Market Information Every Stock Photographer Needs To Know

Posted on 6/15/2010 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

The following are a list of useful articles that will provide the reader with a good background on the current state of the stock photography business and where it is headed.

General Articles On Market Size

Stock Photo Business Gets Smaller in 2009      9/14/2009

It’s time to revise previous industry estimates based on what has happened in the stock photo business in the past year. For several years I have estimated that the size of worldwide market for still images and illustrations at about $1.8 billion. I’ve also claimed that overall stock photography has been a no-growth business despite the fact that some companies and individuals could point to growth. Now, at the end of 2009 I believe gross revenue for the industry is no more than $1.45 billion and it will probably continue to decline. This story details how I arrived at this number.

How Big Is the Stock Photo Market in 2009        4/13/2009
I believe that worldwide customers pay a combined total of about $1.8 billion for still stock images and illustration annually. There has been virtually no growth in this market in the last few of years. In the fall of 2008 Corbis CEO Gary Shenk estimated that total 2007 revenue for the industry was $2.3 billion and predicted that it will decline to $2.2 billion by 2012.

Stock Photo Industry Size – 2007 and 2008        8/20/2008
I believe the gross worldwide revenue that is generated from the licensing of stock imagery, both still photos and illustrations, is about $1.8 billion annually. This story explains in detail the process I went through to arrived at that number.

Market Size Revenue Analysis – May 2008           5/30/2008
This story provides a revenue analysis of the stock photo market in 2008 prior to the beginning of the recession. Story 2000 provides an analysis of the changes that have taken places as a result of the 2009 recession.

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.

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.

Articles Related to Microstock

Coming Together: Volume Relative To Price
In the very near future, RM photographers and traditional RF photographers will need to take a hard look at the whole issue of volume relative to price. Traditionally, photographers brought up in the old school (before 2000) focused on getting the maximum possible fee for every image licensed. Volume was secondary.

Reaching The B2SB Market
Those selling images to big business at traditional prices must develop a different strategy for addressing the B2SB (small business) market. The strategy needs to embrace the idea of pricing based on value received. Big businesses that receive greater value from the images they purchase should pay more. Few producers and afford to ignore the 25 million B2SB customers in the U.S. The challenge is determining how best to address these customers.

Why Price Discrimination Makes Sense
In a recent blog article Lee Torrens said, “I cannot understand how you believe large corporations need to pay more for their photos because they can afford it. What other business services and products do they buy above the market value just because they can? You are talking about price discrimination based on who the customer is, not the quality of the product (in this case, the photo itself and the license.)” In this article I'll explain why I think price discrimination based on the value the customers receives from using the image is legitimate (Usage) and that price discrimination based on file size is inappropriate and has absolutely nothing to do with the "quality of the product".

Selling Same Photos At Different Price Points
“Should microstock photographers selling the same stock photos at different prices?” Recently Lee Torrens of Microstock Diaries asked several well known photographers, agents and industry analysts this question. This article gives you my answer. For the answers of the other industry leaders see Toren's story.

Is Microstock Pricing Simple
Microstock sellers insist that simple pricing is a key to their success, but many of the current strategies aren’t really that simple.

Can Traditional Distributors Learn From Microstock?
Increasingly RM and traditional RF photographers complain about declining incomes and the difficulty in getting information from the companies that represent their work. Traditional distributors might do well to adopt a number of idea, initially instituted and popularized by microstock, that have led to improved relationships between photographers and distributors. 

Flawed Midstock Pricing Theory
Many traditional agencies have tried to introduce a midstock price offering in an attempt to defend against microstock’s steady cannibalization of traditional RF sales. However, all are based on the flawed theory that “quality” of an image can be defined, and that the price charged should be less when the image is of lesser quality.

Modified Rights Ready Pricing – An Improved Model
In 2007 I proposed a pricing strategy that combines the rights managed theory of pricing based on usage and the simplicity of microstock and its ability to license rights for very small uses for fees of a few dollars. The system is described in a 12 page booklet. I call the strategy Modified Right Ready.

RF History: Why Creators Only Receive 20% of Royalty Free Sales
This story provides some history on how royalty-free got started and why creators only get 20% of the gross fee paid for royalty-free images.

How Microstock Affects Top Pros
Does Microstock hurt Top pros or not. Here's some comments from microstock shooters and from the pros.

Microstock Exclusivity Does Not Benefit Image Owners
The first thing photographers must consider when pondering microstock exclusivity is why a distributor needs exclusive representation of a royalty-free image—which, by its very nature, is a non-exclusive product. Customer know that hundreds of people—maybe even the customer’s direct competitors—may simultaneously use any image the customer purchase. That's what royalty-free is all about. If they want exclusivity they will look for a rights-managed image.

Video And The Future

Ron Chapple: New Directions, Embracing Change
After great success at producing and selling traditional rights-managed and royalty-free imagery for more than 25 years, Ron Chapple started producing microstock in 2006. He uploaded 5,000 images in February 2007 and aggressively produced images for microstock until early 2008. By September 2008, he had about 15,000 images in his iofoto collection, available on a non-exclusive basis through a number of microstock distributors. In October 2007, Selling Stock did a story outlining his early experience with 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, 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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