Disintermediating: Can Photographers Go It Alone?

Posted on 5/16/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (3)

An increasing number of stock photographers are fed up with low prices and low royalty percentages and are looking for a way to get out of the whole agency/distributor rat race. Many are setting up their own sites and are looking for ways deal more directly with their customers. They recognize that they won’t make as many sales, but feel that the higher fees they will receive for each use will generate more total income in the long run. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that by licensing their images directly to end users photographers would receive 10 or more times the revenue for each image licensed compared to what they are receiving from their agencies now.

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Copyright © 2011 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 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.  


  • Moly R Yim Posted May 17, 2011
    This is a great post, Jim. Thanks for continually putting up quality content.

    Do you know of any examples of photographers who have gone down the Disintermediated Road? Of course there are the many examples offered up by the likes of PhotoShelter and PhotoDeck who use those solutions, but I'm more interested in ones who have completely gone independent, like Jim Erickson — essentially defining every last detail of their own business from business model, to pricing, to technology, to design.

    As a designer and buyer, I do have to disagree somewhat with the point about buyers wanting to go to a central source for photos. I personally am always more than happy to check out individual photographers' websites, especially if they offer their own archived collections up as stock, as it makes me feel confident in knowing that I will get a consistent style from a single photographer. If said photographer specializes in a certain area (and of course is good), I will remember that particular photographer's website and work specifically and go back to it when I have a client project that I know could benefit greatly from using their unique style of imagery.

    All I can say is, from my personal perspective, disintermediating can only be a really good thing for the stock photo industry.

  • Bill Bachmann Posted May 18, 2011
    The article does give pause for thinking. I feel the best way is to have that agency representation (NOT RF or Microstock, but RM where fees are stronger) and combine that with selling to my own clients direct. That works for us.... I have a lot of clients who come directly to my travel & lifestyle imagery, and that pays 100% (of very good fees still --- sold a cover in April for $2500 direct). It is all about VALUING your work and not giving t away in Microstock for mere pennies. I would rather drive a truck than sell an image for $5.


  • John Harris Posted May 28, 2011
    Very interesting thank you. Large libraries only aggregating content without adding value by editing will be increasingly vulnerable to other forms of aggregation, especially if the alternatives add value. However, the system you propose may be just as vulnerable, if not more so with the removal of the middleman, to a continuing coercive downward price spiral. As long as photographers give pictures away for very little money the issues of sustainability and quality will not become the countervailing force which creates a more differentiated market... John H

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