July 1998 Selling Stock

Posted on 7/10/1998 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)



Volume 8, Number 6

©1998 Jim Pickerell - SELLING STOCK is written and published by Jim

Pickerell six times a year. The annual subscription rate is $50.00. subscriptions may be

obtained by writing Jim Pickerell, 110 Frederick Avenue, Suite A, Rockville, MD

20850, phone 301-251-0720, fax 301-309-0941, e-mail: jim@chd.com. All rights

are reserved and no information contained herein may be reporduced in any manner

whatsoever without written permission of the editor. Jim Pickerell is also

co-owner of Stock Connection, a stock agency. In addition, he is co-author with

Cheryl Pickerell of Negotiating Stock Photo Prices , a guide to pricing

stock photo usages.

Thought For The Month

Single country or region licensing is becoming impossible

in the Internet environment.

Currently, most content is licensed based on it being seen by a narrowly

defined audience in a particular print publication. Much of it is now

finding its way to the Internet where it has worldwide availability and

distribution for an unlimited period of time.

Story 152


July 1, 1998

In spite of the oversupply of images in the market, I believe some major agencies

will begin hiring staff photographers, or give contracts that provide a level of

guaranteed return to a few selected freelancers.

The contract deals will probably be for a day rate and expenses on specific

projects or for a fixed number of days per year. They will either be for an

all-rights buyout, or a very minimal percentage of future sales. The shoots will

be highly structured, art directed by agency staffers, and on subjects that agency

sales records show are in greatest demand.

For most photographers this will be a dramatic shift in the way stock images have

been produced and acquired in the past. But, everyone needs to take a deep breath

and consider why this may happen -- and how they, individually, should react to

this new working environment.

One of the things that makes me think the industry will head in this direction is

the success PhotoDisc and Digital Stock have had hiring photographers to do

production shoots. The implications of this success will not be lost on the

traditional stock agencies in the "rights protected" business.

Corbis has also paid for production shoots, but their efforts to date have not

produced the desired return-on-investment. Corbis is currently re-thinking its

strategy for production shoots. Corbis' mistake was in the subjects they chose to

cover. In today's market, no matter how much you spend producing great images on

social, political and anthropological issues there simply aren't enough buyers for

this subject matter to offset the expense of production. (With this in mind, it is

interesting to observe the happenings at Sygma. See Story 147.)

On the other hand, now that Corbis owns WestLight and Digital Stock, they have

Craig Aurness and Rick Becker-Leckrone who understand how to plan productions that

will yield profits. If these two are turned loose, Corbis should earn a much

better return on future production shoots.

Also make note of Comstock. Their staff photographers have been producing a major

part of their collection for years - and very successfully.

Stock Photo Suppliers

There are at least four major groups of stock photo suppliers that will be affected

by such a change in acquisition strategy. They are:

  • Major Stock Agencies (MSA) that have access to capital,

  • Small Stock Agencies (SSA) that are strapped for capital and have no

    alternative but to get their images from shooters who produce on speculation.

  • Major Production Photographers (MP) These photographers make a significant

    portion of their income from stock and are usually represented on an exclusive

    basis by one of the major agencies that distributes print catalogs worldwide.

  • Other Photographers (OP) This group includes all other photographers. Some

    may be earning in excess of $100,000 a year from the combined sales of several

    different agencies. Some may be represented by one of the major agencies, but not

    earning a significant amount of money from that agency, and not in the small, elite

    group of top producers for that agency. Some may do work in an area of narrow

    special interest where the demand for this type of work is not great enough for the

    photographer to support him or herself on stock income alone. Some may have earned

    a significant portion of their income from stock in the past, but now as a result

    of increased competition see that income going down, and are finding it

    increasingly difficult to get images in the agency's print, cd-rom or on-line


I want to examine how each of these groups is likely to react to increased

production of wholly owned stock. Keep in mind that most photographers are in the

OP category.

Forces Driving Major Agencies Toward Wholly Owned Production

  • The chief interest of the large agencies owned by corporate conglomerates

    is bottom line profits for their stockholders.

  • One way to increase profits is to cut costs.

  • Costs can be cut by limiting the number of images accepted into the system,

    particularly when acceptance means expensive scanning and keywording to make that

    image available for marketing.

  • Royalties are a major cost, and they can be reduced by wholly owning the best

    selling images.

  • The large agencies have detailed statistics on past demand and are convinced

    that their statistics give them a major advantage in selecting, and directing

    production of the kind of images that will be in high demand in the


How It Will Play Out

MSA - Agencies seem to be having trouble getting the images they want, when

they want them. For maximum profits they constantly need new, updated looks of all

their best selling subjects. They need better control of the flow of this new


Some agencies say submissions from their major photographers have fallen off. Some

believe these photographers are "punishing" them by cutting back on production.

