220 MAY 1999 SELLING STOCK
Volume 9, Number 5
©1998 Jim Pickerell - SELLING STOCK is written and
published by Jim
Pickerell six times a year. The annual subscription rate is $80.00 to have the printed
version mailed to you. The on-line version is $72.00 per year. Subscriptions may be
obtained by writing Jim Pickerell, 110 Frederick Avenue, Suite A, Rockville,
MD 20850, phone 301-251-0720, fax 301-309-0941, e-mail: email@example.com. All rights
are reserved and no information contained herein may be reporduced in any
whatsoever without written permission of the editor. Jim Pickerell is also
co-owner of Stock Connection, a stock agency. In addition, he is co-author
Cheryl Pickerell of Negotiating Stock Photo Prices , a guide to pricing
stock photo usages.
Thought For The Month
GET YOUR IMAGES SEEN.
Buying habits of many photo users are changing. Image producers and sellers
need to track the trends closely and be prepared to move with each shift.
Story 213 1999 STOCK PHOTOGRAPHER PROFITS SURVEY
April 5, 1999 - We had 185 photographers respond to our Stock Photographer
Profits Survey. They had a combined total of $16,134,555.87 in stock income
in 1998 and additional photographic income of $9,761,851.62 for a total
photographic income of $25,896,407.49.
The survey was mailed to over 3,000 from the combined lists of Selling Stock
and PhotoSource International, and it was made available on-line. About 80
of the respondents completed their survey on-line and the rest filled out
the printed survey that had been mailed to them.
To put these numbers in overall industry perspective, for a long time I had
been estimating that worldwide stock photo sales were about $1 billion, or
slightly higher. However, I had only been estimating that 10% of this
number came from direct sales not through agencies.
The direct sales numbers have always been extremely hard to calculate and
were mostly a matter of guess work. Part of my reasoning in the past for
this low percentage of direct sales was based on the assumption that a large
percentage of the direct sales were for editorial uses at lower rates.
There are several reasons why this assumption could have been faulty.
In any event, this survey showed that 24% of the gross stock sales of these
photographers came from direct sales to clients - not through stock
agencies. Consequently, I am upping my estimate of gross worldwide sales in
the industry to approximately $1.25 billion with that portion generated by
agencies or other types of reps at right around $950 million.The
photographers get to keep 100% of direct sales, but I estimate on average,
considering the involvement of sub-agencies, that photographers receive no
more than 35% of the gross sales made through agencies. This would mean
that of the $1.25 billion dollars in gross sales, photographers receive
about $528 million.
Further extended, this means that those participating in our survey
represent only about 3% of the total stock photographers in terms of gross
income worldwide. This is a very small sample and there was no random
selecting of the group to be sampled. Both factors could result in
distortions. Based on conclusions that will become clearer as we move
through this report, I believe this sample of respondents is skewed toward
being above average, rather than being representative of the average
If this sample were totally representative there would be 6,166 individuals
worldwide engaged in producing stock photography. I think the actual number
is probably much higher, but a huge percentage of them are very marginally
engaged in the business.
With all these factors considered, and keeping them clearly in mind as we
review the numbers, there still may be many useful conclusions that we can
draw from the data these 185 individuals provided.
Percent of TPI
From Stock Agency Sales
Stock Sales Direct to Client
Gross Stock Income
Total Photo Income (TPI)
Expenses for 173 or 185 Photographers
Net Photo Income
Income From Agencies
To begin, we asked photographers to provide figures for that portion of
their business that was related solely to the licensing of still photos. We
purposely excluded art decor and motion picture production from this survey.
The total income generated by stock agencies was $11,934,468.64. Thirty
four of the photographers, or 18%, were not represented by an agency and all
their income was generated through direct sales. The total stock income for
these 34 was $1,007,230 or an average of $29,624.41 per photographer.
Sixty photographers, or 32% of all respondents, were represented by only one
agency. Their total stock income was $4,381,312.54 or 27% of the total
income from stock. The average stock income per photographer of this group
is $73,021. The notable fact here is that this includes many of the top
individual producers who are with agencies such as Tony Stone Images, The
Image Bank, The Stock Market and FPG. However, their high incomes are
balanced by photographers who are just getting started and have not been
able to build files large enough to generate high dollars.
