Adobe Slaps Creative Professionals In the Face – Launches Re-Branded Microstock Content Leach

Jun 17, 2015

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand.

Adobe Slaps Creative Professionals In the Face – Launches Re-Branded Microstock Content Leach

Jun 17, 2015

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand.

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Adobe-Stock Fail

Back when Adobe acquired Fotolia I think most creative professionals were really excited to see what Adobe had in mind for the stock industry.

I mean, a player as big as Adobe had the power to totally re-imagine the sale of stock photography, video and illustration for the benefit of their corporate bottom line and their loyal customer base (after all, creative professionals are the reason Adobe exists in the first place).

But, with todays update to Adobe Creative Cloud, instead we get Adobe Stock – in my opinion, nothing more than a re-branded microstock blood sucking content leach and a slap in the face to creative professionals everywhere.

Adobe Stock Will Pay You Whole Pennies For Your Work!

If you’re lucky and sell an on demand image through Adobe Stock – you’ll get paid $3.30 whole US dollars!

Yes, you read that right – the maximum amount Adobe is willing to pay a creative professional for licensing their work is $3.30.

Does that sound fair to you?  Does that sound sustainable to you?  How many times would your work have to be sold just to break even?

And that’s the maximum!

The worst part is that Adobe has maintained Fotolia’s existing microstock micropayment business model*.

*Well they have raised subscription payouts to from 20-25% to 33% – golly gee wow – 33% of almost nothing is still almost nothing.

If you’re new to the microstock micropayment business model – this is how Adobe’s generous new pay structure will benefit you:

Fotolia Image Sale XL Commission RateCommission = 0.25 (original sale price) / 0.20 (assumed original commission rate) x 0.33 (new commission rate) = 0.41 (new sale price with Adobe Stock!!!!!!!!!!!!)

In other words, you’ll literally earn pennies more per sale…

If you want to know exactly how much Adobe Stock values your time and creativity as a creative professional, here is the link to the entire commission structure.

I’ll leave it up to you to figure out how many times you will have to sell an image through the generosity of Adobe Stock just to pay for your monthly Adobe Creative Cloud subscription.

Successful Stock Agencies Sell a Quality Product At a Fair Price

It’s no secret that microstock agencies have been fighting each other in a bizarre death spiral to the bottom of the barrel for years.

I guess that’s why I’m so disappointed with Adobe – they had a chance to do something that would not only benefit their client base of creative professionals but the entire creative industry as a whole – but instead we got just another blood sucking content leach that is designed to do nothing more than syphon the work of creative professionals into a system that gives little to nothing back to the artists that worked so hard to create it.

And if you’re thinking “well, that’s just how the creative industry works in the internet age” – it doesn’t have to.

Stock agencies such as Stocksy United, Offset, 500px Prime and Image Brief have all risen out of the microstock ashes to offer a high quality product with fair commissions paid to their contributors.

Stocksy Sustainable Stock vs Adobe Stock

To Be Fair – Adobe Stock Is The Lowest Common Denominator

At the risk of sounding a little too much like that grumpy internet guy so far – I can understand where Adobe might be coming from.

What differentiates boutique stock agencies like Stocksy United, Offset, 500px Prime and Image Brief from the hordes of cheap-ass microstock is that their collections are all highly curated and tightly controlled.

On the other hand, if Adobe is committed to a mass market product, they had to keep Adobe Stock open to everyone – which means very low acceptance criteria – the hallmark of microstock.

If you don’t want to control who contributes or tell people that their work isn’t good enough, it’s pretty hard to charge a premium price for crap content.

500px prime vs Adobe Stock

What Do You Think?

Is Adobe Stock a good deal for creative professionals and the creative industry?

Will designers jump on the Adobe Stock bandwagon simply because it will be integrated with Adobe Creative Cloud applications?

Is there a business case for anyone to sell creative content at the rates offered by Adobe Stock?

How far can microstock content distributors squeeze their contributors before they impode and destroy themselves?

Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts!

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JP Danko

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand.