These agents argue that over the years they have made a lot of money for these

major stock producers, and now the photographers have unrealistic expectations.

But, at the same time these top agencies are cutting back on the number of images

they will accept from previous top producers for their new catalogs. They are

raising the quality bar and getting much more picky in their selection. The

agencies are also taking on more photographers and, consequently, accepting fewer

and fewer images from each photographer. They are only promoting and marketing the

creme de la creme in their catalogs.

Yet, according to my calculations in excess of 70% of the gross dollar volume of

stock sales, worldwide, comes from images promoted in stock catalogs. Alfonso

Guiterrez of AGE Fotostock in Spain puts this percentage at between 80% and 85%,

and says that in some countries 97% of the sales come from catalogs.

Agencies will give the most financial support to those photographers who continue

to produce aggressively, regardless of the income the photographer is receiving

from current production.

MP - I hear from major photographers that income from their major

exclusive agency is not increasing in proportion with their production and in some

cases it is falling off rather dramatically.

To express this in numbers a photographer's stock agency income may have risen in

five years from $150,000 to $250,000 per year. That's a lot of money and it is easy to

understand why the agent believes the photographer should be very happy. But, if in

getting to that $250,000, the photographer's income has actually dropped from $300,000

to $250,000 in the past year, and the photographer is getting fewer images in new

catalogs, the photographer has cause for concern.

What the agent often fails to understand is the amount the photographer is spending

on new production. Given the way the stock photo business operates the agent has no

record of such costs. The only way agents get an idea of what these costs might be is

through anecdotal reports from the photographers. The accountants have no way of

verifying the accuracy of such reports.

Photographers have the costs of studio, assistants, computers, computer programers,

models, props, travel, research in order to produce the kind of images the agency

wants, as well as film and processing. The photographer's cost in new production

may be going up at a faster rate than that rising rate of income.

Photographers are frustrated. They spend time researching and coming up with ideas

for images. They work closely with their editor to produce exactly what the editor

requests in the way of execution of the idea. Often the editor will say, "Well,

that's not exactly there yet. Re-do it this way." At greater expense, the

photographer re-does the image. Finally the editor may say, "You've got it. That is

exactly what I had in mind." Then the photographer waits months to see if the

image makes the catalog - and often it doesn't.

Images that sit in the general file, and are only seen when a client requests a

specific type of subject matter often don't sell very well.

Recently, a photographer told me that he had spent two to three weeks of his time,

and about $7,000, shooting specifically for a new catalog. He worked closely with

his editor and produced exactly what the editor said was needed. The editor chose

a number of pictures from the take and said these were what they wanted. When the

catalog came out, none of the pictures made the catalog. Based on my discussions

with top stock shooters with major agencies this is becoming a common occurrence.

In addition, by contract many photographers are not allowed to do

anything else with these images once they have been rejected by their agency. That

$7,000 and three weeks of work could be money down the drain. This expense for

non-productive images must be offset by the profits from the few images that are

promoted. Photographers see this as limiting their income potential. If they are

to continue to produce on speculation,

photographers need a business model that works for them. They need some assurance

that what they produce has a chance of being seen. If they can't get that

assurance they will stop producing. In many cases, what works for their agency is

no longer working for the photographers.


MP - Photographers have several choices:

  • They can cut back on stock production and concentrate on other types of

    photography, or

  • Put new production on the shelf while looking for a new agency, or

  • Actually move to a new agency, or

  • Work out a deal with their agency that guarantees coverage of some production

    costs and/or positions in the catalog, or

  • In some cases go into another line of work altogether.

I know of individual cases where photographers who have earned a major portion of

their income from stock have chosen each of these options in the past couple of


MSA - Faced with their top producers cutting back on production the major

stock agency must do one of the following:

  • try to bring the photographer back into the fold, or

  • find new photographers who are willing to shoot the same kind of things on

    speculation, or

  • consider hiring staff so they have better control over future production, or

  • consider funding the expenses of certain stock productions with an arrangement

    where the photographer receives a reduced percentage of sales.

MSA - If a MSA owns the best selling images, there is the potential that

they will earn

larger profits for their stockholders. I estimate that when PhotoDisc pays high

day rates to photographers, their production expenses are totally paid off from a

20% share of the revenue from those images (the photographer's normal share) within

less than a year. Possibly, in many cases, in a lot less than a year. From that

point on it's all profit for PhotoDisc.

In a seminar in New York in the '80s Henry Scanlon showed images from a production

shoot Comstock had done on a Caribbean island. Total costs for this

shoot were $30,000, a totally unheard of amount of money for most photographers to

spend on a speculative

stock production at that time. But, Henry said that sales from those images

generated more than $30,000 in the first month.

