Superstock Closes Production Facility

Posted on 1/22/2002 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

457

SUPERSTOCK CLOSES PRODUCTION FACILITY



January 22, 2002

SuperStock has changed their production strategy and closed the three studios at their
Jacksonville, FL facility.


In the past the company employed between four and six full-time photographers working on
staff and three full-time producers working with these photographers to arrange shoots.


In addition, from time to time they would bring various ones of their contract
photographers to Jacksonville to use their studio facilities and work with their
production team. These shoots lasted for periods of from a few days to a month or more.
While the arrangements varied from project to project, usually SuperStock would pay all
production expenses for these shoots, and the photographer would received a lesser than
normal percentage on sales.


SuperStock has spent as much as $2 million a year on their production operation, but in
future they intend to rely entirely on photographers who have standard agency/photographer
contracts to provide the new images they need. They will also move away from funding
production shoots.


CEO Jim Ong says, "there is no longer a need to do in house production. There is more good
material available to us now than there was 20 years ago." He points out that when they
started there were very few photographers making their living shooting stock. Few were
prepared to produce quality people and lifestyle images for stock.


One of the big advantages in using an eclectic group of photographers, rather than a small
in house staff, is that the agency's offering benefits from a variety of shooting styles,
models and approaches to the subject matter. "The basic subjects that are needed in stock
don't change," Ong said. "Currently there is an oversupply of images in the market in
every stock subject area. What is still needed are images that are more unique and
creative in their approaches to all the basic subjects."


Cutting back on inhouse production doesn't mean SuperStock will be accepting fewer images.
In fact, with their new low-res online file strategy (See story
456 ) they expect to be
accepting many more.


Despite the oversupply of images in the market as a whole, there is still a need to
constantly refresh the file with new images. If a customer who uses the same type of
subjects over and over, year after year, doesn't see new imagery every time they come back
they may stop using the agency and go to other sources. At the same time spending too much
on new imagery, either as a producer, or as a marketer of the work, can increase costs to
the point where there is little potential for profit.


Ong is focused on operating a profitable business. He points out that his company made its
first profit in 1976, three years after they opened, and they have been profitable every
year since then, except one. By contrast, we have companies like Getty and Corbis who are
still not profitable based on the total capital invested to build these companies.


Ong is also very sensitive to the photographer's need to make a profit. He points out that
photographers who produce stock images for a living not only need to produce images that
are unique, creative and of high quality, but they must produce efficiently. Stock
photographers need to generate a variety of marketable images from every shooting day, not
just one or two. Many very good photographers have difficulty doing this. Part of the
reason that SuperStock did so much production in the early years was that Ong found he
needed to help train photographers in this way of thinking. Now, based on the imagery that
is being offered to SuperStock, Ong believes the company can get all the creative imagery
they need without running a production operation.


Nevertheless he emphasized that stock photographers need to do their homework, look at
magazines, look at what is available online, and talk to agency sales people. They need to
recognize that stock photography is commercial, not art.


When SuperStock moved from New York in 1993 to their Jacksonville location they built a
huge studio as part of their facilities. To give you an idea of the size of this studio,
at one point they did a large party shoot in this studio that had over 160 models in one
shot. They also did many other large production shoots with lots of models and it was
their practice to bring together large groups of models, twice a year for three years,
until they generated all the large crowd situations they needed.


The production department has two vans, specially equipped, to do location shoots. They
have a huge wardrobe with hundreds of outfits for male and female models. There are
several rooms in the building filled with props.


Some of the contract photographers who were offered the opportunity to use the facilities
in Jacksonville and work under the guidance of the SuperStock production team say they
received too much direction from the production team and that there was too much decision
committee. These photographers found that when they produced on their own they tended to
get more images accepted (a higher hit rate) for the time and energy expended. Other
photographers were very happy with the results of their SuperStock directed shoots.


In 1997 SuperStock set up two additonal studios to do royalty free production for Adobe.
They produced approximately 50 discs that are still selling well 4 years later. Revenue
from these products has dropped only slightly year-to-year. This division of Adobe was
later sold to Eyewire and then to Getty Images.


Currently SuperStock represents about 200 active, producing photographers and the work of
approximately 800 others who currently submit little or nothing in the way of new work.


Copyright © 2002 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

Be the first to comment below.

Post Comment

You must log in to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive our FREE weekly email listing new stories posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

Recent Stories – Summer 2016
If you’ve been shooting all summer and haven’t had time to keep up with your reading here are links to a few stories you might want to check out as we move into the fall. To begin, be sure to complet...
Read More
Corbis Acquisition by VCG/Getty Images
This story provides links to several stories that relate to the Visual China Group (VCG) acquisition of Corbis and the role Getty Images has been assigned in the transfer of Corbis assets to the Gett...
Read More
Finding The Right Image
Many think search will be solved with better Metadata. While metadata is important, there are limits to how far it can take the customer toward finding the right piece of content. This story provides...
Read More
Where Is The Stock Photo Industry Headed?
For new readers, or those who may have missed some of what I have written over the last few months, the following are a list of stories worth looking at to get a sense of where the industry is headed.
Read More
Photography As A Career
It’s that time of year when high school seniors are waiting for college acceptance letters and thinking about future careers. If you know someone who is thinking about photography as a career you mig...
Read More
2014 Stories You May Have Missed
For many the end of the year is a time to review past experiences and consider whether it makes sense to chart a new course in the year ahead. Stock photography has changed dramatically for professio...
Read More
More Stories In 2014 You May Have Missed
Every so often I put together a list of the most important stories we’ve published in the recent past. If you are engaged in the business of stock photography the links below are to stories that we’v...
Read More
Getty: A Three Month Review
In all the excitement about 35 million FREE images it is worth looking back at some of things that have been happening at Getty Images in the last three months. After watching revenue decline for the...
Read More
State Of Stock Photo Industry: 2013
If you’re looking for an overview of the state of the stock photo industry as of October 2013 the stories listed below are a good place to start. Regular readers of Selling-Stock will have seen all t...
Read More
Education Market Shifts To Digital
If supplying pictures for educational use is a significant part of your business plan you need to be aware of how the market is trending toward digital delivery and how that is likely to affect the p...
Read More

More from Free Stuff