Business Planning for the Future: Creative Stills in Steady Decline

Posted on 8/27/2009 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

There appear to be a number of photographers who are “looking outward.” For most, that means doing something else other than producing stock pictures. There are other ways photographers might use photographic skills, and it certainly looks like stock has a steadily declining value in the eyes of the buyers. If stock is all an individual has to sell, it is beginning to look like that individual should expect to see steadily declining revenue going forward.

Photographers who have nothing to offer other than the ability to produce an interesting picture may be in trouble. There are just too many people out there producing interesting pictures. If the photographer has the skills to market his services to those who need a picture of something that is not available in stock, then he has a possible alternative way of making a living in photography. But not enough stock photographers are looking for such options.

It’s interesting to consider Goldman Sachs’ five-year projections for Getty Images at the end of 2007. At that time, analysts expected the revenue from creative stills to decline 40% by 2012. In 2007, creative stills represented 65% of Getty’s business, whereas a few years earlier, these represented 80%. We no longer have proprietary statistics on Getty’s revenue, but industry trends would suggest that the revenue generated by creative stills is declining even faster than expected. Despite this decline in Getty’s core business, all its other business lines were expected to grow, and gross revenue for the company was expected to rise by 39% between 2007 and 2012.

This information leads to three conclusions.

First, this is what was expected to happen to the industry leader. The industry as a whole is likely to be experiencing a similar or worse decline in creative stills revenue. There is no evidence that there will be a turn around.

Second, Goldman Sachs’ predictions were made before the general economic collapse. We should not expect a revival of the economy to make a huge difference.

Finally, Getty had obviously been looking outward and trying to find something other than traditionally priced stock photography to offer customers. The company has increasingly shifted focus away from creative stills, but there is still no evidence of a magic bullet or new direction that will help Getty really grow its business.

Copyright © 2009 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, 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:  


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