Cat Sales vs. Master Dupe

Posted on 9/17/1997 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)



September 17, 1997

One of the critical issues for photographers is how to get their images seen by clients. Just getting images selected by an agency's general files in no way guarantees sales.

Photographers have also discovered that those images selected for print catalogs usually produce significant sales, although that still is not a guarantee.

In addition, at many major agencies there is a middle ground. They pull certain images for a special file known as "Master Dupe," "Core," "Selects," or various other terms. These images are often duped heavily and distributed worldwide. They are usually stored in a file separate from the large general file. They are sometimes digitized. When clients call with a specific request, this is the first file researched. As a result sales from this file are often much higher than from the general file.

Often, when submissions come into the agency certain images are pulled for this select file, and it is from this file that selections are made for future catalogs. If your images don't get into the selects file they have little chance of making it into future catalogs.

Recently, we obtained information from TSI that helps reveal the relative importance of these various files.

TSI estimates that they have 2,500,000 in their active files. They have approximately 50,000 in their "Master Dupe" collection, and Stephen Mayes estimates that 20% of the Master Dupe images, or about 10,000 images, are in "active catalogs." Mayes said these catalog images currently represent "less than half" of TSI's global dollar volume in sales. For the purposes of the calculations below we will estimate that at 45%.

   				Percent		   Percent	
Total Sales Images On File

General File 2,500,000 12% 98.1%
Master Dupe 40,000 43% 1.5%
Print Catalogs 10,000 45% .39%

These figures indicated how important it is for images to be accepted into, at least, the master dupe level. In fact, many TSI photographers earning the most money from stock tell us that as much as 90% to 95% of their income comes from the images in print catalogs.

We hear similar stories from photographers with other agencies. Thus, we suspect other agencies are having similar experiences. Some photographers also say they are seeing an increased proportion of sales from the images in Master Dupes type files.

Possible trends for photographers to watch:

  • As the numbers of print catalogs increase, clients may be overwhelmed and may be turning back to relying more on agency researchers to do the selecting for them.

  • If the productivity of print catalogs is falling off, is it worth the expense to the photographers to pay the cost of producing them? Are they now finally becoming more a vehicle to draw clients to the agency rather than to sell specific images? If that is the case shouldn't the agency be paying a larger share of the cost of the catalog?

  • If the above example holds true it may be better for the photographer to have images in the Master Dupe collection, rather than the catalog because, while sales may be only 1/3 as good, the photographer would not have the huge catalog production expenses to offset.

Copyright © 1997 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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