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33 responses to “Adobe Slaps Creative Professionals In the Face – Launches Re-Branded Microstock Content Leach”

  1. catlett Avatar

    Why is it a surprise that Adobe is yet again screwing people? I guess you will be surprised when your dng files will somehow be held hostage at some point too right?

    I frankly saw the whole Adobe tightening of the screw years ago, basically starting with dng which falsely gets tabbed as open source because people want to believe that it is. Adobe has been almost as masterful as Apple at manipulating the media. They are trying to reel everybody into their web. On one side of the profit equation they get people to blissfully buy into paying them monthly until death because once you are in deep it gets very painful to change all of your legacy files to another format to use someone else’s software. There will be changes to the cloud that current users won’t like but an incremental extra payment for the same functionality isn’t quite so painful. It adds up. This is just the cost side of the same strategy.

    1. Scott Valentine Avatar
      Scott Valentine

      Well, you’re wrong about DNG – it’s an open spec and runs a free license. Any file format is subject to deprecation, so the real concern is whether DNG will continue to be used. With camera manufacturers adding support for DNG, your theory seems to be nothing more than paranoia. Specific raw formats from those same manufacturers are at far higher risk – many older versions had to be converted and updated or be lost in the archives.

      As for Adobe screwing people… whatever. They’re a corporation, and their goal is to make as much money for as long as possible. What’s new? You’re complaining that they’re successful at it. Of course they want more customers in their web – every company does. The PSD format is pretty well documented, but of course there are proprietary elements. Same with Microsoft Office documents, and virtually every other document format. Your car, if manufactured in the last 20 years, also has proprietary controls systems and specific replacement parts, etc.

      This is how companies maintain a competitive edge, which also drives them to innovate. PSDs, btw, can be read by many other applications. You also have the right to save in the TIFF format, which is just as open and even more broadly supported. You have pretty much zero concern of your files being held hostage.

      1. catlett Avatar

        You either don’t know what you are talking about or are willfully trying to mislead people. Either way you are spreading the same nonsense based on hearsay that is making this dangerous.

        “Digital Negative (DNG) Specification Patent License

        Adobe is the publisher of the Digital Negative (DNG) Specification describing an image file format for storing camera raw information used in a wide range of hardware and software. Adobe provides the DNG Specification to the public for the purpose of encouraging implementation of this file format in a compliant manner.”

        This alone means it isn’t open source. Everything that writes DNG has to be exactly to Adobe’s spec. Not extensible.

        “Grant of rights

        Subject to the terms below and solely to permit the reading and writing of image files that comply with the DNG Specification, Adobe hereby grants all individuals and organizations the worldwide, royalty-free, nontransferable, nonexclusive right under all Essential Claims to make, have made, use, sell, import, and distribute Compliant Implementations.”

        Adobe and only Adobe can grant rights to this. The terms are good now but that doesn’t guarantee they always will be.

        Adobe also has revocation language in the license. For now it isn’t a big deal but none of us know when or if Adobe pulls the rug out as they did with the suite. If you trust them then great, go for it. They have proved to me that I should not trust them.

        1. Scott Valentine Avatar
          Scott Valentine

          Talk about misunderstanding fundamental concepts… “Open” does not mean “Extensible”, for starters. The point of publishing an open spec is so that others can develop tools using a common framework. I hope you understand the value of a common file format that enforces compliance – it means others can expect certain levels of compatibility, which improves experience and security.

          Nobody mentioned “open source”, which is completely different.

          Then let’s talk about misleading people. The exact language of Adobe’s license is this:
          “Adobe may revoke the rights granted above to any individual or
          organizational licensee in the event that such licensee or its
          affiliates brings any patent action against Adobe or its affiliates
          related to the reading or writing of files that comply with the DNG

          That means if you build a tool using the DNG spec, you can not attempt to patent that technology then sue Adobe for infringement. Common law practice is that once information is made open, even retaining license doesn’t mean you get to screw with those who have used the technology appropriately and in good faith. Look at the PDF-x specifications for example, or JPG, MP3, ZIP, GIF, and others.

