Offset Update

Posted on 7/2/2013 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Shutterstock’s Offset brand that was announced in April is moving forward. Currently the site has more than 27,000 images with more images and artists added every day. Customers are already licensing images, but Offset is currently in an invite-only beta. If you would like to take a look at what’s on the site go to and request access. The company is in the process of adding more features to the site with a public launch expected in the fall.?

To clarify some of the issues that seem to have confused contributors we asked Scott Braut, VP of Content at Shutterstock, and his team a number of questions. There answers are below.

Are images represented by Offset exclusive or non-exclusive? Jon made a big thing recently about it not making sense for photographers to make their images available to one site exclusively. I wonder if that holds for Offset.

Offset does not require exclusivity. As Jon indicated in his blog post, we believe in creating unbiased search experiences that focus on delivering the most satisfying and relevant results to the customer first and foremost. We also believe that non-exclusivity delivers greater benefits to customers and contributors overall. However, because many of the artists who are contributing to Offset have never licensed their images as stock before, much of the content they’re providing is exclusively on Offset. It’s important to note that this is their choice and not a requirement for contributing.

I don’t understand why you don’t want to take some of the best images from the Shutterstock collection and move them to Offset. With 25 million images there have to be a lot of great images that get buried and new customers never see. It would seem to me that it would make sense to move these to the new brand.

There are amazing, high-quality images on Shutterstock, but Offset is an entirely different brand.  Offset is being carefully curated to focus on authentic, assignment-quality images that have a modern style and tell a story. Feedback from both customers and contributors has been very positive and they recognize how Offset is different from other collections and brands.
Segmenting images into a collection like this is something other agencies have done that we’re not particularly fond of. We have 750,000 customers on Shutterstock and it wouldn’t be fair to them or to the artists to begin separating out the collection in this way. There are many high-quality images that work for Shutterstock customers seeking variety and creative freedom that wouldn’t work for Offset and vice-versa.

It’s already the case that Shutterstock offers more than one opportunity for contributors to make money – take video footage for example -- but even as the contributor pool for Offset broadens over time, we expect that our curatorial philosophy will remain the same.

You say your approaching providers like National Geographic as an example or the quality and uniqueness your looking for, but all their best images are already represented by Getty and are everywhere. Are they going to pull the images you select out of the Getty collection?

Offset currently represents over 75 individual artists and 18 collections, with more being added each day. Many of our artists are assignment photographers or illustrators who have never licensed their work as stock before.  We also have collections and artists who are creating original content for Offset. The Offset collection is being carefully curated, so regardless of whether an image has been given to us exclusively or non-exclusively, the experience and the collection will remain special and entirely unique.  
While Offset is entirely separate from Shutterstock you say “you’re going to apply what you learn from Shutterstock to Offset and vice versa.” It make sense to me that you would use what you’ve learned about Shutterstock to know who to go after with Offset. I would also think that the Offset editing will be based on what you’ve learned from Shutterstock sales.

A critical part of Shutterstock’s culture and success as a company is our openness to learning and applying things we’ve absorbed to make the highest quality decisions. We combine tremendous amounts of data, strong customer relationships and research, and a talented and experienced team to deliver our products and services. At the same time, we recognize that Offset is the solution for customers seeking assignment- and RM-quality images with the ease-of-use of an RF license, and that there are differences between Offset and Shutterstock.
You’re looking for “Unique” images, but what most people have learned in this business is that customers love to look at Unique, but they buy “Useful.” And what Shutterstock has been very good at delivering is useful. While customers may say they want something different than what you are offering (they always do) when it comes down to the buying decision they tend to spend a lot more on useful than unique.

We talk to customers around the world every single day and they describe their image needs and frustrations. They often describe images that are both unique and useful; images they can’t find at other agencies because of a lack of focus, a lack of contemporary style, or simply because the content doesn’t exist for licensing. Offset contributors are creating new images and already work with premier advertisers, consumer magazines, companies and brands. They work with teams of art directors and stylists who have extensive experience with the needs of publishers, corporate clients and ad agencies. With Offset, designers and art buyers will no longer have to choose between exceptional, stylish, hard-to-find images and easy licensing.   
One of the problem with unique is that even the best creators don’t create unique images that customers want to use every day. And the creation process tends to cost more. And those unique images – while they may sell for more money don’t sell anywhere near as frequently as the more common images. So we get down to the question of whether the unique sales at the prices quoted will generate more money for the creator than the much higher volume of sales at a “Pay As You Go” price. I’m sure you’ll find out quickly and you will have the data to compare.

