Getty Images Creative Stills: 'The Perfect Storm'

Posted on 11/16/2009 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (2)

According to Getty Images vice president of creative imagery Andy Saunders, the combination of recent technological advancements and the current economic climate has translated to the perfect storm for the creative stills end of the stock photography business.

“We are seeing a development in technology that has lowered the bar for entry into commercial photography, both producing and selling it. In addition to the rise of microstock, numerous other new sources of photography—crowdsourcing, photosharing—are growing,” Saunders told Selling Stock. “Plus it’s the worst recession within 50 years. Advertising is declining and customers are looking for lower-cost options. This creates quite the difficult environment for traditional creative stock,” he added, echoing the sentiment recently expressed by Getty CEO Jonathan Klein.

Saunders declined to quantify Getty’s creative stills business against Goldman Sachs pre-acquisition projections but did say that it faces a lot of challenges. Still, he also sees opportunities, and not solely in digital uses.

Despite the recent launch of a micro-priced Web and mobile offering and the 2010 freeze on producing wholly owned content, Saunders said the low end of the business was not Getty’s sole focus. “There is no doubt that the low end is the fastest growing end of the market, but there is still room for traditional high-value production photography.” Saunders feels that microstock and similar offerings do not fulfill the traditional buyers’ need for business and lifestyle content. “There is still a good living to be made in this area,” he reassures Getty’s traditional contributors.

He cautioned contributors not to read too much into Getty’s choice to not produce wholly owned imagery in the coming year: “We decided to make the capital investment in other areas this year. We produced a lot of wholly owned imagery during the past 5 or so years, and there is no reason we cannot pick it back up in 2011.”

Incidentally, Saunders clarified what appears to be a widespread misconception. Apparently, Getty does not and has never prioritized its search results to favor wholly owned content: “We always felt if our content was not as good as contributor content, then so be it. If you put it upfront and it’s not good or relevant, you won’t make any money,” he explained.

For Getty contributors, the challenge is to differentiate their work. Saunders pointed to a rise in what he calls more immediate content produced in a simple, honest, authentic style that connects emotionally. He also stressed the need for pre-production research.

“It is not just advisable, it is imperative for stock photographers to look at Flickr and microstock content,” Saunders said. Beyond the standard advice of perusing advertising and television, he said that Getty can now offer photographers willing to invest in production a substantial amount of style-related guidance. However, the company expects contributors to demonstrate their ability to look beyond their own body of work and anticipate visual and creative trends through their own creative research.

Flickr has certainly had an influence on the current visual culture. However, the Flickr Collection represents a broadening of the Getty offering—not a paradigm shift. “It is still a very small part of the business,” said Saunders, stressing once more that the traditional—read: big-dollar advertising—buyer is looking for business and lifestyle imagery typically unavailable through crowdsourced outlets.

Copyright © 2009 Julia Dudnik Stern. 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


  • Bill Bachmann Posted Nov 20, 2009
    All photographers have to do is stop selling their work for one dollar.... then the new material will HAVE to sell for more. We should control the market--- not the other way around!

    Bill Bachmann
    Orlando. Florida

  • Tim Mcguire Posted Nov 23, 2009
    This "Perfect Storm" is the perfect opportunity for the creators of content to create new distribution models for their work that support creators in a more sustainable and profitable fashion. Once this storm passes the opportunities for innovative solutions empowering creators may pass as well.

    Tim McGuire
    EVOstock Founder and Administrator, a virtual stock image collective for pro photographers and visual artists.
    EVOlve or go extinct!

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