          Now I’ll quote yourself back at you:

          “You either don’t know what you are talking about or are willfully trying to mislead people. Either way you are spreading the same nonsense based on hearsay that is making this dangerous.”

          1. catlett Avatar

            I was pretty clearly talking about open source. You just keep trying to distract from it. The entire spec is owned by Adobe and is therefore subject to their licensing which they can change tomorrow with a new release.


          2. Scott Valentine Avatar
            Scott Valentine

            Either you’re lying and trying to backpedal or you truly don’t understand what you’re saying. Open source refers to software, while open spec is about enabling interoperability by standardization and agreement from an organizing body. They are not comparable, and to insist you were talking about open source implies you honestly don’t know the difference.

            Again, the point of open spec is to standardize. If Adobe changes something about DNG, they have to change the name because it’s already considered non-proprietary. They can *not* legally reclaim it as it is. Further, DNG is based on TIFF, which is likewise an open standard. You really need to understand these concepts.

            There is *nothing* open source about DNG because it’s not software – it’s a file specification.

            Finally, DNG does not destroy your original file unless you ask it to. You can either keep the native raw file from your camera, or embed the linear data directly into the DNG container. So even if DNG *were* proprietary, you are not bound to use it in any way. Lightroom can use DNG, JPG, TIFF, or the native raw format of most modern cameras. DNG is just a way to keep the nondestructive adjustments along with the file container.

          3. catlett Avatar

            We ARE talking about software. If you aren’t bright enough to know that it is software then I might as well stop but I’ll try one last time.

            The software that Adobe and only Adobe controls the license to. ONLY Adobe can change it in any way and they can decide that it isn’t open anymore. I’m done because you clearly have no interest in seeing that maybe, just maybe Adobe has already proved that they will do things that don’t necessarily benefit the users. If you want to naievely fall into that have fun and remember this when they yank the rug out from under you AGAIN.

          4. Scott Valentine Avatar
            Scott Valentine

            You, catlett, are willfully ignorant, and working *very* hard to call yourself a victim. Be done with this – you are admitting you refuse to actually understand.

            DNG = Open File Specification
            Open Specification = anyone can read and write for compliance with the standard
            GIMP = Open Source Software
            Open Source = anyone can read, add to, modify, and redistribute the application

            Read that over and over until you break through your delusion and actually understand the difference.

            “I frankly saw the whole Adobe tightening of the screw years ago,
            basically starting with dng which falsely gets tabbed as open source
            because people want to believe that it is.”

            See how you completely misunderstand? It’s right there. Your own words. YOU DON’T GET IT. You expressly talk about DNG, but if you really mean PSD, you STILL DON’T GET IT. Nothing changed about the licensing for PSDs, they have *always* been proprietary, and there are lots of applications that can read them. Plus, you can export TIFFs or flat documents.

            Sure, Adobe makes choices that are not in the best interest of consumers and customers. And we let them know, and sometimes they change. And we *always* have the option to use something else, like GIMP.

            And a lot of people don’t like the cloud model, for lots of reasons. But let’s debunk a few things… Wait. I already did and you failed to read them, only proving that you don’t care for a solution, you just want to have some way to be a victim and continue complaining. You’ve been heard, you have valid concerns about the cloud model and ALL proprietary formats. You have choices, but instead you want to be mad.

            Have fun with that.

          5. Jase1125 Avatar

            @Scott – you cannot fix stupid. Stop trying.

  • Doug Sundseth Avatar
    Doug Sundseth

    “Slaps Creative Professionals in the Face”?

    Hyperbole much?

    If you don’t like the price, don’t work with the service. (I don’t intend to, btw.) If you can’t compete with the service, bummer for you.

    Let’s just say that I see the death of cartels and price collusion among photographers as a good thing.

    1. Economist2011 Avatar

      Photography is a creative and noble profession. Thinking that designers are the only creatives out there that matters is a bit arrogant. You must be one of those types who like to sell their logos for $5! lol.

