What About Corbis?

Posted on 6/10/2014 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (3)

Every once in a while someone asks me if Corbis is a place to put their images?

Corbis has a nice looking website and I assume they are still making a reasonable number of sales, but I never hear much about them. Photographers never tell me they are happy with Corbis sales, either in volume or price.

It is my understanding that at the end of May there was a layoff of the entire New York editorial sales staff. I have been unable to confirm this or get any explanation as to why such a reduction in a major editorial market might have been deemed advisable. Steve Spelman who was part of that team, and also incoming PACA president, has resigned his PACA position because he is no longer working at Corbis.

I was unable to attend the CEPIC International Congress of stock photo distributors that was held last week in Berlin, but I asked some of the attendees to report back if they heard any discussion of the Corbis action or why.
One of my sources reported back that he tried to get some information from other agents whose images are represented by Corbis, but “it seems nobody knew anything and even worse, nobody cared.”

Copyright © 2014 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 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.  


  • Tibor Bognar Posted Jun 14, 2014
    I've been with Corbis for a very long time and for many years they were much better than any other agency I worked with - in fact in some years they have sold as much as all my other agencies together. Unfortunately this is no longer the case, now they sell about as much as any other, so obviously they have lost a bigger market share. However, they are still active and I continue contributing new material. In the declining market we are in I feel I need to continue working with anyone who is still able to sell.

  • Jim Pickerell Posted Jun 17, 2014
    Owen Franken sent me this comment:

    I have nothing but high regards for Corbis, especially in terms of personal relationships with the editors and staff. Not to mention the fact that, at least on rights managed work, they give us an option of exclusivity or not, and pay 40-45% compared to Getty's 30%, and Getty demands exclusivity.

  • Jim Pickerell Posted Jun 21, 2014
    Owen Franken supplied some additional information on his experience with Corbis:

    I started when they started, thanks to a former girlfriend whose son was one of the first editors as they changed to Corbis from Continuum. I had moved to Paris, she was in NY, she suggested I call him and connect to Corbis, which was looking to start an archive. I also heard this from my NY photo lawyer, during a case. Her son talked to the main editor, she asked to see one hundred images. They paid the Fedex from Paris. She loved the work and said: send us 1000 images at a time, from your filing cabinets, don’t even edit. For a year or so they paid round trip Fedex charges, and an advance per image selected (captioned) against future sales. This advance paid for the cash part of a bank loan to buy a studio apartment in Paris.

    I ended up with 20,000 slides and negatives scanned into the Corbis system and returned. An assistant here, a great photographer herself, Jennifer Scales, put them in order into 20 books. I can still get to an original image that is or was in the Corbis system, within a minute. I say “was” because they have culled, but I still have 9000+ with them. So if I need to find a slide or negative and scan it to fill a stock request, I can do it in two minutes. And the wonderful thing about Corbis, and the personal relationship aspect, is that if I cannot find the slide or negative, I can politely ask if they can send a high res of the image, and I usually have it within twenty minutes. This includes Sunday afternoons and such, ie, not office hours, and my friend or a colleague is doing it from home on his or her own time. And they know I am trying to sell the rights to someone. They also know, that sometimes I am asked by a client, who found an image of mine on Corbis, if they can buy directly, and I refuse, sending them back to Corbis.

    And they only recently started the idea of exclusivity or not, with a slight difference in royalty, but the lowest is still 40% for RM, compared to Getty’s 30%, so a third more income for the same sale.

    I think it was a mistake for Corbis to get out of news, among another reasons that every time an AFP-Getty Images photo appears on a page or a TV screen, it is free publicity for Getty, and art directors and photo researchers read the news and watch TV.

    Without getting into specifics, Corbis is still by far my main source of income, even down 80% from the years before the crash of 2008. As an anecdote, I was assigned by Corbis to spend a day with Bill Gates in Paris a couple years ago. He was there to talk to the French government about foreign aide. A woman who presented a lecture with him, a French woman, was a sociologist who had taught at MIT. When I finally caught up with him in down time at a cocktail party at the end of the day, I told him how proud of him I was for his choice of a colleague from my alma mater, he lit up, and we talked about all kinds of stuff having to do with Cambridge and Boston and professors we both knew, and then I thanked him for Corbis and making my retirement secure for me and my kids. I ended with telling him that I had an idea for a product that could make him rich. He laughed, and asked me to describe it. I described in detail the idea to take a small laptop, take off the keyboard part, and use Microsoft software, and call it the MiPad. He completely cracked up. And I promised him I would not tell Tim Cook.

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