Lightrocket: Marketing Opportunity And More

Posted on 12/18/2013 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (4)

Over time royalty rates have declined. Usage fees have dropped dramatically in the last few years. And the huge oversupply of images is making it less likely that any images will ever be licensed. Faced with these facts many photographers have pulled back on new production of stock images, if not dropped out of the stock photo business entirely. Now, Lightrocket offers a marketing option that may make some of those businesses sustainable.

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Copyright © 2013 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 301-251-0720, 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:  


  • Paul Smith Posted Dec 18, 2013
    Their business model just doesn't add up. They don't take any commission on sales and they don't charge buyers any fees to browse etc. So, apart from any deal they may have with Getty, their income is from the subscriptions paid by their contributors.

    Currently, they list almost 300 contributors. Even assuming that each contributor is paying the premium annual rate of $49, that only totals just under $15,000 annual income for the business. Even if you doubles or trebled that figure it doesn't make any business sense.

    This reminds me of Digital Railroad.

  • Bill Bachmann Posted Dec 18, 2013
    Doesn't make any sense to me either. How is the company making $$$.... advertising on the side of the pictures?? More needed here, Jim.

    Seems like the main problem in the business is the constant lowering of fees PERIOD! As I have called it often "The Race To The Bottom"

  • Jim Pickerell Posted Dec 20, 2013
    There certainly is some similarity to Digital Railroad and to PhotoShelter. They make their money off the monthly and annual fees. They also have an advantage over the other two in that they have the images from their "On Asia" site on Lightrocket and I presume they are still getting royalties from licensing those images.

    Thus, they have simply taken a going business and added on an additional feature that should generate more revenue for them.

    They may not be able to make it work, but PhotoShelter has built a pretty successful business offering web sites and cloud storage for photographers.

    The big advantage is that photographers get to set the price for their work and keep 100% of any sales they make.

    Bill, if you think fees are constantly being lowered wouldn't it be better to keep 100% of whatever fee you could get rather than giving 50% to 80% of it away to a distributor? And maybe you could even get a little higher fee if you were doing the negotiating rather than your distributors.

    The big question is whether they can get enough customers to actually use the site and go directly to the photographer rather than to one of his distributors. That may not work, but it costs very little to test it out.

    Everyone is complaining that fees and royalties are too low. Here's someone that is offering a solution that might -- and I stress might -- turn that around.

    The Getty deal is optional and it seems to me that if RM sellers have any hope of surviving they have to find a way to start dealing directly with customers and forget about dealing through distributors like Getty.

  • Bill Bachmann Posted Dec 21, 2013
    Good comments, Jim. But here are my points:

    1. I don't think enough photographers are going to sign up ..... making not enough $ for the company, first.
    2. Since not enough sign up, that will make the site not very useful to satisfy the customers who buy images to use that site. Won't be enough good content for them to keep coming back to find images.
    3. I would hope it would do well for photographers to keep 100%, but how are they going to market the site to buyers with so few photographers "kicking in" fees?

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