Looking Ahead: Operating A Stock Photography Business

Posted on 7/15/2010 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

This story provides links to a five part series of articles designed to help photographers understand the major trends impacting the industry in 2010 and help them plan for the future. We outline some of the issues to consider, new business models to explore and things to focus on in order to have a profitable business. Following the first five stories are links to some additional articles on the business of stock photography that may be of interest.

Business Planning Series - September 2009

Business Planning For The Future: Four Major Trends

If you do not plan to retire before 2015, and the money you earn from stock photography is an important part of your gross income, it is not too early to begin devising a plan for modifying your photography business. This article will examine four major trends that affect the future of stock photography and outline other issues that photographers need to consider as they plan for the future.

Business Planning For The Future: Issues To Consider
In the previous story we discussed four major trends in the stock photo industry and listed eleven other related issues that photographers should consider carefully as they try to determine the future prospects of their stock photo business. Below I have discussed each one of these eleven in some detail.

Business Planning For The Future: New Business Models Needed
The previous article in this series (Business Planning For The Future: Creative Stills In Steady Decline) focuses on why the current paradigm does not work for solo photographers but misses the fact that growing image uses also offer opportunities. For the stock photo industry, the issue is not lack of demand but rather the lack of Google, Gillette and Apple-like innovation when it comes to developing a business model that takes advantage of the rise in image uses.

Business Planning For The Future: Creative Stills In Steady Decline
There appear to be a number of photographers who are “looking outward.” For most, that means doing something else other than producing stock pictures. There are other ways photographers might use photographic skills, and it certainly looks like stock has a steadily declining value in the eyes of the buyers. If stock is all an individual has to sell, it is beginning to look like that individual should expect to see steadily declining revenue going forward.

Business Planning For The Future: Making A Profit
A previous article in this “Business Planning for the Future” series noted that future growth in demand for images is a widely debated subject among stock industry professionals. In my view, traditional customers do not seem to have any growth potential, and there are also indications that growth in demand for low-priced imagery might have reached its natural level. Industry veteran Leslie Hughes—formerly of The Image Bank and Corbis, currently the principal of has offered an alternate point of view.

Additional General Business Articles

Will Opportunities For Professional Stock Photographers Decline?
More and more young people aspire to a career in photography. They sell some of their images and believe that, if they work hard, they can be successful. Often, they hope to become full-time stock photographers, so they can shoot what they want, when they want, and eventually achieve fame and fortune. Yet the hard reality is that opportunities for professional stock photographers are in a decline, which will continue in the years ahead.

Engaging In The Business of Stock Photography
Given the rather pessimistic predictions of “Opportunities for Professional Stock Photographers,” photographers and stock agents ought to consider several career decisions. This story outlines a number of issues photographers who are trying to sell their images need to consider. The thoughts are particularly important for those who hope to earn a living from selling their images.

The Future Of Stock Photography – September 2008
Photographers still ask me, “Is the Hellman & Friedman’s acquisition of Getty Images good or bad (for photographers)?” As far as I can see whether or not Getty is owned by H&F doesn’t make a whole lot of difference for photographers.

Where Pricing And Volumes Are Headed
In 2006 I examined many of the factors that are impacting on stock photo market and leading to price declines. There were also a number of factors leading to declining sales volumes to traditional customers. These include the general demand for printed products, the tendency to use images multiple times but only pay once, trends in book publishing, postage costs, crowdsourcing of images and various types of guerrilla advertising. Since that time the situation has become worse.

Going Out Of Business – February 2009
Recently several stock agencies have found it necessary to discontinue operations. When that happens it often seems that photographers are hurt the worse because the royalties they are owed are never paid. I was recently asked, “what do you think went wrong in the industry for these firms and their photographers?”

Defining Licensing Models
This article defines the six most common methods for licensing stock images. They are: RM, RR, MRR, RF, Subscription and Microstock.

Copyright © 2010 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.  


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