Extra dollars from micro-stock sales are a happy bonus. Too bad there seems to be so many cases where these bonuses are snatched from the hands of the professional photographers whose livelihood depends on traditional sales.

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