Business Planning for the Future: Issues to Consider, Part I

Posted on 8/17/2009 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (5)

In addition to the major industry trends, regular examination of smaller-scope developments related to common business issues---such as demand for images, cost of production, legal changes and technological advancements---is helpful in determining if and when to adjust stock production strategy in order to keep it profitable. But beware. As you track these developments, it is entirely possible you may decide to place less emphasis on stock production and more on something else.

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Copyright © 2009 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 301-251-0720, 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:  


  • Tim Mcguire Posted Aug 17, 2009
    Hi Jim,

    You left out the biggest cost for photographers... the giant invisible elephant in the room that no one seems to notice, agency representation or cost of marketing and distribution. This costs photographers 60-90% of the revenues derived from their images.

    I'm starting a Virtual Agency on Photoshelter technology for those visual artists who'd like to cut this cost and take back control of their images, careers, and businesses.

    Could there be a better way forward for independent stock artists without the inefficiencies /costs of the big agency system? I think there is.

    Tim McGuire

  • Leslie Hughes Posted Aug 17, 2009
    HI JIm,
    I hate to nit pick but the use of images is rising. In fact, I don't think that anyone could argue that the use of visual imagery isn't growing = it as strong as ever, every where. It is the type of sale or business model that is changing and the revenue stream that is challenged. So what has to change is how we as producers or distributors think about how we MAKE money. That is the challenge. And sadly it is a challenge for many if not most these days. But even your numbers prove out that the use of images is growing. You talk about "traditional sales" from Getty and Corbis, versus those of microstock so I assume you are talking about rights managed sales that often sell for higher prices even today versus the low price points in the sales of the basically RF licenses from microstock companies like istockphoto and fotolio, or the free images of photoxpress. But they are all images. It is a shift in the kind of license but it is an image that is being used.

    So that is the GOOD news. It would be far worse, if we worked in an industry where the product was becoming obsolete. And I hate to say this (it won't be popular), but people need to become more focused on how to create value in what we do and offer the market (clients) rather than lamenting this situation. Strategically speaking there are lots of people doing some very cool things out there but in new and exciting ways. We have to think differently. Product on the internet is moving increasingly to a low priced and free sale. In all sorts of places. Free conferences calls, free phone calls, I even read about a company considering free air travel. Do you think they will do this out of the kindness of their hearts? No. They are rethinking how they will make money. It happens in reverse too. Like when someone started to sell bottled water. We bought the convenience of something we used to get for free. But when we create something and the price goes down, it feels bad and it is scary. But people can and will make money from it. It felt bad when RF started. Those that adapted in many cases made a lot of money. And I am not talking just about those that went in to RF. There were many that refocused on what they did in RM - some expanded product offerings, some refocused and became niche.. Now is the time to listen, learn and adapt to a new internet economy. Whether you are a producer of content or a distributor, the first thing you need to think about is who is your client and how do you bring them value. Even if you are creating images.. Or providing access to content.. There is money to be made and made upstream and downstream - yes, even from free. A lot of money has been made from creating content and will continue to be for those who understand who they are selling to, position themselves appropriately, don't just listen to their distributor but find a network that fits for what they do, and perhaps even rethinks a bit what they do.. I know this won't go over big but yes, money can even be made from free. Look at Google.. Frankly, while I have respect for Getty and Corbis, I don't see either doing anything particularly innovative. We will see but I would look for those who are innovators and keep watch over those that are more in sync with what is happening in the marketplace rather than in what is happening in the "industry."

  • Peter Bisset Posted Aug 17, 2009
    Very good comment by Leslie Hughes. Perhaps some form of 3D imagery may come along for example and make all the present images redundant, as well as other never thought about trends in the future. Peter Bisset. 17 Aug 2009 @ 6.00pm

  • Jagdish Agarwal Posted Aug 18, 2009
    Great positive comments from Leslie Hughes. Makes me feel nice and ready to take on the world of stock photography once again.

  • Michael McCloy Posted May 6, 2014

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