Locating Major Stock Image Producers

Posted on 5/15/2017 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Where are the major producers of stock images located? One might expect then to live in New York, London, Los Angeles and Berlin near where the major customers. We also must not forget San Francisco, Seattle and Calgary. Think again.

Recently, a Russian stock agent told me that in order to succeed in microstock a photographer needed at least 10,000 images in his collection. To me, that number seemed awfully high, but when I started checking I found that a significant number of contributors fall into that category.

Microstock.top reports that the top 200 production companies have a total of 28,118,418 images on Shutterstock, 20% of the total collection from over 190,000 contributors. Of this group the one with the fewest images in the collection had 53,096.

In addition, another 1648 contriburors with between 10,000 and 53,096 images in each of their collections have a combined total of 31,675,108 images. All together, at the present time, these 1848 companies have 59,793,526 images on Shutterstock and that represents 43% of their total 138,103,494 image collection. I suspect that the images created by these few companies generated at least $225 million of Shutterstock’s 2016 revenue, if not more.

I call these organizations production companies because it seems highly unlikely that a single contributor working alone could produce this many images in a few years. I suspect most of these companies engage several photographers to do the actual shooting as well as a host of support personnel planning shoots, identifying locations, finding models and props, art directing, building sets, retouching, keywording, uploading and providing general support.

Most, if not all, of these production companies place the same images with multiple microstock distributors. Lech Bialasiewicz of  Photographee.eu tells me that 37% of their gross revenue comes from Shutterstock, 32% from Fotolia and 12% from iStock. The other 19% comes from a host of other distributors. For a lot of North American creators, the iStock/Fotolia percentages may be in reverse, but in general I suspect these percentages remain about the same for most of the major producers.

Microstock.top only identifies 72% the countries where these 1848 contributors operate. Some with the most large producers include: Ukraine (232), Russian Federation (166), Thailand (159), Poland (57), Belarus (34), Romania (29) and Czech Republic (27). Thus, it seems likely that over half of images being used worldwide are currently being produced by creators in these seven countries.

Of those with collections of more than 10,000 images there are also 80 from the United States, 40 from Germany, 38 from the United Kingdom, 38 from Spain, 30 from Italy and 23 from Canada. Combined the creators from these countries represents only 18% of the top creators. But based on agency sales reports, I believe customers in these countries represent well over 50% of the revenue being generated from the use of stock images.

Thus, a significant percent of the images being used in the Western world are being produced in the Eastern world.

Volume Advantages

These high volume production company teams have a number of major advantages over photographers who are trying to do everything alone or with one or two assistants. First, each member of the team has an area of responsibility in which they are particularly skilled. They focus on a limited number of activities rather than trying to do everything.

Secondly, given the high volume of production the company likely has a high volume of sales. That enables them to determine what customers are actually buying and focus future production on the type of imagery that is actually in demand.

One of the hardest things for individual photographers to determine is what customers want to buy. It is not just pretty, well executed images. It not necessarily unique subjects or unique approaches to a subject that no one else has ever shot. A significant percent of customers aren’t looking for an image that no one has ever seen before, they are just looking for an image that works for their particular need. Often that turns out to be an image that others have used. Stock photo distributors provide broad general guidelines, but often this information is of little specific value when planning shoots.

If I am right about the percent of total Shutterstock sales generated by these top production companies the other 188,000 Shutterstock contributors generate, on average, about $1,330 a year for Shuttrstock and earn an average of $372.40 a year.

Copyright © 2017 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.  


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