401 MAY 2001 SELLING STOCK
Volume 11, Number 5
©2001 Jim Pickerell - SELLING STOCK is written and
published by Jim
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manner 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
with Cheryl Pickerell of Negotiating Stock Photo Prices, a guide to pricing
stock photo usages.
Thought For The Month
"On the Internet, there's no shortage of information, but wisdom is a valued commodity."
Randal Langdon Director Interactive Sales Technologies, Merrill Lynch
Story 399 2001 PROFITS SURVEY RESULTS SIZE =5>
May 2, 2001 - There was disappointing participation in our survey of
photographer income and expenses for 2000, and thus the results are probably far from being
statistically valid. Only 97 photographers responded, but the averages provided some interesting
comparisons to previous years. The most interesting analysis has to do with what happened on the
expense side of the stock photography business, but first I need to set the stage by reporting
Combined, the 97 photographers reporting had a total stock income of $8,877,211 in 2000 and
additional photographic income of $5,579,669 for a total photographic income of $14,456,880.
The average stock income per photographer for 2000 was $91,518 and the average total photographic
income was $149,040. Interestingly, these are almost exactly the same numbers we had for 1999
which were $91,571 and $147,525. The 1998 averages were $87,214 and $139,981 respectively. There
were 185 photographers supplying figures for 1998 and only 138 for 1999.
The survey was mailed to over 2,000 photographers and made available on-line. About half the
respondents completed their survey on-line.
About 29% of the total stock sales, or $2,568,356, were made direct to the buyers by the
photographer. This compared with 29% for 1999 and 24% for 1998.
Income From Agencies
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 $6,308,855. Twelve photographers (12%), were not
represented by an agency. All their income was generated through direct sales. The total stock
income was $368,000 for these 12, or an average of $30,669 per photographer.
Twenty-five photographers (26%) of all respondents, were represented by only one agency. This was
down from 29% in 1999. Their total stock income was $1,375,454 (15%) of the total income from
stock, and down from 21% in 1999. The average stock income per photographer of this group was
$55,030, down from $66,088 in 1999. One notable fact is that this includes many of the top
individual producers who are with agencies such as Stone, The Image Bank, The Stock Market and
The gross stock income of the 50 photographers who had images with two or more agencies was
$7,133,757 or $142,675 per photographer. In 1999, 62% of the photographers were represented by
more than one agency (higher than the 51% for 2000), but their average income was only
$111,921.48. It is important to note that in our surveys those photographers who are represented
by several agencies have consistently earned much more on average than those represented by a
single agency, or those handling all their sales directly.
Taking Expenses Into Account
Eighty-nine photographers provided expense figures. Their total expenses were $5,932,956 and this
generated income of $13,931,842. They estimated that $2,572,423, or about 43% of total expenses,
were related to the stock production. This is a very significant number.
In 1999, of the 138 photographers responding 115 reported a total stock income of $11,230,080 and
total business expenses of $7,885,589. They allocated $6,483,242 (82% of total business expenses)
to stock production.
The average photographer was spending $56,376 on stock production in 1999 and that dropped to
$28,904 in 2000. Despite the drop in production costs, the photographer's average income remained
about the same.
| Average of total expenses were:
Avg. Per Photog.
Percent Gross Exp.
This shows very clearly that while photographer's overall business spending remains about the
same, the proportion they are spending on new stock production has dropped dramatically. Anecdotal
information indicates that photographers have been rapidly moving to diversify and find
alternative sources of income other than stock.
In the short term this is good news for photographers. Costs are going down while income is
staying about the same. Profits should be increasing. This dramatic reduction in costs fits with
general anecdotal information from photographers that they have been cutting back on stock
production. While this doesn't seem to be affecting sales right now, the major concern is what
will happen to stock income a year or two down the road when there are fewer new images in the
pipeline to meet customer demand.
This may be of greater concern to stock agencies than photographers as they need a steady flow of
imagery in order to grow.
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 assignment work.
Getty And Stone
The agency with the most photographers represented was Stone with 20 photographers reporting some
income. The total royalty payments these photographers received from Stone was $979,700 for an
average of $48,985. The average in 1999 was $45,644,36.
