GDUSA Annual Stock Imagery Survey Results

Posted on 9/25/2012 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

More than 1,000 designers responded to Graphic Design USA (GDUSA) annual survey designed to determine how stock imagery is being used. The survey indicates that use of stock imagery has grown nearly three times in 25 years since the first survey, starting at 39 percent in 1986 and reaching 98 percent in 2012. The survey also shows that 31 percent of designers are in a full-blown love affair, using stock images over 100 times a year, which is up 11 percent from last year.
The survey, sponsored by iStockphoto, was sent via email to 18,000 GDUSA print and e-subscribers selected at random. According to 89 percent of respondents price is the most important single factor when choosing which web site to use. Other important factors include the quality of collections (78 percent) and ease of search (70 percent).
More than half of designers said they purchase less than five stock images per project and 96 percent use their images for print media.  However, there is no usage shortage of stock imagery on websites and blogs as internet usage came in second with 76 percent and sign/exhibit/environment usage came in third with 48 percent.  

“The GDUSA reader survey is very important because it allows us to get into the minds of industry creatives,” said Rebecca Rockafellar, Senior Vice President of E-Commerce at Getty Images and General Manager of iStockphoto. “We are able to see what is trending in the industry, but more importantly, we get the chance to listen to what creatives have to say about our product, so that we can continue to make ongoing improvements.”

Overall, designers are very happy with stock providers, but do acknowledge that there are some kinks that can be ironed out, specifically when it comes to the process of purchasing images. Criticisms and advice include the weeding out of dated and underused images, as well as greater price consistency and transparency.

“There is an overwhelming consensus that stock imagery and stock providers today are better than ever in terms of breadth of options and search functionality,” said Gordon Kaye, editor and publisher of GDUSA. “There are always going to be ways to improve a product, and as our industry continues to evolve there is no doubt that stock providers will find ways to make the process even more seamless and straightforward.”

Additional Findings:

Designers use rights managed images but predominantly use royalty free
Rights managed – 29%

Royalty free – 98%
Designers use multiple stock sites
Use only one – 14%
Use 2-3 – 49%
Use 4-5 – 31%
Use 6 or more – 6%
Top 5 categories of images used most often
Medical/Healthcare (this category is new to the Top 5)
For complete survey results, see the September issue of GDUSA.

Copyright © 2012 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:  


  • Bill Bachmann Posted Sep 26, 2012
    Interesting indeed!

    Our job as photographers is to shoot top quality images and not give them away for FREE!

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