Top Stories In 2011

Posted on 12/28/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

If you're new to this site, or have missed some of the stories we have published in 2011, check out these links to 52 of this year's most important and thought provoking stories. This summary of information should provide you with a good understanding of the state of the stock photo industry at the end of 2011. If you need more historical perspective check out the “Top Stories For 2010.” 

Stock Photo Market Size In 2011

Since Getty Images went went private at the end of 2007 and Alamy stopped providing quarterly figures at the end of 2009 it has become very difficult to estimate the size of the stock photo market worldwide. This article is an update of my previous articles and provides an overview of the amount of revenue being generated in each segment of the business today.

2011 Market Size: Additional Information

After reading Stock Photo Market Size In 2011 Tom Zimberoff asked several question that need a more detailed response. This story explains why growing microstock revenue does not mean that a growing number of microstock images are being used.

Stock Photo Market Trends In 2011

For those looking for statistical and trend information related to stock photo industry this story provides links to a series of articles that examine various aspect of the subject.

What's Getty's Industry Share With PhotoLibrary Acquisition?

Photographers are trying to assess how much the acquisition of PhotoLibrary will add to Getty’s gross revenue and what impact it might have on Getty’s overall control of the stock photo market. I estimate that gross 2010 revenue worldwide for still photo licensing was about $1.45 billion. Over the years I have defined the “stock photo market” as including the licensing of still photos and illustrations, but not footage or any of the auxiliary activities in which Getty, Corbis and some other companies are involved. I also include in my gross figure revenue generated by the picture divisions of AP, Reuters, AFP, etc. and of course the editorial division of Getty Images.

Where Do Buyers Go To Get Stock?

PhotoShelter has published a new Free guide to Selling Stock Photography that can be found and downloaded here. The guide includes results of a survey of 500 buyers of stock that shows which collections they search most frequently.

Average Return From iStockphoto

First thing everyone wants to know about microstock is how much the average person earns licensing images at these prices. This story provides some statistics. The story also deals with the misconception that in order to have high earnings in microstock it is necessary to have a huge number of images in the collections.

What Buyers Want From Photographers

PhotoShelter and Agency Access have just released a free ebook entitled “What Buyers Want From Photographers.” The information resulted from a 35 question survey sent to Agency Access’ global database of 55,000 photography buyers. 500 responded to the survey.

What Motivates Professional Users Of Stock?

Cutcaster recently conducted a survey using their own database and Adbase’s email list of creatives in multiple industries in North America. The professional backgrounds of the recipients cover most industries. They received 344 responses almost all of which came from North America with the next largest groups being South America and the UK. See the preliminary results at

Licensing Images In Today's Market

I’m regularly contacted by photographers, some with excellent portfolios, wanting to know how they can license rights to their images in today’s market. Recently, I was contacted by a nature and wildlife photographer whose work was excellent. This photographer regularly conducts Photo Workshops where he teaches others how to take great scenic and wildlife pictures. Here’s what I told him.

Numbers To Think About

In a little over a year the number of images represented by the top four microstock sites has increased by 41%. Fotolia has had a 59% increase. The number of people contributing images to Shutterstock has grown by 37% and now totals 313,393. This wouldn't be bad, if demand were growing at the same rate, but it's not. Demand seems to be relatively flat and at iStockphoto seems to be declining. How will these numbers affect everyone who produces stock images? Read more.

Pricing: What The Industry Needs

It’s time to institute a new pricing model. In the 1980s the only pricing model was Rights Managed (RM), but the term itself wasn’t even invented until the 1990s. Back then every price was based on usage and there was no other option. In the early 1990s Royalty Free (RF) was introduced. In the early 2000s microstock came into existence. Now, it is time to introduce a fourth model which I will call Use Pricing (UP). The following would be some of the characteristics of Use Pricing.

Long Term Usage Licenses: A Fairer System

It has been pointed out that publishers need to license rights for long terms (25 years and more) because it is so difficult for them to track down image owners in order to license reuses years after the initial license. This is particularly true as a result of agency consolidations and agencies going out of business. I recognize the problem, but there is a simple solution that would be easier for the book publishers to administer and much fairer for image creators.

Fixed Pricing vs. Use Pricing

Recently, a new stock agency asked if they should develop a pricing strategy based on fixed prices, or prices based on how the images is to be used? Here are some things to think about.

