Will Photo Assignments Go The Way Of Stock

Posted on 7/16/2019 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

In the last decade we have all watched the decline of stock photography as more and more photographers got into the game, the total revenue spent by buyers grew very little if at all and even the best photographers have seen significant declines in their annual income.

I suppose this benefited the buyers. Now they are able to get the images they need for much less than they had to pay before – and in most cases much less than their real costs of production.

Buyers have been forced to wade through much larger, poorly edited and keyworded image collections to find what they need. While this has required much more time on the part of buyers, the lower price may have been worth it.

Now the same thing has started to happen to assignment photography. They call it Gig Photography.

Gig Photography

Basically, online organizations (vendors) will now make it easier for people who need photos to find photographers who will shoot exactly what the photo user wants and deliver the images in a very timely manner – if not instantly, at least faster and at lower prices than the buyer would have been able to get the pictures any other way. Think Uber.

One of the latest middleman entrants is the French company Meero which recently raised $230 million from private investors who believe the idea of an on-demand photo platform is going to take off.

(I can’t believe that many, if any, of these investors have a clue as to what is involved in producing custom images to a buyers specifications and doing it in a timely manner at a price the buyer will be happy to pay.)

Meero says they have a network of 60,000+ vetted photographers and team of 100+ in-house producers who will help customers get the images they need. I can find no clear information on the website that gives any indication of the fees that might be charged for certain kinds of shoots, or the percentage of the fee that will be paid to the photographer after the shoot is completed. Presumably the “producers” know enough about what is involved in producing certain types of images and the overhead costs of photographers to negotiate reasonable prices with the customers.

In a new report on the future of Gig Photography, Hans Hartman president of Suite 48 Analytics asks the questions, “Will these solutions threaten the livelihoods (of professional) by lowering the barriers for newcomers to enter their market? Or will they open whole new avenues for pro photo/videographers to pursue? And who are the likely winners among the new breeds of gig photo solution vendors?” Those interested can obtain a single user license to read the report for $799. I have not read the report.

My Opinion

I think organizations like Meero – and there will surely be many more to follow – will take market share from assignment photographers. The 650,000 Shutterstock contributors, and more, will all sign up in hopes of getting an occasional job. Organizations like Meero will pass out the work based on who is located closest to the customer, regardless of the skill or talent of the photographer because they won’t have staff capable of making such judgments. Being willing to work for the price set regardless of the complexity of the job will also be important. The individual chosen for a particular job may not be the one who could produce the best quality work.

The work will be spread among so many photographers, that very few will earn much money.
Direct expenses in doing the job will be hard to calculate because the image creator will not be directly involved. Intangible expenses that often vary with certain types of work and fall on the shoulders of the creator will often be ignored.

The middleman cut will raise the fee the customer must pay and lower the photographer’s share as compared with situations where the photographer deals directly with the customer. Middlemen may argue that their fee is offset by “marketing expenses” the photographer will no longer need to incur. But as in the stock photo business the control the photographer gives up in terms of how his/her marketing is handled, and the lack of direct relationship with the customer, will eventually result in a decline in overall revenue.

Some may see gig jobs as easy money when they have openings in their schedules rather than earning nothing for the period. But, if the photographer is trying to earn a living he/she must be careful not to get locked into only doing low paying jobs and still having many schedule gaps.  

Consider what has happened in the stock photo business. There used to be many small agencies which specialized in certain types of photography, carefully nurtured the creators they chose to represent, offered tightly edited collections and provided their customers with research services when needed. These agencies built relationships with the customers who needed what they had to offer. Then came the consolidators and much of the service to customers and creators disappeared

The small agencies worked with the consolidators, but lost contact with customers and pricing.
See here what’s happening to those agencies now.

If you are still interested in gig photography check out this link and a story that recently appeared in Kaptur.

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.  


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