Global Still Image Market Growth Trends: According To Technavio

Posted on 4/3/2017 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Technavio, a leading global market research company headquartered in London, has released its annual report on the Global Still Image Market, looking ahead five years to 2021.

They say:
    “Technavio analysts forecast the global still images market to grow to USD 4.46 billion by 2021, at a CAGR of close to 8% over the forecast period. The Americas is the leading regional segment of the market, responsible for generating the high revenue and maximum incremental growth over the forecast period.”
Selling Stock published a story on Technavio’s 2015 report where they said the market would exceed $4 billion by 2020. I’m not sure where they get their numbers. Based on my analysis I placed the global market at about $2.4 billion at the end of 2015. When it comes to 2016, I think there was very little, if any, growth. Looking beyond, I think there is a very real chance that gross revenue from the licensing of stock images will decline due to the continued lowering of prices.

Technavio may be basing its analysis on Shutterstock’s growth which was 16% in 2016. But, that was down from 29% in 2015 and 40% in 2014. That doesn’t look like a growth trend. In addition, early in 2017, Shutterstock offered lower subscription prices which in all likelihood will cannibalize some of its subscription and single image revenue in 2017. Thus, the revenue growth will likely be even lower then 15% in 2017.

However, the success of Shutterstock doesn’t take into account the growth trends of the largest company in the industry, Getty Images. As best I can tell Getty had very little, if any, growth in revenue in 2016 compared to 2015, despite the fact that Corbis was eliminated from the competition and Getty acquired the right to license most of the Corbis assets. It is believed Corbis generated something in the range of $50 million is sales in 2015.

As we look at the other smaller players in the industry, with a handful of exceptions, I believe most saw flat, or declining, revenue in 2016 compared to 2015. For this most part this is the result of declining prices, not necessarily declining unit sales.

I recently had the opportunity to examine the sales of a major contributor to Getty Images. The gross prices for 90% of the images licensed was less than $10 and the average “gross price” for these sales was $2.11. The photographer gets a royalty share of that number.

For others of Getty’s top contributors, the percent of sales below $10 seems to be between 60% and 70% which is not quite as bad, but most can attest to the fact that this percentage has been growing steadily in recent years. Lower prices wouldn’t necessarily be that bad if volume was growing enough to make up the difference. However, most say that while volume is growing somewhat, it is not enough to make up for the lower prices.

Revenue Growth Possibilities

What is of interest to photographers is earning more money from the images they produce. While it doesn’t look like that will happen, the distributors could still see revenue growth by getting involved in other lines of business.

When it comes to Shutterstock, it seems that where they are placing their bet on the future in on their “Platform Business.” Their focus for 2016 seems to have been to expand their capabilities in this area. (See comments at the bottom of this story. It is very unclear as to what this entails, but it seems that what Shutterstock hopes to do is sell other services to the customer base that uses images, not necessarily sell them more images. This may be a viable business plan but it doesn’t necessarily mean more revenue for the creators of images.

If we look at Getty, they seem to be trying to find a way to sell advertising to the people who look at their site rather than earn more money from selling pictures. In January they introduced “Programmatic Advertising”, a way to earn money from the 97% of visitors to their site who just come to look at images, not buy anything.

Back in 2014 they developed a program that allowed web site creators to embed images from the Getty collection for free. (See here.) Advertisers could then place ads under these images and Getty would receive a share of these advertising dollars. It is unclear how successful this program has been, but photographers have seen very little of the revenue generated by these ads.

Adobe’s revenue will undoubtedly rise, but will be the result of selling more subscriptions to software, not licensing more images. The licensing of images is a very small loss leader for Adobe. Earning revenue from licensing images is unimportant as long as this added service encourages more customers to purchase more subscriptions for their software.
The public companies engaged in the stock photo business may show some revenue growth in the next five years, but it unlikely to be anywhere near what Technavio predicts. Revenue growth is also very unlikely to be from the licensing of stock images unless the companies find some way to raise prices on the images they do license.

This Technavio report may convince investors that 123RF or Dreamstime are good worthwhile investments, but the investors are unlikely to see significant future sales growth.

Copyright © 2017 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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