Pricing Electronic Uses

When customers first requested rights to use images in both print and online it seemed reasonable to charge a supplemental fee for the online use that was much less than the print price. Today, electronic use is at least equal to print and tomorrow it will be the predominate use of all imagery. If we continue to price electronic as a lesser usage we will be offering a huge discount on the price for the majority of our future licenses. Therefore we must come up with an entirely new strategy for licensing electronic uses.

Units Licensed Going Up or Down?

Recently, I posted on the “Stock Photography: buy and sell photos” group on some of the information about photography revenue relative to printing revenue that is found in this story. Peter Dean came back with a related question that deserves some careful examination. He asked, “Approximately how many more images are used these days in print compared to 10 years ago?” He also wanted to know whether print revenue is Static? going Up or going Down?

Easy Rights Managed Licensing

With its launch of its myPhone Collection Aurora Photos has also introduced a new simplified Rights Managed pricing model they call Easy Rights Managed. “The model offers simple, quick, broad, and managed rights at reasonable prices.” The model is similar in some ways to the Rights-Ready model launched by Getty Images in 2006. Getty later abandoned this experiment.

Making Photography A Career: Run Your Numbers

Many who enjoy photography and have had some success at licensing rights to their images dream of quitting their “day job,” giving up a regular pay check and taking pictures full time. This story offers a few things to think about that apply both to photographers who hope to do commercial assignments and those who want to license rights to stock images.

Fees Paid By Volume Photography Users Will Continue To Decline!

Photographers complain that stock photo fees are way below what it costs them to produce images. And they are right. But, the prices volume user pay for images will continue to decline. Read this story to find out why.

Educational Pricing Based On Unique Users

Educational publishers regularly set up “preferred provider” agreements with image suppliers who represent large collections. Publishers outline certain standard terms and uses. The image provider is then asked to stipulate a fee that will be charged for each use. Based on the fees providers agree to charge the publisher decides which supplier to use. McGraw Hill School Education Group has recently requested quotes from potential preferred providers and they have introduced a new concept for determining circulation of the product. Instead of talking about the number of copies printed McGraw Hill now refers to the number of “unique users.”

Is 20% Royalty For RF Reasonable Today?

The concept of royalty-free stock photography was invented in the early 1990s because many picture buyers felt that it was unfair for image prices to be based on how the image would be used rather than their cost to produce. The pay-based-on-use system (rights-managed wasn’t even a term used at that time) was a particular problem for picture buyers because they needed to track future use of any image they purchased to make sure the use wasn’t exceeding the license. Customers wanted a way to avoid this extra administrative hassle.

A Cut of a Cut of a Cut….

While fees charged customers for stock photo use have been steadily declining, there is another issue that should be of equal concern to image creators. That is the percentage they receive of the gross fee the end user pays. This can be complicated and not the number many photographers think it is.

Professional vs. Amateur

In May Peter Phun published an article on BlackStar Rising entitled “It’s Time for Pro Photographers and Hobbyists to Call a Truce.” The article has received a lot of comments. I would like to weigh in with my thoughts on the difference between professionals and non-professionals.

The Future of Still Photography: Hobby or Career

Emily Chow, a photojournalism student at Northwestern University's Medill School, posted a story on Black Star Rising (see here) which basically takes the position that photography students should ignore what experienced professional photographers are telling them and forge ahead with determination to launch careers in photography. I had to respond. Be sure to read her story first.

How Microstock Ideas Could Benefit Traditional Stock

Photographers who license rights to their images based on how the images will be used tend to be adamantly opposed to microstock. The principle reason for such opposition is that microstock images are licensed for use at very low prices. With microstock there are a few price variations depending on how the images will be used, but they are minimal compared to those used by rights-managed sellers. All other aspects of the microstock business tend to get ignored. I want to examine some of these other aspects of microstock licensing and point out how traditional agency photographers might benefit if their agencies would adopt some of them.

Does Print Have A Future: Statistics

Some argue that there will always be plenty of print publications and demand for images to be used in print. This story provides some statistics on the Magazine industry, Printing Industry, Newspapers and the Internet that provide a depressing picture of where the demand for still photography is headed.

New Revenue Model To Save Print

Most print publications have recognized for some time that the handwriting is on the wall and the old business model for newspapers in particular where 80% of the cost of producing a newspaper was covered by advertising and 20% by subscriptions is no longer viable. To a large extent magazine publishers have the same problem.