The recent Photo West conference produced some additional interesting information

along these lines. Rick Becker-Leckrone of Digital Stock had just financed a

six-day production that was shot at the American Airlines facilities in Dallas by

Jack Hollingsworth. Becker-Leckrone estimated that the total expenses for this

one shoot was about $90,000. Hollingsworth will receive a lesser percentage of

sales than his normal 20% for the work produced on this project.

Patrick Donehue, of Tony Stone Images pointed out that one of TSI's photographers

did a shoot in the past year that had over $100,000 in expenses, and that TSI

funded "a major portion of the expenses on that shoot." In exchange for TSI's

contribution the photographer agreed to accept a lower percentage of sales

than normal on the images produced on this shoot.

It should be noted that in their May 7, 1998 quarterly report to shareholders

Getty Images (parent of TSI) said, "In line with the company's strategy of

increasing its sales of wholly owned content, the proportion of sales of wholly

owned imagery increased from 5 per cent in the first quarter of 1997 to 12 per cent

in the first quarter of 1998."

It should also be noted that this increase came primarily as a result of owned imagery

at Allsport and PhotoDisc. Patrick Donehue said that TSI has no plans to wholly

own images in the TSI file. TSI will, however, continue to participate with

selected photographers on projects that are very costly to produce and for which

TSI believes there is a high sales potential. The percentages of gross sales

received will be adjusted in such cases.

MP - Some major photographers who might be considered for these funding

participation arrangements say that a shortage of expense funds is not a problem,

and thus they would rather pay all their own expenses and receive a higher


But, there are a couple things these photographers need to consider. When the

agency has a lot invested in a project, they have an incentive to give that project

a strong position in the catalog, and to promote it heavily in other ways.

If an agency doesn't want to participate in an expensive project, that may be an

indication of the kind of catalog placement the images will receive once they are


It may be a good idea for photographers to try to get funding, even if they don't

need it, in order to insure themselves better placement in the catalogs.

Clearly, the photographers who do production shoots for PhotoDisc and Digital Stock

get more of their images into the catalogs than photographers shooting on

speculation for these organizations.

SSA - So what do the small agencies do if the major agencies go in this

direction? There is no way they will have the capital to pay for production

shoots. The pictures they handle must be the results of speculative shooting.

However, they still have some advantages.

  • SSA's may give their photographers a better chance to get more of their

    images seen.

  • SSA's are more likely to hold the line on rates because they don't expect to

    make a high volume of sales and won't be tempted to offer discounts for volume.

  • Photographers seldom win when the agency makes volume discount deals, because no

    individual photographer gets enough volume to make up for the deep discount.

  • SSA's with recognized specialties tend to get called more frequently for that

    subject matter than the larger agencies when clients are looking for that specific

    type of work. Often the specialized agency has a more targeted selection and its

    editors have a better understanding of the client's needs and can provide a more

    personalized service.

  • In the on-line and CD-ROM environment small agencies can promote their work

    through joint sites that give the appearance of being one big database. At the

    same time each agency maintains its own editing and pricing characteristics.

    Two examples of such joint sites are Stock Workbook Online and Picture Network

    International. In effect, the photographer becomes part of a large agency for

    the purpose of letting clients know that the images exist, but gets the personal

    attention of being with a small agency. Rather than having one single editorial

    philosophy as is the case with the large agencies, each small agency on the site

    has its own editing philosophy. This makes for a more eclectic selection of

    imagery and often gives the photo buyer a greater variety of choice. A client

    with highly specialized narrow interests, will often find a larger selection of

    material in their subject area on sites where many agencies participate.

  • Sales through on-line sites are a very small percentage of total sales at the

    present time, but most in the industry agree that the industry is rapidly headed in

    this direction.

  • SSA's may be more flexible in letting photographers market work not selected by

    the agency through other venues around the world. On the other hand, with the use

    of on-line databases, even the smallest specialized agency will be able to reach

    every segment of the world market. Thus, SSA's may find it necessary to insist on

    exclusive worldwide rights to the images they select for their files.

  • SSA's often do a better job of selecting images for the file because the people

    doing the editing are in closer daily touch with the buyers. The same person often

    does the editing, picture research for the buyers, and negotiating sales. Just

    because an agency is big doesn't mean it will always choose pictures that will be

    in greatest demand. There are countless examples of pictures, rejected by one

    agency, being picked up by another agency and marketed very effectively.

  • Many photographers will have no other option. Being with an agency still gives

    them a much better chance of making sales than trying to do everything


Dilemmas For Each Player

MSA Dilemmas

  • As the agency moves toward acquiring more wholly owned work on mainstream,

    high demand subjects, they will try to minimize what they are doing in their

    discussions with the photographers who are expected to continue to produce subjects

    of fringe interest on speculation. As this progresses the high demand subjects

    become off limits to those who are paid standard royalties when an image is used.

