pictorama, mobile microstock photograph market closed

The young Mobile Micro-stock Photography space suddenly got smaller yesterday. Pictorama has shut down “due to insufficient funds.” They are no longer accepting or licensing photos. Further, all remaining payouts have been canceled by the company. The servers have already been shut down and no more transactions are possible.

More after the jump and what it means if you’ve sold work on Pictorama after the jump. >>>

Micro-stock photograph agencies developed in response to the extremely high prices of the traditional stock photo licensing agencies. Instead of buying a costly traditional usage license for an image or an expensive CD for only one or two images, creatives and clients could purchase licenses for individual stock photographs, making the artwork more affordable for a broader range of agencies and clients. My graphic design studio has put iStockPhoto’s kids through dental school.

The mobile micro-stock photography markets developed along with the rise and acceptance of mobile photography and the improvements in mobile device cameras. Before these markets, mobile photography was excluded from the traditional micro-stocks.

The sudden shuttering of Pictorama means that your images hosted there will no longer be for sale through the agency. Any royalties due you from Pictorama will not be paid.

In order for a microstock market to work, there needs to be a healthy balance of both buyers and suppliers. A large number of usable images and good marketing attracts end users. I never saw Pictorama advertising where creatives would be shopping. As a creative, I found the image selection to be good, but very limited.

Nothing is mentioned about what happens to the licenses of the photography that have been sold. Contributors granted Pictorama the right to transfer licenses of their works or transfer the whole company to someone else. Unfortunately, there no longer looks to be a viable company and the end-licenses are in a legal gray area — an asset that belongs to creditors in a bankruptcy court (if there is one).

If you are owed royalties by Pictorama, it looks like your are out of luck. According to a statement, there is no money left to pay out artists.

If you purchased photography from Pictorama, technically, your existing usage license now belongs to creditors of the company in bankruptcy proceedings. From an end user standpoint, your license has been “transferred.” If the company just shuts down, your usage license is in a legal gray area and how you can continue to use the image (or not use it) is unclear.

As a photographer, if you see a work being used that you haven’t been paid for, you will need to contact that end user directly and hope they do the right thing. Their usage license is with an entity that no longer exists, not with you.

Sadly, this really sucks worst for the photographers who contributed their images and built the marketplace. Unfortunately, there’s little recourse here and the recourse that is available to you is most likely not worth your while to pursue.

Mobile Micro-stock Options

In the meantime, Pictorama’s competition foap seems to be healthier with a larger marketplace. Their platform is still being developed and updated. Pocketstock also seems to be doing very well. If you’d like to help the mobile micro-stock market succeed, join and contribute. The more unique, usable, quality images available, the more appealing the market is to those who purchase stock art.

Late last year, two leaders in the traditional micro-stock space, Getty Images’ iStockPhoto.com and Dreamstime began accepting mobile photography for consideration to their markets.

Here is the complete email that Pictorama sent to users notifying them of their closure:

Goodbye our dear friends 🙁

in 2011 we had a dream. We wanted to create an application enabling the people who enjoy smartphone photography as much as we do, to publish their pictures and sell them to people and businesses worldwide. In other words: we wanted to turn the existing microstock market upside down.

When we found an investor to realize our idea we couldn´t believe it. Over the last year we assembled a team of motivated and capable professionals who helped us to create the Pictorama. We put a lot of heart and effort into making our dream finally come true. The app launched and you, as well as hundreds of other users started sending in pictures and we enjoyed reviewing them und putting the majority of them online.

Unfortunately not as many clients as we expected bought our pictures. This forces us to shut down Pictorama due to insufficient funds. Unfortunately this also means we are not able to pay out your account balance any further even if you have already requested the pay out. We are so sorry.

Since we cannot wait more days we already have to take the servers offline today (23rd of February).

We still believe in our idea and are optimistic that one day there is a place in the market for Pictorama, but apparently this day has yet to come.

We wish all our existing competitors the strength and best of luck to make it.

Thank you for supporting us!