Worldwide Advertising Spend Trends

According to eMarketer world advertising spend is expected to be about $500 billion this year. The online portion of this spend will make up about $80.2 billion, or 16.1% of the total. By 2015 online advertising spend is expected to reach $132.1 billion and be 22% of total advertising spend.

Commercial Printing Shipments Up At Start Of 2011

According to WhatTheyThink?, a leading research organization serving the printing and publishing industry, January 2011 commercial printing shipments were $6.7 billion, up $270 million (+4.1%) compared to 2010. Adjusting for inflation, shipments were up +2.5%. Shipments for 2010 were also revised to be $86.7 billion. “Despite a dreadful first quarter in 2010, the remaining months were up +3%, to finish the year slightly higher than 2009,” explained Dr. Joe Webb, director of WhatTheyThink's Economics and Research Center. “January's shipment rise benefited from an easy comparison to the first quarter of 2010, but it continued a string of 10 months of positive comparisons to the prior year. We hope it continues.”

Stock Photography: A 50 Year Evolution

The stock photo industry has evolved in many interesting ways in the last 50 years. This story looks at the changes from mostly editorial rights-managed, to the 1976 copyright law change, to the print catalog era, to CD-rom delivered royalty-free, to the Internet and finally to microstock. We identify some of the key drivers of these changes and show how some unrelated developments made the changes inevitable.

Reflections On The Stock Photo Industry

For those in the stock photo industry October is always a time for intense networking and education in New York with Visual Connections, the PACA International Conference and PhotoPlus Expo. Now that these events are over its time to reflect things learned. Here are a few of my take-aways.

Reinvention: Four Photographer Success Stories

At ASMP’s recent Strictly Business 3 education weekend in Philadelphia four photographers explained how they had reinvented their businesses in the current challenging business environment. Here are their stories. There will be more success stories at the last Strictly Business 3 conference in 2011 which takes place in Chicago April 1st through 3rd.

Competing In Today’s Market

In certain segments of the stock photo market Alamy has been experimenting with both price points and the nature of licenses in an effort to grow sales and stem the tide of customers moving to microstock. One particular segment where they have seen a significant decline in sales is travel. Recently, one of Alamy's travel customers outlined for me the details of Alamy's new offer. This story examines the issue.

Stock Photo Market In China

Many Western stock photographers are beginning to wonder if it isn’t time to explore the potentials of the Chinese market. I asked Jerome Lacrosniere, CEO of ImagineChina in Shanghai for some information about the state of the Chinese stock photo industry.

Shannon Fagan On Opportunities In China

Shannon Fagan, a very successful former New York stock photographer, has set up shop in China as a consultant and content aggregater. He has spent a cumulative equivalent of 2 years in Shanghai and Beijing since 2006 working with, and doing business development for, China's commercial photo agency sector. He permanently moved to Beijing in December last year. He has interacted with nearly all the key players, support components, and service providers, and developed an “insider’s” knowledge of the opportunities and pitfalls of China’s stock photo industry. This interview provides some insights into the Chinese market.

Getting Images Seen

Today, the biggest problem for professional photographers is how to get their images seen by potential customers. This story explains how the search return order at Getty Images is organized. Most photographers would agree that gives them the widest possible exposure for their work. Sources at Getty Images tell me that 96% of the company’s sales come from images customers find on the first three pages of the search returns. Customers may choose the number of thumbnails they want to see on a given page -- with a maximum of 100 allowed. Three pages of images would be a maximum of 300.

BtoB or BtoC

Given Internet capabilities, society is rapidly moving away from Business to Business (BtoB) transactions and more toward transaction where small Businesses sell all types of things direct to Consumers (BtoC). Some images will continue to be used in major ad campaigns and there will be other sales of stock photography at traditional prices, but the number of such requests will decline. Meanwhile image use by small businesses and individuals will increase dramatically. Photographers need to start focusing on how they can prepare themselves for the new market.

From Books To iPads

What happens when the iPad becomes the primary vehicle for delivering educational information? Check out this story for some of the things that are likely to occur the education business. Consider how disruptive these changes are likely to be for writers and photographers. The disruption that microstock has caused may be minor compared to the impact the iPad will have.

New Market For Photography: iPhone Apps

Hawaii photographer Douglas Peebles is exploring a new market for his images – iPhone Apps. During his more than 30 years of photographing the Hawaiian Islands he has produced 18 books and a number of pocket guides to the various islands. He currently has seven iPhone apps which give him another way to reach consumers.

