Where Is Stock Photography Headed in 2019?

Posted on 12/10/2018 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (2)

I was asked recently for my predictions on where the stock photo industry is headed in 2019.

There will continue to be massive growth in the number of images added to the major stock photo collections. An increasing percentage will be produced by amateurs not professionals who might be trying to earn a portion of their living from the images they produce. (In the last 2 years 189% of images added to the Getty Creative collection came from EyeEM and Flickr while only 2.5% came from the 139 specialist agencies that currently supply 25% of Getty’s collection. These agencies used to supply 50% of the collection.)

In addition, more and more images will be uploaded on Free Stock Photo sites making it easier for many images users to find the images they need at no cost. In our Social Media economy more and more people expects to get all the information and images they need for Free. They believe it is their right.

On the whole the number of still images licensed is not expected to increase and is likely to be about the same as in 2018. Readers only need to review Shutterstock’s sales over the past 2 ½ years to see that downloads-per-quarter have remained relatively flat at about 43 million for the entire period. Recent figures supplied by Alamy show a flattening of revenue in 2018 after a significant rise between 2015 and 2017. It is expected that this revenue plateau will remain into 2019.

Getty may have licensed a greater number of images in 2018 than 2017, but at significantly lower prices. Thus, gross Creative revenue generated by Getty has been, and is expected to continue to be, about the same, or less, than the last few years. There are some indications that Adobe Stock may be seeing some growth in the number of images licensed. But any growth Adobe realizes probably results from taking market share from the other major suppliers.

There may be a small amount of revenue growth as a result of the use of video clips, but that is likely to be offset by a decline in the use of still images and illustrations.

Usage fees are likely to continue their long, slow but steady decline as the major agencies compete for market share. Second tier agencies will often find it necessary to match these lower prices in order to make much in the way of sales at all.


Customers will continue to be increasingly dissatisfied with the time it takes them to sort through the increasingly massive number of returns delivered as the result of any keyword search. This may benefit some of the smaller, well curated specialized collections.

An increasing number of graphic designers will turn to creating graphic illustrations themselves rather than wasting time searching for still photos. In addition, more designers will download cheap or free photos that contain elements they can use as part of there own creations. At that point they may take several elements from different photos and produce a totally new image of their own vision.


An increasing number of photographers who have been trying to earn a portion of their living by licensing the imagery they produce will drop out of the market. Most of the new images will be supplied by amateurs who are more interested in showing their work to others and receiving “likes” than actually earning enough to cover their time and costs in producing the images.

For image creators the economics of the business will become increasingly difficult. Given the time, cost and effort involved in production and marketing of new images most photographers will be able to earn more doing something else.

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.  


  • Jesse Hughes Posted Dec 15, 2018
    Jim. Great article!! Really good snap shot into the future I would like to hear more about video if you have time. It would be good to get your laser focus on that. Jim E

  • jasmin awad Posted Mar 2, 2019
    Hi Jim, the people you called amateurs tend to be professionally trained photographers based in countries with extremly low costs of living. They do stock like anyone else, to balance the time between assignement work. If you look at one of the Shutterstock reports, it shows that an extremly large number of their producers come from Russia and or Asia. These are talented professionals, that are using their cost advantage. Amatuers will upload flowers, a little travel or pets. But they don‘t spend money on professional shootings with releases, art direction and planning. Nobody does that for likes. They might invest art photography for fun, or all things with pretty young ladies, dressed or undressed, but professional stock artists have always avoided genres popular with people who enjoy sharing it for free. Art and flower photography are an unlikely business decision for stockers. But professionals in high cost countries have ro deal with the competition from low cost countries, but that is not new. I have friends who travel abroad regularly to do shootings in parts of the world that are much cheaper for production. Some even move there, yuri didn‘t go to South Africa just for the beautiful light.

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