    They agency fears that photographers will stop producing if they realize that they

    have very little chance of getting a high demand subject into the catalog marketing


  • In order to provide a comprehensive file to their clients the agency needs

    to keep the specialist for a limited number of very unique images, but will not

    aggressively market the bulk of the photographer's work.

  • The MSA will not want to produce the specialist images at its own expense

    because the demand is not high enough to offset production costs. The MSA can make

    the greatest profit by wholly owning those images that are in extremely high demand

    and requiring the photographers to cover the production costs of all other images.

  • Will their in-house production team be able to continue to come up with the

    variety of ideas that their freelance contributors are generating today? The MSA

    will still want to have those images that result from unique access, or a unique

    vision or approach to the subject that comes from photographers who have

    concentrated on high demand subjects in the past.

SSA Dilemma

  • Small agencies have a constant struggle in letting a broad enough client base know

    that their imagery exists because they have such limited funds to spend on advertising.

    Will technology enable them to compete, or will they be priced out of the market?

  • By joining other agencies in joint marketing plans like Stock Workbook and

    PNI will they be forced to give up too much control and identity?

  • Will the MSA's license high demand images at lower prices, thus forcing SSA's

    to lower prices in order to compete? MSA's will be able to do this because they

    will share a smaller portion of the fee with the photographer.

MP Dilemma

  • Can photographers earn more through the volume sales of the very few

    mages their major agency chooses to represent, or will they do better with a

    smaller agency that will show a broader cross section of their work?

  • Is there some way for them to get the best of both these worlds? Is it

    possible to give the major agency first look and then turn everything else over to

    the small agency?

  • In the new marketing environment is it possible to earn enough from stock

    to offset their continuing production and marketing expenses?

  • Should they seek guarantees from their agency, either in terms of

    production costs, or guaranteed space? Or should they continue to produce on

    speculation as they have in the past and go for the highest possible percentage of


OP Dilemma

  • Photographers, represented by a major agency, who produce high demand

    subject matter that competes with the wholly owned images of the major agency will

    find that they have trouble getting this material seen in the catalogs of the major

    agency. The major agency will want to concentrate on showing their wholly owned

    material so they can recover their production costs and make a greater profit on

    each sale.

  • Which is better for the specialists? The big agency that wants to keep them,

    but does little to promote their work, or the small agency which will show more of

    their work, but to a smaller cross section of buyers? The answer will change as

    on-line becomes a more dominant catalog system.

  • The photographer who in the past has earned significant income from a few

    images in high demand subject areas has a particular dilemma. The SSA may not

    market those few images as effectively as the MSA might, but if a photographer can't

    get his or her MSA to continue putting the same volume of images in their catalogs, then

    the SSA's may be the better choice.

  • As percentages drop and the photographer gets fewer and fewer images in the

    major agency catalog, will he or she do better by marketing the work direct to

    clients or by going with an SSA?

  • Many photographers will have no other option. Being with a small agency still

    gives them a much better chance to make sales than trying to do it on their own.

There are so many intangibles that when a major agency offers up front payment it

will be an offer that is hard to turn down.

Story 146


June 2, 1998

Recently, we surveyed photographers who advertised in Direct Stock 6. This

book was published in early February 1997, and at the time of the survey it had

been in the hands of photography buyers for about 16 months.

There were a total for 550 pages of photos in this book. We received responses from 99

photographers who represented 155 pages in the book. Thus, the statistics to follow

represent over 28% of the pages in DS6.

The gross stock sales for these 99 photographers was $489,089. That means that the

average sales per page was $3,115.41. In addition to stock sales 15 photographers got

assignments that were generated by their clients seeing their work in this book. Some of

these assignments were significant and the total income generated from these assignments

was $96,491. When we add this number to the stock sales, we have a total sales generated

by this book, to date, of $584,580. (Remember that this figure represents only 28% of the

photographers. If it is representative of all the photographers in the book, it would mean the gross

sales, so far, for the entire book would be about $2.1 million.) The average return per

page using the $584,580 figure is $3,771.48.

In order to try to determine profit for photographers from this advertising, we estimated

that each page cost the photographer $2800 which would include space rate plus

separations. We know costs vary somewhat depending on discounts and number of images on a

page, but this seems to be a reasonable average number.

Thus, if we look at the stock sales alone, on average photographers got back 113% of their

investment (their costs plus 13% profit) 16 months after the book came out. (In some

cases they had made this investment as much as six months before the book came out.) If

we look at the total return from stock and assignments, on average photographers got back

135% of their investment (their costs plus 35% profit) 16 months after the book came out.

It should be noted that when we talk about profit we have not factored in anything for the

cost of producing the pictures. This will vary widely. We have no way of estimating what

production costs might have been, but each photographer must take them into account when

estimating his or her own profit.

