Top Stories In 2010

Posted on 1/19/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

Readers new to this site want to know what they should read to get an understanding of the stock photo industry. Sometimes regular readers miss important stories due to the demands of their busy schedules. Consequently, we’ve put together this list of 52 stories published in the last eighteen months that outline what has been happening in the stock photo industry, where things stand at the beginning of 2011, and how the industry is changing. We hope you’ll find this list helpful.

Top Pros Stop Shooting                                                                      8/13/2010
Many rights-managed and traditional royalty-free production companies are having trouble finding photographers willing to shoot for them. Many of the photographers who were rights-managed and traditional royalty-free stars five to ten years ago have given up shooting stock, or at the very least dramatically cut the number of images they produce and the amount they are willing to spend production.

Pros Stop Shooting: Point/Counterpoint                                          8/24/2010
“Top Pros Stop Shooting” received an unusual number of comments, most of which disagreed with the opinion presented in the article. Since some of you may have missed these, here they are—along with an editorial response.

Succeeding As A Stock Photographer: Way Forward                       8/31/2010
Recently on Linkedin Jacintha van Beveren observed that “The old photography business model is gone,” observed and asked if the road to survival and future success is through “creativity and flexibility or stubborn protection.” Neither.

50 x $200 =200 x $50                                                                      7/27/2010
Ed.: Tom Grill originally wrote on the subject of volume relative to price last November. The sentiment remains true today: like it or not, the industry is changing dramatically, and the winners will be those who can adapt to the new paradigm.

Revisiting Grill: Revenue As A Function Of Price Times Volume    8/11/2010
One of the things rights-managed and traditional royalty-free photographers tend to overlook is the average price per image licensed. Photographers worry when their images are licensed for low prices. They track their average royalty per image in file and the trends of their monthly royalty check, but is a lower royalty check the result of fewer images being licensed, a lower average price per license or both?

Stock Photo Business Gets Smaller                                                  9/8/2009
It is time to revise previous estimates of industry revenues based on what has happened in the past year. For several years, we have estimated the size of the worldwide market for still images and illustrations at about $1.8 billion.

Size of Stock Photo Market: 2010                                                11/1/2010
A Selling Stock subscriber recently asked, “Do you have any idea of what are the actual market shares of Getty and Corbis worldwide?” A lot of guess work is required to answer that question as there are no longer any numbers publicly available to help in such an analysis.

Ethics In Textbooks                                                                     10/6/2010
Photographers whose business it is to produce stock images that are designed for use in textbooks should IMMEDIATELY look for another line of work. For years the major textbook publisher -- not fly by night organizations -- have been paying fees based on minimal press runs. Then, with no regard whatsoever for the written contracts they executed with the sellers, they have made extensive additional uses of the images without making any attempt to compensate the image creators in any way for the use that exceeded the original license agreement. These additional uses have resulted in millions of dollars of extra revenue for the publishers. Such actions were not occasional oversights, but policy.

Textbook Licensing: Where the Clean-Up Meets the Cover-Up          10/28/2010
Copyright lawyers Dan Nelson and Kevin McCulloch provide some background on how major U.S. textbook publishers have been—and, indeed, still continue to—systematically infringe photo the copyrights of the photographs they use in textbooks and various other materials.  They explore some of the various factors that allowed this situation to occur and go unnoticed, despite being an industry-wide practice that has given rise to some of the most egregious cases of copyright infringement in recent memory.

Do Book Publishers Use Microstock?                                                   4/26/2010
Only a couple years ago, a researcher for a major book publisher said the company would never use microstock for a textbook, because of the "difficulty of securing rights." Though that was puzzling given typically solid microstock releases, I came away believing that maybe the textbook market was a last bastion of hope for photographers trying to license images at rights-managed prices. But things have changed.

Image Oversupply                                                                                6/2/2010
What does the competition look like in terms of the number of images available online? Everyone knows there are billions of amateur images floating around the Internet, but what is the quantity of unique images currently available in professional collections?

Image Demand – Images Licensed Annually                                         6/4/2010
How does demand for images compare to what many agree is an oversupply?

Going Pro: The Internet Market                                                        7/29/2010
As recently as five years ago, almost all (an estimated 98%) of all stock-photo revenue came from print uses. In the last five years, demand for images to be used electronically has grown dramatically. Today, such uses account for roughly 20% of the total industry revenue.

Graphic Design USA Stock Survey: Pro Use of Microstock Skyrockets, RM Falls   
The 24th annual Graphic Design USA stock survey shows increasing use of microstock by professional graphic designers.

