What’s An Image At Getty Worth?

Posted on 3/5/2019 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (3)

Yesterday, I received a call from a travel photographer who recently started contributing his work to Getty Images. He has about 200 images from various locations around the world in the collection. He just received a sales report for 3 Premium Access sales, each for royalties of under $1.00. He wanted to know who he could contact at Getty about such ridiculously low royalties.

I recommended that he contact his Getty picture editor, but he hasn’t been assigned one. He simply uploads his images to the Getty site and waits to see what happens. I’m sure he has signed a contract, but I haven’t seen any details of that document. He has been given no information – and can’t seem to find any information on the website – about who to contact if he has a question.

He was aware that Getty had been sued by contract photographers for its use of Premium Access pricing and wanted to know how that suit was progressing. I had to tell him that the suit was filed back in 2008 and dropped shortly thereafter due to the likely legal costs of pursuing it. At least one of the major plaintiffs is now out of the business.

I had to tell him that his $1.00 royalties were not unusual. Based on my analysis of the sales of some of Getty’s major contributors at least one-third of 2018 sales were for gross fees of less than $5.00, about 73% of sales for gross fees of less than $20 and the average overall of all sales was about $29.

What Are Getty’s Normal Prices

I asked him what he had expected the normal price for the use of one of his images to be? He said $500.

He pointed me to the price schedule next to his images on the Getty site. It says the fee to license a Large file of the image is $499 and an Extra Small (which is all many people need for Internet use) is $50.

Extra small $50
Small $175
Medium $375
Large $499

I had to tell him that the only customers who pay those prices are ones who have never purchased an image from anyone before and who also believe it is highly unlikely they will ever need to license an image again. They know nothing about the stock photo business.

Anyone with any kind of regular need for images knows enough to call Getty and negotiate a Premium Access deal.

Initially Premium Access deals were for those few customers who spent over $10,000 a month with Getty. These customers would get more images than they normally purchased for a slightly lower price.

But Getty has steadily lowered the basic monthly buy-in and increased the number of downloads allowed to the point that virtually everyone can get whatever volume of images they need for whatever price they are willing to pay.

Most of the other Subscription offerings in the industry are for a fixed price for a certain number of images per month. If the customer needs more images, then she needs to purchase a different subscription package. There are usually a small number of fixed price packages.
I have never actually negotiated a Premium Access deal with Getty, but I think each deal is unique. That’s great for the customer. Not so good for the image creator. Here’s how I think PA deals work. The customer says, “I may need up to X (lets say 50) images a month and I can afford to pay Y (lets say $400) a month.” The Getty sales person says, “OK,” pretty much for any offer. The sales person may try to push for a little better price, but he doesn’t want to lose the customer. The big problem, of course, is that there in no bottom line. No price is too low.

Getty keeps track of the number of images the customer actually downloads (say 40) and divides that into the gross revenue collected (say $400). Thus, each image earns $10. Getty keeps 80% ($8.00 per image or $320) and pays out $2.00 to each contributor.

As we ended the call I think the photographer had decided not to upload any more images to Getty and probably remove the images he has there if he isn’t prohibited from removing them by contract. I suspect that many of the more recent contributors have come to the same conclusion.

Copyright © 2019 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.  


  • Peter Dazeley Posted Mar 6, 2019
    Just had my January Getty statement in. One image in Premium Access earned me $0.01. A new low! Welcome to the world of stock photography. One imagines that it must cost more to administrate a sale like this, than it makes. This is what an image is worth to a customer in 2019.

  • Tibor Bognar Posted Mar 9, 2019
    Of course! Getty is considered the number one agency in the world, but they sell at microstock prices - or lower! The glory days of stock photography are over and will never come back. No price is too low, as Jim says. I've done better than Peter: on a sales report one of my images was listed as sold for $0.00! Getty carefully calculated my share: $0.00. Our friend the new contributor should keep his dayjob, or look for one...

  • Brian Smale Posted Mar 16, 2019
    It amazes me that anyone is actually surprised by these low rates. You can't say that you weren't warned. The Getty contract was terrible from day one. We all knew it. Twenty-plus years ago, hundreds of us in EP/ASMP/APA all shouted from the rooftops as loud as we could "The contract sucks... don't sign it!"... but what did photographers do?... what they always do... act in their own worst interest. Many did well at first, and a few might still do ok. But it doesn't take a genius to see how this is going to end. And now, Getty photographers are stuck with an agency that they can't even pull their images from for years.
    About 18 years ago, my agencies (Onyx > Outline) got absorbed into Corbis. In the early days, Corbis did pretty well for me, but gradually I saw my payments dwindle. Finally I got a statement with a sale for $15 (and I was in the 'double rate' catagory!), and I realized that it was time to leave, and I moved all my stock in to Photoshelter. (I was very lucky that my editor didn't make me leave images there until the end of my contract). I know PS isn't the right choice for everyone, but for me it has worked out. I'm sure this isn't the best example for a comparison, but just think about this: my last sale a couple weeks ago was for a 3/4 page photo in a small circulation alumni mag. Final usage fee was 436.00, which netted me about 375 after PS and credit card fees. Getty would need to make literally thousands of sales of Pete's Premium image in order to net him the same fee. It doesn't matter to Getty whether they sell one image for a thousand dollars, or a thousand images for a dollar each. And you can easily see which path they are on.
    No boutique agency is likely going to do any better for you in the long run either. They all end up going bust, or swallowed up by Getty. If you can put new images in to Photoshelter, and start taking control of your own sales, I highly recommend it. End of rant. (for now!). - b

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