Is There A Need For A Publication Like Selling Stock?

Posted on 6/23/2020 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (3)

After reading my story “Copyright Protection For Photos Is Dead” Paul Melcher wrote, “If there is no more copyright, then there is no more licensing. If there is no more photo licensing then there is no more reason for the existence of ‘Selling Stock’"

He may be right. There may not be much reason for Selling-Stock to continue to publish. I’ve been trying to help the few professionals, still hanging on and hoping for a change, to understand where the trends are headed. All in all, stock photography seems to be a business without much future – at least for creators.

I was talking to a photographer recently who has been in the business for two to three decades and was one of Getty’s leading sellers. At one point he had a four year stretch where his pictures sold for gross revenues of over one million dollars each year.

In 2020 some of those same pictures are still being licensed, but at least half the sales are for prices under $5.00 and about 30% are being licensed for prices under $1.00. It is amazing how much the value of professionally produced images has fallen.

This photographer always kept his images in the RM collection, and never submitted any as RF. Of course, Getty began making RM images available through Premium Access deals over a decade ago and the percentage of images licensed through these deals has steadily increased. Basically, the PA deals were at RF prices, and on a per-picture basis often below RF prices.

Obviously, this photographer is no longer contributing new images to the collection. He may still shoot pictures from time-to-time for his own pleasure, but given the low prices, it’s not worth his time to bother submitting anything.

Up And Coming Photographers

I also feel some need to warn all the young people about the realities of the stock photography business. Many have high hopes and big dreams that are unlikely to ever be realized. However, few, if any, of them are willing to listen. They see a few big companies generating a lot of revenue licensing stock photography and are convinced they can get a reasonable piece of that revenue no matter how much the odds are stacked against them.

The important thing to understand is that in our Capitalist economy stockholders and much more important than the people who produce the products that are being sold or licensed. Big businesses must constantly feed investors. If that means they must sometimes exploit the people who create the product, so be it.

Just 2 days after Shutterstock announced its recent cut in creator royalty rates they told shareholders they would be receiving a $0.17 per share dividend. Shareholders must be kept happy at all costs.

There are 35,630,000 shares of Shutterstock outstanding and the company had to come up with some way to pay out that $6,057,100. It is also interesting that almost half of the shares are owned by Jon Oringer,  by far the biggest beneficiary.

In 2019 Shutterstock’s total gross revenue was $648.5 million, only $25.2 million higher than 2018 gross revenue. Based on first quarter 2020 results, there is no prediction that there will be any revenue growth. The $6 million that will be paid out to shareholders is about 24% of total 2019 revenue growth. But who needs it more – shareholders or creators?

Copyright © 2020 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


  • Tibor Bognar Posted Jun 27, 2020
    This industry has self-destroyed for the benefit of very few individuals and it's a shame. I'm among the few people still trying to hang on, mainly because I enjoy working, but obviously all this will disappear within a very short time and the world will enjoy unlimited free images...
    Jim, you have made a very useful contribution to all of us for many years; I hope you too will hang on for a little longer and share your thoughts!
    Thank you and best wishes!

  • John-Paul Kernot Posted Jun 27, 2020
    In a world where digital assets are highly priced it seems a copyright should be too. Unfortunately the perception is that photographs are free. Blame that on Facebook.

  • Penny Gentieu Posted Jun 27, 2020
    It is time for “Selling Stock” to go. The Selling Stock Weekly Digest of June 6 did not report the best news photographers have had for a very long time, which was the June 1, 2020 McGucken v. Newsweek decision that there is no apparent license from Instagram to endusers of the Instagram embedding tool that confer rights to use copyrighted photos. Instead, the digest contained two articles that were published by Nancy Wolff, who is Newsweek’s lawyer in the lawsuit!

    And then the next week, in the digest dated June 13, after Instagram came out and announced to the world, in a June 4 article by Ars Technica, that Instagram definitely does NOT hand out sublicenses to use copyrighted photos via their embedding tool, Jim Pickerell questioned whether or not that is a correct legal opinion, referring to the “sad case of Stephanie Sinclair,” not even mentioning that the Sinclair v Mashable case was under appeal for the April 13 “dismissal” decision. Hmm….

    And then just this week, the “sad” Sinclair v Mashable decision was overturned, as the judge wrote that “in light of the persuasive authority of McGucken, and in order to correct clear error,” the Court overturned the dismissal as there is no evidence of a sublicense. But does Selling Stock report that? NO! It would rather paint the industry dead. Thank goodness for the rejuvenation of justice by a younger generation of artists and lawyers.

    And by the way, on May 20, I myself achieved a major victory for photographers. I persuaded SquareSpace, a huge website provider, to change their practice of stripping copyright management information metadata from user’s photographs. Therefore, because SquareSpace changed their policy and will from now on retain CMI metadata, photos will be able to appear on Google with the upcoming Google Licensable Badge. This is a very good thing for photographers and shows that things are turning around.

    It’s been a great year for photography with the recent court decisions, the upcoming Google Licensable badge, and the retention of metadata for SquareSpace users. Copyright protection for photos is far from being dead, unlike the Selling Stock newsletter.

Post Comment

Please log in or create an account to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive email notification when new stories are posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

Stock Photo Pricing: The Future
In the last two years I have written a lot about stock photo pricing and its downward slide. If you have time over the holidays you may want to review some of these stories as you plan your strategy ...
Read More
Future Of Stock Photography
If you’re a photographer that counts on the licensing of stock images to provide a portion of your annual income the following are a few stories you should read. In the past decade stock photography ...
Read More
Blockchain Stories
The opening session at this year’s CEPIC Congress in Berlin on May 30, 2018 is entitled “Can Blockchain be applied to the Photo Industry?” For those who would like to know more about the existing blo...
Read More
2017 Stories Worth Reviewing
The following are links to some 2017 and early 2018 stories that might be worth reviewing as we move into the new year.
Read More
Stories Related To Stock Photo Pricing
The following are links to stories that deal with stock photo pricing trends. Probably the biggest problem the industry has faced in recent years has been the steady decline in prices for the use of ...
Read More
Stock Photo Prices: The Future
This story is FREE. Feel free to pass it along to anyone interested in licensing their work as stock photography. On October 23rd at the DMLA 2017 Conference in New York there will be a panel discuss...
Read More
Important Stock Photo Industry Issues
Here are links to recent stories that deal with three major issues for the stock photo industry – Revenue Growth Potential, Setting Bottom Line On Pricing and Future Production Sources.
Read More
Recent Stories – Summer 2016
If you’ve been shooting all summer and haven’t had time to keep up with your reading here are links to a few stories you might want to check out as we move into the fall. To begin, be sure to complet...
Read More
Corbis Acquisition by VCG/Getty Images
This story provides links to several stories that relate to the Visual China Group (VCG) acquisition of Corbis and the role Getty Images has been assigned in the transfer of Corbis assets to the Gett...
Read More
Finding The Right Image
Many think search will be solved with better Metadata. While metadata is important, there are limits to how far it can take the customer toward finding the right piece of content. This story provides...
Read More

More from Free Stuff