Rise of the microstock photo services

The New York Times covers the launch today of Corbis-owned SnapVillage, the latest entrant into the “microstock agency” arena. Like the Getty-owned IStockPhoto, the site allows amateur and “semiprofessional” phtographers to submit pictures and (in the case of SnapVillage) set their own prices.

The site is geared towards selling “royalty-free” rights. Some image rights can be purchased for as low as $1. While not exactly the same, it is similar to purchasing CDs of “royalty-free” photos — except you can purchase the images one at a time. (Downside: photos you use can be used by anyone else, so don’t build an ad campaign around photos that can also be used in your competitors ad campaign..)

Interesting quote:

“SnapVillage will also function as something of a farm system. Corbis editors will scout the site to pinpoint photographers who show potential and may become part of Corbis’s regular stable of photographers. Corbis generates stock photos for advertising and media clients.”

Last week, my friend and fellow photoblographer, Josh Hallett wrote that a photo he’d posted online hit the radar of a photo-editor working on a story for BusinessWeek. In essence, the photo-editor was using Google images or Flickr or however he/she discovered the photo as an auxiliary photo agency. I can understand why Corbis, Getty, et al, would see the threat — and opportunity — of creating a marketplace for the “semiprofessional” photographers.