PACA Photographer's Survey

Posted on 8/11/2000 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)



August 11, 2000

In the spring PACA surveyed 823 photographers in an effort to get a sense as to how

the picture agency community could better serve photographers. They received 128

responses, or a 15% response rate. The same survey was sent to 162 PACA member

agencies. Forty-eight responded for a 30% response rate.

In response to the question of "How much of their income comes from stock?" 24 said

less than 30%, 29 said between 30% and 59%, 36 said between 60% and 89% and 35 said

over 90%. The agency representation of the people in these groups was a follows








> 6   











Under 30%   









30% to 59%   









60% to 89%   









Over 90%









I believe it is significant that 40 had only a single agent and 81 had more than one

agent. Also 52 of those who earned more than 60% of their income from stock had more

than one agent while only 29 of those who earned less than 59% of their income from

stock had more than one agent.

The photographers were ask to list some of the BEST and WORST things about their

agencies. (These are not listed in any order of importance.)

Among the BEST were:

    They are honest.

    They are established, respected and have a good reputation.

    They pay monthly and promptly and have good reporting procedures.

    Good sales volume and consistent sales.

    Quick turn-around on submissions.

    They maintain a reasonable price for the use of my images.

    They actively promote my work. Get my work to markets fast.

    Editors work with you. Feeling of partnership.

    Provide shooting tips.

    They publish many catalogs each year.

    They find the markets and clients I would never meet.

    They have great visibility in the marketplace.

    Brand awareness by clients.

    They have a friendly approachable staff with knowledgeable editors.

    Photographer oriented. Photographer friendly.

    Creative freedom.

    Good, clear, candid, strong communications.

    They are small. They are big. They have offices worldwide.

    They are flexibile in contract negotiations.

    They are image-exclusive.

    Innovative imagery and cutting-edge art direction.

Among the WORST were:

    Poor turn-around time on submissions.

    Difficulty in getting feedback.

    Difficulty in getting images returned.

    Lack of communications.

    Little information on why images are rejected.

    In-house photographers take precedence.

    Sales are dropping but they report profits.

    They take too high a percentage of sales.

    Fees for catalogs increasing.

    They charge too much back to photographers for production and duping fees.

    Investors are more important than photographers.

    They treat photographers as expendable and interchangeable commodities.

    It is too difficult to get any new images in agency.

    They won't offer image-exclusivity.

    They don't pay regularly, I have to ask for payments.

    Contracts that require lawyers and months to negotiate.

    They want me to do work for hire.

    Ineffective web site.

    Poor sales.

    Lack of overall vision and direction.

    Inexperienced editors and high editor turnover.

    There are discrepancies between what editor suggests I shoot and the images that

    actually make it into the catalog.

    Over react to short-term style trends in imagery.

The PACA stock agencies were also asked to respond to the survey. The Agencies that

responded represented the following number of photographers:


No. Agencies

25 or less


26 - 50


51 - 99


100 - 199


200 - 299


300 - 399


400 - 499


500 or more


From the agency perspective the BEST and WORST things about their photographers were:

(These are not listed in any order of importance.)

Among the BEST were:

    They are productive and submit on a regular basis.

    Communicate regularly. Repond quickly.

    High caliber of work.

    Edit submissions.

    Provide necessary information about imagery.

    They are creative.

    Quality of the imagery.

    An eye for capturing the essence of the moment.

    Committed to their work.

    They have a passion for their specialty niche.

    Understanding of the market.

    Enthusiasm about their photography.

    Specialist in their field.

    Shoot based on want lists.

    Pay attention to agency needs.

    Can access needed information at any time.

    Willingness to participate in growth of agency.

    They are open to new business models.

    Willing to shoot on spec.

    Recommend us to photo buyers.

    Recommend us to other photographers.

Among the WORST were:

    They resist change.

    Lack a realistic understanding of the market.

    No grasp of trends or issues.

    They are quick to blame, but hesitant to help fix any problems.



    Hesitant to invest in stock shoots or shoot on spec.

    Can't access model releases or other image information.

    Make disorganized or unedited submissions.

    Provide inaccurate or insufficient captioning.

    Sell similars without the agency's knowledge.

    Don't take criticism well.

    Reject esclusivity.

    Unrealistic expectations.

    No motivation to make stock part of their regular work schedule.

    Difficult to reach to talk about agency issues.

Most Important Issues

Respondents were asked to rank certain issues in the agency/photographer relationship

in order of importance. The following is the photographer ranking with 1 being most important.