  • Karin Wilcox Avatar
    Karin Wilcox

    My work is far more valuable than that Adobe. You should value your customers and their artform better than you do. Respect the costs incurred to be in this profession. Respect the fact that its hard enough to make it as an artist than to have a Company you love and have used for years to undervalue your work and that of all others to such a piss ant amount. We deserve better Adobe and you know it.

    1. Scott Valentine Avatar
      Scott Valentine

      The simple solution is not to sell your images to them in the first place. Sell to a boutique stock provider, or perhaps don’t sell stock at all. The prices on Fotolia are set by demand primarily, so unless you’re selling the largest size of the most popular image, you’re not getting much return, anyway.

      Keeping the price for stock customers under $10 means they have to hit a mid range of quality, or draw from images that have not sold well for several months. But offering it directly through the Photoshop interface could potentially sell more images, offsetting the lower price (pure speculation on my part to make a point).

      They are respecting artists by providing lower quality stock at reasonable prices *and* increasing the payout while setting the price higher than other microstock. It sounds like they expect to sell a lot of images. As with all microstock, the key is volume.

      1. Karin Wilcox Avatar
        Karin Wilcox

        I don’t sell through these companies for the very reason of their pricing structure. My work means more to me than pennies on the dollar. It would just be nice if the company making their living from artists would do more to support said artists than to just undermine their arts value.

        1. Scott Valentine Avatar
          Scott Valentine

          But that’s my point – don’t sell to microstock companies at all. Adobe isn’t undermining the value of photographers, neither are microsites. If anyone is undervaluing photographers, it’s photographers who submit to microstock.

          I don’t shoot stock for others, but I use a small amount from those sites. It’s a valuable service and it fits my needs. Shooters who provide stock for those sites know what they’re getting in to, and so they submit tons and tons of work in order to get a little trickle pay back. When someone submits 100 versions of the same shot, it’s unlikely that even most of them will be used.

          So it’s not Adobe, it’s us. Consumers who want low prices and photographers who are willing to provide product. The for-profit businesses are just providing the connection.

  • BuckCash Avatar

    Photographers who want to make money from their work have known that microstock is dead for years now, ever since Getty dropped the sales prices to the bottom of the barrel.

    Geez, remember the big fuss we all made when Time Magazine snapped up a cover shot for just 30 bucks from a microstock site? That was back in the spring of 2009. So yeah, this “OMG! Microstock doesn’t pay CRAP!” alert is old news.

    But the amateur photographer whose photo ended up on the cover, the one who made so little on the deal that we all cried out FOR him? He was thrilled with the whole thing because his photo was on the cover of Time Magazine. And THAT is the photographer that microstock agencies are now pleased to work with for obtaining their stock. And it works because there are enough amateur photographers doing good or even exceptional work, who do it for fun and recognition and don’t do it to make a living, that there’s plenty of content being submitted to them still, and it’s not about to slow down, let alone stop.

    A photographer trying to make real money from the craft simply can’t compete in that market.

    Do you really think that Adobe, or Fotolia, or anyone else can just raise the prices to where they’d need to be in order to provide truly fair compensation to a photographer, and still compete with those sites that don’t raise the prices? If you’re in the market to license a photo from a microstock site, are you really going to pay 1,000% or 10,000% more than you need to, and say, “screw the marketing budget”?

    This is about reality. Welcome to it. Now pull up your big-boy pants and go do something useful and profitable with your craft.

  • Michael Stevens Avatar
    Michael Stevens

    Why do people think Adobe gives a shit about anyone? They don’t! That’s why they moved to renting their software. They don’t care about users of any kind because they don’t have to. There are little to no alternatives for us…

  • Travis Alex Avatar
    Travis Alex

    I honestly agree with this article.

    The amount of money Adobe sucks out of the creative for their software suites, you would think they would want to give back a little bit to the creative to bring their value up.

    Why drive value in any form when you can charge them more.

    For all those saying “Don’t use the service”, it sure as hell does not fix the level of disrespect for the creative, and out there in this world, someone will use it and the disrespect will continue.