Eighty nine photographers, or 48% of the total respondents, were represented
by more than one agency. On average, each of these was represented by three
agencies with three photographers being represented by over 15. The total
stock income of the 89 was $10,234,951.83 which is 63% of the total stock
income reported in this survey. The average stock income of these
photographers is $114,999. This is much higher than the $73,021 average for
those with a single agent, or $29,624.41 for those without an agent. Thus,
it appears that those who are represented by more than one agency still do
significantly better, on average, than those who have exclusive arrangements
with a single agency.
There were 149 photographers represented by agencies. Of these
photographers, 35% earned more from their direct sales than from any single
agency that represented them. Some photographers, who were represented by
several agencies, earned more from the combined sales of all their agencies
than they did from their direct sales.
Taking Expenses Into Account
The average stock income before expenses for all photographers was
$87,213.81. The average gross photography income adding in Other
Photographic Income and Barter Income came to $145,915.36.
However, the estimated total expenses necessary to produce this income was
$11,211,154.14. It should be noted that 12 of the respondents reported no
expense figures. To give a fair representation, we removed their income
figures from the gross income category before deducting expenses to achieve
a net income figure. We divided the result by 173 to get the average which
was $81,111 before taxes.
In the expense category, photographers were asked to include: film,
processing, dupes, props, sets, models, assistants, travel, digital scans &
outputs, marketing costs, computers, camera equipment, studio and office
rent, phones, office equipment and supplies, accounting, insurance,
depreciation, continuing education, etc. We did not ask photographers to
break out expenses just for the stock side of their business because we felt
it would be too difficult to separate for those who do both stock and
It should also be noted that only 61% of this $81,111 was income resulting
from stock sales so the average net income from stock sales, before taxes,
was $49,477.71. In doing the calculations this way we have assumed that the
expenses for the stock and assignment sides of any particular photographic
business are proportional to the income. This is probably not true. In
spite of the potential inaccuracies of this average stock sales number we
believe it gives some sense of the costs of producing imagery and the
understanding that income from stock imagery is not cost free.
One hundred seventy-four of the 185 photographers made estimates of the
number of days they worked to produce their stock income. The average was
134 days. If we assume 250 working days in a year, and that at least 39% of
the time is spent producing other types of photographic income, based on the
averages from this survey, that would leave, at most, 152 days for producing
stock. Some of the photographers reporting are engaged in activities other
than photography as a means of earning a living wage.
Tony Stone Images
The agency with the most photographers represented was Tony Stone Images
with 46 photographers reporting some income from TSI. The total royalty
payments these photographers received from TSI was $2,885,046. Because we
got such a good representation from this particular agency, and because
other statistics are available from TSI, we may be able to draw some
conclusions about how accurately this survey represents the stock industry
Gross sales for TSI in 1998 were probably in the range of between $80 and
$100 million. TSI says they pay their photographers approximately 38% of
sales. Thus, if we take the high sales estimate, the amount of that which
would go to all the photographers would be about $38,000,000. We also know
that late last year TSI offered contracts to about 1,000 photographers.
Thus we would expect the average TSI photographer to earn about $38,000 per
year. But, the group responding to this survey earned an average of
$62,718.39 from TSI. Averages don't mean much since there is a very broad
range in earning potential. The individual earnings from the TSI
photographers responding to this survey ranged from a low of $485 (this
photographer was with several agencies) to a high of $450,000. The
photographer with the $450,000 in earnings from TSI sells through two other
agencies, as well as making significant direct sales to clients. He
reported gross stock sales of $625,000.
