Fotolia is one of the world's most popular and lucrative microstock agencies. This review explores what this agency does for photographers.
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Opening in 2004, fotolia shot into the microstock business with a bullet. They were the first microstock agency to offer a multilingual website. Today fotolia supports fourteen different versions of their website, each catering to a specific country's dialect. Unfortunately the agency did have it's run of bad luck, particularly after the second version of the fotolia website was launched prematurely. After months of issues with both uploading and downloading, fotolia was able to pull their business together. Despite these issues, thanks to fotolia's now working and easy to use platform, they still remain one of the world largest suppliers of microstock imagery.
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Despite my high praise for fotolia, the one aspect that could use some improvement is their commission structure. Despite stating that they are among the highest paying microstock agencies available, they pay lower commission then some of their largest competition, like Dreamstime. Fotolia currently pays thirty-three percent commission on credit sales. This is a mere thirty-three cents per credit. Subscription commissions may very but are typically thirty-one cents per download. You may ask yourself if, with such low pay, is fotolia worth all the effort of uploading to. I believe the answer is yes, and I am not the only one. Microstock superstar Yuri Arcurs recently stated that since early 2009 his Shutterstock sales have declined drastically and his fotolia earnings have easily made up the slack, and would soon be the agency that earns him the most money.
Apart from both credit and subscription sales, fotolia also has a comprehensive extended licence program. Unfortunately, like their credit and subscription sales, their extended licence program does not pay very well. Typical earnings from an extended licence sale is six dollars and sixty-six cents, the same thirty-three percent commission.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel though. Fotolia offers bonuses to those photographers who sell well with their agency. Unlike Dreamstime, who give bonuses for multiple sales of individual files, fotolia gives a bonus to photographers who sell predetermined amounts of photos, similar to Shutterstock's structure. The structure is done in eight tiers ranging from zero downloads to a million. No one has yet reached the million mark and only Yuri has gone above two hundred and fifty thousand sales.
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Contests, Tools and Community
I admit, I have sounded pretty negative about fotolia but they are a pretty easy agency to work for. Things are pretty straight forward. Fotolia tend not to put on contests or community building exercises apart from writing a blog. What they do offer is a very simple upload process, and quick reviews. It is in this areas that agencies like iStock should be looking to fotolia to understand where they need improvement. I doubt fotolia will ever focus on building their community, simply because they don't have to, they have it where it counts, in sales and ease of use.