Take Aways From Photo Week

Posted on 10/30/2015 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (2)

I just returned from the annual “Photo Week” in New York – two days at PhotoPlus Expo, two-and-a-half days at the DMLA annual conference and one day at Visual Connections. Here are a few take aways.

The main themes this year were Video and Drones. Everyone seems to be exploring how they can get into video and make effective use of drones.


Among the exhibitors at PhotoPlus were:

The biggest issue with using drones is getting permission to use them legally. One resource is the Gowdy Brothers Aerospace. They consult with companies and individuals wishing to petition the FAA for an exemption to fly sUAV (small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) commercially under Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. We are relieved that the FAA released its Notice of Proposed Rules for sUAV, but until the Proposed Rule becomes a Final Rule, to fly commercially and legally a Section 333 Grant of Exemption is still required.

Given the problems that have arisen recently with private use of drones it seems likely that the FAA will release some new rules in the near future regarding their use along with punishments for unauthorized use.

I am told that in the UK drone operators are required to take a 60-day course to get a license to fly a drone.


While the supply of stock video content is growing rapidly there also seems to be a growing demand for video stock. Many still shooters are adding video to their repertoire but producing marketable video can be much more difficult that producing stills. There were a host of presentations at PhotoPlus on how to shoot video and marketing presentations at DMLA and Visual Connections. Many stock agencies are now looking at ways to add video to their offering.

Anthony Harris of ImageSource said that many experienced still shooters for ImageSourde have tried producing video clips, but for the most part the results have not been very satisfactory. He says it requires a different mindset from the normal approach of a still shooter. ImageSource expects to launch a video division in the near future, but the content will come from experienced videographers or people with extensive video training, not for the most part from their current contributors. One of the big differences is thinking in terms of storytelling as opposed to single illustrations.

Adapting to New Realities

More and more image creators seem to be accepting that stock photography has become, at best, a supplement to some other way of earning income. Fewer photographers than in the past are able to earn enough from stock royalties to support themselves, and certainly if they are trying to support a family. Stock revenue can be a nice supplement for some, but other sources of revenue are nearly always needed.

The exceptions are photographers who have been in the business for a number of year and have very extensive collections that still generate some revenue. But the useful life of such images is becoming shorter and shorter as new shooter produce new versions of the same subjects.

Photographers working in Eastern Europe, Russia, South Asia and South Africa where $12,000 to $20,000 a year can be a good annual salary often find it easier to engage in stock photography as a profession than those living in the North America and Western Europe. More and more of the stock images being used in the U.S. and Western Europe are actually being produced in Eastern Europe, Russia, South Asia and South Africa.

Most image creators I came in contact with over the week are looking for ways to offer a new service or to transition into a new type of business. Very few think there is much future in just taking pictures, particularly stock pictures.


It seems that more and more buyers want to own the images they use.
  • They don’t want their images being used by someone else where they have no control.
  • They don’t want to purchase an image for one purpose and then later on make another use for some other purpose that may not have been authorized in the original license. (For this reason more and more buyers prefer RF to RM when they license rights and even with RF sometimes the confusing limitations present a problem.)
  • Most projects end up getting used in a variety of ways, many thought up after the original use. This makes future uses (after the first use) harder and harder to anticipate or control.
As a result, increasingly buyers are using subscription stock as a research tool rather than a place to get images they will use. They search stock for ideas. They may find various aspects of several different images they like. Then they will hire a photographer, or use someone on staff, to produce an image they will own. They are not copying the found image exactly, but simply using it as a guide.

One package designers said that their clients expect to see 5 to 15 variations of a design from which the client will choose one. The designer uses stock for the presentations, but only pays for the image finally chosen.


Curation is a big problem for agencies and customers. No one seems to have a good answer.
There are too many images to look through and customers are never sure they are seeing all the best images. Customers don’t have the time to do the research.

Curation and research is an even bigger problem for video users because it takes longer to review a single clip than to scan a group of images. In addition, much of the best content is not available in a searchable database. At today’s prices it is harder to justify the expense of good curation.

It is worth remembering that back in the mid 90s curation was a very important part of a successful stock photo business. Most agencies had millions of images, but experienced editors went through the collection and chose, based on what they believed would be in greatest demand, a very small percentage of the best images to be included in print catalogs. All the rest of the images were still available to those customers who weren’t satisfied with what they found in the print catalogs.

As it turned out, in the range of 75% of the images actually used at that time were those found in print catalogs. Today, we have significantly more images to choose from but the customer is required to do the research.

Copyright © 2015 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 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.  


  • Bob Prior Posted Oct 31, 2015
    I can see from the above you went to PhotoPlus but where is your feedback and DMLA and VisCom - seems I only got a 1/3 of what I paid for

    Comment please


  • Bill Bachmann Posted Oct 31, 2015
    Jim, I sure expected more detail in this post. You seem to just skim a few topics and also have several spelling & grammar mistakes. I seldom check your Selling Stock now, mainly because you tend to think negative and also you seem to be just skimming subjects in your own thought process. Try to give more without all the negative and i think everyone will learn more. www.billbachmann.com

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