    It is, a slap in the face.

  • Hagbard Celine Avatar
    Hagbard Celine

    I’d like to say that I’m shocked and outraged, but I don’t expect anything less from Adobe. They turned from a company that truly seemed to embody the spirit of the artists to using them solely as a cash-cow. Rent our software in perpetuity and we will also give you the option of letting us rip you off by selling your images for pennies AND we still get a bigger cut than you.

    It’s to be expected of today’s Adobe.

    Now I don’t really feel so bad about all those years I used pirated Photoshop. ;)

  • junjun Avatar

    I submit to 5 microstock agancies and I was so happy with one since I get to earn there 11,000 usd in a span of few years with few images. I still continue uploading there and sales improve every month. Meanwhile submitting with Fotolia (before they were bought by Adobe) was always a headache, I was so annoyed with their style such as the use of contributor/buyer modes in one sign up (I don’t want to buy, I signed up to earn), submission style of vectors need a zipped file (very time consuming..other agencies don’t ask for zipped files), ugly and not-user friendly submission page (who designed it?), ranking and readjustment of image price to a minimum if it is not bought (not happening to other agencies), and the unclear payment schemes (I earn in usd based on the emails of sale but I find my earning as credits and I have to convert them into dollars if I wanted to..very confusing and annoying). Then came the DPC or Dollar Photo Club launched by Fotolia where many angry contributors took down their portfolio due to unfair business practice and price. When they were bought by Adobe, I thought everything will be better. I was hopeful esp they started to clean the UI but I was wrong. Still annoying. Even now with Adobe Stock, the experience in the contributor side is still the same ugly experience. The interface of the seller side is not even user friendly and not close to that of other agencies. I’ll stop submitting there for now.

  • boatcapt Avatar

    I couldn’t agree more that Adobe’s latest project is just another escalator ride downwards in terms of the value of the photo image market. All one needs do to evaluate the Adobe Stock bit is to look at the images in their collection. I did a search on herring gulls, Acadia National Park, and osprey and although there were hundreds of images in them there wasn’t a single one much above low level amateur level. Speaking of stock, if I owned stock in Adobe I’d be thinking of selling it …

  • Dorte Andersen Avatar
    Dorte Andersen

    I completely agree with you 33% is an extremely low percentage,
    especially considering that YOU, the contributor, created the image. Adobe
    should be getting the 33%, the 66% should go to the contributor, not the
    reverse! I also think this whole “the more popular your stock becomes, the
    more you can raise your price unless it becomes unpopular again, then you’ll
    have to do it all over again circus” sounds like a load of bull to me.
    Contributors should be able to control the price themselves because they
    created the material in the first place. My
    2 cents worth.

  • Charlotte Avatar

    I came upon your article and am sorry to learn that professionals are getting a very poor deal from Adobe.
    I am just a private end user – I bought an image in Sept and have just put it in the document I had intended to use it for and was extremely disappointed to discover that the resolution is so poor the image is unusable as the details (very good stick figures in a circle) are all fuzzy.even before I increase it for use in an A6 document!

    I tried to contact the Adobe support to see how to improve the image, or buy the same image but of higher quality but….. – IMPOSSIBLE to actually make contact with their supposed “support” team.
    I googled how to improve Adobe images and came about your site.
    From my very poor experience and to see how badly they treat the designers, I would say LETS JUST FORGET ABOUT ANYTHING ADOBE!!
    Happy New Year to everyone

  • Pro Photographer Avatar
    Pro Photographer

    I have just taken the bull by the horns and turned professional. I have been using Adobe products for a number of years. As I am very happy with their services and products I thought it would be a good idea to sign up for the Adobe Stock/Fotolia programme.
    After discovering how generous the renumeration is I rather regret becoming a member. Whether or not I will continue my membership remains to be seen. Basically I need a stepping stone in order I may send my images to Getty.
    The entry requirements at Getty are very high and I am not sure if I am good enough to be accepted. BTW, I haven’t a clue what Getty pays in commission but after seeing their sales prices it must be far better than Adobe.

