Offset: Is This Premium Editing?

Posted on 8/5/2016 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (3)

A reader sent me a note recently indicating that after seeing an Offset promotion he had asked Shutterstock the following question: “Do you think, clients - professional or not - are expecting this level of imagery from a high end collection?” He never got an answer.

The images shown in the promotion were taken in Thailand by Brooklyn-based photographer Lucy Schaeffer. The Offset tagline said “her images mix refined, understated luxury with the country’s beautiful and dramatic scenery. Be Transported.” The following are links here and here show the two images that were shown in the promotion.

Lucy Schaeffer has 791 images in the Offset collection. My question is not a judgment on her abilities as a photographer, or the quality of her work. She has a talent for photographing food as well as some very good pictures of children. But, the images selected by Shutterstock for this promotion are probably among the weakest images in her collection. In my opinion they are unlikely to ever be licensed for use by any customer.

I recognize that editing is a very subjective business. If this was an isolated instance it could be excused. But, the strategy used to edit Schaeffer’s work seems to be symptomatic of the way the entire Offset collection is edited.

They seem to be looking for a series of shots around a situation rather than focusing in the 1 or 2 best shots that come out of a particular shoot. Either that, or the editors are afraid to make a decision. In Lucy’s collection there is one shot of pouring something on a cake where Offset supplies 13 shots of basically the same thing. They seem to insist on showing a series of angles of every situation, even when there are only slight variations.

They also think that customers are looking for “natural” and “real life” rather than any shot that might reveal a little bit of planning and organization. From the editor’s point of view, it has to look like an accidental grab shot of the situation the photographer is exploring, or it is no good.

Since they can post unlimited images on the Internet they seem to be unwilling to use any judgment or make a decision as to what is best in a sequence. They seem to think customers are looking lots a varied angles of the each situation. I can’t imagine that they have much, if any, evidence that customers ever buy more than one images out of these sequences, at least not at Offset prices. (Shutterstock may have subscription customers who download every image in a sequence because it doesn’t cost them any extra to do so. But Offset images are not available via subscription. With subscriptions a customer can manipulate and play with a series of images on her desktop and later chooses the one to actually use.)

I wonder if the Offset editors are really looking at their data to determine what is selling. Offset has between 300,000 and 400,000 images in its collection. From talking to some of the contributing production companies, I get the impression that Offset may be licensing in the range of 30,000 images a year, or roughly 1 license pre year for every 10 images they have in the collection.

I understand that some suppliers have provided Offset with information about which images in their submissions have sold well, but Offset tends to ignore this information and accepts different images.

I’m reminded of the good old print catalog days. Most catalogs were well edited. Partially because given that they were costly to produce and deliver, the editors didn’t have the luxury of showing a lot of images that had little or no chance of ever being used. Lots of customers ended up using the same images, but they didn’t seem to mind. When a customer went to a TIB, Stock Market or FPG catalog it didn’t take them long to find a good image. With the Internet it is possible to do the same type of thing and show while showing lot more images more efficiently, but duping tens or thousands of images on the customers is not helping.

If Offset has to show all the similars they take in, why don’t they create a backup collection for them? Show only the best images in the curated collection. If a customer clicks on one of the curated images then show thumbnails of all the similar under the preview of the best image. The  thumbnails would be in a backup collection. That way customers could more quickly review a much greater variety of imagery on a particular subject. My bet is that most customers would choose the image a good editor has put in the primary curated collection, and they would appreciate the fact that they didn’t have to waste their time looking through a lot similar, irrelevant images to their current needs.

Of course the big problem is the cost of good editing. Offset would need people who know something about the market, not techies straight out of college. And they would have to pay attention to search and sales data, and it would all take time. But, if customers are willing to pay more for such a collection (and they’re paying $250 & $500 for Offset images) it might be worth it to get a greater variety of situations in front of the customers.

Also see: What Does Shutterstock Need For Growth?

Copyright © 2016 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:  


  • Tibor Bognar Posted Aug 6, 2016
    I completely agree with your opinion, Jim!

  • Adam Haglund Posted Aug 7, 2016
    A lot of guesses in this article. Why not ask Offset instead?

  • Adam Haglund Posted Aug 8, 2016
    This is a link that Offset sent me, when I asked them about what premium editing looked like:

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