Less Image Use Ahead

Posted on 8/4/2015 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

In the subscription environment customers pay for -- and the image creators receive a royalty for -- many images that are never used in any type of deliverable product. Nobody knows how many.

Adobe Stock has changed all that. Now Adobe gives users free use to any images considered during the users design and creative processes. Users only pay for the images that actually end up in a deliverable product. As a result, creators may begin to see a significant decline in the number of images licensed.

Based on the figures Shutterstock reports, I estimate that about $143 million of the company’s $328 million in sales in 2014 resulted from subscriptions. Customers pay $2,388 for a year’s subscription and about 20% more if they purchase month to month. However, I assume most subscription customer pay for the whole year.

Divide $2,388 into $143 million and we find that Shutterstock has approximately 59,883 subscription customers worldwide. We know, based on the royalty Shutterstock pays contributors, that they earn about $1.25 per image downloaded. Divide that $1.25 into $143 million and we find that about 114,400,000 downloads in 2014 resulted from subscription licensing.

Each customer with an annual subscription has the right to download 9,000 images per year, but based on the numbers above we know that on average each customer only downloads about 1,910 images per-year, or about 159 per-month. Of course some will download many more and other less.

Given Shutterstock’s Image-on-Demand pricing it would probably be cheaper to purchase a subscription if the customer actually uses more than 19 images a month. So it seems safe to assume that, on average, Shutterstock subscription customers download between 19 and 159 images per month.

Anecdotally, we know that subscription customers tend to download many more images than they actually use in their final deliverable products. They use them in their design process and often make several test designs before a final version is approved. They save images they think might be useful for still undefined future projects. As they search a collection it if often faster to download images they think might work as they come to them rather than making a final decision before downloading anything. No one has any idea of how many images are downloaded and never used because there is no reporting of actual use.

We do know that when customers are charged an additional fee for every image they download they tend to download many fewer images. Shutterstock’s Image-on-Demand customers download about one image for every ten downloaded through subscription. I have estimated that from all sources worldwide there were about 150 million images downloaded via subscriptions in 2014 and about 40 million where the customers paid for each image downloaded. Thus, I estimate that somewhere between 4 and 9 of all the images downloaded through a subscription never end up in a finished, deliverable product.


Then we turn to the distinctive difference in the Adobe subscription offer. Adobe subscriptions start at $29.99 per month for 10 images and $2.99 for each additional image actually used. Adobe allows the user to download as many images as they wish, store them in the cloud, and use them in their design process, all at no charge. Customers only pay for the images they actually use in a finished, deliverable project.

So, if the average customer uses 159 images a month it would cost that customer $476 which is certainly more than the $199 Shutterstock charges for subscriptions. But, if the Shutterstock customer only actually uses 66 of the 159 images downloaded, or less, it would be cheaper to get them through Adobe.

The big question is how many of the huge number of downloads we have been seeing are actually being used in finished products. Only time will tell.

Copyright © 2015 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 www.selling-stock.com, 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: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


  • Robert Ingelhart Posted Aug 22, 2015
    Customers can already download comps for various versions of designs before they choose an actual photo, it will just have a watermark. The other aspect is that at this point, Fotolia doesn't really have a good variety of quality images like other sites have. That of course, can improve but it would seem that artists might be reluctant to load images to Fotolia if it over-commoditizes its inventory.

Post Comment

Please log in or create an account to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive email notification when new stories are posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

Stock Photo Pricing: The Future
In the last two years I have written a lot about stock photo pricing and its downward slide. If you have time over the holidays you may want to review some of these stories as you plan your strategy ...
Read More
Future Of Stock Photography
If you’re a photographer that counts on the licensing of stock images to provide a portion of your annual income the following are a few stories you should read. In the past decade stock photography ...
Read More
Blockchain Stories
The opening session at this year’s CEPIC Congress in Berlin on May 30, 2018 is entitled “Can Blockchain be applied to the Photo Industry?” For those who would like to know more about the existing blo...
Read More
2017 Stories Worth Reviewing
The following are links to some 2017 and early 2018 stories that might be worth reviewing as we move into the new year.
Read More
Stories Related To Stock Photo Pricing
The following are links to stories that deal with stock photo pricing trends. Probably the biggest problem the industry has faced in recent years has been the steady decline in prices for the use of ...
Read More
Stock Photo Prices: The Future
This story is FREE. Feel free to pass it along to anyone interested in licensing their work as stock photography. On October 23rd at the DMLA 2017 Conference in New York there will be a panel discuss...
Read More
Important Stock Photo Industry Issues
Here are links to recent stories that deal with three major issues for the stock photo industry – Revenue Growth Potential, Setting Bottom Line On Pricing and Future Production Sources.
Read More
Recent Stories – Summer 2016
If you’ve been shooting all summer and haven’t had time to keep up with your reading here are links to a few stories you might want to check out as we move into the fall. To begin, be sure to complet...
Read More
Corbis Acquisition by VCG/Getty Images
This story provides links to several stories that relate to the Visual China Group (VCG) acquisition of Corbis and the role Getty Images has been assigned in the transfer of Corbis assets to the Gett...
Read More
Finding The Right Image
Many think search will be solved with better Metadata. While metadata is important, there are limits to how far it can take the customer toward finding the right piece of content. This story provides...
Read More

More from Free Stuff