What’s Selling?

Posted on 5/21/2018 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

What kind of images are generating the most revenue? Is it the amateur produce imagery that is quickly loading up most of the databases, or the more costly to produce model released people, lifestyle, and business imagery requiring complex and costly set ups and arrangement?

Granted, this kind of data may be very hard to gather and analyze, but I don’t think any of the major stock agencies are even attempting to do this type of analysis. Understanding what they need in the way of new imagery – and what they need to do to get it -- can be critical to the future health of these companies and the industry. The answer definitely isn’t just larger collections, regardless of subject matter or quality.

The answer isn’t just publishing regular “needs” lists based on customer searches. It does little good to tell photographers you need a certain type of imagery if it will cost them more to produce such imagery then they can ever possibly earn from licensing.

Clearly, the industry is getting a lot more imagery from part-time amateurs. Clearly, a huge percentage of photographers who used to spend a lot on new productions, and earn a significant portion of their annual income from producing stock imagery, have stopped producing new work and are leaving the industry.

If the amateurs are producing everything customers need then professional producers may no longer be needed. But, if a significant portion of the imagery being purchased is the kind of imagery that is costly and time consuming to produce then agencies better find a way to start raising prices or they won’t have what their customers want for much longer.

Maybe, image creators who live in Thailand, Russia, India and Belarus where the cost of living is much lower than in Western Europe and North America can produce -- at much lower prices -- and still make money. Maybe they can supply enough of the model released people, lifestyle and business to meet customer needs. If that is the case the industry no longer needs the Western world producers it would be helpful for all photographers to know that and operate accordingly. But, I don’t think anyone has gathered the data needed to know if that is the case, or not.

Getting Such Information

The first step is to take a hard look at what is selling. Forget about the the number of images in the collection and focus on the ones that have actually been licensed at least once.
  • What is the subject matter of those images?

  • Of those images what was the average length of time they had been in the collection when were they first licensed?

  • Of the revenue generated in the last month how much of it was for images that had been in the collection for a years or more?

  • Of the revenue generated in the last year how much of it went to photographers who earned more than $10,000 in royalties during the year?

    How much of the revenue went to photographers who earned over $20,000, over $30,000 or over $40,000? The ones in the top tiers are the ones consistently producing the kind of imagery customers need.

    If the total revenue going to photographers earning over $10,000 a year is greater than 50% of total agency revenue then it may be worthwhile to take a careful look at who these photographers are, the percentage of total contributors they represent, and the number of top earners who are trying to earn a substantial portion of their living from photography as opposed to being amateur hobbyist who are just taking pictures for fun.
Agents may need to consider what they might need to do to hang onto the top producing photographers who are trying to earn a living from the images they produce. If only a hand full of the people supplying images to the agencies are earning enough to support themselves, it would be a service to the rest of the contributors to make them aware of that fact and lower their expectations.

It may also be worthwhile to have someone with experience in producing images to look at the best selling work and estimate the time and expense required to produce such images. Are the photographer’s earnings-per-image in the collection significant enough to justify the expense of production? How long do the images have to be available for marketing before the photographer begins to realize a profit from his/her efforts?
If agents were asking themselves these question they would understand why they must find a way to raise prices if they hope to have a long-term business.

Copyright © 2018 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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