61 International Stock
January 10, 1997
Any serious stock photographer must consider the international market for their
work. Over 50% of the market for stock photography is outside US borders, and
many US photographers make much more than 50% of their stock income from foreign
One of the most interesting developments in the past year was a meeting of
stock agents in New York after Viscomm. This meeting was organized by PACA and
agents from around the world were invited in the first attempt to share
information. More than 155 agencies were represented by 260 individuals.
This meeting was closed to the press and to U.S. agencies who are not PACA
members. It is my understanding that many details of what took place in the
meeting were shared with PDN, but not other members of the press. I strongly
recommend that you watch PDN for a report on this meeting as any insights you
can obtain may be very valuable in your future marketing strategies.
According to our sources a few of the issues that were discussed in this
- The fact that many photographers have similar images with many different
agencies around the world may soon become a very big problem as electronic
promotion, online research and delivery of images begin to tear down the
traditional system of "sales territories."
It is unclear how this will affect "sub-agency" licensees of large agencies.
Many large agencies are moving aggressively to actually own their foreign
offices. (However, once the office is owned that doesn't mean their
photographers get a better percentage. In most cases photographers still get
The general assumption seemed to be that eventually the major producing
agencies would provide images to many of the world's customers through central
file servers and thus eliminate the agent-licensee structure. However, the
general conclusion was that full adoption of such a delivery system will take
many years giving the regional licensing agencies time to adjust.
- It was felt that there would always be a place for the small local operations
because they would always draw certain customers because of their strong
coverage of regional photo subjects. The small agencies will need to examine
whether they can sustain a business on the demand for "regional subjects" alone,
or whether the uniqueness of their file when compared to the files of the major
agencies will be enough to continue to draw sufficient clients.
- Rights control is one way "traditional stock" can distinguish itself from
royalty-free images. Expect to see much more emphasis on exclusives so the
agencies can offer rights control. At the same time it was pointed out that
many of the agencies promoting rights control don't really have effective
tracking systems in place.
- It was reported that in the United Kingdom (one of the major world centers
for book publishing) the book publishers seem to be united in NOT being able to
relate what they see on the computer screen to what will appear on the printed
page. They prefer lightboxes and loupes and view digital search and delivery
with dread. Expect this segment of the market to be very slow to accept the new
technologies. At the same time they don't want to pay enough for usage to make
it economical for agencies to continue to do research in the old ways.
- 85% of PACA members say sales are on the increase with 11% reporting
slippage, and 4% suggesting little or no change. Reproduction fees are climbing
for 35% of the agencies and flat for 53%. 32% of PACA members said royalty-free
images have had some effect on their business.