Adobe - A New Game In Town

Posted on 4/4/2005 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

At its Ideas conference in New York on April 4th Adobe Systems Incorporated announced that it will release the next version of Creative Suite - Creative Suite 2 - this spring. Creative Suite 2 has some major improvements over Creative Suite 1 and provides some powerful new functionality of interest to the stock photo industry.

Adobe has determined that its customers want greater efficiency from the software they use in order to streamline their publishing workflow and effectively manage their assets.
With Creative Suite Adobe started a process of integrating its entire family of programs in order to better serve its customers. Creative Suite 2 makes another giant step in this direction by introducing Adobe Bridge center where all photos and illustrations are stored. Photos can then be manipulated and used seamlessly by any one of Adobe's programs including: Photoshop CS2, Illustrator CS2, In Design CS2 and Go Live CS2.

But that's only part of the story for the stock photo industry. Accessed through Adobe Bridge is Adobe Stock Photos, a new stock photography service that allows users to access the web, do keyword searches and one-stop shopping for high-quality RF images. They can view thumbnails, download un-watermarked comp previews and pay for any image they wish to license for their project. Initially, Adobe will offer approximately 230,000 RF images from five brands: PhotoDisc, Digital Vision, Comstock Images, imageshop by zefaimages and amana. Indications are that they will be adding more brands in the near future.

The major limiting factor is that initially, at least, -- because of the limited number of brands that Creative Suite 2 will be offering - Creatives will not have as broad a selection of imagery available as if they were using one of the other major portals. Thus, many Creatives may choose to continue to use the portals with which they are familiar.

Creative Suite 2 users can store images in Adobe Bridge on a project-by-project basis. They can also import images into their Bridge folders that they have created themselves or purchased through another portal more or less as they might have imported any of these images into any of the Adobe products previously. But, when images are acquired directly by using the Adobe Stock Photos there are huge advantages for the user in terms of time and efficiency and in being able to track where an image came from and how it was licensed.

For example, when an image is acquired through Adobe Stock Photos the company it came from, the caption information, whether it is a comp or whether it has been licensed and the terms of license agreement are all stored and immediately available to the user. In addition any information that the image supplier has put in the IPTC header, as will as the EXIF camera data, is available. If the image is downloaded from another portal and loaded into Adobe Bridge none of this information is likely to be available. This feature alone should be a big incentive for customers to first search for images using Adobe Stock Photos rather than going elsewhere to try to find images.

Adobe's Position In The Market

One of the big advantages for photo sellers in working with Adobe is the company's pervasive presence in the market. At launch of CS2, Adobe expects to have over 700,000 units of Creative Suite in the hands of users worldwide. It is expected that most of these users will upgrade. In addition there are tens of thousands of users of older versions of Photoshop, Illustrator, In Design and Go Live who have not upgraded to Creative Suite, but who may find the features offered in Creative Suite 2 so compelling that they will now decide to upgrade. Of the 700,000 approximately 65%, or 455,000, are purchasers of RF imagery according to Adobe.

    Aside: Over a year ago Getty said they had over one million customers, but I suspect that a significant percentage of them are very small users that buy only occasionally. It seems likely that Adobe's 455,000 users of Creative Suite include the vast majority of truly professional customers that probably represent more than 90% of the RF sales volume.

Adobe also has strong market penetration worldwide with 46% of its gross revenue coming from the Americas, 33% from Europe and the Middle East and 21% from Asia.

It is also interesting that included in their first five suppliers are not only agencies with strong U.S. content, but amana that is heavy on images from Japan and Asia and zefaimages with very strong European content.

In addition, Adobe has a heavy emphasis on marketing and is likely to make their customers well aware of the benefits of using Adobe Stock Photos. About $521 million or 31% of 2004 revenue was spent on Sales and Marketing. 73% of Adobe products are for Windows and 27% for Mac.

Additional Features of Creative Suite 2

One of the goals of Creative Suite 2 has been to improve on the tight integration of all the Adobe products that was first available in Creative Suite. The following are a few of the features Creative Suite 2 offers:

  • Every Creative Suite component has a button within the control pallet that will take you back to Adobe Bridge at any time.

  • Can view the meta data attached to any image accessed through Adobe Stock Photo and see whether it is a comp photo, the IPTC information, the keywords, the provider and import an un-watermarked file into your comp folder. Full pricing information is also available.

  • Drag and drop any image from the comp folder in Adobe Bridge into an InDesign CS2 layout.

  • If the designer accidentally leaves a comp photo in her design, and then preflights the document to check for errors prior to sending it to the printer the preflight report will warn her that the comp image is there and that she needs to acquire a high-res image for printing.

  • They've simplified the color setting management so when someone applies a setting it in one program such as Photoshop CS2 it will push the setting to all the other Creative Suite applications so an image opened in Photoshop CS2 will look exactly the same from a color balance perspective in Illustrator CS2 or InDesign CS2.

  • In the file browser it is possible to increase the size of thumbnails on the fly with a slider.

  • The Camera Raw plug-in is now incorporated into Adobe Bridge which allows the user to process Raw images while still be working in Photoshop CS2on something else. It is also possible to process multiple images at once.

  • Curves can also be processed in the Raw format.

  • Images can also be saved in the new Digital Negative format (DNG).

  • After the last release someone with too much time on his hands figures out that there are over 200 menu items in Photoshop and most of them are not used on a regular basis. Individuals can customize the menu items they want to see on a regular basis by
    high-lighting items you want to and hiding others. This provides a much shorter and workable list.