I estimate that the average earnings of Stone photographers for 2000 was $30,666 (1500/$46
million). The average income for a Masterfile photographer was over $58,000.
Another 18 photographers earned income from TIB or VCG and the total royalty from the three Getty
brands was $2,177,218. Considering that the total royalties Getty paid out for these brands in
2000 was probably between $80 and $90 million this is a very small and possibly unrepresentative
Comparisons With Recent Surveys
There are some interesting comparisons between the survey we published in March 1998, April 1999,
April 2000 and this one. 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 and the gross 2000 income in each category are listed in the table below.
| Total Respondents to Survey
| Gross Income in 1999
| Over $400,000
| $250,000 to $400,000
| $150,000 to $250,000
| $100,000 to $150,000
| $70,000 to $100,000
| Total In High Income Categories|
| Percent of Total Responding to Survey|
While the average stock income for photographers answering the survey was $91,517,
the median stock income was $47,707. Thirteen respondents earned between $100,000 and
$200,000 from stock and another 13 earned over $200,000 with a high of $600,000.
Click here to review the Survey Results for 1997
(Story 125) , 1998
(Story 213) and 1999
(Story 297) ,
Fifty-four photographers (55% of respondents) reported their yearly income from stock increased.
Fifty-seven percent had increases in 1999. Twenty-one percent said 1999 income was about the same,
but that was down to 14% in 2000. In 1999, 21% said income was down and that jumped to 25% in
2000. Clearly there is a downward trend.
Twenty-eight photographers, or 28% of the total made their entire photographic income from stock.
This is the same as last year. Sixty-seven photographers, or 69% made some stock income by selling
direct to the buyer. This was up from 40% in 1999.
Sixteen photographers reported that they earned some income from Royalty Free. This was less than
half the number that reported earning RF income in 1999.
In addition to producing stock photography 11% of the respondents said they were involved in some
manner in marketing the work of other photographers.
Why the steady decrease in photographer participation in these surveys? In my opinion many
photographers are moving away from stock. The risks in stock production have increased
dramatically and photographers are looking for a more dependable way to earn a living.
Story 395BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASKSIZE =5>
April 16, 2001 - Stock Agencies used to complain that photographers were not
smart business people and suggested they needed to approach the production of stock images as a
business, not an art.
Many photographers started doing what the agencies suggested. They started weighing their returns
against costs, and carefully examining, from a business point of view, what agencies were asking
them to do. They have started expecting agencies to be as efficient in their accounting, record
keeping, and methods of operation as the photographers are themselves.
After carefully examining stock photography as a business many photographers are now coming to the
conclusion that it is not a viable option for them.
Story 400SALES FLAT AT GETTYSIZE =5>
April 25, 2001 - Getty Images, Inc. announced sales of $125.8 million for the
first quarter of 2001 that ended March 31st. This revenue was about four percent below the $130 to
$133 million guidance provided by the company on February 8th, and less than a million above the
4th quarter 2000 revenue of $124.9 million.
In a pre-announcement earlier in April, Jonathan Klein, CEO of Getty Images blamed, "The slowdown
in the U.S. economy, and particularly in marketing and advertising spending..." for the poor
results. He said, "During the first quarter, our customers, primarily in the U.S., began to
experience delays and cancellations in advertising and marketing expenditures, resulting in lower
than expected sales. In addition, our customers have expressed limited visibility regarding their
outlook for the remainder of the year."
Klein also indicated in the conference call that the slowdown had been primarily in the United
States. So far Getty has not experienced a falloff of sales in Europe. Since 59% of Getty's 2000
sales were in the U.S. that would indicate that the U.S. drop in sales might have been over 6% of
total sales quarter-to-quarter.
Klein said, "We remain cautious about our expectations for 2001, and have developed targeted
strategies to maximize our bottom-line objectives. However, we are also focused on the future and
believe we are well positioned to manage through this challenging economic environment and to
capitalize on the tremendous opportunities that lie ahead. We are most fortunate in that we have a
large customer base, the leading market position, strong operating cash flow and a solid business
In light of the 1st Quarter results and anticipated 2nd Quarter results, Getty has lowered it
expectation for sales in 2001 to between $510 and $540 million. This is down from the February 8th
estimate of $550 to $565 million.
