Do More Images Result In More Revenue?

Posted on 12/13/2012 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

There is a continual drive in the stock photography world to produce more images. But more images don’t necessarily result in more revenue – particularly if prices are continually lowered in an effort to try to license those images.

Yesterday, we published a story about Getty Images that estimated 2011 Creative Stills revenue at between $185 and $235 million. This was down from $560 million in 2007.  In 2007 Getty had 2,138,919 images in the creative stills collection (1,174,692 RM and 964,227 RF). Today there are 6,201,383 images in Creative Stills (3,150,559 RM and 3,050,824 RF).

Not only has Getty got three times as many images, but they are probably licensing fewer on an annual basis than they were in 2006. In 2006 they licensed 607,974 RM usages and 1,053,751 usages. Based on my analysis of their revenue Getty probably licensed at least 20% fewer uses in 2011 than in 2006.

Go to Alamy and we find that today they have 33.98 million images up from 14.28 million at the end of 2008. Revenue in 2008 was $31.2 million. For 2011, revenues were $22.9 million a 27% decline despite more than doubling of the number of images available.

We suspect the same trends are true at Corbis, no numbers are available that might verify this.

When more images are available why aren’t more licensed?

The number of available images has nothing whatsoever to do with customer needs. Year to year customer needs remain about the same. They may use a few more images this year than last, but changes tend not to be dramatic. In a few cases print customers have started offering online products. In those cases the number of images they need may increase significantly. But overall photography budgets tend to stay the same. So they look for cheaper sources, or try to get their current sources to provide them with more images for the same amount as they were paying for fewer images before.

However, if customers are really buying more images, but spending the same as they have always been spending, then the number of units licensed should be going up. That doesn’t seem to be happening.

The other explanation is that a lot of former customers are merging or going out of business. Now they are producing fewer printed products than they did in the past. (Historically, the vast majority of stock images purchased from traditional sellers were used in some type of printed product.)

Another possible solution for image distributors is to take market share from a competitor. That is very difficult for Getty because they have been the dominant player for a long time. Alamy believes that by investing more in marketing, (and keeping their prices lower than anyone else) they can take share from the other players in countries where they have had weak participation up to now.

But we know that today more images are being used online than were ever used in the past. Many of these online customers never had print products. They are totally new entrants into the business. Getty and Alamy have dropped their prices to the point where they are very competitive -- and sometimes cheaper – with microstock. Price shouldn’t be an issue. Why aren’t we getting that business? Why aren’t we licensing more units?

The simplest answer may be what a young (late 20s) Chinese art director told a stock agent recently. She said, “My generation doesn’t know Getty Images. We know iStockphoto, Shutterstock and other microstock companies. That’s where we go to get the images we need.”

There are two very distinct markets with very little cross over. Most of the Internet developers are young people who are part of the Internet generation. They understand microstock companies. They get what they need from them and haven’t bothered to look elsewhere.

Customers that use traditional stock agencies tend to be from an older generation. Or, if they are young their bosses are directing them to use traditional suppliers. However, they will use microstock for certain projects so traditional sellers lose some more sales in this manner.

Traditional distributors and individual photographers haven’t figured out how to crack the online user market. Online users don’t know where to go to find the images traditional sellers have to offer. In the rare cases when buyers know where to go; they are often turned off by the transaction process.

More images will not produce more revenue. Lower prices will not encourage customers to use more images than their projects require. Instead, traditional sellers need to better understand the new users and probably develop a totally new way to address them. Even then, given the huge and ever growing over supply it may be impossible to generate enough revenue to offset the cost of production.

Copyright © 2012 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:  


  • Karen Ducey Posted Dec 14, 2012

Post Comment

Please log in or create an account to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive email notification when new stories are posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

Stock Photo Pricing: The Future
In the last two years I have written a lot about stock photo pricing and its downward slide. If you have time over the holidays you may want to review some of these stories as you plan your strategy ...
Read More
Future Of Stock Photography
If you’re a photographer that counts on the licensing of stock images to provide a portion of your annual income the following are a few stories you should read. In the past decade stock photography ...
Read More
Blockchain Stories
The opening session at this year’s CEPIC Congress in Berlin on May 30, 2018 is entitled “Can Blockchain be applied to the Photo Industry?” For those who would like to know more about the existing blo...
Read More
2017 Stories Worth Reviewing
The following are links to some 2017 and early 2018 stories that might be worth reviewing as we move into the new year.
Read More
Stories Related To Stock Photo Pricing
The following are links to stories that deal with stock photo pricing trends. Probably the biggest problem the industry has faced in recent years has been the steady decline in prices for the use of ...
Read More
Stock Photo Prices: The Future
This story is FREE. Feel free to pass it along to anyone interested in licensing their work as stock photography. On October 23rd at the DMLA 2017 Conference in New York there will be a panel discuss...
Read More
Important Stock Photo Industry Issues
Here are links to recent stories that deal with three major issues for the stock photo industry – Revenue Growth Potential, Setting Bottom Line On Pricing and Future Production Sources.
Read More
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

More from Free Stuff