As might be expected individual returns on investment varied widely. Eleven people have

had no sales at all in the sixteen months since Direct Stock 6 came out. The top seller

of those responding to the survey made $30,000 from stock and an additional $20,000 from

assignments generated by DS6. Six had sales in excess of $20,000 from the DS ad.

When we look at the returns from stock sales alone, 36% earned more than the $2800 cost of

their page meaning that 64% of the photographers lost money. Only 30% earned more than

$3800 per page which is $1000 over the estimated costs.

Fifty-one of the photographers who put images into DS6 decided not to go into DS7. They

represented 74.75 pages in DS6. The 48 photographers who did put images in DS7 represent

80.25 pages in DS6.

Of the 48 photographers who went into DS7, four, or 8%, said their sales were

higher in DS7 in the first four months than they were in the first four months of DS6.

Twenty-seven said their sales were lower and 17 said they were about the same. It should

be noted that four months is a very short time on which to judge the productivity of a

stock catalog so be careful not to read too much into these numbers. On the other hand

the size of the book may be a problem. Some art directors have told us that it is just

too large and that they wouldn't use it because of its size.

One photographer also commented that he was very unhappy with the awful job of keywording

on DS7. He has not had a single reply from DS7 and says, "I doubt that I will have very

good results because my page is so hidden in the keyword process."

Putting more pages into the DS6 didn't necessarily produce greater profits. In fact, the

photographer with the highest sales did it with one page. Forty-four percent of the

photographers with less than two pages earned more than the cost of their pages.

Thirty-nine percent of the photographers with more than two pages had total earnings

(stock + assignments) in excess of the cost of their page.

One of the most telling comments, for me, came from a concept photographer who has been in

all but one of the Direct Stock books. In the early books he had been used to making in

the range of $15,000 to $17,000 per page with most of that money coming in the initial

year-and-a-half after the book is released. In the first 16 months of DS6 he has earned a

total of $800. So far on DS7 he has not made a single sale.

This photographer is very experienced and did not forget what it takes to produce

marketable stock images when it came time to produce for DS6 and DS7. This photographer

also points out that so far in 1998 he has made sales of some of the pictures in older

books, but none in DS7.

There are many intangible factors that might explain why such an experienced photographer

has had such a drastic turn in sales. My best guess is that it has a lot more to do with

the oversupply of all types of imagery in the marketplace, and not the quality of the

particular images.

Another experienced stock photographer who made $6,915 from DS6 points out that in the same

time period he earned $13,835 from DS4. This may be encouraging for photographers in DS6

because there is a good chance of additional earnings from this book in the future.

Still another photographer said he is currently making more sales from DS3 and DS4 than he is

from DS6 and DS7. He is disappointed with overall sales. He has over 40 pictures in DS6

and only six have produced multiple sales. He says, "We are not guessing very well these

days. Apparently, most of our pixs are not unique enough."

One photographer wanted to know in particular how landscape photographers are doing.

Since my questions weren't directed specifically at the type of work photographers put

into the book, I can't answer that question from my own knowledge. However, one very well

known landscape photographer did comment on his survey response that he had been doing

some calling on his own and sales for landscape photographers were WAY OFF. He wondered

if somehow the copies did not make it to the advertisers. I checked with Direct Stock on

this issue and have been assured that all copies were shipped in early February as has

always been the case.

There are some other factors, pointed out by Arie Kopelman of Direct Stock, that you might

want to take into consideration when reading these results. He pointed out that in

earlier years they had done surveys themselves, but dropped them for the following


  • "We have found that the most successful photographers are often hesitant to call

    attention to their success and thereby invite copycat knock-offs of their work. You may

    not hear back from them at all, especially if they don't know how to program their fax so

    their fax number does not appear at the top of the reply page.

  • "Many photographers use Direct Stock as a way to test experimental, unproven material

    in the marketplace. It is hard to say what percentage needs to be successful to validate

    the notion of testing. For example, if one test out of three leads to a hugely successful

    long-term stock career and the other two tests do not work out well, I am not sure what

    conclusion one should draw from that experience.

  • "Comparing any two parallel periods of time from different years is risky. It does

    not automatically follow that the market should behave in a similar fashion just because

    the time of the year is the same."

He concluded by saying, "All that said, we hope you develop some useful information which

will benefit the community we serve."

Story 148



June 22, 1998

Bahar Gidwani of Index Stock is wasting no time in spending the $18.6

million in venture capital he acquired in March (reported in the May printed

issue of Selling Stock).

On June 1st he acquired The Picture Cube, Inc. of Boston, which earlier


year acquired Third Coast Stock Source Inc., formerly of Milwaukee. Index will

retain the Boston office as base for the company's Editorial collection.

