Control of our industry is more and more in the hands of investors whose
prime interest is immediate, short term profits, not the quality of the
Their route to increased profits is controlling (i.e. cutting) costs. The
single largest "cost" for stock agencies is the usage fees they pay
photographers for the product. In 1998, we have seen many moves to increase
various selling fees charged photographers, as well as efforts to reduce the
percentage of gross sales paid photographers. While, at this point, this
approach is far from universal, it seems likely that the trend will continue.
The bankers who control these organizations, and who have never taken
anything but family photos in their lives, look at the amount they are paying
photographers for the use of their images and come to the conclusion that
"photographers are overpaid."
A year ago we did a survey of stock photographer incomes which demonstrated
that a higher percentage of responding photographers were earning higher incomes
than had ever been the case in our previous surveys. It is easy to see how the
agency "bankers" can come to the conclusion that they are paying their
photographers -- particularly the major producers -- too much.
What none of the income figures take into account is the cost of production
-- the cost of operating a photographic studio, new equipment, training to stay
current, models, assistants, travel and all the other costs that go into
producing quality, competitive imagery today. No one, but the poor photographer
trying to survive in a very competitive business, takes the cost of production
No data has ever been collected as to what it costs to produce the tremendous
variety of stock imagery currently available in the marketplace. In many cases
the price charged to use images is ridiculously low compared to the cost of
producing them. We believe that to have some idea of the industry average of
return on investment will help all photographers as they plan future stock
productions. An understanding of production costs may also help those who
establish prices for stock photo uses, and photo buyers, to understand that the
supply of quality images will not last forever
if producers can not earn a reasonable income for their efforts.
In an effort to try to develop some useful data Selling Stock and PhotoSource
International have joined forces to conduct the most comprehensive survey of
stock photographers ever attempted. The majority of photographers surveyed will
be from the United States, but we are also interested in collecting as much
comparative data as possible from photographers in other parts of the world.
We are asking for very specific detail. We have made arrangements with
Integrated Statistics in Massachusetts to collect and collate the data so that
no one in the stock photo industry will have access to any of the private,
personal information we are asking photographers to supply.
Results of this survey will be reported in both publications listed. We also
want to thank Ann Guilfoyle of The Guilfoyle Report for her support and
encouragement in this project.
We urge every stock photographer to take the time to participate in this
survey, and to supply accurate information. The results could provide a strong
baseline of information that will aid everyone in the stock photography
Click on 1999 Survey to access the survey form. You may print out the survey using the
print command and mail in your response, if you wish.