2018 Predictions

Posted on 1/2/2018 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

Here are a few stock photo industry changes that I predict will occur before 2019.

1 – At least one radically new and different business model for licensing stock images will be introduced.

The existing business models simply aren’t working. Photographers are required to take too much risk for too little return. Consequently, many of those who are trying to earn their living -- or a portion of it, at least -- producing stock imagery are being forced to turn to other pursuits.

Solving the problem is not just about getting more people to replace the ones that are leaving. It’s about finding people who will spend the time to learn what’s in demand; who will focus on producing the images customers want to buy and who will be able to regularly earn enough from such production to justify doing it.

2 – Customers will become more disenchanted with the major stock photo distributors.

As collection sizes increase, customers find that they must spend more and more of their time trying to find an image that will work for their project. Couple this with the fact that in many cases the customer are expected to produce more projects in a given day than ever before and they simply don’t have the additional time to spend.

Stock agencies are trying to use technology to solve this problem and provide better curation, but for the most part technology doesn’t seem to be doing the job. More human curation might help, but that costs money. At today’s prices for usage that won’t happen.

3 -  Image creators may be given more useful information about what is in demand.

I’m hopeful about this prediction, but not at all sure it will actually happen. If photographers are going to increase their productivity, and stop wasting time producing images no one wants, they must have more detailed information about what is actually being licensed, not just from their own collection, but in general.

Currently, photographers are given broad general guidelines of what to shoot, but that is not enough. Back in the 1990s, or even in the mid 2000s, when prices were much higher broad guidelines were sufficient because the creator could afford to produce a lot that no one wanted, and still earn a decent living from the small percentage that were licensed. That’s no longer the case.

In addition to tracking how many times each specific images has been licensed and for how much, creators also need a better understanding of how many times each specific images they have supplied to an agency has actually been viewed by a customer. If the image was viewed a number of times after it was first uploaded to the collection, but is no longer being viewed then the creator may want to do something else with that image. Such data may indicate that the creator should produce more of that particular subject matter, or maybe less. The data may indicate that maybe there is a problem with the keywords and no one is using such words to find images.

It is not at all uncommon for experienced image creators who are still producing images to be earning 10% to 15% annually of what they were earning in 2007. They’ve cut their costs to the bone. As a business, blindly creating more images is not sustainable.

4 – Prices overall are not likely to increase substantially.

Nevertheless, there must be some way to raise them slightly and get rid of the extremely low prices. Getty licenses use of around 30% of its images for $5.00 or lower. (See here)  It doesn’t make any difference whether the images are RM or RF. It is hard to imagine a customer who really needs a particular image but can only afford to pay $1.00 or $2.00 for it. There needs to be some way to establish a pricing floor.

It is also hard to conceive of a person who is willing to pay $10.00 to use an image, but who would be willing to do without, or go to some other source and settle for an image of lesser quality, rather than pay $12 of $13 for the one they want.

If prices increase at all, the increase are not likely to go up substantially. They’re never going back to where they used to be, but we may see some small increases. And, as a percentage growth, small increases can make a substantial difference.

5 -  An increasing percentage of new stock images will be produced in Thailand, South Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia.

More and more of the images used in the United States and Western Europe are being produced in countries where there is a lower cost of living. This trend is sure to continue because creators in these countries can sustain themselves on a significantly lower monthly or annual income than creator in the West. (See here)

An increasing percent of the images needed by commercial users can be produced anywhere. There are still some shots like a New York City street scene that can only be produced cost effectively in New York. (In theory a model might be used, but it would probably costs more to create the model, even if the model making work were done in India.)

In some cases, a Western creator might have the advantage of a better understanding of what a Western buyer might need, but in many subject areas that advantage is fading fast.

6 – Someone will develop a much easier way for those who find an image on the Internet they would like to use, to determine if the use needs to be licensed and how to locate the creator.

Most commercial users want to be honest. They don’t set out to steal. They certainly don’t want to be chased by a photographer and his/her legal team once it is discovered that they have used an image without obtaining proper permission.

More and more image user are discovering images they would like to use by searching Google, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Flickr, Bing, etc. (See Finding Photographers and review Todd Klassy’s experience with customers finding his images by using Google.) 

Once they locate such an image, there needs to be a simple way for them to determine if the image needs to be licensed (many can be used for free) and then identify and contact the photographer.

It’s not as hard as it may sound.

Copyright © 2018 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of www.selling-stock.com, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


  • Grant Faint Posted Jan 6, 2018
    I use to say the stock photography isn't over until the fat lady sings and right now she is warming up backstage.. Now I think and say the fat lady has sung and is on her way back to the hotel... hey for me after 32 years at TIB/GETTY. I am done. Would someone please turn the lights out. Thanks grant faint


Post Comment

Please log in or create an account to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive email notification when new stories are posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

Stock Photo Pricing: The Future
In the last two years I have written a lot about stock photo pricing and its downward slide. If you have time over the holidays you may want to review some of these stories as you plan your strategy ...
Read More
Future Of Stock Photography
If you’re a photographer that counts on the licensing of stock images to provide a portion of your annual income the following are a few stories you should read. In the past decade stock photography ...
Read More
Blockchain Stories
The opening session at this year’s CEPIC Congress in Berlin on May 30, 2018 is entitled “Can Blockchain be applied to the Photo Industry?” For those who would like to know more about the existing blo...
Read More
2017 Stories Worth Reviewing
The following are links to some 2017 and early 2018 stories that might be worth reviewing as we move into the new year.
Read More
Stories Related To Stock Photo Pricing
The following are links to stories that deal with stock photo pricing trends. Probably the biggest problem the industry has faced in recent years has been the steady decline in prices for the use of ...
Read More
Stock Photo Prices: The Future
This story is FREE. Feel free to pass it along to anyone interested in licensing their work as stock photography. On October 23rd at the DMLA 2017 Conference in New York there will be a panel discuss...
Read More
Important Stock Photo Industry Issues
Here are links to recent stories that deal with three major issues for the stock photo industry – Revenue Growth Potential, Setting Bottom Line On Pricing and Future Production Sources.
Read More
Recent Stories – Summer 2016
If you’ve been shooting all summer and haven’t had time to keep up with your reading here are links to a few stories you might want to check out as we move into the fall. To begin, be sure to complet...
Read More
Corbis Acquisition by VCG/Getty Images
This story provides links to several stories that relate to the Visual China Group (VCG) acquisition of Corbis and the role Getty Images has been assigned in the transfer of Corbis assets to the Gett...
Read More
Finding The Right Image
Many think search will be solved with better Metadata. While metadata is important, there are limits to how far it can take the customer toward finding the right piece of content. This story provides...
Read More

More from Free Stuff