Two weeks later, on June 15th Index announced the acquisition of Stock

Imagery of Denver. While Stock Imagery has been somewhat regional in sales focus

in the U.S., it has an extensive global reach with agents in 50 countries

representing their catalogs. Index will retain the Denver office of Stock Imagery

and expand its sales efforts into the Mountain States. Index Stock now has

offices in New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Denver.

In May we reported to our on-line subscribers that 15 members of the Stock

Imagery team were dismissed without notice, including Phil Lawson who had been

chief operating officer and his wife Pamela who was creative director. The staff

remaining after the reshuffle numbers about 26.

Both Lawson and Garry Adams, the President of Stock Imagery, were involved

in discussions with Index that took place over serveral months prior to the

announcement. Sources tell us that there were some major disagreements between

Lawson and Adams over strategy and that Index insisted these issues be laid to

rest before they closed the deal.

Lawson was heavily committed to the "Imagegate" on-line delivery system, and to a

spin-off called "Weddinggate." After the dismissal of Lawson, Adams told us that the

"Imagegate" software was not working as promised, that development was way behind

schedule and that the "Weddinggate" idea would no longer be pursued because it

was not related to Stock Imagery's primary line of business.

Sources at Index tell us that they are reviewing the "Imagegate" software and

trying to see if there is any way to take advantage of the investment already

made, but it is unlikely that Index will try to operate two systems. Index has

announced that the entire Stock Imagery collection will be scanned into the

"TeleFocus Image Browser", giving Index clients and staff access to the images

from their own workstations. The Denver office will be completely

automated and integrated into the Index on-line network in the near future.

Sources not directly connected with either of the two companies, have told

us that Stock Imagery made an attempt to license

"Imagegate" to Zefa in Germany for $400,000, but the German agency was not

interested. There was also an attempt to market it to Visual Communications

Group in the UK, but VCG had no interest because of their committment to a

different system. We believe Stock Imagery photographers

should expect the "Imagegate" system to disappear.

A new 352-page Stock Imagery catalog, entitled "Fresh Catch," has been edited and

is still due out in October. Stock Imagery has been in business for 18

years, focusing especially on

strong nature photography, regional skylines, lifestyles, business concepts

and sports. The collection of approximately 200,000 selected images is very

tightly edited from the work of over 390 photographers.

Adams describes the match between Index and Stock Imagery as a "great fit"

that will benefit his photographers by adding a larger and more national

sales force and advanced technology. "While our international network has

been one of the best, our domestic reach has been hampered a little by our

location. There's going to be an immediate benefit to our photographers

from aligning with Index's national sales force," says Adams.

Peter Vollers will manage the day to day operation of the Denver office. While

the press release indicates that "Garry Adams will continue to be involved in

the creative process in an as

yet unspecified way, probably from South America" our sources indicate that Adams

will probably not remain a part of the management team for any significant period

of time.

Sources also tell us that current annual sales at Stock Imagery are in the range

of $2 to $2.5 million and that the price paid by Index for the agency was

about twice the annual sales.

We have no reliable information as to the amount

paid for The Picture Cube, but clearly it is a smaller agency. Sources tell us

that Index still has a lot of money to spend and that we should

expect to see more acquisitions in the not too distant future.

Picture Cube

Sheri Blaney, Founder & President of The Picture Cube, Inc., will remain in

the Index Stock Boston office as a Managing Director. The Boston office will be

base for the company's Editorial collection. Given her experience and

understanding of the editorial market for stock (book publishing, not hard

news) Blaney will play an important role in Index's plans for expansion.

Blaney spent a number of years in publishing as an art and photo

editor before opening Picture Cube twenty-one years ago. She has built the

company into one of New England's leading sources of stock photography with a

national reputation in the editorial field and a prime source for photos of

multi-cultural lifestyles, New England

locations, world travel, underwater habitats, black and white contemporary

and vintage images, and many other subjects. The Picture

Cube's web site is located at www.picturecube.com.

In explaining why she chose Index, Blaney said, "We were

interested in an agency with the technological savvy that could bring us

into the electronic age. Index is the right match -- besides being

innovative, they treat their contributors with a great deal of respect.

Both Picture Cube and Third Coast photographers have a lot to gain by our

affiliation with Index -- their catalog production schedule and electronic

network will give our artists an increased opportunity for sales and


Index CEO Bahar Gidwani comments, "The Picture Cube has been one

of our content partners for some time, contributing images to our catalog

and CD products. We know their photographers and their staff, and respect

the quality of the images they have collected. Joining forces is one more

step in our plan to become one of the industry's dominant players."

The Picture Cube adds more than 400 photographers and 500,000 images to

the Index archive.

With the completion of these two acquisitions Index Stock will represent more

than 1,165 professional photographers and has more than 1.7 million photos in

its library. Index plans to produce and distribute five print catalogs this year

including two general purpose catalogs, a Sports & Leisure catalog, a Humor

catalog and a Medical catalog. It distributes 115,000 copies of the 240-page

general catalog, with about half going to its foreign agent network.