The TSI photographers who responded to this survey represent 4.6% of the
total photographers represented by TSI, but at least 7.6% of the royalties
paid to photographers. If TSI's gross income was closer to $80 million than
$100 million these photographers might represent as much as 9.5% of TSI's
Based on TSI alone we might draw the conclusion that photographers
responding to this survey are more successful than the average stock
photographer. Unfortunately, we didn't get a large enough block of
photographers reporting from any other major agency to verify this
The most successful photographer was with FPG and reported $596,000 in gross
stock income. Seventeen FPG photographers responded. The Stock Market had
11 photographers reporting, The Image Bank had 8, Index Stock Imagery had
16, Telegraph Colour Library had 4, Corbis Westlight had 5, and Stock Boston
and Stock Connection each had 12. The foreign agency that was named most
often was IFA Bilderteam in Germany with 11 photographers responding. The
income from these agencies and TSI represented 49% of all stock income
1998 Survey Comparisons
There are some interesting comparisons between the survey we published in
March 1998 and this year's survey. In 1998 we supplied a series of income
categories rather than asking photographers to list their specific income.
The comparisons of the number of photographers in each category are as
| Total Respondents to Survey
Gross Income in 1998
| Over $400,000
| $250,000 to $400,000
| $150,000 to $250,000
| $100,000 to $150,000
| $70,000 to $100,000
| Percent of Total Responding to Survey
Click here to review the 1997 survey, Story 125 ).
Fifty photographers, or 27% of the total made their entire photographic
income from stock. Twenty-one percent made all of their stock income from
stock agency sales, and nothing from direct sales. Thirty-five
photographers reported some barter income, but the total barter income was
only $286,200 or just a little over 1% of the combined total photographic
Ninety three photographers reported that their yearly income from stock is
increasing. Fifty five said it is about the same as last year and 35 said
it is decreasing. Three did not respond to this question.
Less than 2% of the gross stock income came from Royalty Free sales. Nine
photographers reported some stock income from Royalty Free companies for a
total of $310,552. However, one photographer represented almost $200,000 of
this total. Obviously, some photographers are doing well with Royalty Free,
but the broad base of photographers who responded to this survey are not
involved in RF.
We tried to determine the percentage of each photographer's work that was
either generic images that require little regular updating, or images that
need to be updated regularly. The generic which don't change include such
subjects as: wildlife, scenics, babies with no clothes and certain concept
illustrations. The kind of images that need to be updated frequently
include business and lifestyle images where clothes, hair styles and
equipment people use change frequently.
The percentage figures used to calculate this number were estimates made by
each photographer and left quite a bit of room for variation. We calculated
the actual dollar amount of total stock income for each photographer based
on the percentages they supplied. Then we totaled the income in each
category and figured the percentage of the total for that category.
While the percentages varied greatly from photographer to photographer, some
worked almost solely in one category and others worked almost solely in the
other category. The final breakdown when everything was totaled was 49%
generic and 51% images needing regular updating. We looked at the
photographers who earned $70,000 or more from stock and there was a slight
change with 47% of the income coming from generic images and 53% coming from
images that need regular updating.
This 50/50 split happens to fit very well with observations I have made
recently after reviewing various catalogs. Of course some catalogs appear
to be weighted much more toward people pictures, but if we can trust these
estimates there is about as much stock income from pictures that don't
require regular updating as from those that do.
We asked photographers to consider their work in terms of two broad market
categories -- editorial and corporate/advertising -- and give the percentage
of their total production that fit into each of these two categories.
Using the same calculating strategy as outlined above, and taking the
percentages of total stock income, 35% of the income was produced from
editorial images and 61% from corporate/advertising images. Respondents
indicated that 4% of their income fell into some other undefined category.
Again, when we looked at only those who had sales of $70,000 or more there
was a slight change with 32% of the income coming from editorial and 65%
coming from commercial/advertising.
We got some confusing answers on questions 13 and 14. The questions were:
Are any of your images available on RF discs or web sites?
Are your RF products self-produced and marketed, or does some other
company handle the marketing of these products for you?
Twenty one photographers reported that they had supplied images to RF discs
or web sites. Thirty two photographers said yes to question 13. In answer
to question 14 eleven said they self marketed their RF images and 21 said
they were selling through another company.
In addition to producing stock photography 12 people said they were involved
in some manner in marketing the work of other photographers.