Missing Numbers: Costs To Create Images

Many photographers licensing images at RM and traditional RF prices believe that it is impossible to have as profitable business licensing images at Microstock prices. They argue that despite the fact that some microstock photographers earn significant revenue due to sales volume their expenses must be so high that there is very little profit for their time invested. This story explores the validity of that theory.

Unintended Consequences

Every photographer detests copyright infringers. When one of their images is used without compensation they want to be paid not only their normal fee for the use but a reasonable amount for chasing down the infringer and enough penalty to insure that the infringer won’t do it again. The goal is to give everyone incentive to be honest. But is going after infringers really accomplishing that goal and is it generating more business for the future?

Google Makes Searching For Image Use Easy

Google has released a new function that allows those who use Chrome or Firefox browsers to search the web for use of specific images. If you go to to you will see a little camera icon in the search box. Click on that icon and you get a popup that says “Search by Image.” Either paste an image URL or drag an image onto this search box you will get a view and list of the URL’s where that image can be found.

Finding A New Model For News Delivery

Most newspaper and magazine publishers have recognized for some time that the handwriting is on the wall and the old business model where 80% of the cost of producing a newspaper or magazine was covered by advertising and 20% by subscriptions is no longer viable.

Stipple Marketplace: the Next Generation of Image Licensing

Stipple Marketplace, the San Francisco based company with the goal of turning editorial images into e-commerce storefronts for consumers, has developed a system that allows publishers to earn money from the images they publish, not just sell ads around those images.

Why Don’t Big Distributors Get Better Prices For Your Work?

Many photographers believe they will make more sales for the best prices if their images are represented by the biggest distributors. They may make more sales, but definitely not for the best prices. For years the biggest distributors have been seriously undercutting price – at least in the education field. There is a big question whether increased volume at low, dramatically discounted prices results in increased revenue overall for creators. Here’s how and why.

Photographers vs. Copyright Clearance Center

A philosophical battle is being waged on the web between ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers) and APA (American Photographic Artists) over how to address the issue of the lack of compensation from the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) for the collective licensing of reprography and digital uses of literary and visual works, and other secondary uses of audiovisual works. Here’s some background.

Shhh! Don’t Tell The Big Distributors

The big distributors are missing a huge opportunity to capture an even larger share of the market than they already control. Learn how visual search could help them grow revenue and take market share from the small suppliers.

Dealing With Getty: Things For Flickr Photographers To Consider

Some Flickr photographers are given the opportunity to place some of their images on One photographer who was recently approached by Getty asked if he should have any concerns about dealing with Getty or if there are things he should be aware of before agreeing. Here are some of my thoughts.

Understanding The Changing Media Landscape

At the recent PACA International Conference in New York internationally-known visual journalist Tom Kennedy discussed the “Changing Media Landscape.” Kennedy was Managing Editor for Multimedia at The Washington Post, Director of Photography for the National Geographic Magazine, and Assistant Graphics Director at The Philadelphia Inquirer before taking up his current position as Alexia Chair Professor for Documentary Photography in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.

Generational Expectations

Given the existence of these contributors stock photography is unlikely to be a dependable way to earn a living in the future. Those that are trying to earn their living taking pictures should focus on getting assignments or doing something that guarantees a certain level of compensation before they undertake the work.

Masterfile Sold For $21.4 Million

Arius3D Corp plans to buy Masterfile Corp. for $21.4 million, in a bid to expand into the traditional 2D market. Under the deal's terms, full consideration will be paid in cash, unless Masterfile opts to receive $12 million of the purchase price in stock. The Masterfile portion of the business will continue to operate under its current brand name and under the direction of Steve Pigeon, founder and president.

Yuri Arcurs: Leading Microstock Photographer Revisited

In January of 2011 Yuri Arcurs was interviewed by John Lund and gave the following account of where his business is today. Yuri is the world’s best selling microstock photographer, has a staff of more than 50 and the overhead for his stock operation exceeds $200,000 a month.

Getty’s Andy Saunders Discusses The Future Of Creative Content

On May 23, 2011 in an open letter to contributors Andy Saunders, Vice President of Creative Imagery for Getty Images, outlined what Getty sees as the future of creative co ntent. His analysis will be of interest to everyone engaged in the stock photo business and can be found at, in the bottom right corner of the contributor log-in page. No password is necessary to view this link.

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 301-461-7627, 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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