Understanding The Stock Photo Business

Posted on 6/13/2012 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

Every few months I put together a summary of some of our most important recently published stories. This selection is designed to help investors who are trying to understand the industry as well as image creators just beginning to explore the idea of licensing their images. Regular readers will have seen these stories. Please refer friends interested in licensing images to this series of articles.

Stock Photo Market Statistics

This story contains a quick summary of some of the important industry statistics as well as links to related stories where I expand on these numbers.

Getty Images 2011 Revenue: Creative Stills Declines

In March it was reported by Moody’s and Standard & Poors that the gross revenue for Getty Images in calendar 2011 was $945 million. This figure provides some interesting insights into the state of the stock photography business.

Will Getty Integrate iStockphoto Into The Getty Images Site?

Searching for a buyer for Getty Images or deciding whether to launch an IPO may be the least of CEO Jonathan Klein’s worries these days. He’s got to be looking at Shutterstock and Fotolia and anticipating that they will use a good part of their new found wealth to build their premium collections. When that happens, will these brands cut further into the Getty Images franchise?

What Will Shutterstock & Fotolia Do With The Money?


Fotolia just received $150 million growth investment and Shutterstock will have over $100 million from an IPO soon. What will they do with the money? Check out this story to see what we were able to glean from Shutterstock's S-1 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission and from other industry sources.

Stock Photo Market Size

Will the stock photo market generate $5 billion annually in revenue by the end of 2012? Don't You Believe It.In its recent S-1 filing Shutterstock quoted BBC Research as saying the "market for pre-shot commercial digital imagery is expected to exceed $5 billion in 2013." I think the market for stock still photos, illustration and footage will generate no more than $2 billion by the end of 2012.

Broken Promises And Stock Photography

    (Paul Melcher)    5/10/2012
The stock photography industry has to face the challenge of becoming relevant in an economy that has no patience for inadequate business models. Today the vast majority of photographs are used without any contact with the traditional photo industry, which has completely lost control of production and distribution. But the industry continues stubbornly to apply old rules to this new landscape. It does not see, or purposely wants to ignore, that their model does not fit current needs and thus is chasing customers away.

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.

iStockphoto 2012: Semi-Annual Analysis

Our semi-annual analysis of iStockphoto sales has once again produced interesting results. As of January 2, 1012 istockcharts.de was tracking the sales of 38,163 of the more than 100,000 iStock contributors. More than 90% of the images in the iStock collection belong to this group of contributor. Combined these contributors have had a minimum of 114,875,519+ downloads since each started working with iStock. During 2011 alone a minimum of 18,615,558+ images (and probably about 21.5 million) were licensed for use.

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.

Microstock Plateau: iStockphoto July 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. The top 198 iStock contributors currently have a combined total of 567,324 images, or about 5.2% of the total collection. In the past six months the collection of this group has grown by an average of more than 10% per contributor with a total of 52,449 images added. Images belonging to these contributors represent 29% of total downloads in the last 14 months.

Are There Positive Indications Of Growth In The Stock Photo Market?

Stephen Walker recently read a report about Shutterstock’s IPO plans on APhotoEditor.  He then posted the on following conclusions on the ASMPstock group on yahoo. "Traditional RM, RF are growing at a pretty good clip? Micro more so!" He also said, "I see these numbers as a strong indicator of growth and positive for stock shooters." I think he is entirely wrong. Read why.

Other Microstock Distributors Pick Up Sales as iStock Prices Rise

There are strong indications that iStock's introduction of higher priced brands has resulted in the company licensing fewer images. In addition many of its customers seem to be turning away from iStock and goint to other microstock sites to purchase the images they need. One non-exclusive photographer with many best selling recreation images on both iStock and Shutterstock reports that his images on Shutterstock are now outselling those on iStock by 3 to 1 while a year ago the reverse was true. Other photographers confirm this trend.

Numbers To Think About

(Growth of microstock collections)    9/6/2011
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.

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.”

Education Market In Transition

In the previous series of articles entitled "Edication: How The Market Has Changed" we looked as some of the factors that have changed the educational market for images. This series of stories looks ahead. Not only have there been dramatic changes in the past, but the business of delivering educational materials to students is still very much in transition. There will certainly be a decline in the use of printed products, a growth in the delivery of educational material online and more use of video. Check out these stories for more about where things seem to be headed.

Production Cost vs. Value To The Customer

Photographers lament the low prices being paid to use some of their “unique and unusual  images,” particularly when the images are costly to produce and unlikely to be in high demand. Some photographers, particularly those with unique scientific/nature images, believe that specialist agencies are “shooting themselves in the foot” when they place such images with Getty, Corbis and Alamy. These major distributors dramatically discount the prices they charge for the use of images regardless of how much they cost to produce.

Print On Demand

A few years ago when a photographer wanted to make his images available as posters or fine art prints he usually searched for a publisher with access to a network of retail outlets. Assuming the publisher thought the image had market potential he would normally pay a one-time fee for the rights to make several thousand lithographic copies of an image and through retail contacts make the product available for customers to purchase. The Internet and Print-On-Demand (POD) technology has dramatically changed this market.

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. (http://www.photoshelter.com/mkt/research/selling-stock-photography?utm_campaign=leadgen&utm_medium=link&utm_source=pressrelease&utm_content=sellingstock) The guide includes results of a survey of 500 buyers of stock that shows which collections they search most frequently.

Is Reality In Photojournalism Extinct?

The concept of a realistic still photograph that provides an accurate representation of a news event may be an impossible dream. Many people blame Photoshop for making it so easy to “clean up” and “adjust” photographs. Photographers lose their jobs if they “overuse” Photoshop. But that is only a small part of the problem.

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 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.  


  • shinichi maruyama Posted Jun 13, 2012

Post Comment

Please log in or create an account to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive email notification when new stories are posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

Stock Photo Pricing: The Future
In the last two years I have written a lot about stock photo pricing and its downward slide. If you have time over the holidays you may want to review some of these stories as you plan your strategy ...
Read More
Future Of Stock Photography
If you’re a photographer that counts on the licensing of stock images to provide a portion of your annual income the following are a few stories you should read. In the past decade stock photography ...
Read More
Blockchain Stories
The opening session at this year’s CEPIC Congress in Berlin on May 30, 2018 is entitled “Can Blockchain be applied to the Photo Industry?” For those who would like to know more about the existing blo...
Read More
2017 Stories Worth Reviewing
The following are links to some 2017 and early 2018 stories that might be worth reviewing as we move into the new year.
Read More
Stories Related To Stock Photo Pricing
The following are links to stories that deal with stock photo pricing trends. Probably the biggest problem the industry has faced in recent years has been the steady decline in prices for the use of ...
Read More
Stock Photo Prices: The Future
This story is FREE. Feel free to pass it along to anyone interested in licensing their work as stock photography. On October 23rd at the DMLA 2017 Conference in New York there will be a panel discuss...
Read More
Important Stock Photo Industry Issues
Here are links to recent stories that deal with three major issues for the stock photo industry – Revenue Growth Potential, Setting Bottom Line On Pricing and Future Production Sources.
Read More
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

More from Free Stuff