Agencies Named In The Survey
Photographers responding to this survey were represented by a total 134
different agencies. We have listed these agencies at our online site and
indicated the number of photographers who were represented by each agency.
You can review this information at: http://www.pickphoto.com/sso
Story 214DIRECT SALES ONLINE
In March, I published in Selling Stock Online an analysis of the Arriba
Vista's online search engine. Also included was a brief look at Alta
Vista's AV Photo Finder. Several readers commented that, "None of our
professional clients will ever use these sites." In the sites' current
form, I agree.
Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that technology has made a major
leap forward in being able to selectively capture images and index them.
The next step will be a site that only acquires images from certain
qualified sources (professional photographers and agents that request their
images be indexed), requires these sources to thoroughly keyword their
images, and offers a fair and democratic system of randomly presenting all
images on the site.
(Alta Vista has a deal with Corbis which shows all of Corbis' images first
on any search. This means that the images of other suppliers don't get seen
because they are buried too deep in the search pack.)
The major weaknesses of the current Arriba Vista site is terrible keywording
and the inclusion of every image on the web, 95% of which were never
intended for commercial licensing.
A search engine that provides a qualified sample of all web images will be a
desirable business model because it will contain images that are primarily
of interest to professional image users rather than the general consumer.
Professionals will want to use this site. Advertisers trying to sell
products and services to these professional users will want to advertise on
the site in the same way they want to advertise in special interest
Arriba has demonstrated that:
They can easily identify individual image files on the net and
separate them from all other related material.
By looking at related material they can create keywords for these
They can automatically create thumbnail previews of the image files
found at individual sites.
They can acquire information from META and ALT tags in the HTML that
are connected with the images.
They can do all of this very easily and inexpensively.
In their current business plan they make all their money by selling
advertising on their site, not by charging image producers fees for showing
They have also demonstrated that the automatic systems are unlikely to
be able to generate useful keywords for a professional image search unless
the creator of the web site they are searching has supplied those keywords
in a separate file that Arriba Vista's "spider" can clearly identify.
The key to the success of such a site will be in how it is promoted to
picture buyers. Online promotion alone will not be sufficient. Individual
photographers may link their images to several such sites and determine from
experience which one works best for them.
Photographers and stock agencies that want their sites indexed will have to
do more work than has been the case up to now, but it should be worth it for
the added control it gives them. For more information see Story 214 at:
Story 212RF AT THE STOCK MARKET
The Stock Market has followed the lead of many other major stock agencies in
making Royalty Free Images available on their web site. They now market the
images of PhotoSpin in a separate section of their site. PhotoSpin has
images in 18 different categories which include: objects/backgrounds,
travel, sports/recreation, textures, people, nature/seasons, animals, food,
business, commercial, medical, toys, nostalgia, cars, signs, religion,
junkyard and graffiti.
These images are available online for single-image sales with high
resolution downloads. The current site design gives the user the option of
choosing traditional stock or royalty free. "By entering into this new
venture with The Stock Market, we now may avail ourselves to a brand new
audience, while enhancing our own collection by pairing it with the vast
offerings of TSM's library," notes PhotoSpin CEO, Val Gelineau. Current TSM
photographers may participate on the RF site if they choose.
Story 215PROTECTING YOUR RIGHTS
April 21, 1999 -- Many publishers are now claiming that the copyright law
gives them the unlimited right to reuse pictures and text that have appeared
in their publications. They base this right on the Tasini vs. New York Times
decision. At the time images are supplied, photographers and agents need to
be much more diligent in defining contract conditions in order to protect
their rights and receive adequate compensation for their work. Lawyer Robert
Cavallo has recommended a series of steps that creators should take to
protect their rights by contract rather than simply relying on copyright to
Robert M. Cavallo
There is a tremendous erosion of traditional rights in the new era of
electronic publishing. Contributors to electronic publishing should be
looking for three elements in their contracts: Fair compensation on the
traditional advance and royalty basis, In the event that rights are
transferred to a 3rd party, not the original licensor, such as a print
publisher, the author should be compensated by the original licensor on the
traditional basis with the author receiving 85% to 90% of the fee charged
for the use. No use of the work should be made without the author's approval
of the medium, format and content.