  • Phillip Avatar

    BEWARE OF ADOBE STOCK ‘FREE’ ACCOUNT. I had a free, trial
    account with Adobe Stock that allowed me to download a number of free images. I
    mistakenly selected a video instead of an image. This was an easy mistake to
    make, as the videos appeared alongside the images. I was not offered the chance
    to confirm the payment, as this has been set up as a one-click transaction
    (which is generally not the norm online). For example, I did not have the
    option to log on to PayPal and review / confirm the payment, as happens e.g. on
    eBay. By the time I realized this, I had been billed for $85 for a 7 second
    I immediately contacted multiple people at the Adobe call
    center, all of whom were unhelpul, didactic and abrasive and of course I
    received no refund. I would not use or recommend this service to anyone. I
    intend to blog about and review this transaction online extensively in order to
    warn other unsuspecting customers [case #: 0219263242].

    1. Zos Xavius Avatar
      Zos Xavius

      Its probably too late but next time this happens give your credit card company or bank a call and dispute the charges. Be sure to tell them that you did *not* authorize the charge. They will help you if they can.

  • KJ Avatar

    As a layperson and individual who enjoys photography, I must say that I don’t think the low commission rates are Adobe’s fault as much as they are a sign of our times. In the past it would have been nearly impossible for a talented amateur photographer to sell their work. Because of advances in digital photography and the internet, there will be many people who can be recognized for their talent, and even sell their work online. Because of this glut of artwork, it is just natural that the prices paid will be reduced. I don’t see how this is the fault of Adobe, or any other company. Perhaps the old model has gone the way of the buggy whip, and unfortunately it won’t be coming back. Certainly a sad day for those who make their living through selling stock images, but this is a natural progression which happens in many professions as technology marches forward.

  • Wayne Grazio Avatar
    Wayne Grazio

    Serious Adobe! Are you taking the Uber model for paying your photographers? Get real!

  • Phoenix52047 Avatar

    So how would I sell my work then? I am a motion graphics artist, but do stills as well. Maybe through Facebook? But than I would have to do the whole tax thing, which I have no problem with, but not sure how to do it alone. I did a W9 through Adobe already. I sold one animation in 1 month I been on there. Made little over 2 bucks for it.

  • Felicity Grisham Avatar
    Felicity Grisham

    500px says that Fotolia is a branch of one of or major distributors – Adobe Stock. We’ve reached out to Adobe Stock in the means of adjusting the author to the photographer who owns the photo, so we’re hoping this will be adjusted shortly (i.e that photographer’s name is put by the photo! They go on to say 500px contributors can opt out of our distribution network etc…..see Beware: 500px Now Sells Your Photos on Fotolia Without Credit

  • Tomatoe Avatar

    Here it is a few years later after this article, and I just received an invitation to start selling my photos on Adobe Stock. I’ve been on Viewbug for about a year and a half and have even won a couple “People’s Choice” awards, and it’s through them that this “exciting” offer to sell photos to Adobe Stock came from. But I wasn’t born yesterday. I’ve been in the art field for 30+ years as a painter and have always done photography too, though more for my own enjoyment until recently when I began selling my photographs as fine art in their own right. Having had experience as an artist (painter) I knew all the ins and outs of people trying to exploit artists for financial gain, with the artist more often than not coming out on the losing end, and I will not be falling prey to yet another form of exploitation. I learned my lessons a long time ago as an artist.

  • James A. Prufrock Avatar
    James A. Prufrock

    Do you read your own rubbish or edit? 500px cut the commission to 30%, Image Brief is gone, Stocksy has limited numbers of artists who might wait months to get in, Offset is a very small number of hand picked images. How does any of that apply to a Microstock artist? While Adobe Stock has the highest standards of open Microstock and pays real percentages for real downloads, not promises for weak sales that never produce money.

  • Gillian van Niekerk Avatar
    Gillian van Niekerk

    what do you think today?