In the conference call with investment analysts, Klein said sales in the January through April
period were worse than September through December 2000. He reported that sales in January were
good, but February was "miserable" and call volumes seemed to stall in March and April.
He pointed out that in times of economic slowdown advertising is the first thing corporations cut
because brand building is the most expensive and least effective form of marketing. However,
advertising also tends to be the first thing to recover once there is a turn around in the
Klein was asked how the implementation of the new photographer contracts was going and he replied
that the response to date has been "extremely positive" and that they have received back a higher
percentage of contracts than expected. He indicated that they do not anticipate any problems in
signing the "vast majority of photographers we wish to work with going forward."
For the second quarter of 2001, the company expects to report revenue of $120 million to $130
million. Merchant banking firm Thomas Weisel Partners estimates $122.4 million. If Getty's sales
for 2001 turn out to be in the range of $510 million it would be basically zero growth for the
entire year. On a pro-forma basis (because Getty didn't own VCG for the whole of 2000, and because
they have bought some TIB offices that were formerly sub-agencies) zero growth would be about $505
million for 2001.
It is worth noting what sales have been for the last four quarters since Getty stopped acquiring
major companies. They were:
2nd Quarter 2000
3rd Quarter 2000
4th Quarter 2000
1st Quarter 2001
This is not a picture of dramatic growth and the industry undoubtedly has a difficult year ahead
until the economy turns around.
EBITDA margins are projected at approximately 24% to 26%.
["EBITDA" is defined as earnings before income taxes, depreciation, amortization, interest,
exchange gains and losses and, when applicable, loss on impairment, debt conversion expense,
integration and restructuring costs, extraordinary items and other income and expenses. EBITDA
should not be considered as an alternative to operating income, as defined by generally accepted
accounting principles, as an indicator of operating performance, or to cash flows as a measure of
Klein continued, "We remain confident in our strategy and in the power of our business model. With
a large customer base, a strong market position, significant revenues, attractive margins, strong
operating cash flow and a solid cash position, we have the resources to manage through this
challenging economic environment successfully and to continue to expand our global leadership in
the visual content market."
Story 390GETTY PHOTOGRAPHERS DILEMMASIZE =5>
April 6, 2001 - The new Getty Images photographer contract has arrived and it
seems to me that Getty and their photographers are operating at cross purposes. The following is
my analysis of the current situation.
What Does Future Hold For Getty Photographers?
It is becoming increasingly clear that as far as new images are concerned Getty is focusing its
energies on photographers who are willing to work for a small up front fee and 10% of sales.
These 10% photographers have no production costs except the costs of their equipment and get large
numbers of images loaded online almost immediately after they are produced. Freelancers who
receive royalties of 30% to 50% of sales get very few new images accepted into the online
database. Even when new images are accepted, it often takes months, to more than a year, from the
time the 50%ers deliver images to Getty before they are accepted, or rejected.
The 10%ers work under tight direction by Getty art directors. Increasingly the new creative force
at Getty -- those who determine what will be shot, and design the images -- is the art directors,
not the photographers.
Sales for Getty are not growing substantially. In the last four quarters they were: Q2 2000,
$123.6 million; Q3 2000, $127 million; Q4 2000, $129.4 million; Q1 2001, $125.8 million. Analysts
estimate $131 million for the quarter just ended, but some also believe that Getty will fail to
reach this very modest increase.
This slow growth is happening despite heavy advertising and promotion campaigns and Getty's
overwhelming dominance in the industry. If sales aren't going to grow substantially then the only
way to increase profits is to cut costs. Their biggest costs are the royalties they pay
photographers which was just under 25% of gross sales in 2000. They need to wholly own a greater
percentage of the content they license, increase the fees photographers pay by raising catalog
charges and lower royalties whenever possible.
From a business point of view such a strategy will work. Getty's goal is to get better at
predicting customer demand, and produce more images in-house to fulfill that demand. They need to
steadily reduce their dependence on high cost freelancers and move toward a model of owning, or
paying minimal royalties, for images rather than toward the model of the photographers absorbing
all costs and receiving a significant percentage of sales.