One unique feature about the Index system is that they scan a larger percentage

of their general file images than most other major agencies. This enables each

Index salesperson to access Index's entire collection of scanned images by

using their TeleFocus browser on-line. When a customer installs their TeleFocus

software, at no charge, he or she may also get full access to Index's entire

collection of

scanned images - not just those that are in Index's catalogs or on it's CDs.

Customers can download any of the images for layouts and comps and show them

to clients before committing to licensing them. For more information, visit

the Index web sites at www.indexstock.com and www.photostogo.com.

Story 145


MAY 26, 1998

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) in collaboration with the non-profit

Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI) has developed a system to identify

individual electronic objects as a first step in tracking ownership of such objects.

The system is called the Digital Object Identifier (DOI). In its most basic form a

number is attached to an object (photograph, text, music, film, etc.). A user locating

that number can instantly go to an internet directory that will provide the name and

contact information for the owner, or the organization having rights to license use to

the object.

Additional features may eventually be built into the system such as on-line pricing of

certain items for certain uses, but the content owner always has the final decisions as

to which features he or she wants to adopt relative to any particular object.

Because this system has been designed by a major organization of publishers, and

because it is non-profit, it has a good chance of eventual wide acceptance.

Nevertheless, at the moment it is in its early stages and wide acceptance is not


While the system was designed primarily to track digital use of text information, there


been some discussion in the organizing meetings that it would be a good idea to attach

the DOI number to all printed pieces, as well, just as one would a copyright notice.

This way someone who wanted to make another use of published material would have an

easy way of

locating the rights holder. For the creator who wants to be paid for future uses it

might be more important to have a DOI number listed next to the work than to have a

copyright notice. On the other hand there is probably no reason not to print both.

Obviously, this system works for images as well as text.

DOI numbers have a prefix and a suffix. In the photo business the prefix would indentify

the individual or stock

agency. The suffix can be used to identify the specific image and a host of other

information depending on the needs of the creator or user in each specific case. For

example a credit line could include a DOI number:10.1486:[JHP1089]. The 10.1486 would

identify the stock agency and number in brackets would identify a specific image. The

information in brackets can be in virtually any format or length. (There is a maximum of

128 characters for each DOI number.) Other information can follow the brackets.

Publishers could use these DOI numbers to track usage of individual chapters or

photographs within a publication. This could be particularly helpful in compensating

creators for specific articles or chapters of a book when sections of books are used in

"course packs."

A DOI for an illustrated article, might indicate that the publisher can license rights

to the article, but use of the photos attached to the article must be licensed

separately by contacting the creator identified in the DOI for the photo.

Negotiating rights for initial uses may become much more complex, but there is

the potential that photographers can now be paid for many uses that were given

way free in the past.

One thing that certainly should be part of any negotiation is whose DOI number will

appear by your image in their publication. Publishers will want to put their own

DOI number there. Photographers and agents should insist on using their DOI

numbers, unless there is a clear agreement on how the photographer will be compensated

for future uses.

Even if you give the publication unlimited rights to re-use the story in which your

image appears, it is still a good idea to insist that your DOI number be attached

to the image. This way if someone, other than the publisher, sees your image in the

original story, and wants to re-use it in some other way, they will contact you instead

of the publisher.

Stock agencies or individuals can register for a prefix for a one-time fee of $1000,

and an annual mantenance fee of less than $.01 per DOI (prefix and suffix combination).

You can have an unlimited number of DOI's attached to a single prefix. At the current

time the CNRI is waving the annual maintenance fee. For most photographers it will

probably be more practical to use their stock agent's DOI

than to have one of their own.

The idea is to use a suffix attached to the organization prefix to identify each

individual item (photograph). However, there would also be value in attaching the

prefix alone, particularly in news situations where no one knows until the last minute

which specific image will be used. This way at least someone spotting the image could

use your prefix number to locate the image owner. At that point there would need to be a

discussion to determine the specific image of interest.

In order to effectively use the DOI number on digital files it would help if there were

some standardization as to where the number should be placed. An ID bar with the image

number can be built into the image file, but that is somewhat time consuming. The file

name of the image file could contain the entire DOI number. With Photoshop it is possible

to create a text file

connected to each image. However, this file is separate from the picture file and does not have

to stay with it.

Their are about 50 organizations that are CMRI members at the present time. They include

ALCS, a writers collecting society in the UK, and music publishers as well as many text

publisher associations. The Copyright Clearance Center, manager of the MIRA photo database

is also a member. There are an estimated 500,000 DOI's registered at the present


The idea is to use a suffix attached to the organization prefix to identify each

individual item (photograph). However, there would also be value in attaching the

prefix alone, particularly in news situations where no one knows until the last minute

which specific image will be used. This way at least someone spotting the image could

use your prefix number to locate you. At that point there would need to be some

discussion to determine which specific image they were interested in.

