Microstock and analog pictures.
Share you experience submitting pictures taken on film, especially 35mm to microstock agencies. My experience is that it has to be something out of the ordinary good, rare and asked for to be accepted and not refused due to grain. I have a few up on Shutterstock, Dreamstime and a small agency specialized on conceptual images.
I do not shoot film intended for stock, but sometimes there just happen to be a shot that fit as microstock, but my experience is that they are really allergic to the slightest tiny bit of grain, to the point of being silly. What is your view on this?
Generally, there are so many images out there on these agencies that there is very little they don't already have and can afford to be extremely picky about what they take. What most are currently trying to do, is replace their old analog images with newer digi.
"I always take a camera, That way I never have to say 'Gee, look at that - I wish I had a camera'" -Joe Clark, H.B.S.S.
Never had any luck with 35mm with them. MF and up, no problem.
The following borders on being too digital for APUG, but since we've usually allowed discussions of scanning in the "Presentation and Marketing" forum for web presentation and marketing of analogue images through the internet, I've decided to post it here instead of on the hybrid forum, and if Sean and the other moderators think it should be over there, I'll happily move it. This isn't about making digital prints from film, but about selling film images and possibly even scans of prints through stock agencies for commercial and editorial use, and if people can make money shooting film, that can't be a bad thing.
I've recently started listing on Alamy (which is more of a traditional stock agency than microstock, though they do offer the options of selling images as Royalty Free and inexpensive low-res images for the web), in part because they seem open to film images. I tried iStock and the responses were amusing--a straight dupe of an 8x10" albumen print was too Photoshopped and they said I should resubmit without all those effects. A scan of an 8x10" Polaroid had too many colored pixels of irregular size when viewed at 100%. They had no problem with a straight digital shot. They mention that they are looking for "analog/grunge" images, so I think that means they are looking for a very specific aesthetic in analogue images, and it's not an aesthetic that I usually do. iStock pays so little, I decided it wasn't worth the trouble, and I just didn't care for the atmosphere in that environment. Alamy pays 60% of direct sales through Alamy, 40% of sales through distributors, 50% of sales for "Novel Use."
With Alamy, I submitted four digital images and they were accepted on the first try. I'm taking the strategy that I should try to establish enough of a collection of digital images that I can demonstrate that I can meet their standards, submitting film scans one or a few at a time (since they only check a few images per submission after the initial test, and they will reject everything in your queue, if the images they check fail) to see what it takes to get a film image in. I'm also submitting batches of safe (i.e., digital) images between rejections, so they know that I can continuously supply images that meet their standards. So far I've had 23 digital images accepted, up-resed from my Canon 40D (10Mpix) to their desired size of 48-50 Mb uncompressed JPEG (about 16Mpix), all without challenge with the exception of one that I didn't up-res to sufficient size, and today I had my first scan of a 35mm Kodachrome 25 slide accepted (APUG-sized version attached).
The way I'm digitizing is with the 40D and a Canon FD 35mm/f:2.8 Macrophoto lens on a copy stand with a lightbox. I shoot nine overlapping images of the slide, stitch them into one image of about 120 Mb 8-bit uncompressed using Photomerge in CS2, and save the merged file as a PSD file for any editing that needs to be done. This may sound dubious, but the FD 35mm Macrophoto is an incredibly sharp lens (sharper than my old 20mm Zeiss Luminar), and is very well suited to this, and the results are much better than with my old Minolta Scan Dual (I). My DSLR basically lives on the copy stand, functioning as a scanner for prints, slides, negs and documents, so it's not too much work to set it up.
Alamy prefers all images to be unsharpened and without noise reduction, so I tried that, submitting the whole stitched image with a little spotting, and it was rejected as "Soft or low definition." Second try I applied a little noise reduction, downsized to around 50 Mb uncompressed, and a very small amount of Smart Sharpen, and this one was rejected for "Dirt, dust, or other blemishes." I took a closer look and realized that there were some artifacts on the subject itself that may have been taken for dust or hair, so I spotted those out, and there was a little stitching artifact in one corner, so I fixed that. Third try, they accepted it.
It was a lot of work for one slide for a stock agency, and about a two-day wait per submission, but now I have a better idea of what they're looking at in film scans, so I think it was worth the effort. I do get the sense that they are scrutinizing film more closely than digital originals, and I suspect I'll have an easier time with medium and large format originals, as jbrunner has mentioned. I've decided to upgrade the 40D to a 5D MKII in the hope that I can eliminate the stitching part of the process, or at least reduce it to 2 or 3 panels instead of 9, and so that I don't have to up-res images shot originally as digital. iStock doesn't want up-resed images, but Alamy prefers all images to be about the same size (minimum 48 Mb uncompressed image, maximum 25 Mb compressed JPEG).
