Finding The Right Image Gets Harder For Creatives

Posted on 2/28/2019 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Did you know it takes Creatives twice as long to find an image that will work for their project as it did just 4 years ago?

This is one of the facts that was uncovered in Visualsteam’s Annual Survey of Creative Pros. This 35-page report is packed with other information and insights that should help image licensors and image creators as they plan for the future. The report can be purchased for $69.95 by contacting fnyrf@ivfhnyfgrnz.pbz

Creative professionals who are 50 or older long for the days 20 to 30 years ago when they could call one or more stock agencies and talk to an experience researcher with intimate knowledge of the agency’s collection. Often the researcher and the customer worked together regularly, knew each other well and the researcher had a good understanding of the kind of imagery the customer usually used.

The customer would quickly describe her current needs, and then get back to her other work for the day. The researcher would go through the agency’s files, put together 50 or 100 transparencies that were on target to the customer’s needs and ship them off for the customer to review. Within minutes of receiving the shipment the customer would either be able to find the right image for the project, or know for sure that this particular agency didn’t have what they needed. Either way the customer was then able to get on with the rest of the day’s work.

Of course, those over 50 are no longer doing much of the design work on specific projects. They are in management now. It’s the 20 and 30 year olds who do most of the picture research and design work. They have no idea what the good old days were like. They just struggle trough.

How Did We Get Here?

With the introduction of the Internet stock agencies decided that they could get rid of all the editing and picture research costs. Let the buyers do the work. The agencies would just let the buyers look at everything and technology would solve the problems.

Agencies were able to dramatically cut certain cost and lower prices. However, it is not clear that the added technology costs didn’t eat up all the editing cost savings .

The new key to success was “More Image.” The agency with the most image would be the winner. No matter how hard they made it for customers to find what they need. Give the customer more control. If the agency had everything then the right image must be there somewhere. It’s just the customers job to find it.

The problem is that customers wanted help, not more control.

So How Are Customers Reacting?

First off, they do have choices. If they have to spend hours on stock agency websites finding the right photograph, maybe it’s easier to use their graphic artist skills to create a graphic illustration for the project. Or they might grab a few elements from various photos on the Internet and using the tools Adobe provides create their own unique image.

Or using their cell phone they might create the illustration they need (or at least some elements of it) themselves.

In any of these cases they get the job done faster and they don’t need to go to stock photography at all. They create what hey need themselves.

Back in 2016,I reported the experiences of one art director that is worth considering. The art director contacted Cavan Images to express his gratitude for their collection, stating that Cavan was literally saving his marriage.  He had been working 80-hour weeks, spending a large portion of his time combing through stock photo collections in search of high quality lifestyle images. Once he discovered Cavan he was able to significantly cut down his time spent searching – by over 8 hours each week – allowing him to get home in time for dinner with his wife and daughter.

The industry is adding more image, but if Shutterstock’s experiences are any guide they seeing very little growth in unit sales.

At today’s prices there is probably no way to re-hire those picture researchers who performed such a valuable service in the past. However, the more clutter we add to the collections the more incentive we’re giving the buyers to go somewhere else to find the images they need.

Copyright © 2019 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:  


Be the first to comment below.

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