iPhoneography: The Future??

Posted on 12/22/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (3)

The core business of providing pictures for commercial and consumer use has moved from hiring a professional photographer to shoot an assignment, to Rights Managed stock, to Royalty Free and then to microstock. This does not mean that demand for assignments, RM or RF has totally disappeared, but all those models are in decline and the lions share of paid usages today are microstock. I estimate that in 2011 in excess of 95% of stock pictures licensed for use were microstock.

When microstock was first introduced the rapid growth of the Internet resulted in increased demand at much lower prices. But now demand (at least for photos customers are willing to pay anything to use) seems to have leveled out while supply continues to increase at a very rapid pace.

With each market shift the number of people producing images has dramatically increased. The cost to use an image has declined. The availability of quality, inexpensive stock photography has cut into the need for photographers to do assignments. In addition, with the technological advances in equipment more and more people are able to produce the pictures they need without hiring a professional.

Next Paradigm Shift

The next paradigm shift that is likely to disrupt the photography market will be iPhoneography. Already, Aurora Photos has launched a myPhone Collection that represents only images taken with cell phones.

With microstock the industry moved rapidly from tens of thousands of photographers supplying the images commercial customers needed to hundreds of thousands, mostly part-timers. We are on the cusp of another shift in supply which in all probability will lead to a further decline in price because demand is not expected to rise significantly and supply will rise astronomically.

According to mobithinking.com there were 5.3 billion mobile subscribers (77% of the world’s population) at the end of 2010. While many of these customers only use their phones for voice calls IDC (International Data Corporation) has estimated that by 2013 more than 1 billion will be using their phones to access the Internet. That will be 2.5 times more customers than use fixed Internet sites.

Most of those 1 billion phones will have cameras and many of the users will be taking pictures they want to share and make available for others to see and use. In some cases they will charge a fee for the use, but the money they can earn from such image uses is not their primary reason for making the images available. They want people to see, and “like” their images. If that means giving up on price; so be it. Knowingly or unknowingly these iphoneographers will compete with professional photographers for the customer’s attention and dollars. Each time someone uses one of their images it’s one less professionally produced image that will be needed. The number of suppliers and the number of images they supply will grow astronomically.

Will This Really Affect The Demand For Professionally Produced Images?

In late November CNN announced that after a three-year analysis of the number of assigned stories that actually made it into network distribution the jobs of  50 of their staff photojournalists would be terminated. According to CNN Senior VP Jack Womack in the future the network will rely much more on “iReporters and affiliate contributions in breaking news.” He pointed out that “Consumer and pro-sumer technologies are simpler and more accessible. Small cameras are now of high broadcast quality.”  CNN doesn’t need high paid professional staff when they can rely on amateurs on the scene to supply them with the imagery they need.
Are the amateurs prepared to upload their content? According to Pingdom at the end of 2010 14% of Internet users have uploaded videos online and 84% of Internet users view videos online.
While the iPhone will never totally replace the DSLR for creating certain types of images, I estimate that at least 75% of the images currently used in print and online could have been created just as well with an iPhone provided the photographer was in the right place at the right time. With tens of millions of people ready to grab their phone and shoot, a lot of these iphoneographers are bound to be in the right place at the right time.

Obviously there are things that can’t be done with an 8MB digital file like enlarge it to poster or billboard size. But as more of the usage of images transfers to the Internet and to video the smaller files will be perfectly satisfactory.
Some people look at the current camera phones and say they will never be good enough to satisfy the needs of commercial user. But rapid improvements are ahead. Photographer Marc Serota who contributes daily to Getty Images and also has archives with Corbis, Reuters and the Associated Press has been told by a Canon rep that Canon has already produced a lens the size of an iPhone lens that can zoom from fisheye to 600mm at f2.8 to f22. It can be manufactured at a very low production cost and is already being used by NASA. It is expected to be available for consumer use soon.
Another question for still photographers to ask is will customers want stills or video on those small screens? According to YouTube there are currently 200 million mobile video playbacks every day. Google says that 1 in 7 searches of its site are made from mobile phones.

iPhoneography Workshop

Jack Hollingsworth believes that the, “iPhone (and other smartphones) as a capture device might be the most influencing piece of hardware ever manufactured.”
Hollingsworth will be conducting a free workshop in Seattle on January 5-6, 2012. Through the facilities of Creativelive and the Internet it will be possible to attend the workshop online from anywhere in the world. If you can’t attend on the days of the event for $59 the presentations will be made available for viewing, at your convenience, after the workshop has concluded.   

Jack promises to “demo tons of gear to accessorize your iPhone camera for shooting stills and video.” (Here’s an example.)  Jack will dig into the best apps available for working photographers, provide 26 game changing tips and discuss workflow. There will also be demos of Jack shooting in studio and on location with his iPhone.

Change is coming. And fast!!

Copyright © 2011 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 www.selling-stock.com, 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: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


  • Bill Bachmann Posted Dec 22, 2011

    You say that 95% of the number of pictures downloaded are from Microstock.... what you always forget to remind your readers is that almost 50% of the total money received is still from Rights Managed images. I personally would rather have a decent price for my images in RM..... selling for $1 is not what I entered into this profession for. Yet you constantly say get a real job and make beer money in Microstock! Why?

    I still make a large percentage of my income from RM stock sales --- and so do other top shooters. The vast majority of Microstock sellers make beer money only and do something else for a living.

    Learning cell phone pictures from Jack seminar. Golly, I give a seminar once a year for photographers that still want to make a REAL income and have a profession of a photographer. Your answer is always that few make any money from RM and fewer make a living from Microstock. But, IF YOU DO IT RIGHT, you can still make a living with RM. The secret is doing it right. You won't learn that from a Microstock lecture or a Cell Phone lecture.

    Jim, please don't always say "the sky is falling". You are doing a disservice by always stating that Microstock beats RM in NUMBERS OF SALES.... I, and many many other photographers, are living examples that you CAN succeed in RM in today's world. We would rather make less numbers and hundreds times more money per sale.... that is how you become a photographer and not an amateur who sells some Microstock.


  • Frans Lemmens Posted Dec 23, 2011
    I do agree with Bill,

  • Robert Dahl Posted Dec 25, 2011
    And, for $695, you can attend his seminar! ... (written on my iPhone...)

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