As such, I am recommending that the following concepts be included in
contributors contracts when they provide works to print publishers who have
no intention of publishing them electronically.
1 - Allow the print publisher to issue the work in electronic form to a
third party only on condition that the terms of the use be negotiated
immediately prior to electronic publication.
2 - Divide the proceeds of the licensing of electronic rights to reflect
the print publisher's role as an agent for the sale of those rights with 90%
going to the author.
3 - Retain the right of approval over all electronic licenses.
Where the print publisher is also the electronic publisher or licensor, the
following should be attended to:
1 - Grant electronic rights only on an advance and royalty basis.
2 - Grant the right to issue electronic versions of the work only in
specified existing formats, preferably on a non-exclusive basis.
3 - Retain control over any abridgement or anthologizing of the work and
over any illustrations to be added to the work.
4 - Unexploited electronic rights should revert to the author.
5 - Grant periodical publishers the right to republish an article
electronically only in the same format and context as the original article.
This grant should be non-exclusive.
6 - Insist that periodical publishers pay an additional fee at the time of
the electronic republication following traditional industry practice with
7 - Publishers should indemnify authors for all claims arising from
illustrations or other materials added to the author's works.
8 - The work should not be considered in print because there are electronic
versions of the work available.
9 - The publisher should be responsible for obtaining publication
permissions in electronic publications.
10 - Royalty statements should contain accurate records of production runs
and number of units sold and accessed, etc. A photographer or author may not
be able to get all of the things I have requested above, but it is necessary
to at least try.
GET IT IN WRITING!!
Robert M. Cavallo, an attorney specializing in all areas of photography law
is the senior partner in the firm of Cavallo & Wolf, located at 400 Park
Avenue, New York, NY 10022.
Story 216LEGAL NOTES
Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied
Brief arguments on the appeal of Jonathan Tasini et.al. vs. the New York
Times et.al. were heard on April 26th. When the case was first heard in New
York District court in late 1996 it took Judge Sonia Sotomayer almost eight
months to release a decision. Photographers should not be surprised if there
is no decision on the appeal before the new millennium.
On the basis of this August 13, 1997 decision many publishers have been
re-purposing large quantities of work, without additional compensation to
the creators, arguing that "Tasini" allows them to do this. That will
certainly continue, and accelerate, if the lower court decision is not
reversed by the appeals court. For more background on this case see stories
86, 88 and 107 online.
This case has greatly diminished the value of copyright protection in the
United States. To protect their rights, photographers must be much more
vigilant than they have been in the past in drafting contracts for
assignment and individual stock sales.
Agency Loses Liquidated Damages Case
In a Utah case for reimbursement for 34 lost transparencies a judge has
ruled that The Stock Solution and its photographers suffered little or no
financial loss because the photographers still had similar images which were
In The Stock Solution vs. Axiom Design, LC, Judge David S. Young ruled that
Axiom had indeed lost 34 original color transparencies that were received
from The Stock Solution. However, he also ruled that the $1,500.00
liquidated damages provision in four signed delivery memorandums was
unenforceable because the agency and the photographers had other "similar"
images that were not lost.
The expert witness for the plaintiff, James Kay, argued that images
delivered to a client and later selected by the client usually constitute
the best images taken by the photographer. Loss of such images can cause a
potential loss of future income according to Mr. Kay. Judge Young did not
At one point, the judge interrupted Mr. Kay's testimony, took out a
calculator, and proceeded to divide James' total number of stock photos into
his annual income and announced that his images were only worth about $8.00
Judge Young also ruled on April 14th that The Stock Solution must pay about
$7,000 for Axiom's attorney fees and expenses. TSS has only until May 14th
to file an appeal and post a bond in the above amount.
Royce Bair is seeking financial assistance to pursue an appeal of this
decision. Anyone wishing to contribute to a trust fund for this purpose may
contact him at 801-363-9700.
