Subscriptions: Getting Easier For Customers To Save Money

Posted on 6/21/2012 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

In the near future photographers can expect to see are some dramatic changes in the way subscriptions are defined. Until now, most subscriptions have allowed customers to download 25 images per day for the duration of the subscription. Those durations have tended to be 1 month, 3 months, 6 months or 1 year with a discount depending on the length of the subscription.

It is believed that very few subscription customers actually downloaded 25 images per day on a regular basis, but the number gave them a lot of flexibility when they were working on projects that required a lot of images. Some customers actually download and store for possible future use images that they had no immediate requirement to use.

Now in an effort to tailor their offerings to a wider range of customers, we are starting to see subscriptions vary in terms of the number of images per day. This makes them attractive to broader range of customers.

Crestock has lowered its standard subscription to 20 images per day. This makes it possible for them to offer more competitive prices than Shutterstock. However, Crestock also offers a Mini-Subscription that only allows 9 images downloads per day. Presumably, there are lots of customers for whom 9 images per day is more that satisfactory, so why pay for 25. They can same a lot of money ($99 compared to $249) by purchasing a mini-subscription.

Fotolia in headed in the other direction. They believe there are customers who need a lot more than 25 images per day. Thus, they let the customer choose the number of downloads per day that they need. The amounts are 25, 50, 75, 100, 150, 200, 250. It is hard to imagine that any single user would want to download that many images in a single day, let alone regularly, and the basic price is for single users. However, Fotolia also offers a price variation for 3 users and unlimited users. It is much easier to imagine a large corporation that has 10, 20 or more art directors all working on different projects needing a large number of images. Such an organization could purchase an unlimited license to download 250 images per day and probably fulfill the needs of everyone in the organization as long as they could find what they needed on Fotolia. (About 20% of the images in Fotolia’s library are not available to Subscription customers. We believe this includes all the images in the Infinite collection and possibly others.)

The other direction is to offer Image Packs or as Shutterstock call the service “Pay As You Go.” In these cases the customer buys the right to download a fixed number of images in a year. Shutterstock offers packages of 1, 5 and 25 images. Thinkstock offers packages of 5, 25, 100 and 250 images.

While the customers can download any file size of an image there is usually a limit on the number of copies that can be reproduced of a given image before an extended license is required. The other limitations of a standard license usually apply.

Given the way things are headed, it won’t be long until customers will be able to specify a certain number of images they intend to use in the next year and get a custom quote for use of that number of images, regardless of file size, image subject matter or who created each image. Customers can also pay by the month rather than being forced to fork the total amount for the package before images are used.

The only reason customers would consider these subscriptions and image packages rather than paying for each image as they use it is because it would save them money. Thus, each image used will likely generate less revenue for both the distributor and the image creator.

At Shutterstock last year the average price paid for each download was $2.07. Fifty-nine percent of their revenue came from standard subscription that allowed 25 downloads per day. The other 41% came from Pay As You Go packages, single image licensing on BigStockPhotos and extended licenses.

See the chart below for some comparative numbers.

  1 Month 3 months 6 months 1 Year
25 per day $249 $709   $2,559
20 per day $199 $529 $959 $1,799
9 per day $99 $259 $499 $899
25 per day $299     $2,496
25 per day - Single User $249 $649 $1,199 $2,099
250 per day - Unlimited Users $2,615 $6,815 $12,590 $22,040
Image Packs        
Thinkstock (Getty Images)        
downloads in one year 5 images 25 images 100 images 250 images
  $99 $229 $799 $1,499
Pay As You Go        
Shutterstock 1 image 5 images 25 images  
pay by download $19 $49 $229  

Copyright © 2012 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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