    1 - Commission Rate

    2 - Sales Volume

    3 - Non-exclusivity for Non-catalog Images

    4 - Relationship with Editor

    5 - Payment Schedule

    6 - e-commerce web site

    7 - Information on Sales Statement

    8 - Production Expense Sharing

    9 - Detailed Want Lists

    10 - Access to Agency Management

    11 - Monthly Newsletter

    12 - Coop Fees for Duping

The Agents were asked to rank the issues based on what they thought were most

important to photographers. It is interesting that photographers ranked Commission

Rates and Non-exclusivity for Non-catalog Images higher and of more importance than

the agents thought they would. The Agent rankings were:

    1 - Sales Volume

    2 - Relationship with Editor

    3 - Commission Rate

    4 - Access to Agency Management

    5 through 9 were all weighted equally and significantly lower than

    the other from the agency perspective.

      Non-exclusivity for Non-catalog Images

      Payment Schedule

      Information on Sales Statement

      Production Expense Sharing

      Detailed Want Lists

Issues Of Importance To Clients

The photographers and agents were also given a list of client issues and asked to rank

them in order of importance from their perspective. While photographers should have a

better sense of the issues that age important to them, the agents should have a better

idea of what is important to the clients because the agents are the people in most

direct contact with the clients.

The agents ranked the following in importance:

    1 - Image Quality

    2 - Price

    3 - Quality Service

    4 - Relationship with the Sales Rep

    5 through 8 were all weighted equally from the agency perspective

      Digital Image Fulfillment

      Online Image Searching

      Size of Library

      Represents both RF and RP imagery

The photographer ranking was close, but somewhat different.

    1 - Image Quality

    3 - Quality Service

    2 - Price

    4 - Catalogs (no rating by agents)

    4 - Relationship with the Sales Rep

    6 - Online Image Searching

    7 - Size of Library

    8 - Digital Image Fulfillment

    9 - Represents both RF and RP imagery

Growing The Business

The following are some of the things Agents listed that are necessary in order to

maintain and increase their stock businesses. These are not listed in any order of


    Web presence.

    Well thought-out web strategy and distribution channel.

    Keep up with technology.

    Continue providing customers with great service.

    Offer more services to customers.

    Help maintain standards and prices.

    Provide customers with great service.

    Increasing quality of image files.

    Increased marketing.

    Establish new markets, Promote, Promote, Promote.

    Put images in a wider variety of outlets to increase number of images (and number of

    photographers) in the market.

    Adjust expectations to new market realities.

    Add new photographers.

    Edit existing files down to most marketable images.

    Differentiate from giants.

    Secure niche photography.

Some of the things Photographers listed as necessary for them to maintain and increase

their stock businesses include:

    Good communications.

    Create excellent quality images.

    Increase digital capabilities.

    Maintain prices.

    Work to overcome trend to quantity discounts.


    More agency representation.

    Place specialties with appropriate agencies.

    Less constrictive contracts.

    Continue to service clients on my own.

    Take responsibility for communicating with my editor.

    Pay more attention to information on sales statements.

    Look for alternate selling methods.

    Depend more on me and less on agencies.

    Continue self-promotion. Make more direct sales.

    Reduce production costs.

    Leave the huge conglomerate and find other agencies to represent my work.

    Get out of the stock business.

President's Letter

In thanking the photographers for their participation, PACA's new President Sonia

Wasco said:

    "I assure you the following will happen:

    "1 - Every PACA-member agency -- whether they attended the meeting or not -- will

    receive a copy of the survey.

    "2 - The new Executive Committee will evaluate the issues addressed in your responses

    and make recommendations, revisions or additions to our current Recommended Business


    "3 - At the upcoming International Conference in New York this fall, PACA will invite a

    panel of photographers and illustrators to present their perspectives on the industry

    during the two-day probram. (Last year's attendance at this conference numberd over

    400 agents from 220 companies in 36 countries.)

    "4 - PACA will sponsor a seminar at PhotoPlus Expo East titled YOUR STOCK AGENCY AND

    YOU: DIVORCE OR RENEWAL OF THE VOWS? This brand new seminar will deal with two main

    issues: 1) the severing of a long-standing agency relationship and the quest for new

    representation and 2) how to make your relationship with an existing agency more

    productive. Using PACA's recent photographer survey as a basis, we'll deal with

    issues ranging from commission splits to contract negotiations. We will ask at least

    two photographers to be part of this panel.

    "5 - PACA will sponsor an ad in PDN endorsed by every PACA member agency which will

    clearly state our position on the protection of YOUR copyrights.

    "These are just the first steps in what I hope will be the continuation of effective

    communication between agencies and their contributing artists. Thank you for your

    valuable time and efforts in this regard."

    Sonia Wasco, President

Copyright © 2000 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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