Stories 212 and 216GETTY IMAGES NEWS
Getty Images plans to move their corporate headquarters from London to
Seattle and has leased 72,000 square feet of office space in the Quadrant
Lake Union Center, located in the Freemont district of Seattle. The space
offers high-quality data cable capable of handling networking speeds of
100Mb and higher to each desktop. Each workstation is wired with advanced
telephone, ISBN, and fiber optic cable, as well as the capability of graphic
images and video to the desktop. Getty currently has approximately 240
employees in Seattle and expects to occupy the new office space by late
fall. The space was formerly occupied by Adobe Systems, Inc., the Center's
The decision to relocate is based on the Company's increasing emphasis on
e-commerce and is in line with its strategy to further integrate the six
separate brands it has acquired over the past four years. Approximately half
of Getty Images's $185 million in 1998 revenue was generated in the U.S.
Getty Images has approximately 690 employees in North America. Total
employees worldwide is 1,350. Jonathan Klein and Christopher Roling, Chief
Financial Officer, will be relocating from London to Seattle. Mark H. Getty,
Executive Chairman, will continue to spend a significant amount of time in
In other news Getty's revenue growth in 1998 was 84% over 1997 sales, due in
large part to acquisition. Klein expects revenue growth in 1999 to be about
15% over 1998 sales. Sales in 1998, excluding acquisitions grew 18%.
New TSI Catalog Format
Tony Stone Images Volume 11 catalog introduces the next generation of
catalog design by presenting the image collection in a metal covered, 3
ring-binder. They believe the format will be more conducive to designers'
work styles and it offers the following features:
Some TSI photographers have nicknamed this catalog the "tin can."
Getting Images Seen At TSI
The period between image selection for Master Dupe Collection consideration
and the point at which it is duped and available to potential buyers has
many TSI photographers concerned. Some report that it can be as much as 18
Worse yet, after this waiting period the London office may come back and
say, "Sorry, this image was not accepted," and return it. At that point the
photographer has lost 18 months and now has to try to find somewhere else to
place the image. In the past TSI has held images for catalog consideration
until the catalog selection was made, rather than placing them into the
files. Then they dupe those selected for the catalog and after all catalog
images are duped, they consider whether to dupe non-catalog images or return
TSI is now considering the possibility of putting images into the on-line
catalog immediately after selection and making print catalog selections from
those images that are on-line.
Image Rejection At TSI
On top of this, TSI travel and nature photographers are reporting that they
have been told by their editors that TSI is no longer accepting new material
on these subjects. Many top shooters have had no new images selected from
their submissions for months.
Despite these photographer reports, Patrick Donehue says, "I can assure you
that it is NOT the policy of TSI to exclude travel or nature photography
from our collection. As with all imagery, these subjects must be
photographed in a new and innovative way that would differentiate such work
from the photography that already exists both within TSI and in the overall
market. We expect our photographers to produce imagery with this in mind. If
they do, their photos will get selected. If they don't, their photos won't
make it into the collection. It all really comes down to photographic
vision, innovation and the ability to take a creative risk or two."
Story 216IMAGES IN AGENCY PRINT ADS
Losing Deal For Photographer??
There is some indication that getting one's image used in a stock agency ad
campaign that appears extensively in industry magazines and direct mail
promotions does not help generate more sales for that image.
I have heard several stories that certain images that have been chosen for
ad campaigns have never made a single sale after the ads appeared. The
theory is that the image got so much over exposure in being part of the
stock agencies ads that no client wanted to use it for their own projects.
This is a very important consideration for photographers because normally
stock agencies pay nothing to use photographers pictures in their ads. It
should be noted that these usages are totally separate from images that
appear in agency print catalogs. Print catalog placement definitely
generates more sales for photographers. I would like to hear from
photographers whose images have been use in agency print ads to determine if
the few examples I have heard of so far are the exception, or the rule.
After the above story initially appeared online Tim Conaway of FoodPix made
the following comments.
