Photographer's Choice At Getty

Posted on 9/27/2002 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)



September 27, 2002

For years one of the major photographer complaints with Getty Images has been that their
editing has been too tight and that many images customers would be willing to purchase
are not made available online.

In response to this concern Getty has launched "Photographer's Choice", a new way for
Getty Images photographers to get images online. In August Getty set aside 2000 online
slots and allowed photographers, already under contract, to purchase a block of 5 or 10
of these slots for $75.00 per slot. The photographers can submit any images they want,
even images that might have been previously rejected by one of the Getty brands, and
they will be put online as part of Photographer's Choice. No photographer was allowed to
purchase more than 10 slots in this initial offering.

Photographer's Choice contracts were posted for review in early
August, and were available for download on Tuesday, August 27. One week later,
photographers were informed that every slot had been filled, and then some. The company
agreed to accept all contracts that were received within a week of August 27th, even
though this brought in hundreds of additional images over the 2000 originally allotted.
Getty expects to make more slots available early next year.


One of the incentives offered to photographers is that customers will be able to search
the "Photographer's Choice" brand just like any other Getty brand. Some photographers
think that art directors will search the Photographer's Choice section of the site to
see what photographers think are their best images. I'm inclined to think that most
sales of these images will result from customers doing general searches using keywords
that happen to fit the particular images, not because they are looking at the
Photographer's Choice section of the site to find something to use.

Given Getty's market penetration getting one's images where
they can be seen by customers looking at the site is a huge advantage
over having the images almost anywhere else. The difficulty, up to now, has been that
Getty was accepting such a small percentage of the production of most photographers.
Other sites were the next best option for images that Getty would not accept, but
nowhere as good as a position on the Getty site.

However, 2000(+) images is a very small number. One of the major
questions for the future is how fast Getty will add to this group of images? Clearly,
the photographers have many other images they would like to put on the site.

Will Getty open the flood gates, or keep a very tight control on the number of images
they add to this brand. A lot will probably depend on the average return of
Photographer's Choice images. If Getty sees that these images are selling as well or
better than the images in the other brands they are likely to allow the photographers to
put up a lot more images.


Some photographers are concerned that there appears to be no editing of the images
offered for Photographer's Choice. They fear that lack of editing will dilute the
quality of the Getty offering. Given the existing parameters, I don't think there is any
reason for concern.

  • The only people who are being allowed to submit are
    photographers already contracted to Getty. The quality of their work is

  • Most of the photographers are experienced stock shooters. They know what sells in
    their particular area of specialty. They know the kind of images their customers are

  • As long as the number of images a photographer is allowed to submit is limited
    there is no way one photographer can overwhelm a particular section of the

  • The $75 per image fee will place limitations on what photographers are willing to
    submit and keep the quality high.

One of the big advantages of Photographer's Choice is that instead of a small team of
editors determining what customers should want, now hundreds of editors (the
photographers) will be making those decisions.

The brilliance of Getty's strategy is that they get to learn how good the editing
decisions of their photographers are relative to their staff editors who have all the
resources of Getty Images at their disposal. Even if it turns out that there is a better
return pre images from the images chosen by the staff editors Getty will have some very
useful comparison figures and be able to determine how rapidly they want to expand the
Photographer's Choice option.
In addition, by letting the photographers make the selection and getting them to pay up
front fees to post images Getty has significant savings on production team expenses.

Future Price

Some photographers are worried that by opening the door to photographers paying for
space (which is effectively paying for scanning, keywording, upload and storage costs)
it won't be long until Getty is charging more and more in up front fees to put all
images online. They are reminded of what happened with the Stone catalog fees a few
years ago when the soared through the roof. It is also noted that this fee is paid up
front and not deducted from sales. There is no denying that there could be an escalation
in fees.

However, it seems to me that photographers have to look at the specific situation each
time there is a new offering to participate on Photographer's Choice. At that point they
must determine if the offer makes economic sense for them. It seems to me that the
current offer makes a lot of sense for virtually every photographer. Future offers
should be viewed on their merits.

If a photographer uses reasonable judgment in the images selected it is hard to imagine
that he won't make a significant return on this investment in a very short period of
time at a $75 per image price. If he doesn't that would certainly be an indication that
he really does need the guidance of the Getty editors, but I believe very few
photographers will fall into that category.

Certainly, the $75 fee should more than cover the costs of getting an image online. If
Getty later chooses to raise that fee it would be a clear indication that they want the
loading images into their system to be a profit center, as well as the return they
receive from any sales they make of these images.

On the other hand, as with any business decision, the photographer needs to weight the
potential income from an image on the Getty Images site and compare that with the likely
return if that image were on another portal or agency site.

Implications For Other Photographers And Agencies

Now that Getty has made this move other agencies may feel that they can also charge up
front fees. It is hard to imagine that any other agency could justify charging as much
as Getty, because they don't offer the market penetration. But it will be easier for
other agencies to justify charging something.

Copyright © 2002 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:  


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