49 Catalog Images
November 13, 1996
Getting statistics in this industry (and making sense of them) is more painful
than pulling teeth. Nevertheless, partial statistics may be better than none if
you understand how they were developed and their potential weaknesses.
According to PACA, 500 agencies have pictures in print catalogs, on-line or on
CD's. This number seems high to me.
In their annual survey of stock agencies with catalogs Visuell, a major
German photography magazine, has identified 107 agencies from around the world
that have picture catalogs available in Europe. Included in these catalogs are
a total of 447,352 images.
There are some obvious discrepancies in the Visuell statistics. Some agencies
that simply handle catalogs produced by other agencies have listed the total
number of images they represent in what they report. Thus, the same image may
be counted several times and we have no way to determine how often this happens.
On the other hand some of the major stock agencies that produce catalogs that
are available in Europe are not listed. These include: FPG International, The
Stock Market, Westlight, Superstock. The numbers listed for Tony Stone and
Comstock also seem to be lower than what I believe is the actual number of
catalog images available.
Given all these caveats, it still may be useful to consider what the average
annual gross sale of a catalog image might be. If we assume that 50% of the
worldwide sale of all stock photography is from catalog images then the gross
dollar figure would be $350,000,000 per year. If we divide the 447,352 images
into this we get the average gross sale of a catalog image, per year to be $782.
If we further assume that because of sub-agency commission the photographer is
receiving on average 35% of the gross sale of his or her images then the
photographer is receiving, on average, $273 per catalog image per year.
Photographers who have images in catalogs may find it useful to compare their
personal results with these figures as a general guideline.
Number of Stock Agencies
I have a mailing list of about 400 agencies pulled from various sources. PACA
says there are approximately 2500 agencies worldwide.
PACA also accepts the figure of $700 million gross sales for the industry which
means that the average agency is grossing under $250,000 a year in sales. And,
given the millions in sales that we know a few of the top agencies are making, a
huge percentage of the organizations that call themselves stock agencies must
have annual gross sales of well under $100,000 per year. After they start
splitting that with their photographers this is not necessarily a great business
to be in.