Something to think about as we move into the New Year.
Many people want to talk about how to get better prices for better quality images. When we're talking about stock pictures, this concept is irrelevant. Unfortunately, quality has absolutely nothing to do with what a customer will pay for an image. (The ability to produce quality images does have relevance when choosing a photographer for an assignment, but it doesn't relate to stock.)
Focusing on this issue makes photographers and stock agents feel good. All say we should be paid more for the hard work we put into images. All will probably agree that in general, we are getting less now than we were five or 10 years ago for image use, particularly taking inflation into account. But despite complaint, we will not get getting higher prices for the images we license.
For the customer, quality is measured in terms of what is the best image for his particular needs. The customer could care less about how much it costs to produce the image, how difficult it was to produce, how professional the models were or the reputation of the photographer. All the customer cares about is finding the image that fits the project parameters at an affordable price. Depending on the project (the type of usage), that price may vary greatly.
Thus, what we need to do is carefully define types of usage, and establish fair and reasonable prices (for both buyer and seller) for each such usage. To a degree, that is what the RM side of the business has tried to do for decades. But in certain areas, it has failed to keep up with new uses and the way certain business have changed. As a result, some price strategies have gotten out of line.
In addition, pricing based on usage has gotten so complex that customers are rebelling against its complexity. We need to stop worrying about getting better prices for "better quality." Instead, we need to focus on finding ways to simplify and make it easier for customers to determine the price for a particular use, without discarding the concept of pricing based on usage.
Discussing the issue of getting higher prices for "better quality" images is a waste of time. We are deluding ourselves. In 2008, we should be talking about how to earn the most money for the images we produce and license.