Business Planning for the Future: Growth in Demand vs. Single-Shooter Volume, Pricing

Posted on 8/25/2009 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (3)

A previous article in this "Business Planning for the Future" series noted that future growth in demand for images is a widely debated subject among stock industry professionals. In my view, traditional customers do not seem to have any growth potential, and there are also indications that growth in demand for low-priced imagery might have reached its natural level. Industry veteran Leslie Hughes has offered an alternate point of view.

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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 301-251-0720, 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:  


  • Posted Aug 25, 2009
    "Stock photography...ain't what it used to be!"
    I've had 2500 images edited out of my collection a few years ago, that hurt.
    Itz gotten very selective as far as images. And these newby editors think they know what the clients want, HA, the clients dont even know what they want till they trip over it. I can attest to that as a photog and a model too.

    just keep shooting for the passion of it, if you get a check in the mail, take mom out for lunch.

  • Jagdish Agarwal Posted Aug 26, 2009
    Every product has competition. Each service has competition. We must learn to live with it. Make your product or service better or different from your competetors. It works.

  • Don Farrall Posted Aug 27, 2009

    The first part of your article, prior to the “Think Differently” section, appears to contradict with some of what you have been promoting over the past year or two… the “everyone should be considering a microstock component as a part of their overall stock venture” mantra. I have felt from the beginning that microstock was not a sustainable model from a contributor standpoint. Not in it’s current form. It appears that you are finally coming to that realization. At this point it is not the “hobbyists” that are a threat to the serious traditional shock shooter; it is the few “pro-microstock producers” that have gutted the profitability out of the traditional market. These are people who clearly could be selling in the traditional marketplace, but who have chosen to be the “top dogs” in the volume end of the market.

    I like your car analogy. Of course anyone can compete with an existing business model when they enter the market at such a fraction of the established price. In addition as you noted, the illusion that a lot of money can be made off of a single image in microstock is waved in everyone’s face as the “most-downloaded” images of almost any search term gives a very unrealistic picture of the sales potential of similar images, (of which there are generally hundreds).

    It is still possible to earn reasonable, (not great, but reasonable) money in traditional stock. Yes the “low hanging fruit” – the easy to produce images, can’t command the price they once did. But exceptional images can and should, still be sold for amounts that represent a good return for the effort, skill and production costs. I sold an image this past month, total sale license $20,000. It was RM, so the royalty was $8000. Obviously not a normal sale, but these sales do still occur.

    As for a new business model based on Google, Apple, or Gillette. We don’t need a new model that provides for a great long term return for a giant entity, at the expense of the creators of the work. I think we have that now in too many forms.

    What is my solution? I would like to see microstock Agencies selling images to their “new customer base” of buyers, (small businesses, bloggers, etc) these people who microstock suggests would have never bought images at traditional prices, at what ever “cheap” price they like, that will generate their intended volume. I would also like to see microstock Agencies selling their images into the “traditional commercial market” at prices closer to traditional RF prices. In theory, this should make more money for all agencies and all contributors, at the expense of “traditional commercial images buyers” who could no longer pay $10 for an image for a national campaign. This would require the introduction of a limited usage agreement, and an extended – commercial usage agreement. It would also require the adoption of policies across multiple agencies. Which in it’s self would be a difficult task, however, if one agency, like Istock, adopted this system they might be able to get contributors to pull their images away from other agencies based on the potential for selling some images for better royalty amounts.

    I am hanging in there, continuing to make a living at stock, and shooting assignment work as well. I still have hopes that things will shake out in some fashion. All of my agency clients that I shoot for, also use stock, and they all use some amount of microstock. I am hearing that the novelty of cheap images is wearing off, and that they are looking for better and “less exposed” images when ever they can get a budget that doesn’t force them to use subscription or microstock imagery.

    Don Farrall

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