Here's a link to my Alamy portfolio, if you're curious--
The peppercorns may not show up for a day or two.
Last edited by David A. Goldfarb; 03-16-2010 at 08:37 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Reason: Corrected description of Alamy fee structure.
Did try both Shutterstock and Dreamstime a few years ago.
Sold maybe 3 pictures for a total of ~ 50cnt.
It was a lot like being on drugs I imagine. You had to log on every hour to see how your pictures were doing. Was a relief when I deleted them and my account.
Now I do prints for my enjoyment and put some things up on Flickr. Prints and digitals. Peace of mind aquired.
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Thank you for sharing your experiences and other information, David. Quite helpful.
Originally Posted by David A. Goldfarb
So a further question is when it's worth it to submit a film scan rather than reshoot on digital, and I think in the case of the test image of the peppercorns above, I have to admit that it would have been much easier just to reshoot. In the time I think it would take me to scan and work on that image, now knowing what they want, I was able to shoot 23 new digital images of similar subjects (an hour or two of work all told), all of which were accepted without question, so for this kind of subject, I think it makes more sense to reshoot.
I did keyword the peppercorns shot as a Kodachrome image, since it has a characteristic Kodachrome look, but I'll be surprised if it gets any hits for that. Another interesting thing about that shot is that I picked it out of a group of macro tests I did one day with various lenses and methods (dedicated macro lenses, reversing rings, enlarging lenses, bellows, etc.), and for this purpose, I didn't look too closely at the slide, but just selected it based on a general impression without a loupe, and it wasn't the sharpest slide in the bunch. I made it using a 100mm/f:3.5 Medalist Ektar that I adapted for 35mm.
On the other hand, I have a collection of hundreds of bird photos on film, and those involve spending a lot of time in the field waiting for the birds, the light, the seasons, etc., and I think I will be scanning those for submission rather than trying to create a whole new collection of digital bird photos. And then there are images made with view cameras or panoramic cameras or medium format that couldn't be easily replicated with a small format DSLR, so those it would make more sense to shoot on film. I suppose that if I was more into the gritty 35mm B&W look, I'd do that on film as well, but my "gritty" aesthetic is more 4x5" Weegee style--still film but another thing.
I have found, unless things have changed, that they tend to reject an image that has a "gritty" look. Usually it will be rejected for "noise". Then I'll submit it again and someone who has more taste and less rules will approve it. I don't think the peeps they have doing the accepting are very old or very familiar with photo style other than HDR and assorted plasticizing.
@JBrunner: No, i think it gets worse for every day. The images has to stand out in an remarkable way picture-wise to have a chance of getting over their threshold to reject them on technical grounds. Though i have managed to get one very grainy 35mm Tri-X approved (even square cropped) despite that this agency is much more picky than Dreamstime or Shutterstock, and that shot was all about motion blur, murky shadows and reflections. I guess we could compare it backwards to a sport with umpire(?)/referee/scores, like skijumping. I remember when the swede Jan Boklöv started with his V-style. He had to jump very much longer than the rest to even have a chance to win.
For the customer it does not matter in most cases since actual use most of the time is web or quite small ads in newspapers and magazines. A good scan of a good 35mm shot is even enough for a cover of a glossy magazine, the paper and the print is also very good at smothing out grain in a very natural way. But i guess the inflow of images are so great that they many times take the easy way. I guess your advice to resubmit and hope for another reviewer is a good advice, at least for the bigger ones that have a team of reviewers.
Further thoughts--scans of bird photos with a lot of open sky shot on 35mm E-6 are going to be tough. I went through three submissions of one slide trying to figure out what they were objecting to, and it turns out that tiny dark circles that look to me like dye clumps viewed at 100% are classified as "dust, scratches or other blemishes," which means lots of spotting, and to get a scan that's large enough to look sharp when downsized to 48Mb uncompressed 8-bit, it's hard to avoid turning up such "blemishes." For this purpose, something like an out of focus bird in the distance against a blue sky is a "blemish" and should be spotted out.
I also discovered that Alamy uses QC ranking, which will affect turnaround time on submissions. If you have repeated rejections, your QC rank drops, and instead of reviewing your submission within 37 hours, it may take five business days, and if you submit anything else in the meantime and the one problematic image is rejected, they'll reject the whole batch so you can check it again and resubmit, which requires reuploading.
So all-in-all, it doesn't look so good for 35mm film for this purpose. My current tally on Alamy: film-1, digital-85.
Once I make sure my QC ranking is solid (turnaround has been quick lately, so I don't want to risk it just yet) and when I have a lull, I'll try scanning some medium and large format images and see if they do better.