Image Supply Continues Rising

Posted on 10/2/2008 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Many believe the marketplace has an oversupply of images. This raises several concerns for image producers.

The effect of different growth rates in supply and demand is obvious: as more options become available to satisfy the needs of a relatively stable group of buyers, the odds of any particular image being chosen for use are reduced.

Agency and distributor reactions to the oversupply further affect image producers. Many distributors have instituted tighter editing practices in an attempt to control supply, thus reducing the number of images from a given shoot that a photographer is able to show potential buyers. Displaying newest images first in search results also shortens the useful life on any image in a large collection, where customers do not have time to look at all the images.

Several factors contribute to continuously increasing supply. Most notable are advancements in photographic and related technologies, entry of the amateur into the professional space and competition from designers.

Digital cameras have made it easier for photographers to produce more images per day than was possible in the film era. Other technological improvements have made it easier to deliver and store large numbers of images.

The Internet has made it possible for amateurs to easily market their images, and the numbers of amateur stock photographers are increasing at an astronomical pace. Ten years ago, there were no such photographers; today, iStockphoto has over 60,000 contributors, and Shutterstock has over 121,000 (though there is a lot of duplication).

Graphic designers, the buyers of photography, are increasingly producing stock images in their spare time and making them available through microstock.

Although microstock is where inventory growth has been most dramatic, it is also evident among traditional suppliers.

The creative section of the Getty Images Web site has 2.3 million rights-managed and royalty-free images, an estimated 64% of which is from image partners. (No information is provided on the number of editorial images available online.) This number has grown from 2.14 million in December 2007. The increase—of less than 200,000 images added—is somewhat deceptive, since Getty has also moved some images to the Punchstock Web site. Nevertheless, there has not been a significant change in two years.

Corbis has about 1.4 comparable images, including 900,000 traditional creative images and 500,000 editorial images that often fulfill commercial needs. The company also has approximately 2.7 million strictly editorial images. About a quarter of both commercial and editorial offerings comes from media partners. Corbis continued removing outdated images and adding new content, but overall inventory growth does not appear significant.

There are about 570,000 traditional creative images in the Jupiterimages brand, up from about 535,000 at the end of 2007. The company also has subscription offerings, including, JupiterimagesUnlimited and the new Plus and JIU Plus. has 370,000 images, up by 20,000 in a year. JIU has 634,000 images, up by 25,000 in the same time period. The recent addition of Stockxpert’s microstock inventory to and JIU created two Plus brands, bringing Plus to 1.9 million and JIU Plust to 2.2 million images, though not all Stockxpert contributors chose to participate in this program.

Microstock inventory growth (millions of images)

Agency: current quantity (end-2007 quantity)iStockphoto: 3.6 (2.6) Fotolia: 4.2 (2.8) Dreamstime: 3.8 (2.1) Shutterstock: 4.6 (est. 2–3*)Stockxpert: 2 (1)

*1.9 in June 2007

Alamy, which allows suppliers to edit their own work, has grown much faster than leading traditional sellers. In 2005, Alamy had 4 million images; it now has 13.35 million (see Alamy’s quarterly report for details).

The microstock arena shows even higher growth. Some of these companies, which are more focused on adding new contributors than is the case with traditional sellers, have doubled since the end of 2007. In many cases, the same images are on several microstock sites; but the top five microstock Web sites certainly represent well over 6 million unique images.

Copyright © 2008 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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