"FoodPix is somewhat different than most agencies since we specialize in
commercial images of food, but we have experienced a high sales response
with images used in ads and promotions. On one direct mail piece using
fourteen images, 9 of them have sold since the piece went out, and a couple
of those have sold more than once. On another piece using one image, a sale
occurred less than a week after the piece was mailed, and that image has
generated sales of other images in the same series. On a two-page print ad
that uses 26 images, eight have sold, and others have generated searches and
subsequent sales of similar images (usually from the same series). Sales are
pending on at least three more of the images on that ad. We generally hear
that buyers are "starved" for good food images, so that may be why our ads
seem to turn directly into sales."
Photographer Ted Rice had the following experience. "I had a picture used in
a small stock agency ad last year. It ran not large but quite extensively in
design and ad trade magazines. I was initially pleased but was concerned
that it was uncredited. After inquiring, I was told it was not company
policy to credit. My position was that I was happy to have them use the
picture to extend their brand, but, in lieu of the obvious value of the
picture in support of ad copy, that I would appreciate credit to further
extend mine as well. As yet, the picture has not sold (it is only a few
months since it was used.) In that it was used extensively, I had exactly
the concern you expressed- that its value is diluted by the overexposure.
Especially in light of the fact that I am thousands of dollars in the hole
to them due to catalog fees, the practice seems quite unfair."
Story 217IMAGE BUILDING AT AGENCIES
There is an increasing trend among stock agencies to produce print catalogs
that are designed as "image builders" rather than to sell the specific
images found therein.
Photographers need to understand the difference between these two approaches
to the market, and carefully track sales of their images.
Much of the "edgy" material chosen for catalogs is designed to catch the art
director's eye and draw him or her to the "web site", not necessarily sell
the particular image found in the catalog. This is a relatively new
departure from the traditional approach to image selection for catalogs.
Art directors end up using the generic images found online -- one agent
calls them, the "white bread" of stock. Increasingly, these images are only
available on the web, or through a general file search, not in many
Simultaneously, there is a move at some agencies to pressure photographers
to produce "edgy" material and to accept less and less of the "white bread"
images that photographers produce.
If "white bread" is what is selling then why aren't agencies accepting it?
There are two answers. First, they already have a lot of it in their files.
Second, when they want to update "white bread" images they produce the work
in-house so the agency can retain a larger percent of the fees generated
from such images. Look for these trends to continue -- more rapidly at some
agencies than others.
As one agent explained it, the problem is that the "edgy" stuff is almost
impossible to assign. For this they need a broad base of photographers with
differing creative visions. When it comes to the high demand "white bread"
images, the agent can generate statistics on their best selling subjects,
and easily shoot file material that fills a similar need.
Steps For Photographers To Take
Track sales of "edgy" images and whenever possible compare results
with other photographers who have had this type of imagery in print
catalogs. It is critical to understand how well this type of stock imagery
is selling, and the portion of total sales it represents.
Recognize that it may be difficult to get straight answers from your
agent because the agent needs to keep you producing "edgy" material.
Consider how much of your time and resources you should be devoting to
producing "edgy" images, based on how well those you have produced in the
past are selling.
Point out your sales results to your editor.
If you are going to continue to produce "edgy" work and pay to put it
in the catalogs, insist that the agency include a liberal proportion of your
"white bread" work in their online catalog.
Don't give up on producing "white bread."
Make sure your "white bread" is somewhere where it can be seen. When
placement costs are compared, and as we move ahead in the next couple of
years, it may be more to your advantage to get more images on the web and
fewer images in the print catalogs, particularly if those catalogs focus on
showing very "edgy" images.
Story 209ONLINE SALES
In the March issue Getty reported that e-commerce sales were 15% of total
sales for the final quarter of 1998 and that in January 1999 10% of TSI's
North American sales were e-commerce.
The question everyone else is asking is can the small agencies and
individual photographers participate in this e-commerce trend?
This article compares sales results for PNI, Stock Workbook Online and MPCA.
For PNI and Workbook the figures are based on sales made by Stock
Connection which is a small percentage of the total data for these two
organizations. The reader should recognize that the averages may not be
valid for any agency other than Stock Connection, but they may give some
indication of the possibilities at the moment.
