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.

Get the Full Article (1 Credit)

Have an Account?

Access to this site is an exclusive benefit for you. Enter your username and password in the form above. If you don't remember your password you can reset it at any time.

Forgot your password?

New to Selling Stock?

Selling Stock is a subscription based on-line newsletter that reports on developing trends in the stock photo industry. It is updated at least twice a month. On-line subscribers receive e-mail notification whenever new stories are posted. Archives containing stories going back to late 1995 are fully available to subscribers.

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

Post Comment

You must log in to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive our FREE weekly email listing new stories posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

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
Where Is The Stock Photo Industry Headed?
For new readers, or those who may have missed some of what I have written over the last few months, the following are a list of stories worth looking at to get a sense of where the industry is headed.
Read More
Photography As A Career
It’s that time of year when high school seniors are waiting for college acceptance letters and thinking about future careers. If you know someone who is thinking about photography as a career you mig...
Read More
2014 Stories You May Have Missed
For many the end of the year is a time to review past experiences and consider whether it makes sense to chart a new course in the year ahead. Stock photography has changed dramatically for professio...
Read More
More Stories In 2014 You May Have Missed
Every so often I put together a list of the most important stories we’ve published in the recent past. If you are engaged in the business of stock photography the links below are to stories that we’v...
Read More
Getty: A Three Month Review
In all the excitement about 35 million FREE images it is worth looking back at some of things that have been happening at Getty Images in the last three months. After watching revenue decline for the...
Read More
State Of Stock Photo Industry: 2013
If you’re looking for an overview of the state of the stock photo industry as of October 2013 the stories listed below are a good place to start. Regular readers of Selling-Stock will have seen all t...
Read More
Education Market Shifts To Digital
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 p...
Read More

More from Free Stuff