Leading iStock Contributors See Sales Decline in April                     5/6/2009
Leading iStockphoto contributors saw their sales drop by almost 9% in April compared to March, according to our analysis of the numbers available through iStockcharts. To some extent, this might be explained by a loss of one business day to Easter.

Three Months of iStock Sales; Has Microstock Reached A Plateau?    6/3/2009
Leaving out iStock shooters that prefer to remain anonymous, 124 of the 150 top iStock contributors licensed 431,708 combined gross units in March. This number dropped to 380,934 in April and went slightly up to 387,500 in May. These totals suggest that iStock sales may have reached a plateau, but several more months of data is needed to help determine the level and why.

Microstock Plateau: iStockphoto July 2010                                        7/9/2010
A 14-month review of data from the leading microstock supports the theory of the fastest-growing industry segment having reached a plateau, with flat unit sales and revenue growth resulting from price increases.

iStockphoto: Sales Down, Revenue Up                                              7/28/2010
Though unit sales are declining for many iStockphoto sellers, many of the same people are also seeing significant revenue increases. Here’s how.

iStock Revolution – Royalty Changes                                                 9/10/2010
Beginning in 2011, iStockphoto will implement major changes to how it calculates photographer royalties. In addition, the company will soon launch a small higher-priced Agency Collection containing images from some of the major traditional royalty-free brands and invited iStock contributors. Contributor reactions are predictably negative, but how will it shake out form a macro perspective?

iStockphoto: Calculating Based on Number of Credits vs. Value Disadvantage for Some Contributors                                                                                           9/16/2010
I asked iStockphoto COO Kelly Thompson why the company choose to base “redeemed credits,” the number that serves as the basis for the new contributor royalties package, on the number of credits downloaded rather than the monetary value of the credits.

Gross Margin and Real Profit at iStockphoto                                    9/21/2010
iStockphoto COO Kelly Thompson says the company cannot keep growing profit at the old royalty rates, so they have to reduce what they are paying suppliers. The problem is not that the company does not have substantial profits. Rather, it is Getty Images’ arbitrary standard for what the gross profit margin in the stock photo industry should be that causes the problem.      

Business Planning For The Future: Four Major Trends                    8/14/2009
If you do not plan to retire before 2015, and the money you earn from stock photography is an important part of your gross income, it is not too early to begin devising a plan for modifying your photography business. In the last few years, there have been radical changes in the business of photography, and it seems likely that we have not seen the last of them. What worked in the past or is working now may not work as well in the near future or later. Given the rapid pace of change, it is inevitable that most people will make dramatic career adjustments in their lifetime.

Business Planning For The Future: Issues To Consider – Part I         8/17/2009
In addition to the major industry trends, regular examination of smaller-scope developments related to common business issues---such as demand for images, cost of production, legal changes and technological advancements---is helpful in determining if and when to adjust stock production strategy in order to keep it profitable. But beware. As you track these developments, it is entirely possible you may decide to place less emphasis on stock production and more on something else.

Business Planning For The Future: Issues To Consider – Part II      8/17/2009
In addition to the broader economic and legal climate, factors such as decreasing photographer royalty percentages, competition from foreign workers and increasing preference toward video content can have substantial effects on a stock-production business.

Business Planning For The Future: Creative Stills In Steady Decline   8/27/2009
Stock images, creative stills in particular, have a steadily declining value in the eyes of the buyers. If stock is all an individual has to sell, it is beginning to look like that individual should expect to see steadily declining revenue going forward.

Storytelling: The Future For The Professional Photographer            11/17/2010
Most still photographers say their best pictures tell stories. To a limited degree, this is true. But photographers need to start thinking about more complete and complex stories, not just the best story they can tell in a single frame. This is where the opportunities lie.

iPad And The Future of Magazines                                                    10/22/2010  
Richard Levine’s keynote address at the PACA International Conference on “The Impact of the iPad and the Future Use of Content” raised a number of critical issues for the stock photo industry. Mr. Levine, Vice President of Editorial Operations at Condé Nast, is in charge of setting the policies for how content will be acquired and used as the world transitions from a total dependence on print media for information to an environment where electronic media is available as a supplemental and quite possibly as the dominant means of accessing information.

Are You Devaluing Your Images?                                                       3/23/2010
There is a persistent idea among many image creators that a photographer somehow devalues his work if he ever licenses it for low prices. Yet recent years have shown that volume can be as significant a factor as price, and there are numerous other considerations.

