Prediction - Microstock Will Overtake Traditional RF

Posted on 2/19/2008 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (2)

I predict more revenue will be generated by the licensing of microstock than through the licensing of traditional single image RF (TRF) before the end of 2010.

Getty Images' 2007 figures showed a slight decline quarter-to quarter in TRF revenue. Looking forward, TRF sales, by all companies, seems likely to experience similar declines over the next few years. Getty's total RF revenue for 2007 was $327 million, but I estimate that about $57 million of that was generated by iStockphoto and $40 million was for CDs, DVDs, Virtual CDs and subscription. Thus, only $237 million of Getty's revenue was for TRF sales, a 7% decline compared to 2006.

In the chart below, I made the assumption that Getty's average price per TRF image licensed was $250 based on the RPI reported in 2006. Getty stopped reporting average RPI at the end of 2006, but indicated that there was little or no change in 2007. If my gross revenue figure for iStock is correct, their 2007 average price per download was $3.25, a big difference from TRF's average sale price.

But the average price for microstock didn't remain flat, as was the case with TRF. It rose almost 100% in 2007 compared to 2006 and may still have a long way to go before we begin to see any decline in units licensed because prices are too high.

While Getty's prices remained the same, the number of TRF images licensed in 2007 declined about 10,000 units per quarter or 40,000 for the year. Any TRF price increase would likely result in customers moving to microstock at an even faster pace than is already occurring. Consequently, increasing price would probably result in a decline in gross revenue.

My chart assumes the same annual rate of decline in TRF units licensed during the next three years as occurred in 2007. There is a strong possibility the rate of decline will increase as the quality and variety of microstock improves. It is hard to imagine any eventuality that would slow the rate of decline.

            Traditional RF          Microstock
in MillionsIn MillionsIn Millions





























At a minimum, the number of TRF images licensed seems likely to decline 13% in three years, assuming no price increase. On the microstock side, I used a conservative estimate of 31% increase in downloads over the next three years. In 2007 alone, iStock's downloads grew 75% compared to 2006.

Despite the fact that the average price per microstock download rose almost 100% in Q4 2007 compared to Q4 2006, an additional significant price increase was instituted in January 2008. Considering how low microstock prices are compared to all other image options, it seems reasonable to expect the average price to exceed $5 in 2008 and to almost double again in the following two years. If all this happens, the gross revenue generated by microstock will exceed that of TRF no later than the end of 2010.

There are a lot more images in microstock than in TRF, so the average return per image for microstock will still be much lower than TRF. But microstock seems destined to play a much larger overall role in the industry soon.

Copyright © 2008 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:  


  • Jon Feingersh Posted Feb 20, 2008
    Jim-- Thanks for the happy analysis. Shall I slash my wrists now, or should I just pack my tent and open that bait and tackle shop in Belize?
    Jon F

  • Rohn Engh Posted Feb 20, 2008
    Jon, don't move to Belize, move instead… to a rural area (mountains, pastures, lakes, rolling hill country); figure out a photo specialization area (one that you’re passionate about, that wild horses couldn't pull you away from); use Google to discover the hundreds of publishing and magazine markets (foreign and domestic) that consider you an important resource and are already waiting for your specialization expertise; settle you and your family down to the good life and let the viewers in your niche area enjoy the talent and insight you bring to them. Best, Rohn

Post Comment

Please log in or create an account to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive email notification when new stories are posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

Stock Photo Pricing: The Future
In the last two years I have written a lot about stock photo pricing and its downward slide. If you have time over the holidays you may want to review some of these stories as you plan your strategy ...
Read More
Future Of Stock Photography
If you’re a photographer that counts on the licensing of stock images to provide a portion of your annual income the following are a few stories you should read. In the past decade stock photography ...
Read More
Blockchain Stories
The opening session at this year’s CEPIC Congress in Berlin on May 30, 2018 is entitled “Can Blockchain be applied to the Photo Industry?” For those who would like to know more about the existing blo...
Read More
2017 Stories Worth Reviewing
The following are links to some 2017 and early 2018 stories that might be worth reviewing as we move into the new year.
Read More
Stories Related To Stock Photo Pricing
The following are links to stories that deal with stock photo pricing trends. Probably the biggest problem the industry has faced in recent years has been the steady decline in prices for the use of ...
Read More
Stock Photo Prices: The Future
This story is FREE. Feel free to pass it along to anyone interested in licensing their work as stock photography. On October 23rd at the DMLA 2017 Conference in New York there will be a panel discuss...
Read More
Important Stock Photo Industry Issues
Here are links to recent stories that deal with three major issues for the stock photo industry – Revenue Growth Potential, Setting Bottom Line On Pricing and Future Production Sources.
Read More
Recent Stories – Summer 2016
If you’ve been shooting all summer and haven’t had time to keep up with your reading here are links to a few stories you might want to check out as we move into the fall. To begin, be sure to complet...
Read More
Corbis Acquisition by VCG/Getty Images
This story provides links to several stories that relate to the Visual China Group (VCG) acquisition of Corbis and the role Getty Images has been assigned in the transfer of Corbis assets to the Gett...
Read More
Finding The Right Image
Many think search will be solved with better Metadata. While metadata is important, there are limits to how far it can take the customer toward finding the right piece of content. This story provides...
Read More

More from Free Stuff