According to Dick Weisgrau the average gross sales for MPCA photographers
with MIRA (MIRA has direct relationships with certain photographers who are
not MPCA members) is currently about $5,000 per month or approximately
$60,000 per year. Seventy percent of this is distributed to the
photographers, or approximately $42,000 on an annual basis. The MPCA
photographers have about 60,000 images currently on the site so, on average,
a photographer will receive $.70 per year, per image on file.
A year ago MPCA had 39 qualified buyers. Now they have 600 qualified
buyers. About 350 photographers currently have images with MPCA ranging
from a low of about 25 images to a high of approximately 1,000. Weisgrau
said, "MIRA is meeting its sales targets and they are pleased with its
Workbook and PNI
By way of comparison, Stock Connection has about 2000 images on the Stock
Workbook site. In the seven months from September 1998 through March 1999
our average sales resulting from this site were $4,880 per month. Assuming
that average continues for the rest of the year the photographer's average
return will be $19.03 per year, per image on file. Photographers receive
65% of gross sales.
Stock Connection also had about 1900 images with Picture Network
International at the beginning of 1999. Our number of images on-line is
growing and we are seeing month to month growth in our sales. Total gross
sales in the first two months of 1999 were $19,845. In this situation PNI
takes 40% of the gross sale off the top and, we split the remainder 35/65
with the photographer. Thus, the photographer actually ends up getting only
39% of the gross sale. PNI has 47,000 qualified buyers.
If we assume that our PNI sales remain level throughout 1999, as we have
assumed with the other organizations, then Stock Connection's total sales
for the year for 1900 images will be approximately $119,070 and the share of
that which is divided among the photographers will be $46,437. The average
each photographer will receive is $24.44 per year, per image on file.
It should be noted that these are averages. Sales for some individuals will
be higher and others much lower. There is no guarantee that any of these
organizations will maintain the same level of sales month to month, although
in all cases sales growth has been showing a steady increase.
It should also be noted that Stock Connection is only one of about 60
agencies on the PNI site and the total images in the database from all these
agencies is approximately 400,000. There are 46 agencies on the Workbook
site with a total of about 30,000 images. We have no way of knowing whether
our returns are better or worse than the other agencies who obviously
represent the vast majority of the images.
Gross sales is one factor, but not necessarily the only factor, that needs
to be considered when determining where to place ones images.
Story 192TODTRI UPDATE
Todtri Productions has still made no payments to stock agencies or
photographers who supplied images for their Picture Perfect 12 catalog.
Capstone Financing is no longer returning telephone calls from agencies and
it appears they no longer intend to participate in the refinancing as
discussed in the March newsletter. Images are still being licensed, but
creators are not being paid.
Story 216CREATIVES IN U.S.
According to TrendWatch the total number of professional creative
organizations in the U.S. marketplace is 62,000 -- 26% graphic designers,
20% commercial photographers, 18% corporate designers, 16% magazine and book
publishers, 13% ad agencies, 4% graphic illustrators and 3% catalog
publishers. The total number of individuals working in this market are
219,000--35% corporate designers, 20% graphic designers, 19% ad agencies,
17% magazine and book publishers, 5% commercial photographers, 3% catalog
publishers and 1% graphic illustrators. Nearly 15,000 firms will purchase
stock photo images this year led by graphic designers, corporate design
departments and ad agencies.
Story 216VIDEO SHOOTERS
More and more people are turning to online to get their information. Some
futurists predict that we will begin to see a decline in the use of paper
publishing in the next decade.The need for video images will increase. Many
still photographers are already producing video stock. Selling Stock is
exploring the possibility of expanding our coverage into the production and
marketing of video stock. If you have any interest in video; if you own or
have used a video camera even if you haven't yet been able to sell the work;
we would like to know who you are and start building our database of
videographers. Send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Story 211A LOOK AT THE FUTURE
At the 1999 Spring Seybold Publishing Conference in Boston, Ray Kurzweil,
author of the "The Age of Spiritual Machines." provided a daunting view of
where technology will take us in the next 30 years. For a summary read
Story 211 online at: www.pickphoto.com/sso/stories/st211.htm