Another way to cut costs is to reduce scanning and keywording costs by putting fewer new images
online. Getty has announced that they intend to add no more than 15,000 new images per-brand,
per-year in the next three years.
They are willing to pay up-front production fees on shoots when it is virtually assured that the
company's share of sales down the road will far exceed costs. When the subject matter, in their
judgment, is in lesser demand they want the photographer to assume the production risk. In such
cases they will reluctantly concede to pay a somewhat higher royalty.
Low Demand Subject Matter
Getty's goal seems to be to limit their offering to only high demand subjects and leave specialist
material and other low demand subjects to someone else. In addition, to the degree possible, they
would like to remove the low demand options from the marketplace in hopes that buyers, faced with
no other alternative, will be forced to settle for one of Getty's remaining offerings that may not
be quite on subject, but is the closest the buyer is able to find.
It is clear that they are aggressively moving to eliminate file research because they have
determined that these large files of "low demand" images are too costly to maintain for the return
they generate. This will eventually remove millions of images from the market, and require a huge
effort by photographers if they want to get any of these images back to where they can be seen by
customers. It appears that their active online site will have 1 to 2 million images (3% of the 70
million images they advertise they control). They will seldom, if ever, search through the other
images to fulfill specific customer needs.
One confusing factor is the way they handle "historical" images. They seem to be willing to
continue searching through analog files owned by Hulton Getty and Archive, but they are returning
huge quantities of un-scanned images belonging to contemporary photographers. In effect, this
eliminates their access to much of the historical record from the 1960's through 2000. It looks
like as long as historical is defined as the 50's, 40's and before, they'll keep servicing that
file. On the other hand outside researchers report that they are no longer allowed to search
through the Hulton Getty and Archive files as was the case in the past.
Some photographers want to believe that this strategy is a management oversight. They hope that if
the problems and risks are clearly explained to Getty management they will see the wisdom of
returning to the older, more photographer friendly model.
It seems to me that Getty's strategy is very calculated and accomplishing its intended goal.
It would be in their best interest to pay out the smallest possible percentage of gross
Consider what Getty, or any company should do whose sole, driving force is to maximize profits.
sales and continually reduce that percentage.
As much as possible, they would have 10%ers produce replacement images for all high demand
subjects and current best sellers. It is not necessary that these be exact copies which could be
copyright infringements. The images simply need to be ones that could substitute for a 50%ers
images, if the 50% images were no longer available.
As replacements become available the 50% images will start disappearing from the database.
The company would use their sales statistics to determine the images in highest demand. This
data is only shared with a few photographers, mostly the 10%ers.
Ideally, they would limit their use of freelance material to those subjects that are very
unique or where the image is particularly costly to produce.
It is to their advantage to get rid of specialist material that is requested infrequently.
As they reduce the size of the general file it should be noted that to a great degree they
are eliminating much of the unique and specialist material. Consequently, they really need
relatively little freelance material.
It is to the agency's advantage to get first look at any images the 50% freelancers produce.
It is to their advantage to use the "editing process" to hold images they have little
intention of using off the market for as long as possible. In this way the images can not compete
with their 10% images. This can be achieved by under staffing or various other inefficiencies that
are hard for photographers to pin point.
It is to their advantage to have a rigid definition of "similars" and to put certain images
into their system to keep "similars" out of the market.
It is to their advantage to limit the customer's options so the customers will be forced to
make more use of the images the company has decided to provide.
It is to their advantage, to reduce competition by acquiring competing companies and closing
down much of their operations in the name of integration and efficiency.
It is to their advantage to reduce the number of photographers they work with as that
reduces administrative overhead.
It is to their advantage, if many photographers decide to stop producing stock images as
that reduces the supply in all subject areas and the opportunity for customers to buy something
other than one of the company's wholly owned images.
It is to their advantage to allow underpricing to the degree that it causes competition to
leave the market.
It is to their advantage to have a contract with suppliers that is so complex that any
penalties for the seller's non-performance are very difficult to enforce.
There are at least two good precedents in the industry for the wholly owned strategy -- Comstock
and SuperStock. Photographers need to look at these models as they assess where Getty is headed.
