The stock photography business has changed dramatically from what it was five or ten years ago and the future does and the future does not look promising. In this article we’ve provided links to a number of previously published articles that provide a good overview of the industry and where we believe it is headed. If the reader wants to get a basic grounding in what stock photography is all about this is the place to start.
Anyone interested in a career as a photographer – as well as those photographers in mid-career -- needs to carefully consider how the business is changing. If we look at image use on the Internet it is undeniable that more images are being made available for viewing. However, for professionals this is not good news. More image use does not mean more demand for professionally produced images.
It does not mean that there will be more opportunities for photographers to earn their living taking pictures. In fact, the opportunities to earn a living as a photographer are declining. Here’s why.
In the future, will it be possible for more photographers to earn a better living than they are currently earning producing stock images? More and more photographers are jumping into the stock photo business every day and many hope to make it a career. Here’s a dozen reasons why future revenue growth for this industry seems unlikely
. I’ve discussed all these issues before, but it seems useful to briefly itemize them all in one place.
The Global Stock Image Market Research Group (GSIMRG) in Heidelberg, Germany has just released a report on the extensive study of the stock photo industry
that it conducted in 2012. They concluded that the stock photo industry generated $2.88 billion in revenue in 2012. Based on their figures I think image licensing is much less. Their report, and my commentary in this article, is a must read for anyone engaged in the stock photo business.
I’m regularly asked for information about the size of the market. This story contains a quick summary of some of the important industry statistics as well as links to related stories where I expand on these numbers. Included are Microstock colllection growth trends; iStock download and revenue trends since 2005; images licensed annually; royalty payouts; Getty return-per-image from 2003 through 2007; Asian market; customer buying behaviors and useful statistics for photographer business planning.
In March it was reported by Moody’s and Standard & Poors that the gross revenue for Getty Images in calendar 2011 was $945 million. This figure, and how the various lines of business break out, provide some interesting insights into the state of the stock photography business.
One of the programs at the recent PACA International Conference asked five industry visionaries to explore emerging trends and predict what the stock photo business will be like in 2022. There was general agreement that the current business model of licensing based on usage is broken
and that in a few years (probably a lot less than 10) it will be necessary to develop a completely different approach to licensing.
The stock photography industry has to face the challenge of becoming relevant in an economy that has no patience for inadequate business models. Today the vast majority of photographs are used without any contact with the traditional photo industry, which has completely lost control of production and distribution. But the industry continues stubbornly to apply old rules to this new landscape. It does not see, or purposely wants to ignore, that their model does not fit current needs and thus is chasing customers away.
Recently several subscribers have asked questions, the answers to which might be of interest to all subscribers. So I’ve decided to share the questions and my answers here.
If supplying pictures for educational use is a significant part of your business plan you need to be aware of how the market is trending toward digital delivery and how that is likely to affect the prices that will be paid for images used in digital products. In case you’ve missed them the following are links to a few stories we’ve published that deal with this subject in the last few years.