If you are interested in learning more about DOI, Carol Risher of the AAP will be speaking on the copyright panel

at Photo West Expo in Anaheim, CA on June 19th at 10:30am. Or, you can go to the Association of

American Publishers web site at www.publishers.org .

For information about Photo West

Expo see: www.pdn-pix.com/photoplusexpo .

Paula Berinstein of Berinstein Research has done an excellent article in InfoToday

"DOI: A New Identifier for Digital Content" explaining the system

HREF="http://www.infotoday.com/searcher/jan/story4"> www.infotoday.com/searcher/jan/story4.htm

Another useful article by Bill Rosenblatt can be found at:


Story 150


June 23, 1998

The PACA stock agencies that are engaged in what is often referred to

as "traditional stock" have adopted "RIGHTS PROTECTED" as a term to

identifty their business model and distinguish it from "royalty free".

PACA encourages all agencies to agressively use this

phrase or the letters "RP" to more clearly define, and separate in

the minds of users the differences between RP images from RF work.

Sellers of "Rights Protected" work, license specific uses to clients and

are able to give clients information as to how particular images have

been used in the past. Such sellers can also control future usages on

an image when necessary.

This phrase resulted from a recommendation by the PACA Technology

Committee, chaired by Bob Roberts from H. Armstrong Roberts. The

recommendation was debated at this year's PACA annual meeting in

New York, and turned over to the PACA executive committee for final


PACA recommends that all agencies who license rights to images

adopt the convention of generally and assertively referring to

themselves as being engaged in the business of licensing rights

protected images, colloquially "RP".


Richard Pasley

Just wondering where this leaves those

photographers and agencies who have

non-exclusive relationships? Does the

term "Rights Protected" imply any sort of

gaurantee to the buyer of images that

their interest in a given image is "protected"

in any way? I can definitely see less

experienced buyers (the very ones that

this terminology has been created for)

presuming that a "Rights Protected" image

protects them, the buyer, and has little or

nothing to do with protecting the rights of

the creator.

Is this a well-crafted ploy by those agents

who indeed do have image-exclusive

relationships to promote their own interests

and agenda at the expense of non-exclusive

agencies and those photographers who serve those


Instead of clarifying the issue, I'm afraid this

will confuse and obfuscate the truly critical

distinction from RF imagery.

Note: Richard Pasley is a photographer in Boston, and also current

President of the American Society of Picture Professionals.

Jim Pickerell Responds to Richard Pasley

After reviewing the various options, the smaller PACA agencies that

represent photographers on a non-exclusive basis also

agreed that "Rights Protected" was the best choice. Operating a "rights protected"

system does not mean that every sale is "rights protected", any more

than every RF sale is Free.

Obviously, there will need to be a lot of explanation with regard to the various

subtleties of the way each RP business operates -- just as in the case

of RF -- but, this is a good starting point.

The term "Rights Protected" does not imply that the buyer is

guaranteed anything. No RP agency -- large or small -- "guarantees" any kind of

protection without discussion with the client about the specific use.

What it means is that agency operates its

business in a way that enables it to track past usage, and restrict future

usages. Thus, if the buyer needs to know how an image has been

used in the past, or to restrict certain future uses, those issues

can be discussed with the agency.

Given the royalty free business model this is something they can never

offer, no matter how hard they try. Thus, it is a distinctive that

clearly separates the two types of businesses.

In many cases the agency may have to go back to the photographer to find out

if a restricted use can be licensed, but the price being charged justifies

the extra work. In some cases the agency will simply have to say, "I can not

offer you a restricted rights license on that image at this time." This, of course,

could also happen with any image found in a major agency catalog, because

another client might have already purchased a restricted use on the image.

Interestingly, surveys have shown that the main reason people buy RF is for

convenience, not low price. Traditional agencies may have given up a great

deal of business to royalty free simply because they have failed to pay

attention to this convenience factor, and because their image delivery model

is so inefficient compared to what many users want and need at this point in time.

Many agencies are now tooling up to supply quick digital delivery. As both RP

and RF move to researching and delivering individual images on the internet,

there may be a new leveling of the playing field.

The principle motivating factor that led to the adoption of this

term was that those in the business of

licensing rights felt they needed a quick short-hand way to clearly separate

their business model from RF in the minds of users. The consensus was that it

needed to be simple and easy to remember as well as being positive and

forward looking.

The problem with "traditional" is that it connotes "backward thinking,"

and trying to hold onto the "old ways" of doing business. It is time to

get modern and move into the 21st century.

Copyright © 1998 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.  


Be the first to comment below.

Post Comment

Please log in or create an account to post comments.