The Stock Photo Lottery

Posted on 2/22/2010 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (7)

Usage-based pricing is not going away; there will always be some demand for exclusive uses, for which customers will be willing to pay significant amounts of money. The question is how much and whether or not it is wise for most photographers to chase these customers.

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Copyright © 2010 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, 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:  


  • Bill Bachmann Posted Feb 22, 2010

    I don't know where you get the idea that 1% of images sold are RM. That figure I think you are pulling out of a hat.

    Alamy, which you love to talk about, probably sell 35% or more RM... and I know athat Getty does sell much much more than 1%.

    Why do you keep pushing people away from RM?? Do you like hobby photographers only? Almost NO ONE can make a living or have a profession as a photographer on RF and especially on Microstock.

    I feel you are directing people away from careers in photography. I do just the opposite. If you want a CAREER as a photographer, don't even condsider Microstock in any way!

  • Don Klumpp Posted Feb 23, 2010
    Gee Jim, before I jump off the stock photo bridge without my bungie cord, which lottery ticket are you touting this week?

    Micro shooters remind me of a hampster running on a wheel in his cage. Most eventually will tire and realize that from their sales they aren't making enough to buy food much less break even from all their efforts.

    RM has been extremely good to us for the last 30 years...why quit now?


  • John Harris Posted Feb 24, 2010
    Hi Jim
    yes I agree with the above. We are finding buyers who want high quality work and are willing to pay proper rates across "The long tail". The veracity of data and professional ethics of realism are critical to a lot of clients.
    John Harris

  • Larry Minden Posted Feb 24, 2010
    I completely disagree with you on this one Jim. RM pricing has nothing to do with hoping for the rare really big sale and everything to do with offering a premium product at a price commensurate with the magnitude of exposure. As such RM offers fair pricing to both licensor and licensee.

    Moreover, we have very little pressure to change from a long established, largely editorial customer base. Sure they'd love it if we offered micro prices but other than textbook publishers, few are trying to push us from our RM perch.

    I agree 100% with Bill, Don, & John above - been licensing RM successfully for nearly 30 years and whereas I've known many shooters doing very well under RM, I've only known agents and NOT photographers who made out well with RF. Jeez - do the math, the photog keeps 20% at best w/ RF and up to 50% (yeah we still pay out half) from RM. Why would any serious photographer shooting creatively consider anything else?

  • Leslie Hughes Posted Feb 25, 2010
    JIm - I have to agree with the comments above and want to add that "doing the math" is key. First, I don't think you are right but putting specifics aside, you are talking about volume when you say a small number comes from RM. You have to look at revenue as well. Whatever the number, revenues are still clearly higher for RM - just look at Getty and what we know about Corbis. Your article on Alamy even speaks to their high RM although it is mostly editorial. For an agency, they can pump images through a pipe if they have "suppliers" and reduce their costs to very little when they are not creating and this allows them to sell low priced images - but as a photographer you would have to become a machine or be one of the early providers to have enough mass to really make a killing. And you can still only reduce your costs so much. Rights managed is more about understanding strengths and the market and as Larry said, offering a premium product at a price commensurate with the magnitude of exposure. In my experience with clients - the information value of sales is still and will always be critical. This still is a key differentiator. I work more with clients and photographers today but have lots of agency experience. Clients use a value equation to determine the image - Quality + Price = Value. Sure there are other things but those are at the heart. And the project they are working on determines where they weight the values. RF is fast and easy and that works a lot of the time for the obvious uses. But RM has been a most consistent and stable category for SO long because of demand. Not supply. Hope this makes sense...

  • michael swiet Posted Apr 23, 2012

  • michael swiet Posted Apr 23, 2012

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