GD:USA Annual Stock Survey

Posted on 9/28/2004 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)



September 28, 2004

For 18 years Graphic Design:USA has been publishing an annual Stock Visual Survey in its August issue that gages designers opinions of Stock Photography. Over the years this survey has charted the rise in use of stock visuals -- initially Rights Managed and in recent years showing a much greater emphasis on RF -- and it has always provided important insights into this segment of the buying community.

This year they mailed more than 1,200 surveys and for the third straight year over 90% of those responding indicated that they had used stock in the past year.

Some additional highlights of the report include that 91% of those who use stock use some RF. Creatives see it as providing everything that RM offers with more speed, ease, affordability, 24/7 access and no potential hassle. Despite this heavy use of RF 62% of the respondents said they used some RM images in the last year.

When using RF there is a recognition and fear that the same image will appear in a competitor's communication. But, according to GD:USA, "Many designers tell us that exclusivity is overrated because so many design executions now involve manipulating the underlying stock image beyond recognition, and because the constantly growing pool of choices minimizes the risk of duplication." Some indicated that RM images are only necessary when they are used as part of a branding strategy.

One designer said, "The problem with RM is paying for multiple uses and the hassle of worrying about renewal issues."

More and more creatives are accepting online searches as sufficient. 81% of respondents said they search for imagery and digital content online while only 46% said the use print catalogs and this was down from 63% in 2003. Use of CD catalogs fell as did use of stock researchers. One designer indicated that a weakness in online searching is that searches can sometimes become a black hole in terms of time and suggested that while this process may save the clients money on photos, designers need to find ways to charge for their search time.

Designers are using stock because of: tight budgets, short turnaround times, demanding clients and digital workflow. One designer pointed out that the fast turnaround that is often required makes it difficult to fit photo shoots into such busy, tight schedules. For many the cost and logistics of location shooting is not in the budget.

They liked that providers are offering more diversity, reality and grit or edginess in their collections. They like images with more spontaneity. The designers believe that the ethnic diversity has improved, but some feel it still suffers from forced ethnicity. Some complained that images are too tightly cropped and don't provide enough bleed space.

The use of footage was up slightly from 2003 with 29% saying they had used some footage. Other recent GD:USA reader surveys have shown increased use of motion in interactive projects, web, television, cinema and kiosks.

When asked if they spend more total dollars on RM or RF, 41% said they spend more on RM, but 46% said they spend more on RF (indicating that they are using a lot more images than they could use if they were paying RM prices.)

The subjects in greatest demand in order of priority were :

1 - People

2 - Business & Industry

3 - Lifestyle

3 - Abstracts, backgrounds and concepts

4 - Nature, Wildlife and Agriculture

5 - Food and Beverages

6 - Medicine, Science and Technology

7 - Travel and Transportation

8 - Historical and Vintage

9 - Fine Art

10 - Sports and Games

11 - Home and Interiors

12 - Celebrities

Linda Manthey of Nationwide Advertising in Ohio, indicated that a useful service portals could provide would be a section on sites where the RF buyer could search through thumbnails of all the CD images and individually-purchased (online) images that they had already purchased. She indicated that with most sites it is very difficult to know which images are owned and available to use and which need to be purchased for use.

Laura Powell of Riddick Corporation in Richmond, VA said, "Stock is much better than in the past. The quality is great, the images are more 'spontaneous," and the ability to instantly have hi-resolution images downloaded for immediate usage is so convenient. With so much available to so many, why doesn't the cost go down?"

Anybody want to explain to her why the cost is not dropping????

Copyright © 2004 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:  


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