Last Saturday, the online image backup and storage website PhotoShelter officially launched its new stock photography outlet PhotoShelter Collection, which will compete with high-end stock houses, such as Getty Images and Corbis. With established stock image providers feeling serious pressure from microstock sites, such as Fotolia, which offer their images for as little as $1, it might seem strange for PhotoShelter to enter the game now, but they plan to distinguish themselves from the competition by giving photographers a larger commission, control over pricing, and by promising that they won't participate in what they see as the devaluation of photography by microstock sites and Getty's recent decision to offer the vast majority of their images for online use at drastically reduced prices.
While PhotoShelter will let photographers set prices and offers tools to help with pricing so photographers can more easily set an appropriate rate for their photos, they do set a lower limit of $50 for the images offered on PhotoShelter Collection. They also have a team of photo editors that review and approve submissions to the site, to maintain a high level of images so that photo buyers can expect quality images from the service. Unlike a lot of stock agencies, which offer commissions of 50 percent, or often much less, for photographers on sales of their images, PhotoShelter is offering 70 percent commissions, with a special promotional rate of 85 percent for photos accepted before November 4, 2007 and sold within the first six months when the site launches for sales on November 5th. Also, the sales process is entirely transparent, so photographers know who buys their images and what they paid for them. Many stock services don't share such information with their photographers, leaving them little recourse if they think that the company is being less than honest with them.
Since a good search function is essential for a stock service, PhotoShelter has gone to great lengths to create what they think is a top-notch search engine for the site. As they are fond of expressing it, the system can tell the difference between a search for orange the fruit and Orange County New York. They also have three categories of images--Contemporary, Pro Stock, and Editorial. When a photographer uploads an image, the company's system automatically reads and incorporates EXIF and IPTC metadata and photographers can add more information, such as captions and keywords to any images that are accepted into the system.
Though the system has only been accepting images for less than a week, they have already received almost 9,000 images from over 1,000 photographers. That's a big vote of confidence for a new agency. It probably doesn't hurt that the service is free to join and doesn't require a PhotoShelter membership to participate. If you want to give it a whirl and see if you can sell some of your images, go to the PhotoShelter Collection sign up page, fill out the application and upload some images.