Who Shot The Photographer?

Posted on 8/23/2013 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (2)

ImageBrief that connects creative and marketing professionals to a curated network of more than 7,500 professional photographers in 115 countries has published an infographic  that outlines some of the risks professional photographers face in the current market.

With the reductions in the barriers to entry, copyright infringement and stock libraries paying as low as 20%, photography professionals are forced to look elsewhere for their income. They point out that Corbis chases 70,000 copyright infringement a year and Getty, 45,000.

Being a professional photographer in 2013 is not what it used to be.  They point out that with easy access to professional cameras causing a major reduction to barrier of entry in the industry, rampant online copyright infringement and stock libraries paying out as little as 20 percent commissions (ed: in some cases even lower), many photography professionals are looking elsewhere for their income.

In its research ImageBrief found that there are over 7 million photo enthusiasts in the US and that at least 85% of households own a digital camera. When they did their research they counted 90 million images at 5 of the top microstock libraries. Already those libraries are reporting that they have over 101 million images. Of course it must be kept in mind that in a large percentage of the cases the same images are in all 5 libraries on a non-exclusive basis so the number of unique images is much lower, although still significant. Their point is that competition for selling images has become intense. That is certainly true.

ImageBrief supplies requests (“briefs”) to its contributors of what actual customers need in the way of imagery in the near future and how much those customers are willing to pay for the right image. Photographers can pull from their stock files, or shoot the subject and submit the images for consideration. Just because they have an image doesn’t mean it will get chosen, and they may be competing against a lot of other photographers, but it is unlikely they will be competing against as many images as are available through stock distributors. If a customer bothers to submit a “brief” it probably means the customer has already searched the stock resources and has been unable to find an image that worked.

In breaking down the photographers into professional and amateur categories ImageBrief came up with the following numbers:

Photo Enthusiast 7,600,000
Aspiring Pros 2,500,000
Part-Time Pros 1,400,000
Full Time Photographers 100,000

I’m not so sure that there are as many part-time pros (those that make some money from photography, but not enough to support themselves) as they claim. I’m inclined to think that many part-timers are smart enough to realize that they will never be able to make a living taking pictures even though their images are of professional quality.

As to the full-timers I would be surprised if there are 100,000 supporting themselves and their families on what they can earn from photography. Most, who may be working full time at it, rely on a spouse, a second job, or other means to cover their total family cost of living.

“Our hope is that the industry will begin to make some changes to allow room for more creative people to make their living through photography,” says Simon Moss, CEO of ImageBrief.  “If we are fair with the talent, we will promote better work and from that I believe, more customers and a flourishing industry.”

Copyright © 2013 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.  


  • Jagdish Agarwal Posted Aug 24, 2013

  • Alfonso Gutierrez Posted Aug 24, 2013
    >>and stock libraries paying out as little as 20 percent commissions (ed: in some cases even lower), many photography professionals are looking elsewhere for their income.<<

    Possibly www.agefotostock.com, a traditional stock photography agency with little mystification, is one of the few exceptions that has been giving photographers a 50% commission terms since the early nineties of the last century.

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