Micro Sites Help Identify In-Demand Stock Subjects                        1/20/2010
There are two ways to approach shooting for the stock photo market. The first is to take images you love and hope that someone will want to pay you for them. The more businesslike approach is to try to determine what customers want, and one thing that is beneficial is that the subject matter in demand has not changed: what customers wanted five, 10 or 20 years ago is still in demand today.

What To Shoot: Learning From Microstock                                      12/1/2008
Stock photographers are constantly concerned with what to shoot. Everyone knows that people pictures tend to sell in greater volume than non-people pictures, but people doing what? Which concepts are in greatest demand? Information most helpful to answering such questions comes from microstock sites and is freely available to everyone.

Carving A Niche: Shooting What You Love                                     11/5/2010
Paul Melcher recently wrote a story that asked, “Are You Carving a Photography Niche – or Digging Your Career in a Hole?” Melcher argues that there are few inadequately covered niches left and points out that perhaps those niches that do not already have thousands of images available exist because there is no demand for the subject matter. He also asks: “If you do not know who your customers are, if you do not have your own data, how can you niche yourself?”

Why Price Discrimination Makes Sense                                            7/1/2009
Market value for most products depends on how they are used---the value the customer receives. The distinguishing factor is often between renting and buying a product: from DVDs to photo equipment, renting based on value received is a very common practice, which has been all but eroded in the photo industry with the proliferation of microstock.

Reaching the B2SB Market                                                            6/11/2009
Those selling images to big business at traditional prices must develop a different strategy for addressing the B2SB (small business) market. The strategy needs to embrace the idea of pricing based on value received, so big businesses that receive greater value from the images they purchase continue to pay reasonable fees for that value.

Comparisons RM, RF or Micro?                                                          2/9/2010
I was recently asked: "If you were shooting stock (hey, maybe you are...), would you be shooting for rights-managed, royalty-free, microstock or some combination?"

Use Pricing Could Benefit Microstock                                              3/11/2010
What an image is worth to a customer depends entirely on the customer's intended use. The size of the file delivered has very little to do with how an image might be used, or the value the customer will receive from using it. Granted, there are limits as to how a very small file can be used. But, there are many ways that a medium-size file can be used, with widely varying values. The biggest problem with royalty-free licensing, and particularly with microstock, is not that it prices certain uses very low, but that the system of pricing by file size has tried to ignore use in an effort to achieve simplicity.

Does RM Represent 1% of Images Sold?                                         2/28/2010
In response to "Stock Photo Lottery," Bill Bachmann said: "I don't know where you get the idea that 1% of images are sold are RM. I think you are pulling that figure out of a hat."

Use-Based Pricing: Corbis Moves in Right Direction                        3/1/2010
The stock photo industry needs a change in strategy so all images can be made available for all uses at a reasonable price based on the value the customer will receive from using the image. We need to get away from the whole idea of rights-managed and royalty-free and recognize that, in all cases, the price is based on use.

Use Based Pricing: Is Rights Managed Licensing on Way Out?        3/8/2010
In response to "Use-Based Pricing: Corbis Moves in Right Direction," Jain Lemos said: "I am not convinced that the rights-managed model should disappear entirely, and promoting that idea too soon could have a negative impact that Corbis and others don't intend. Perhaps rights-managed and [traditional] royalty-free are going away on their own, but they have worked well for many years, and I'd hate to see the baby thrown out with the bath!"

5 Forward    (Looking Ahead Five Years: Tom Grill)                   11/18/2010
Recently, a new country album by Taylor Swift shocked the music industry by selling over 1million copies in its first week. This is unheard of in a music business, which has suffered similar woes to stock photography.  In the past decade, album sales have declined by more than 50%, yet Taylor Swift managed to buck the trend. Is there a lesson to be learned by stock shooters from her success?

5 Forward Revisited   (Looking Ahead Five Years: Jim Pickerell)   11/19/2010
Tom Grill recently offered Selling Stock readers his predictions on where the stock photo business is headed in the next five year. While I agree with a lot of what he had to say, I believe the vast majority of photographers will find stock offers much less of an opportunity than the picture he paints. In the next five years, it will become increasingly difficult to earn a decent living—or even a profit—from producing still images on speculation.

Why Creators Only Receive 20% of Royalty Free Sales                     2/12/2009
Photographers frequently ask how royalty-free still photography got started and why creators only receive 20% of royalty free sales. Here is a little history.

Valuing Your Images                                                                          1/29/2009
Stock photography producers and sellers have lost sight of how to value their images. It is time for all sellers to reevaluate their pricing strategies.

