Next From Adobe

Posted on 12/9/2015 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

What should we expect next from Adobe? The following is pure speculation. I have no inside information that the following is part of Adobe’s plan, but it seems logical to me that they will move in this direction in the near future. If they do it could benefit many image creators and possibly negatively affect some.

Higher Priced Collection

In order to appeal to Enterprise customers, I believe that Adobe Stock will introduce a relatively small, tightly edited collection of premium images at price points similar to Shutterstock’s Offset and Premier collections.

Clearly, there are customers (Shutterstock says they have over 22,000 Enterprise customers) that are finding it more and more difficult to find the high quality images they need in today’s massive collections. Many of these collections seem more focused on quantity than quality.

For art directors doing this high end work, time is a bigger issue than money. They need to be able to search image collections that are tightly curated by experienced editors who have an understanding of the kind of imagery they regularly need. And they are willing to pay significantly more for images that fit their specific needs, are relatively easy to find and are unlikely to have been widely used by many other customers.

Recently, an art director contacted Cavan Images, a small niche collection of quality images. He had been spending a huge percentage of his work week combing through massive collections searching for the high quality lifestyle images he needed. With Cavan he was able to cut down his search time each week by over 8 hours. He thanked them for saving his marriage. Now, he is able to get home for dinner with his wife and daughter.

There is no question that price is still important for the majority of buyers. They need Shutterstock subscriptions that average $1.25 per image downloaded and Adobe Stock’s offering of $2.99 per image actually used. But at the other end of the spectrum high end Enterprise customers will generate about $100 million in revenue for Shutterstock in 2015.  Certainly, Adobe will not ignore these customers.

It is not too early for individual creators and stock agencies to begin to consider their individual courses of action, if and when Adobe Stock moves in this direction.

Fotolia Infinite

Adobe already has the Fotolia Infinite collection. But as far as we know none of the images in the Infinite collection are available on Adobe Stock. Infinite contains images from a significant number of traditional RF distributors including: Blend Images, Westend61, Moodboard, Juice Images, Robert Harding, MIXA, Onoky, Monkey Business and Corbis_Infinite to name a few.

Among the large microstock producers with images in this collection are: Pressmaster, Wavebreakmedia, Iceteaimages, Andreas130, Gstockstudio, Minerva Studio, Sergey Nivens, Kurhan, Matka_wariatka, Valua Vitaly and Olly to name a few. Most of these organizations are production companies with multiple shooters. Their Infinite images are priced at the same level as those of traditional distributors. Most of these producers also license other images on Fotolia, Adobe Stock and many other microstock site at regular microstock prices.

Given that Adobe is making sales of higher priced images through the Fotolia website, and has an understanding of the demand for images at these price points, it seems logical that they would at some point want to make these images available to the Adobe Stock customers who are willing to pay more for a curated collection.

To get an idea of the current size of this Infinite collection I performed a number of searches for broad subject categories. The chart below shows the results. Given that some images fall into multiple categories I estimate the size of the total collection at about 500,000 images.

People 196,212
Business 106,703
Landscape 25,413
Animals 8,222
Travel 56,768
Medical 10,533
Food 49,390


One of the issues in introducing such a collection will be pricing simplification. The Fotolia Infinite collection offers a variety of price points with most of the images being offered at 6 different price levels depending on file size, plus an extended price when the customer wants to print more than 500,000 copies of an image. There are a number of different price levels and the extended license price can vary from 200 to 800 credits depending on the image purchased. (The price of a credit ranges from $1.12 to $0.60 depending on the size of the credit package purchased.)

By comparison Shutterstock’s offers a simple 2 price option for every image in its Offset collection -- $250 for a 72dpi file and $500 for a 300dpi file.

This raises several question:

1 – If the Enterprise customer is getting an RF license that offers Unlimited Impressions is pricing simplicity all that important? One of the things the Infinite pricing strategy would offer customers is the chance to get images at a reduced price if they do not plan to print more than 500,000 copies, and thus not need unlimited impressions.

2 – Should this higher priced collection be made available to everyone as is the case with Infinite and Shutterstock’s Offset, or should it only be available to customers who are in the Enterprise program as is the case with Shutterstock Premier? (Since I am not an Enterprise customer I haven’t been given access to the Shutterstock Premier collection.  I have no knowledge of how Premier pricing works, but I assume it is similar to Offset. We do know that Shutterstock Enterprise Customers have access to the general Shutterstock collections as well as Premier and Offset and can select images from all three collections. Enterprise customers pay an average of about $100 for each image used.)