With 750,000 customers worldwide and dedicated sales and marketing efforts for Offset, there will be an ample audience for images that buyers ask for every day, but struggle to find at other services. It’s early days, but we’re focused on content that’s both useful and unique and customers are excited about the collection.
As I see it one of the big advantages of Offset is that creators who think of their images as “their babies” would never give their images to Shutterstock due to the low prices. They will give them to Offset because the higher price points show “their babies” more respect. They fail to take into account that 60 sales at $10 will generate more money than 1 sale at $500.

It truly depends on the artist and the type of work. Some images will sell better on a volume model, others would do better in a more curated environment. The important thing is that Shutterstock offers artists a choice.  On one hand, we’re known for delivering high and reliable earnings. On the other hand, we believe our relationships with artists should be based on generating sales for them and trust. That’s why we believe in non-exclusivity. We’re very honest with artists as to where we think they’ll see the highest returns. With 750,000 customers, we’re offering a portfolio of opportunities to contributors on top of amazing technology and global reach, but we believe that contributors should ultimately be the ones to decide what’s best for their business and what opportunities are most appropriate for their images.    
You say, “we believe that contributors should ultimately be the ones to decide what’s best for their business.” Will you allow contributors to pull certain images from Shutterstock and submit them to Offset, if the contributor believes his image would earn more at a higher price point?
Offset is much more than a price point. Offset is a curated collection of authentic and exceptional images that have been chosen specifically for their focus on storytelling.

In the future, images from Shutterstock contributors may be considered for Offset if they are right for the collection, but we also encourage contributors to distribute images through the collection and model that’s most appropriate for their work. For most contributors, the volume model behind Shutterstock, will continue to be the best place for their work.

Some Shutterstock contributors that produce high-quality, high production value images have become concerned about how subscription offerings are eating into their other microstock distributor sales. When customers discover that they can get the high production value images as part of a Shutterstock subscription they no longer have a reason to go to other higher priced sites. There is no denying that Shutterstock is generating an increased volume of sales for these photographers, but the low priced volume is not enough to offset the loss of higher priced sales. Thus, the photographers are faced with several choices: (1) cutting production costs, (2) cutting back on new production and accepting what they can get from Shutterstock sales of their existing collection or (3) pulling their images out of Shutterstock and hoping sales through other microstock distributors will make up the difference. Long range none of this works for Shutterstock. Is there something I’m missing?

Many leading contributors have grown and greatly expanded their businesses with subscription earnings as a cornerstone of their success.  While Shutterstock is known for its subscription products, it’s important to note that we offer a portfolio of image licensing opportunities across many price points, with single images, image packs, corporate and other agreements that can result in royalties of $120 or more per download. That’s in addition to our corresponding footage business and Offset.  At Shutterstock, a contributor can have all of the reliability and volume of subscription sales, and at the same time, they can have the higher royalties that come through extended licenses, image packs and direct sales agreements.

The amount of opportunity at Shutterstock is growing every day.  Contributors know this and we’re seeing record numbers of submissions and new highs in contributor activity, while simultaneously seeing new highs in contributor payouts and customer activity.  It’s a healthy and thriving marketplace on both sides of the business.    
I’ve been told that some Shutterstock customers are paying as much as $400 to use a single image. Would you please explain what the conditions of such a sale would be? It seems to me that even when the customer intends to print more than 250,000 copies of a product and needs an “Enhanced License” the fee is still less than $100 per image used.

Shutterstock serves many different types of customers worldwide, ranging from small businesses and freelance designers all the way up to Fortune 500 companies, publishers and advertising agencies. The needs of those customers can be very different.  Our larger corporate, advertising and publishing customers often come to us with requests for extended print runs, custom research, special workflow features, additional legal indemnification, and other pre-negotiated commitments that add value to the license and our service.  That value is then shared with contributors, whose royalties can reach up to $120 or more for a single download.

For answers to other Frequently Asked Questions see here.

Copyright © 2013 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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