How The Value Of Stock Photos Has Declined

Posted on 3/7/2019 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Back in 2007 I was called on to place a value on a collection of wildlife stock images that were involved in a legal action.

At the time I based the per-image value on the “average annual return-per-image” of the Getty Images collection. By dividing the gross 2006 RM revenue by the total RM images in the collection I determined that the average annual gross license fee for an RM image was $335. At the time most RM sellers were getting a 40% royalty which worked out to about a $134 royalty to the photographer per-image in the collection.

Since these were wildlife images and such images are unlikely to generate as much revenue as people and lifestyle image, I took 80% of the $134 and placed the value of each wildlife image at $107 in 2007.

Twelve years later the owner of this collection is preparing to donate the images for a tax write off and trying to determine the fair market value of the images today. Nothing has been added to the collection, or removed from it.

I decided to use the same strategy used 12 years earlier to place a value on this collection.

In 2018 I believe Getty’s Creative collection of both RM and RF images generated about $280 million. There are currently 30,039,307 images in the collection and 6,445,565 of them, or 21% are RM images. In 2007 about 55% of the collection was RM. The other 45% were RF.

I assumed that in 2018 the RM images represented about 21% of the revenue, or $58.8 million. Thus, had this collection of images been part of the Getty collection, on average each image would have generated about $9.12 in gross sales in 2018.

Now most RM sellers receive royalties of 30% instead of 40% of the gross sale which means photographers would receive, on average, about $2.73 per images in 2018. Thus, in 2018 RM images are worth about 2.5% of what they were worth in 2007.

Comparative Results

To be fair, this trend has been happening with all stock photo sales, not just Getty. When the leading seller in the industry continually lowers prices, it is hard for smaller players to keep their prices at reasonable levels. They may be able to charge slightly higher prices for a while, but eventually they find it necessary to come close to matching the prices of the leader in order to continue to attract customers.

One might also expect the average value of images in a static collection where no new images are being added to steadily decline. But previous to 2007 the value didn’t decline quite so rapidly.

My own collection of about 800 mostly people and lifestyle images was never represented by Getty, but it was, and still is, represented by multiple agencies around the world. I stopped adding to that collection in about 1995.

In 1997 the collection generated about $67,000 in revenue for me. By 2007 that was down about 70% to around $20,000. In 2018 earnings from my image collection had dropped to $1,473, about 7% of 2007 earnings and only 2% or 1997 earnings. This gives you some idea of the overall decline in the value of stock images.

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:  


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