Global Market Size For Stock Images

Posted on 2/16/2016 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Another leading global market research company, Technavio, headquartered in London, has taken a look at the global still image market and concluded that it will exceed USD 4 billion by 2020, growing at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of over 7%.

Technavio should be aware that back in 2012 when it was going public Shutterstock said in its 10K that market for "pre-shot commercial digital imagery" was approximately $4 billion in 2011 and is expected to reach $6 billion by 2016. I think everyone will agree, now that we’ve arrived at 2016, that the industry hasn’t quite reached either of those numbers.

Probably the best data ever collected on the industry was gathered by The Global Stock Image Market Research Group (GSIMRG) in Heidelberg, Germany back in 2012. At that time they concluded that the industry generated $2.88 billion in 2012. Unfortunately, even though they made a herculean effort to collect data they only received responses from about 16% of the companies in the world that were licensing stock in 2012. As a result they had to do a lot of extrapolation to come up with their number.

I was allowed to review some of their data. As a result I came to the conclusion that it was more likely that licensing revenue from still images and video was more likely to have been in the range of $2 billion in 2012 rather than their number.

In early 2015 I did an analysis of the size of the worldwide microstock and subscription market and came to the conclusion that it was in the range of $850 million. In April 2015 ACSIL, an association of footage producers, concluded that licensing of stock footage in 2014 was about $550 million.

To these numbers we need to add the licensing of RM and traditional RF imagery as well as imagery used for editorial purposes. I think the sum total of these categories was about $1 billion in 2014 and it is clearly on the decline. Thus, I estimate that the total revenue generated from the licensing of still stock imagery and footage in 2015 was in the range of $2.4 billion.

I would caution readers not to conclude that there was $400 million in growth in the three years between 2012 the end of 2015. While there may have been some growth, I believe my higher 2015 number is more the result of a better understanding of the market than I had in 2012 rather than actual growth.

Why Does Technavio Conclude $4 billion by $2020?

They say, “The global still images market is expected to grow rapidly during the forecast period owing to the proliferation of the Internet, which has significantly boosted the growth of visual media. Marketers are employing visual content to communicate messages and themes effectively. Still images allow organizations to enhance user engagement, increase brand awareness, and generate leads.”

From a revenue point of view this statement fails to take into account the huge over supply of imagery. As a result, prices overall have been falling much more rapidly than any increase in use. There is absolutely no reason to believe that there will be any reversal of this trend.

In addition, there is a continued decline in the number of print uses. More and more Internet users are finding that they can either take the images they need themselves, or get them for virtually nothing from one of the microstock sites. It takes an awful lot of sales for $1.00 or less per image used to equal one decent print usage sale.

And then, a huge percentage of Internet users just grab what they need off the Internet and pay absolutely nothing for the use. Put these trends together and it is hard to make a case for revenue growth at all, let alone annual revenue growth of 7%.

I recently did an analysis of the 2015 sales of a major Getty Images contributor whose images are on what in theory are Getty’s high priced collections. 80% of this contributor’s revenue came from 17% of the sales. 65% of the sales were for prices under $25 and the average price of these sales was just over $4. Back in 2007 the average price of all Getty sales was $550. We’ve got a huge decline and there is no evidence that it is going back up.

Copyright © 2016 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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