  • In Illustrator CS2 they can import a photograph and by using the button called "my trace" change it into a vector images that has much cleaner lines and can be use as an illustration.

  • Many designers like to rename images to relate them to specific projects. That is possible, but the original name and agency information is also retained in the file.

    How Adobe Stock Photos Works

    There are several unique characteristics to Adobe's new service. First, unlike most of the other major image suppliers, Adobe will not maintain a file of thumbnails, previews and full size deliverable images on its servers. Instead, much like Randomeye's Image Grabber ( , when a customer enters a search word, a message will go across the internet to the web site of each of Adobe's suppliers and the thumbnails will be pulled from the supplier's server. However, when the thumbnails arrive at Adobe they will all be delivered for viewing in a standard Adobe format rather than the unique formats of each individual supplier, as is the case with Image Grabber.

    Previews and deliverable images will be brought into the Adobe Bridge, as requested, from the supplier's server. Adobe will handle all sales rather than passing the transactions back to the individual suppliers. All prices are fixed and there is no process for requesting additional information not explained in the caption about the image or negotiating the price for usage. As indicated above the keywords and the standard fixed prices will be available.

    What About Rights Managed?

    Many Rights Managed sellers will want to know, "What about RM?" Adobe had given no indication that they have any plans to offer RM. I repeat, ADOBE HAD GIVEN NO INDICATION THAT THEY HAVE ANY PLANS TO OFFER RM. So don't get excited. Given the structure of their business model they would have some major hurdles to overcome if they ever decided to offer RM.

  • First, RM sellers would have to deal with the issue of automatic pricing. The Adobe system requires that there be fixed prices for all usages so the images can be automatically licensed without any human intervention. Adobe has no desire to set up a call center operation to deal with individual issues related to any given sale. As a technology company they tend to be focused on fully automatic transactions that can take place on the internet. That works in the RF environment where there are a few fixed prices for any individual image and the rights granted for particular usages are relatively constant brand-to-brand. It is questionable as to whether a structure can be developed that will deal with all the variables involved in the typical RM license. Such a structure might be developed that would deal with 80% or more of the requests, but the current Adobe strategy seems to call for a system that will handle 100% of the licenses.

    Consider that the new PLUS initiative by a group within PACA that is trying to develop common descriptions for all images uses has identified about 800 different uses of stock images. Some are licensed very infrequently, but they would have to be accounted for in a 100% system. Within each of these descriptions there are also additional variables that come into play and usually affect the price of an RM image such as: size of use on the page, circulation, size and importance of the company, industry where the image will be used, whether the image is released, volume of imagery the company purchases on an annual basis and unique characteristics of the image, particularly if it is one-of-a-kind.
    For some uses all these factors are taken into consideration, but for a lot of smaller uses many of these factors are ignored.

    Assuming that a template could be developed that would deal with all these issues consider how burdensome it would be on the customer to click through all the pages in order to price a particular usage. In many cases it would be faster and much more customer friendly to let them pick up the telephone and talk to a human in order to get a price.

    All these problems could be easily handled if Adobe were willing to go back to the supplier for advice in certain unique situations, but that does not seem to be part of the current business model.

  • Another issue will be determining whether releases are available, and if so, whether they are adequate for the planned usage. Often that requires reviewing the specific release and in an automatic system that would require making every release available online.

    Even then, a huge number of RM images are not released, but may still be used in a lot of editorial situations.

    Getty's new release strategy (See Story 709) offers an interesting approach and solution to problem of releases. It appears to have grown out of the understanding that many of the images customers want to use may not be totally released, but could still be used in many different ways without legal ramifications. A strategy of requiring complete releases on everything offered for licensing necessarily limits a lot of very usable imagery that cannot be accepted. However, Getty's new strategy also requires that the customer and the image supplier be able to communicate directly in many situations.

  • Many RM images are not generic, but rather are intended to illustrate a very specific point. Often buyers, particularly in the editorial market, need additional information about the image that is not always included in the caption. Seldom is such information needed about an RF image so when licensing RF it is not a problem. One solution is for everyone to write much more detailed captions on everything, but the more practical solution would seem to be to find a way to put the customer in contact with the producer of image when additional information is needed.

  • Still another thing to be considered is that RM suppliers may have all their high-res images online and available for immediate download. While not an insurmountable problem for suppliers such a strategy may limit the variety of the offering. Many RM images are requested infrequently, or not at all, and the storage costs of such images could be prohibitive relative to the income generated. Many RM agencies solve this problem by not to put all their high-res deliverable images online, but rather deliver specific images requested by FTP once the sale has been negotiated. Most customers find this system satisfactory as long as they are notified at the time of image selection that this process will be required.

    These thoughts are offered not only to help my readers understand the challenges Adobe faces if they have any desire to add RM to their offering and at the same time to give RM sellers some ideas of things they might need to do to prepare their file so that it might be offered through Adobe (if they decide to add RM to their offering) or any other technology company with a similar strategy.

    Interested Suppliers

    For those RF companies that would like to distribute their images through the Adobe Bridge Adobe has supplied the following information. "Adobe Stock Photos is a select photo supply service. For royalty-free stock photo suppliers who have an interest in becoming part of this unique, industry-leading service please send an e-mail to fgbpxcubgbvasb@nqbor.pbz with information about your company and your products and services for the stock photo market. If you are selected for consideration, we will contact you."


    Copyright © 2005 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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