New Stock Image Distribution System Needed

Posted on 6/23/2017 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (3)

Stock photo prices have fallen dramatically in the last decade. Some RM photographers are earning, on average, less then 7% per-image-licensed of what they earned a decade ago. RF prices have seen similar declines, although not quite as severe. Seventy to 80% of traditional image licenses are for fees of $20 or less. More than 50% are for $10 or less. Throughout most of this period photographers have continued to produce new and better images. The cost of production has not declined.

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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 301-251-0720, 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:  


  • Bob Prior Posted Jun 24, 2017
    Charles Taylor of Photoshot (or what was Photoshot) tried to launch exactly this plan some two years ago. Perhaps you could ask him "What ever happened to that venture?" He knows the answer to that question so it would be interesting to find out from him why it did not work. If you are out there Charles perhaps you could let us all know.

  • Jim Pickerell Posted Jun 24, 2017
    Email from Mike Turco

    I agree with your statements under "New Image Distribution System". I would add that the cost for pros to produce images has dramatically increased. I started when computers were only used to make it easier to track my catalog. Now most of my time is spent on a computer. I am aware of a long list of top level pros within my industry sector that have left because the money no longer works for their needs.

  • Justin Brinson Posted Jun 29, 2017
    Do we really need to "reinvent the wheel" with a new photo distribution system from agencies? Or do we just need a better way to search our industry's current inventory more efficiently?

    Take a look at the pain points from image buyers and sellers.

    Buyers currently have to wade through the muck of syndication and duplication to get to the image for which they are really looking. Why would we think image buyers would be willing to pay 10x more to license an image that a competitor is using? I don’t think price fixing is the answer. A better, smarter search is needed. One search that eliminates the rampant syndication and duplication from our industry. A search that finds the best, unique image for that particular buyer's needs. One that finds great images that have NOT been overused. Buyers are looking for unique images with visual impact that will get their particular customers' attention. Finding the perfect image to represent a company, brand, product, or idea is currently a difficult task.

    On the other side of the coin, sellers, including creators (photographers, videographers, and illustrators) and photo agencies are NOT looking for yet another middle man to take another cut of the license fees. They are all simply looking for a better way to get existing stock photo content licensed.

    I have a list of what buyers and sellers told us they wanted and I am happy to share.

    1. All images from the industry in one search (all inclusive). NOT a new agency, but rather a true search engine.
    2. An unbiased search that levels the playing field (no one can pay to have a higher search rank).
    3. Remove duplication and syndication, just show the image one time within the search results. Send buyers as close to the original source as possible, which allows both the photographer and agency get paid more (less middlemen taking their cut of the license fees), and ultimately photographers can continue producing high quality content.
    4. Universal lightboxes from across the entire industry to save and share with clients all of the images they have found from the industry.
    5. Direct to seller marketplace where larger more established creators have the option to license directly to image buyers. Many are already doing this now, but have no real opportunity to generate enough traffic to make this profitable.

    All of the above is solved with PicturEngine, and it is only getting better as the search matures. Yes, changing search habits of image buyers is expensive and takes time, less time and money however, than creating a whole new sales and delivery platform and getting agencies to agree on anything. PicturEngine already has over 850,000,000 results within its organic index from the industry. We use machine learning to help buyers find exactly what they are looking for efficiently. A truly smart search that learns what the image buyer is looking for and helps them find the perfect image. The more an image buyer searches and uses the system, the better their search results become.

    One more thing that I think should be discussed further, an exchange of data. I am not talking about "price fixing” on any image that has sold or otherwise. I believe each individual and agency should handle setting their own prices how they see fit. I am talking about the true equal and distributed sharing of data. If anyone is interested, please feel free to reach out to me, I have some founding ideas that I have been working on for a data exchange.

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