Silver Lining of Consolidation

Posted on 5/3/2010 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Sometimes there is a silver lining when your stock agency gets acquired or you get kicked out of the agency.

Stock Connection had a long-term relationship with Jupiterimages, going back to the PictureQuest days. In early 2009, Getty Images purchased Jupiterimages and decided they no longer wanted to represent Jupiter’s rights-managed collections. As a result, former Jupiterimages customers have to come to us directly to re-license rights to images originally licensed through Jupiter.

Recently, a greeting card publisher came to us to re-license rights to an image they had licensed through Jupiter three years earlier. They sent us a copy of the invoice that showed they had purchased “three-year, worldwide, unlimited, non-exclusive print run of greeting cards, plus one-year use on calendars and one to three years for the image to appear on gifts,” all for $650.

This price seemed so ridiculously low that we called the customer and told them we could not possibly license the image for this price. We emphasized, given the broad nature of the license, that we would normally charge a lot more.

The first thing the customer said was, “We do not really need calendar or gift rights, because we have no plans to use the image for those purposes. We just add that language to all our requests, in case something might change in the future.” It appears that Jupiter sales people had given customers rights they did not even need.

Armed with that information, we now had to decide what we would charge. The big question was: what does “unlimited” mean? Getty Images has prices for under 10,000 and over 10,000. Corbis has prices for up to 5,000 and more than 100,000. Since the request did not come from one of the major card publishers, we speculated that the maximum print run would probably be no more than 30,000 or 40,000. Of course, when we asked them how many they intended to publish they said they did not know.

Then we thought of the critical question. We asked: “How many copies have you ever printed of a greeting card in a three-year period?” The answer that came back was 200,000. Based on that, we set a limit of 250,000, not unlimited, and the customer agreed. The price we initially asked for printing up to 250,000 greeting cards was $1,300. We eventually settled for $1,000. The invoice was paid within 10 days.

Lessons learned

  • Be careful to determine the exact usage. The client will often ask for much more than he or she really needs.
  • Do not assume that you can never get more than the client paid before for the same use. What they paid before may have been unreasonably low.
  • Your distributors may not be representing your best interests. In their drive to generate volume, they may be failing to limit the license to the usage the customer really needs. This may save negotiating time, but often costs them and you money. It also sets a bad precedent, because the customer begins to think that a very large usage is only worth a certain price. The next time the customer only needs rights for a small usage, he will expect a dramatic discount on the previously paid price.
  • In the drive to generate volume, an agency may be consistently under-pricing competitors. As long as everyone is competing to offer the lowest prices, the prices paid will continue to fall, and most individual photographers will not benefit from the increased volume.
  • We get to keep the whole $1,000 rather than giving up a large share of a much smaller number to the agency that is not really working in our interest.

Copyright © 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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