Stock Photo Marketing 2.0 – Part 2

Posted on 5/18/2016 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

In a previous story we talked about five aspects of the image licensing business where serious modification to standard practices are needed, if the industry is move ahead and grow revenue.  In that story I dealt with three of the five:  (1) Pricing Floor For Certain Imagery, (2)  Simplified Pricing and (3) Better Actionable Data For Contributors That Relates To What’s Selling.

In this story we’ll examine the issues of (4) Curation and, (5) a Central Database For Small Collections.

4 – Curated Collections. Customers cannot afford to spend hours of their time searching through vast, poorly organized collections. The more images that are added to a large database the more difficult it becomes to find the best or most useful ones. Customers want help and many are willing to pay higher prices for the images they purchase, if it easier to quickly find images they can use.

Too many good images get buried among the masses of marginally appropriate ones. The newest isn’t necessarily the best. Visual search and auto-keywording may eventually help a little, but given the huge numbers of images being added to collections weekly, these features are unlikely to really solve the problem.

What is needed is human researchers with access to solid data on the most requested subjects and what customers are actually buying. Curators needs to know the keyword or phrase that customers actually used to find an image they were willing to license. Broad, general categories return way too many images. The categories must be much more focused and specific to what customers are actually buying. Curators need to develop collections of the best 100 to 500 images that precisely fulfill all the requirements of the narrowly focused search terms used most often. Such collections could dramatically improve the search process for future customers.

Curators should be able to determine the order in which the image are shown in their collections. They should regularly review new work and move certain images higher or lower in the search return order as appropriate.

While this kind of curation used to be an important part of the business most distributors seem to have decided that they cannot afford to hire salaried employees to do this work. As a result, they simply throw everything they can find at the customer and leave it to the customer to do the work.

One way to encourage freelance curators to create collections might be to offer a small royalty share of the fee paid (maybe 5%) when an image is downloaded from a curator’s collection. Slightly higher fees might be charged for images found by searching a curated collection as opposed to doing a “Best Match” search of the overall collection where the customer is required to do all the work. If the image is found by searching the general collection the curator receives nothing. If the same image appears in two or more curated collections, the royalty will go to the collection that was actually searched.

While a significant portion of the customer base may not be willing to pay more to search curated collections, more and more customers seem to be turning to smaller curated collections and away from the massive collections. And they also seem willing to pay higher prices for images found in the curated collections.

Freelance picture researchers could also put together curated collections. There may be times when a freelance researcher working on a customer’s projects knows that the same subject matter is likely to be in demand by other customers. The researcher may be able to turn the work they do for one customer into a curated collection that will be useful for others. Because the curators name is attached to the collection the researcher gets some promotional value from having created the collection.

5 - Central Database For Small Collections – Many small specialist collections have a good sense of what their customers need and could easily put together curated collections within their specialty subject area. The problem they face is that not enough potential customers know they exist. They can’t justify the marketing costs necessary to reach out to all the potential customers. As a result, they throw their images into databases of large distributor with marketing muscle where the best images often get submerged among a lot of mediocre ones.
A better solution might be to establish a site that accepts tightly curated collections from anyone, large or small. Each curator would pay an annual storage fee based on the number of images stored in order to have the collection included in the database. In addition, the operator of the site would receive a small percentage of all sales to cover the costs of operating and marketing the site.

Curators would be partners in the operation of the site and have voting shares based on the number of images in their collections. They would vote annually for board members who would represent their interests.

The site would have an unlimited number of collections. Each collection would be built around a specific keyword or phrase and have between 100 and 500 images in the collection. Each collection would be required to contain work from at least 10 creators. The curators name will be attached to each collection.

There could be multiple collections built around the same keyword or phrase, but created by different curators. When a customer searches for that particular phrase they would be shown a list of all the available curated collections with that phrase. Customer could be given the choice of organizing all the collections of a specific narrowly focused subject. They could (1) review collections created by a specific creator whose name they know, or (2) indexed based on most downloads from the collection, or (3) newest collection added.

Curators of popular subjects would have an incentive to get as many in demand images as possible into their collection so the collection would come up first when a customer searches for collections with the most downloads.

There may be collections of photos, illustration or video, but each collection can only contain one of these types of work.


There will be a standard royalty free price structure for all collections. See the Stocksy model in the previous story for a possible strategy. All curators and people submitting images for the curators to consider must agree to the pricing model. Customers may purchase packages of credits that can be used to download images.

Finding Images For Collections

Curators would contact image creators whose images they want to represent, or they would set up a site where creators could send images they want considered for a particular collection.
There would also be a section of the prime site where Curators could list keyword titles of the collections they are curating.

Royalty shares would be negotiated between the curator and the creator and might vary depending on how badly a curator wants to represent the work of a particular creator.
Whenever an image is downloaded the creators share is automatically posted to the creator’s account. The creator can withdraw funds at any time (much as how a PayPay account works.)
The curators share is also automatically credited to the curators account at the time of the image download

The Creator can remove any of his/her images from any collection at any time. Creators can put the same image in multiple collections based on different keywords or phrases, if the Curator deems the image applies. Creators can put the same image in collections using the same keywords, but created by different curators. Curators can remove an image from any of the collections they have created at any time.

There should only be one version of each image in a collection. However, there could be a separate attached database where similar images are stored and a note on the prime image that similars are available. If a customer is interested in seeing similar of a particular image they can click and will immediately be taken to the similar images in the larger database. Ideally, it would be easy for the customer to return to the original curated collection and continue searching.

Copyright © 2016 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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