Getty Disconnect: Is More Images And Less Editing Working?

Posted on 9/25/2014 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

I recently received a note from a frustrated Getty Images RM photographer who has been with Getty since they acquired Tony Stone Images in the 1990s, and whose images have earned millions of dollars for Getty in more than two decades.

This photographer would like to contribute more images to the RM collection, but is limited to 20 images per-quarter. Images were recently returned to him because he submitted them before the beginning of the new quarter.

Meanwhile, Getty seems to be adding tons of images to its collection from part-timers and social media contributors.

Back in 2006 Getty had a tightly edited Creative Stills collection of 973,933 RM images and 787,281 RF images for a total of 1,761,214 images. RM represented 55% of the collection and Creative Stills sales totaled $580.79 million.

In 2006 Getty licensed a total of 1,661,696 images, or almost one license for every image they had in the collection. The average price of an RM image in that year was $535 and the average price of an RF image was $242.

I don’t have good tracking of the number of images in Creative Stills between 2006 and 2014, but in late February of 2014 they had a 9,464,907 images in Creative Stills. In only 7 months that numbers has jumped by almost 10% to 10,383,000. On the other hand Getty is expected to gross less than $300 million from the Creative Stills collection (that’s RM plus RF) in 2014.

Today 4,292,502 of the images in the Creative Stills collection are RM. Now RM only represents about 41% of the Creative Stills collection instead of the 55% back in 2006. When 55% of the images were RM their licensing represented only 48% of Creative Stills revenue. Now that the percentage of RM images in the collection has dropped from 55% to 41% it seems reasonable to assume that RM only represents 40% or less of Getty’s Creative stills revenue, or something in the range of $120 million.

Getty no longer provides hard data, but sources indicate these numbers are in the ballpark. Thus, RM revenue for Getty has dropped from $325.7 million in 2006 to in the neighborhood of $120 million today. In addition, 4.4 times as many images are competing for those RM dollars.

Where Do All These Images Come From?

Getting back to the total number of images. In a recent article I pointed out that 24.5% of the RF images in Getty’s Creative Stills collection are from iStock. and another 17% come from Flickr. In addition these iStock and Flickr images are given search return preference ( when customers search on the Getty site.

I don’t want to disparage the quality of these iStock and Flickr images. Many of them are of equal quality to the images produced by the RM and RF contributors who submit their images directly to Getty. But, it seems that some RM contributors might have a better chance or getting their images accepted, seen and maybe earn more revenue if they submitted them to iStock and posted them on Flickr rather than submitting them directly to Getty.

Real Images

In an effort to get more natural images Getty also seems to be going after images shot with iPhones mostly by amateurs and hobbyists. Recently, they began accepting images from On September 9th there were 64,157 images in the EyeEm collection. Today there are 102,698. There are 19,325 people images. Most of them are not released and have a note that says, “No release, but release may not be required.” Other subjects that can be found are: 44,358 keyworded Nature; 16,856 keyworded scenic,18,820 keyworded Architecture and 25,821 keyworded Beauty. (Many have three of these four keywords.)

If you do a general search for “Beauty” on the Getty site, most of the first 1,000 images shown are of beautiful women (with a few men and flowers thrown in). When customers use this term in searches they are usually thinking of women. With the EyeEm collection you get mostly scenics and flowers and virtually no women.

While Getty might seem to be going after a lot “real images” shot by real people, given the keywording and the way Getty weights search return order most of these images may never be seen by customers. 

Copyright © 2014 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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