Future Value Of Stock Images

Posted on 4/29/2019 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

I was asked recently to appraise the value of a collection of stock images that were being donated. Back in the 1990s and even the early 2000s this would have been a relatively easy task. I would look at the revenue the collection had generated in previous years, determine the rate of revenue decline year over year and assess, based on the type of imagery, the length of time they might continue to have commercial value.

In this case the collection was one of wildlife images that had earned very good money in the past. Wildlife imagery doesn’t go out of date. (A good tiger picture will look the same 20 or 40 years from now and no one will be able to tell when it was actually taken.)

Nevertheless, based on the state of the industry, and current trends, I couldn’t come up with a way to estimate a reasonable “future value” of this imagery.

Consider, for example, that on average each Shutterstock creator earns $0.63 per image in the collection and that figure declines every year. At Getty Images it is a little better. The average creator earns about $2.00 per image in the collection, but that number is also going down annually. The average license fee for a Creative image at Getty has declined about 95% since 2006.

So what about useful life? If imagery has declined 95% in 12 years, how long will it be before it drops to $0.00.

I know one of the more successful Shutterstock photographers who has over 10,000 images in the Shutterstock collection. He earns about $12,000 a year. By putting those same 10,000 images with 18 different additional agencies he is able to earn an additional $24,000 a year. On a per-image basis his overall return is declining every year. It is also a lot of work to manage 18 different agencies. In addition, given the subject matter of his content I think it is likely to sell a lot better than even the best wildlife images because there is more demand for his type of work, and less supply relative to demand than there is for wildlife images.

Some photographers think they can beat the odds by uploading a lot of similar images from the same shoot. If they can earn $0.63 per image and upload 100 slightly different views from the same 2-hour shoot that’s $63. Maybe that isn’t too bad. But the chances of making such a strategy work are slim.

More than 650,000 photographers, videographers, musicians, artists and designers have contributed to the Shutterstock collection. On average each has a little less than 400 pieces of content in the collection and earns a total of about $250 per year. Doing that much work for so little pay is not an activity for a professional.

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 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.  


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