Both companies have always had a strategy of supporting a small group of photographers who would
produce all the available images in the high demand subject areas. Comstock has two staff
photographers -- Tom Grill and Michael Stuckey. Together, with Comstock's in-house production
team, these two produced approximately 85% of the total file. At one point Comstock was one of the
more successful agencies in the world.
Comstock accepted other photographers, but each one specialized in something other than the high
demand business and lifestyle subject areas. Business and lifestyle are the two top selling
subject areas in the industry. Any image produced by the freelancers that might compete in any way
with one already produced by Grill or Stuckey, or with something they might want to produce in the
future, were not accepted into the file.
Many photographers joined Comstock because they heard about the high returns the company was
getting from high demand imagery. Few ended up being satisfied because none of their high demand
images were accepted and the returns from their specialist images were insignificant.
With SuperStock freelance photographers have complained that staff photographers occasionally copy
ideas once they have seen the images freelancers have submitted. The staff images make the catalog
and the freelancer images get returned.
Certainly, from a business point of view this strategy worked for Comstock and SuperStock, even
though many photographers find it unsatisfactory. The main disadvantage for the company seems to
be that the company's file ends up with less visual variety, no matter how talented the prime
photographers are. There is no getting around the fact that an agency with hundreds of different
shooters will offer a greater variety of approaches to a subject than a small production team is
likely to envision. In general, the basic themes that advertising customers need change very
little, but new approaches to these themes are in constant demand.
Getty may believe that they can overcome the problems Comstock and SuperStock experienced by
working with a larger design team, and a larger number of photographers. In the end, I believe
that limiting the number of shooters they work with, and drastically limiting the variations in
the file, will result in many art buyers looking elsewhere for imagery. I believe that is what has
happened at Comstock and SuperStock.
What Are The Freelancer's Options?
The key issue for Getty photographers is to find an alternative way to show buyers the images
Getty refuses to make available. It is a lost cause for the 50% photographers to try to convince
Getty to put more of their images online. This does not fit Getty's business strategy.
Photographers need to diversify and become less dependent on a single source for their income.
They need to enlist the aid of different sellers, and test a variety of marketing strategies
through a variety of outlets. The time has passed when a photographer could tie his fortunes to a
single agent and a single marketing strategy.
Photographers need to be free to create, and know that all images created will be made available
for purchase where buyers can find them and in a timely manner. Photographers must also have a
clear understanding of buyer needs and recognize that the only images that will earn revenue are
those that meet the buyers requirements for usage.
Photographers must keep clearly in mind that Getty's goal is to maximize profits, not support
photographer's careers. They are now referring to photographers as "artists" instead of "content
providers," but they have no interest in being an agent, or in trying to maximize sales or income
for any given photographer.
Photographers also need to be able to exercise some control over how quickly their images are
reviewed and uploaded once they are delivered to the agency, and how they are keyworded.
In any agency relationship, photographers need to be very careful about signing long term
inflexible contracts. If the relationship with their representative is not working, they need to
be able to easily terminate it and move their images somewhere else. Photographers retain agents
to handle marketing for them, it is not the agent who retains the photographer.
Be very careful about any definition of "similars." Locking up all the "similars" of a single
image with a single agency or a single marketing strategy puts the photographer at great
disadvantage and risk. The photographer is hoping to "win the lottery" with a single high dollar
sale, but may give up lots of low dollar sales in the meantime.
Photographers need to get images that are no longer being shown to clients out of the files and
put them where they can begin working again. Getty seems to be making some progress in its effort
to return images, and is moving at a much better pace than The Image Bank did prior to its
acquisition by Getty. Nevertheless, the job is huge and it is likely to take many months, if not
years, before it will be complete. From the time Getty removed the images from circulation until
the photographer gets them placed somewhere else, Getty has an advantage because images are no
longer competing with what Getty is showing.
Various service providers (agents?) may be able to aid photographers in various steps of this
process, but the relationships are likely to change from what they have been in the past.
Photographers need to retain more control.
Photographers needs to recognize that RF has changed the market forever. There will never be the
volume of RP sales in the future that occurred in the past.
