422 GETTY'S U.S. SCANNING CLOSED
August 13, 2001
Getty has laid off most of the people in PhotoDisc who were charged with scanning and cleanup of new
images. This department in Seattle was the only place in the U.S. where major scanning was being
The official explanation from Getty Public Relations is, "We are integrating our scanning labs and
transferring that function to our London facility. All other production functions and the staff that
perform them remain in Seattle."
PR also said, "None of the staffing reductions impact our ability to serve our customers or our
potential to grow."
Seattle was doing around 2700 scans a month unless they had a big batch of clipping paths which
reduced output. Seattle handled clipping path work for all brands, worldwide.
No other scanning was being done in the U.S. When Getty bought a new company they closed down the
scanning operation. Eyewire in Calgary, Canada had a major scanning operation when they were
purchased, but it is our understanding that operation was closed down when Getty started moving the
Eyewire operation to Seattle.
Sources tell us that previous to the recent firings Seattle had:
4 scanner operators, 3 scanner assistants, 7 retouchers, 1 manager,
1 director, 3 editors, 4 keyworders, 1 art director and 4 people mastering.
All that are left are: 2 retouchers doing clipping paths and 4 people mastering. Presumably, this work
load will be picked up by London.
In addition to all the PhotoDisc scans, this department did most of the re-scanning of the TIB images.
The majority of London's work has been for Stone and Hulton. London also picked up some of the extra
from TIB, VCG and Allsport, all of which had no separate production facilities.
We have been unable to find out how many staff doing scanning and retouching are in the London
department. One photographer who has shot for both PhotoDisc and Stone has pointed out that his
PhotoDisc images always got up online very quickly after they were shot. His work for Stone has taken
months, if not more than a year, after he shot it to get online.
Sources tell me that London has always complained that Seattle was not efficient enough. Seattle says
London hasn't maintained their high quality standards. I understand London makes a lot of scans from
dupes. Seattle insisted on scanning originals. London says they can do 40 scans per-person per-shift.
The person doing the scanning does all the retouching. Seattle had assigned different people to
scanning and retouching in order to maintain a high level of quality.
Keep in mind that in the drum scanning process it is necessary to spend a lot of time carefully
putting the images on the drum and in cleaning the oil off the images after the scanning process is
finished. It is hard to see how a person involved in this process can jump back and forth to
retouching and do either job effectively. However, it is not clear how London manages its work flow.
It appears that the annual salaries of the people fired were in the range of $30,000 to $45,000. The
two managers may have received more. If the intention is to replace these people in the UK, salaries
there seem to be somewhat lower, but not much. Thus, it seems unlikely that there will be much, if
any, of a cost savings, if Getty plans to continue scanning the same number of images in one location
that they were formerly doing in two.
It is very likely that, regardless of anything the new photographer contract might indicate, fewer new
images will be scanned and uploaded to the site than has been the case in the last year or so.
Photographers who have been hoping that more of their old images will be put on the site once the
contract is signed should temper their optimism.
Photographers who want to get new images up online should probably deliver images scanned to Getty's
specifications rather than just supply film.
Given the reduced staff it looks like most of the re-scanning of TIB images will stop. The chance that
many more of the old FPG or VCG images will get scanned in the near future seems slim.
You may have a large company with 2,000 employees, but one small area can have a dramatic effect on
the fortunes of the entire operation. If you were manufacturing cars and suddenly there was no way to
get starter motors, the whole assembly line would be dead.
If Getty is going to continue to scan as many images as they have in the past then they have probably
increased their costs in the short term rather than decreasing them -- given the cost of severance and
re-training. If the purpose of this move was to save money then their intent has got to be to scan
Getty may have determined that they have more than enough images in their already scanned database to
meet customer needs. Thus it is a waste of resources to continue to scan new images. If this is the
decision, then Getty doesn't need as many photographers shooting new images.
In such a case, it is difficult to see why Jonathan Klein has any concern about getting more SAA
photographers to sign the new contract. Could it be that the strategy is not to get new images, but to
hold out hope to these photographers, so they will not move to offer their work to the competition?
There is a conundrum here that is not easy to explain.