U.S. Photo Market Trends

Posted on 3/31/2016 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Last fall, BVPA, the German association of picture agencies, asked me a series of questions about the U.S. market for stock photography and where I think it is headed. The following is what I told them along with links to a few relevant stories.

1 – What will be the next big thing in the U.S. photo market?

Customers will switch to Adobe Cloud and AdobeStock for the vast majority of images they need given the convenience offered when integrating images into programs like InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, After Effect and other Adobe design programs. These images are available for $2.99 per image actually used.

Shutterstock, iStock and Dreamstime pay for every images they download. Adobe customers only pay for the images actually used in deliverable projects, not all the images considered in the design process, or those stored “just in case.” If one-third or less of the images downloaded find their way into deliverable products the customer saves money with Adobe.

Prices overall for image use will continue to decline. More and more high end customers will find more and more of the images they need on microstock sites. See Masterfile Struggles.

As more part-timers and amateurs make their images available for licensing, it will become increasingly difficult for full-time stock producers to earn enough to justify continued production

2 – How has the US photo market changed in the past 10 years? (Differences in stock and press photography)

Creative Stock – There have been massive increases in available images of virtually every subject. Average prices for RM and traditional RF have declined by more than 50% (See http://www.selling-stock.com/Article/average-rm-and-rf-prices-at-getty) in the last 7 years. On average 2.5 to 3 traditional RF images are licensed for every RM image. Microstock and subscription offering have taken over 95% of the market. Customers insist on more flexibility in how they can use images and have turned almost exclusively to RF licenses

Editorial - Newspaper revenue has declined about 60% from $49.3 billion in 2006 to $19.9 billion in 2014. The digital portion of that revenue has increased from 4% to 18% indicating even larger declines in print. As revenue declines space for editorial content, including pictures, declines.

According to ASNE's annual newsroom census there has been a 52% decline in staff positions of photographers, artists and videographers. There were 5,894 employed in 2005 and 2,806 in 2015.

Magazine sales are not much better. Many have gone out of business. National Geographic sold to Rupert Murdock’s 21st Century Fox. Nat Geo sold 12 million copies in 1980s. Now its down to 3.5 million U.S. subscribers and 3.5 million foreign language copies abroad currently.

Some specialized magazines are growing, but assignment rates are way down. Increasingly, consumers get their information online rather than in print. Online advertising revenue has not kept pace with print so there is much less money available for acquiring content.

3 - How important is the European market for US photo agencies?

The U.S. market represents about 35% of the world market; Europe approximately 40%. Virtually all photographers and agencies want their production represented in both Europe and the U.S. as well as in the rest of the world. In recent years, lower average prices in Europe compared to U.S. prices have caused some U.S. sellers to be less interested in European sales..

There are differences in subject matter and image style in what’s needed in the U.S. compared to Europe. However, it is important to recognize that many U.S. agencies represent images produced by European photographers and European agencies have images produced by U.S. photographers. In general, the images produced by Europeans tend to sell better in Europe and those produced by U.S. photographers sell better in the U.S., but this can vary greatly photographer to photographer and agency to agency.

4 - Are there any potential photo providers from Europe on the US market?

Some of the European agencies that sell well in the U.S. are: Alamy, Fotolia/AdobeStock/ StockFood, Bridgeman Images, AGE Fotostock, Picturemaxx, Dreamstime and 123RF.
Of course the image collections of many European agencies are represented by Getty, Corbis, SuperStock, Newscom and others through distributor arrangements.

5 - What legal changes have had a significant effect on the US photo industry?

There is hope for legislative relief in terms of a simplified small claims procedure for copyright infringement. However, given the dis-function of the U.S. Congress it will be very surprising if anything happens in the next couple of years. For the latest updates see here and here.

Copyright © 2016 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.  


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