3 –Enterprise customers will often need to be able to make “unlimited impressions” of the images they license. Fotolia’s current Infinite licenses for unlimited impressions range from $200 to $800. To me, the high end seems too high for today’s market. I would think this level of pricing might dramatically reduce the number of customers who would use such an Adobe Stock collection.

4 – If Adobe decides to go with a more simplified pricing structure, will many current suppliers pull out? RF contributors will need to think long and hard about this. Clearly, a significant percent of customers will be using the Shutterstock and Adobe Stock sites. Combined, these two brands will generate over $500 million in annual still image and illustration sales (not including video or most editorial). I think the total worldwide sales of still images and illustration is somewhere in the range of $1.2 to $1.4 billion. Consequently, this represents a significant segment of the market.

The next largest licensor of RF images is Getty Images. Currently their traditionally priced still image and illustration sales (compared to Offset and Fotalia Infinite) is probably less than $280 million with RF sales representing about 60% of that, or around $168 million.

5 - Shutterstock minimum price of $250 for a 72dpi file would seem to be prohibitive for many relatively small on-line uses. Adobe will have a better idea than Shutterstock of how important this segment of the market is by looking at Infinite collection sales for small uses. Adobe will likely use a pricing strategy for 72dpi use that differs from Offset.  

Adobe may want to consider something like the Stocksy strategy.  It offers prices for 4 file sizes with additional fees for Unlimited Print, Products for Resale and Multi-Seat.

Small $10
Medium $25
Large $50
Unlimited Print $300
Product for Resale $500
Multi-Seat (Unlimited) $100

Since this is more in line with current Fotolia Infinite pricing it might be easier to sell to suppliers. The prices for some of the medium and large sizes could be adjusted somewhat.

6 – Will Adobe allow existing standard collection contributors to nominate some of their standard collection images for possible inclusion in the newer, higher priced, brand, or will they only take images from distributors?

Shutterstock has resisted moving some of its best selling images from its general collection to Offset or Premier. Adobe would be well advised to carefully examine some of its best selling general collection images and offer creators the option of moving selected images to the new higher priced option. Creators are unlikely to see anywhere near the number of downloads as they have been getting from subscription buyers. But, the much higher individual price for those that are licensed may mean increased gross revenue for the contributor’s entire collection.

One of the advantages of only taking images from large production companies and agencies is that these organizations provide the experienced editing needed for good curation of a collection. This strategy also reduces the operational overhead compared to dealing with small individual producers.

On the other hand, many of the small, individual producers occasionally produce some great images that would sell very well to high end enterprise customers, if these customers could find them. Saving search time is a major reasons for why customers are willing to pay higher fees for the images they need. Under the current system these customers are required to look through so many images that they often miss the best ones for their particular purposes.

Things To Consider

RF contributors will need to think long and hard about how to adapt to such a development. Clearly, a significant percent of customers will be using the Shutterstock and Adobe Stock sites.

If there is a reduction in Fotolia Infinite prices, contributors will need to look carefully at the average prices they are receiving from traditional RF sites. In many cases the images are licensed for much less than the “list” RF price. In the beginning of 2014, I had the opportunity to examine 2013 sales ( for a number of Getty contributors. Based on their figures the average price of an RF image licensed by Getty Images was $133. I expect it is less today. Thus, if Adobe Stock prices for RF can average greater than $133, and your royalty percentage is calculated on that gross sale price you may be better off than if your images are licensed through Getty.

Contributors need to stop focusing on occasional high priced sales and look more to the average revenue they receive per-image-licensed. If they add more images to the collection does that raise their average price per-image-licensed? Does their RPI per-image in the collection go up, or down as they add images? Are they seeing improvement or decline in the monthly revenue generated relative to their cost of production?

Some RM contributors may need to look carefully at what Adobe and Shutterstock are offering. If they can get images accepted on a non-exclusive basis into these high priced curated collections, they may earn more than if the images are in smaller, specialized RM collections that are looked at much less frequently by customers.

Winners And Losers

It seems to me that those who get images into Shutterstock’s Premier and Offset collections, and whatever Adobe Stock calls their collection aimed at Enterprise customers, are likely to be the Winners. They won’t license rights to as many images, but they will get a lot more for every image licensed.

The Losers are likely to be those with images in the huge standard priced collections. These collections are growing at exponential levels. For most the chance of any individual image being downloaded will decrease rapidly. New images will be buried in the search return order quickly. More and more customers will turn to Enterprise offerings and stop looking at the huge standard collections.

Copyright © 2015 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, 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:  


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