Shannon Fagan: Future of Stock Photography                                  7/9/2010
Shannon Fagan is a former President of the Stock Artists Alliance and an Advisory Board member of the Young Photographers Alliance.  In the past 18 months, he has attended every major industry conference to gather information on stock photography and licensing’s current direction.  He has contributed both Rights Managed and Royalty Free images directly to Getty Images, Corbis, Veer, Blend, Image Source, Cultura, Spaces, Tetra and many other brands. He has a deep knowledge of the stock photography industry, both from personal experience, and from his role helping other photographers develop their businesses. The following summarizes a few of his thoughts that were first published on Greg Ceo’s blog.

Klein Optimistic On Getty Growth – by: Jerry Kennelly                   6/15/2010
Jonathan Klein is CEO and co-founder, with Mark Getty, of Getty Images and the most influential person in the global stock photo industry. For fifteen years he led an aggressive acquisition campaign which positions Getty as the leading source of still and moving imagery as well as footage and music. He is a passionate believer in the power of the image to create change in editorial as well as creative photography. In this exclusive CEPIC DAILY interview, he gives frank answers to some tough questions posed by Tweak founder Jerry Kennelly. It gives an intriguing insight into Getty as a privately held company and their vision for the future of the industry.

Miles Gerstein on the Future– by: JerryKennelly                          6/23/2010
At the recent CEPIC Congress in Dublin, Ireland, CEO of UpperCut Images Miles Gerstein offered CEPIC Daily his assessment of the future of the stock photo industry. Gerstein previously owned PunchStock, which he sold to Getty Images in 2006, and Artville, which he sold to The Image Bank in the late 1990s. His years of experience in the industry provide him with an important perspective on where the industry is likely headed.

Successful Photographers

Microstock No Longer Profitable For Chapple                              12/21/2010
Ron Chapple, one of the first traditional adopters of the micro-priced model into his larger stock business, says that chances of making a sale have decreased by 90% in recent years. This is one of four stories that track Chapple’s experience with microstock over four years.

Ron Chapple: New Directions, Embracing Change                          1/5/2010
After great success at producing and selling traditional rights-managed and royalty-free imagery for more than 25 years, Ron Chapple started producing microstock in 2006. By 2008, he went looking for new opportunities, and in 2009 -- the year when many other photographers struggled to survive -- he doubled his income compared to the previous year.

Chapple: Two Years In Microstock                                                 1/8/2009
Many traditional stock photographers question whether it will ever be possible to earn enough money from microstock production to justify the effort. Ron Chapple's experience is instructive.

Ron Chapple and Microstock                                                      10/12/2007
For 25 years Ron Chapple has been one of the world's leading stock photographers, always on the cutting edge of the next trend. In the 1990s he was the top seller of RM imagery for FPG, a major stock photo agency of that period. After Getty Images purchased FPG, Ron established Thinkstock, an RF production company. In 2004 he sold Thinkstock to Jupitermedia for more than $4 million. While still producing RM and traditional RF, he recently became an aggressive producer of microstock.

Yeulet: From BananaStock to Monkey Business Images             6/22/2010
Don’t tell Cathy Yeulet that you can’t make money in microstock. She operates Monkey Business Images, one of the most successful microstock production companies. However, unlike many microstockers, she is not new to stock photography. For many years, Yeulet operated a successful rights-managed business in Oxfordshire, U.K. When traditional royalty-free first began to take off, she created the BananaStock brand, which she sold to Jupiterimages in 2005 for approximately $19 million in cash. She started uploading images to iStockphoto in March of 2008.

Who Is Yuri Arcurs? March 2010 Interview                               3/17/2010
Anyone who has heard the term microstock has probably heard of Yuri Arcurs. He is recognized as the worlds most successful microstock photographer but is much more than just a photographer: he is a brilliant businessman adept at marketing, self-promotion and managing a large staff.

Profile:Yuri Arcurs, Microstock Legend                                      9/5/2007
Many professional photographers claim no one could make a living selling images for $1.00 to $2.00, but there are always exceptions. At 28, Yuri Arcus is the world's top selling microstock photographer and has a good chance of reaching his aspiration of earning $1 million from stock photography before he is 30

Is Flickr A Place To Sell Images? – Todd Klassy                       11/17/2009
Is Flickr a place for a professional photographer to display his work and sell images? Todd Klassy thinks so. Though now he is an amateur devoting three hours a week to shooting and another six to post production and studying photography, he intends to quit his job of 17 years and start working as a photographer full-time after the first of the year.

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, 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:  


  • Andrea Stern Posted Sep 10, 2012

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