Stock Photography: A 50 Year Evolution

Posted on 2/14/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (2)

The stock photo industry has evolved in many interesting ways in the last 50 years. This story looks at the changes from mostly editorial rights-managed, to the 1976 copyright law change, to the print catalog era, to CD-rom delivered royalty-free, to the Internet and finally to microstock. We identify some of the key drivers of these changes and show how some unrelated developments made the changes inevitable.


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Copyright © 2011 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 www.selling-stock.com, 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: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  

Comments

  • Ellen Boughn Posted Feb 14, 2011
    Thanks,Jim for this review of the history of our industry. I understand that it is a quick summary but I think you have left out two very important events. First is the entrance of Tony Stone Images into the U.S. and subsequent sale to Getty Images for $60 million in the mid 1990's. This was key to Getty's success as it brought top advertising professional photographers into stock and furthered Stone's belief that quality not quantity would rule...a theory that I feel will save high end stock photography once the middle finally completely collapses.

    Finally. How could you forget Corbis? Corbis began the entry of big money into the industry and although always the step sister to Getty, an early entry into the industrial side of stock photography...no matter what Jonathan Klein has maintained for years was a Mom and Pop industry until he came along.

  • John Harris Posted Feb 16, 2011
    Very interesting. I thought this comment from the judges at SND is telling:

    Amid all our positive observations, we became concerned about the state of photojournalism in the pages we saw. We missed emotional photographs. Glossy magazines and newsprint pages with vast, luxurious expanses of space were largely devoid of powerful photojournalism.

    The lack of strong, documentary images puzzled us. We wondered if this has something to do with reduced investment. The industry has lost so many positions for picture editors and others, and yet great photographs can’t be made without time, care and commitment. Perhaps in places where the work is being done, print space to showcase it is no longer available.

    Having had the luxury of seeing hundreds of papers in the last few days, we’d like to raise a red flag on this issue. It’s one of print’s great powers to enable users to savor moments captured in the best photos. How can we recapture and deliver this value to readers?
    http://www.snd.org/2011/02/overview/

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