Is Getty Really Analyzing Its Image Collection?

Posted on 6/20/2018 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

One has to wonder if Getty does any analysis of their Creative Collection in terms of what sells and what doesn’t. Clearly, as we reported yesterday, the largest and fastest growing segment of the Getty collection is EyeEM with 4,558,201 RF images.

Back in August 2016 EyeEm had only recently started contributing to Getty Images and had 256,152 images in the collection. They have 17.79 times as many images now as in 2016. At that time Getty had a total of 16,687,710 images in the Creative Collection. That collection has grown 43% in size in two years, but nothing like EyeEm’s 1779% growth.

Are EyeEm’s images really what customers want to buy? Based on yesterday analysis, 19% of Getty’s total collection is made up of EyeEm images. If the EyeEm proportional share of images are generating an equal percentage of Getty revenue that would be roughly $53 million annually. A 20% royalty share for EyeEm would be about $10.6 million. I doubt that EyeEm is adding anywhere near that amount to Getty’s total revenue, particularly since as best I can determine Getty’s gross Creative Revenue generated annually has hardly increased at all in the last two years.

If EyeEm images represent such a large share of the collection, why don’t they represent a corresponding share of revenue? It is not because image quality is lacking. I’m sure many EyeEm photographers are producing beautiful, well crafted images. My theory is that the problem lies in the fact that the majority of what EyeEm photographers produce is not of subject matter that customers want to buy. Most of the images don’t fulfill the commercial needs of customers.

EyeEm says they have 100 million images from 20 million creators. That means the average creator has 5 images on the EyeEm site. The 4,558,201 images on the Getty site are only a small percentage from the best and most active contributor to EyeEm. Still, if I’m right, these contributors are not producing what customers want to buy. This is a very easy fact for Getty to determine.

Most of these EyeEm photographer take pictures of what occurs in front of them; what they love. They want to express themselves, create their own art and show their artistic expressions to others. There is nothing wrong with that, but such pictures tend not to be what commercial users want when they are looking for something to help them sell their products and services. There are exceptions. But, I contend, in the whole scheme of things the exceptions are rare.

Other Collections

Now, I’d like to take a look at a few of the other Creative Collections on

  Collection Collection   Getty Average Collection
  Size in Size in   Gross based on Growth
  2016 2018   $11.70 per-image 2 years
Caiaimage 26,332 35,594   $416,450 26%
Maskot 22,313 32,203   $376,775 31%
Hero Images 41,317 56,828   $664,888 27%
StockFood Creative 35,110 34,340   $401,778 minus 2%
Aurora 39,917 40,326   $471,814 1%
Nature Picture Library 11,940 16,038   $187,645 26%
Johner Images 63,503 78,976   $924,019 24%
Oxford Scientific 62,075 60,876   $712,249 minus 2%
Tetra Images 91,957 94,828   $1,109,488 3%
Science Photo Library 93,188 90,453   $1,058,300 minus 3%
Science Source 99,544 98,698   $1,154,767 minus 1%
Westend61 149,011 265,648   $3,108,082 44%
Blend Images 343,271 200,696   $2,348,143 minus 71%
National Geographic 223,188 255,581   $2,990,298 13%
  1,302,666 1,361,085      

Remember that the figure in the Getty Average Gross column is total revenue for Getty. The agency or production company gets somewhere between 15% and 40% of that number.

My bet is that the collections of virtually all of these image suppliers are earning much more than Getty’s average of $11.70 per-images-in-the-collection. That’s because these companies have carefully analyzed and studied the market and know the kind of pictures customers want to buy.

They examine their sales reports. When they discover images that a variety of customers use frequently they go out and find new and better locations where they can produce more images that solve the same problem. If necessary, they hire better models and buy better props. They stage the images so they have a more contemporary and candid look, but make no mistake they are carefully planned. They don’t waste time shooting more of the kind of images that have been in the collection for a long time and never licensed.

Groups that have larger collections have an advantage over individual photographer because they make a greater variety of sales and as a consequence have a broader understanding of what is in demand, and what isn’t. Some of these organizations have a very small numbers of actual shooters. Others, share what they have learned with their best photographers so the photographers can be more productive.

In some cases, where there has been little or no growth in the size of the collection in the last 2 years, many of the groups photographers have discovered that at todays prices they can no longer justify the expense of producing new work. These photographers have cut their production costs to a bare bones minimum and still can’t justify new production, even when they have a clear idea of the subject matter that is in demand.

Blend Images

In the case of Blend images in 2016 about half of their collection was RM and the rest RF. Getty was licensing more and more RM images at RF prices and encouraging all photographers to convert their RM images to RF. Rather than make the conversion many photographers pulled their images from the collection. Others stopped producing new images.

In the middle of 2017 Getty lowered the royalty share it pays to Blend to 15%. As a result, based on the average-annual-rate of return, Blend would have received about $352,221 of the $2,348,143 Getty earned from licensing the Blend images in the last 12 months. Photographers receive between 50% and 75% of the amount paid to Blend.

In fact, I suspect Blend earned much more than $352,221 because, despite the age of their 200,696 images, these images will tend to be licensed at a much higher rate, and for higher fees, than the average image in the Getty collection. But, if that is true then a very large percentage of the other Creative Collections represented by Getty are not earning anywhere near the average $11.70 per image.

In April 2018, Blend announced that it intends to close down operations by October 2018. It is unclear what will happen to the images still represented by Getty. Rumor has it that at least some of the photographers will leave their images with Getty on an exclusive basis and Getty will pay future royalties to them directly.

I May Be Wrong

There is a lot of theory and speculation in this story. I may be wrong. Maybe the EyeEM images are selling just as well as those of Caiaimage, Maskot and the others and the average return per image in the collection is declining at about the same rate for everyone.
    (In 2015, I believe that Getty’s gross Creative Collection revenue was about the same $280 million as in 2018. Thus, with only 16,687,710 images in the collection at that time the average annual return per-image-in-the-collection would have been about $16.77, a 43% increase over what it is today.)
Most of the new images added in the last two years have not been shot by pros who have been studying the market and trying to produce more of what customers have shown they want to buy, but by amateurs who are taking pictures of things that make them feel good.

If we count the Moment collection (mostly from Flickr photographers) and foap about 13% of the images in the Getty Creative Collection in 2016 were produced by amateurs. Today, at least 33% of the collection has been shot by amateurs.

This should not be new information to Getty. If they had been carefully analyzing their data, this trend should have been evident for a long time. Nevertheless, there is no evidence that they are trying to do anything to support and encourage professional photographers who understand what the customers want and have shown they know how to produce what professional users will buy.

The Getty staff has convinced themselves that customers want more “candid, real” pictures and they have been loading up their collection with that kind of photography. If that is really what the customers are buying, that’s fine. But, I don’t think so. A little data analysis would give Getty a clear answer.

If they are wrong and I’m right, they need to make a major change quickly before they lose all the photographers who know how to produce the images customers want to buy.

Copyright © 2018 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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