SAA Evaluates On Request

Posted on 9/3/2003 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)



September 3, 2003

The StockArtistsAlliance (SAA) takes issue with the OnRequest business model Selling Stock
discussed in Random Thoughts 574 . They are
deeply concerned about the effects this new assignment service may have on the stock photo
industry and believe this business model will be detrimental to the interests of Rights
Managed stock photographers.

The SAA is a trade association dedicated to advancing the business interests of Right
Managed stock photographers, and is engaged in an ongoing project to build a comprehensive
database of factual information, investigation and analysis of stock marketing resources
including agents, portals and alternative marketing outlets.

As part of this program, the SAA has taken a critical look at the OnRequest busines
model, as outlined on its web site, and pointed to numerous areas for concern. The
OnRequest statements are in quotes.

    "OnRequest Images provides creative professionals with a new and innovative solution
    for specifying and acquiring Custom Stock Photography. A hybrid between hiring a
    photographer and using stock imagery."

There is no such thing as "Custom Stock Photography." Stock is not "custom". What they
are really saying is that up to 5 photographers should shoot an "assignment" speculatively
to create a custom image for one prospective client.

    "Creatives dream up concepts. They have the perfect image in mind, but can't afford
    to hire a photographer and do a photo shoot. And they know they won't find it in a stock

This might be the best line on the site. If the user cannot afford to hire photographer,
why not up the photographers to shoot on spec? As for clients who CAN afford to do a
photo shoot, why should they bother if they have this kind of option?

    "Within minutes, OnRequest Images distributes your assignment to a select group of
    photographers from our network of over 1,600 shooters. The selected photographers (up to
    5) compete for your business by shooting the same assignment simultaneously."

No matter how you label it, this is simply a small scale photography contest between a
group of photographers.

    "Within 48-72 hours, you have final digital imagery to incorporate into your
    campaign, and pay for only what you choose."

So the photographer absorbs the production costs and accepts usage fees as their total
compensation, in addition to producing the image on what is essentially a rush basis
assignment shoot with no premium for doing so.

Only one photographer gets paid, and the others just file their images in their stock
library -- all shot to the same concept and specs!

    "And it works. OnRequest Images' Photographer Network is staffed with over 1600
    world-class photographers in 53 countries who love to shoot for us..."

Their definition of "world class" must be very broad since this is a larger group than
the active contributors to the largest established stock agencies.

    "As an OnRequest Images Photographer you will: Get access to legitimate, verified
    client assignments. Have a higher probability of generating license royalties than the
    "old" stock method."

Stock is about shopping for images, not photographers. This is a rotten carrot to offer
up to the stock photographer that they will make client contacts this way. Also, what is
the value of exposure to a prospect list of companies that can't afford to pay

    "We know how difficult it is for shooters to get an image chosen for one of the two
    big stock houses."

They are preying on photographers' desire to have more marketing outlets for our images,
but they are not offering an outlet for our images... only for NEW images shot
specifically for them.

    "And we provide a place for all of this imagery in our rapidly growing stock

What they are actually doing is creating a stock library of images that were for all
intents and purposes rejects from an assignment shoot. While some of these would hopefully
have broader stock marketability, shooting images to meet the narrow parameters of one
client is not an effective approach to developing stock images for which there is belief
that there will be broader future demand.

Furthermore, this is a questionable approach of building a stock library which will
consist of groups of images from different photographers that were all shot to the same
concept and specs.

Why would a stock buyer license images from OnRequest Images when they can have up to 5
images shot "on request" for the same price?

Like the Royalty Free business model, this one works by devaluing the images (and the
photographer) while the agency still benefits. It offers the client too good of an offer
to refuse (and for the photographer to accept): assignment work on demand by multiple
photographers on spec and all for the price of one stock usage fee. Sweet deal, huh?

Copyright © 2003 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, 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:  


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