Story 395TONY STONE IS BACKSIZE =5>
April 16, 2001 - Tony Stone's non-compete agreement with Getty Images has
expired and you can look for him to re-enter the industry in the near future.
There have been rumors in the industry that Tony had talks with Stock Workbook (his daughter Sarah
is Creative Director there) and that he might enter into some type of working arrangement with
When I questioned him about this he responded, "I've had very tentative exploratory talks with
several people in Europe and North America. I'm most sympathetic to those who are willing to work
constructively with photographers to achieve high quality, well-edited collections. The present
size of their operations is not very relevant. Their professionalism, dedication, and openness to
fundamentally new ideas is."
He continued, "All this is part of my re-induction into my old industry - it's been fascinating to
see new ideas, for example, the emergence of portals to aggregated collections, but disappointing
to note how the online product has moved backwards by decades to clutter, irrelevancy and
redundancy, and disappointing too that the principal concern for photographers seems to be
percentages, not how much more the content providers should be doing for them to ensure they get
an impressive return on their investment in shoots.
"In a month I will have completed my re-induction. I will have visited the most interesting
players, some old, some new, will have learnt a lot, and will then hope that the one or two which
I like best will want to work with me. I am bursting with ideas. It's far too early to say whom I
might partner with."
Story 386ZEFA ACQUIRES BENELUXSIZE =5>
March 27, 2001 - Dusseldorf, Amsterdam, Voorburg, March 2001: visual media
international (vmi), which includes the picture agency Zefa Visual Media (www.zefa.de) with
headquarters in Dusseldorf, has acquired the Benelux Group situated in the Netherlands and
The group's four agencies - Beneluxpress in the Netherlands and Belgium and Fotostock, also in the
Netherlands and Belgium - have been integrated completely into visual media international (vmi).
Around 1.5 million new pictures have been added to the visual media archives as a result of this
transaction. Over 200,000 images are available online.
The Benelux Group has over 45% of the market share in Netherlands and Belgium which would put
estimated gross stock photo sales in these two countries in 2000 at under $23 million.
Sales of the Benelux Group in 2000 were 25 Million Dutch Guilders ($10.2 million). Total sales of
visual media international (vmi) including the Benelux Group was approximately 55 million German
Marks ($25.3 million) in the year 2000. Sales for the consolidated group for 2001 are projected at
65 million German Marks ($29.9 million).
The vmi group now includes: Zefa Dusseldorf, Zefa Hamburg, Beneluxpress Netherlands, Beneluxpress
Belgium, Fotostock Netherlands, Fotostock Belgium, Zefa France, Zefa Italy, Zefa Poland and Zefa
Netherlands. They have sub-agent arrangements with the following agencies: Zefa visual media
Austria, Zefa visual media Portugal, Zefa visual media Turkey and Powerstock zefa UK. As a result
of the Benelux acquisition vmi also acquired its royalty free brand imageshop.com. All told there
are over 30 network partners that represent vmi catalogs and CD-ROM's worldwide.
This makes the group the third largest agency network in the world, after Getty Images and Corbis.
Future expansion plans of visual media international (vmi) include the North American market
according to Tomas Speight, Chief Executive Officer. "We plan to introduce our picture catalogues
together with our online image service in the United States at the beginning of 2002," he
The Benelux Group has a broad selection of images, covering Lifestyle, People and Concept themes.
Along with the field of classic stock, the Benelux Group now offers royalty-free material through
imageshop.com. Furthermore, the product area "Assignment" covers high-end photography for
prestigious clients. Fotostock specializes in the marketing of international stock material.
Beneluxpress has the largest picture archive of the Dutch Royal Family.
"The acquisition of the Benelux Group substantially strengthens visual media international (vmi),"
says Erwin Fey, President of vmi group. "The volume of products has increased; with this expansion
we have achieved market leadership in Europe. With the integration of the Benelux Group we have
extended our access to the market, which is a critical requirement for secure distribution
channels and the achievement of turnover growth."
An interesting side light is that Benelux pays Getty about $1.4 million a year on about $2.3
million of their sales that result from catalogs formerly produced by various companies recently
acquired by Getty.