May 1999 Selling Stock

Posted on 5/10/1999 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)




Volume 9, Number 5

©1998 Jim Pickerell - SELLING STOCK is written and

published by Jim

Pickerell six times a year. The annual subscription rate is $80.00 to have the printed

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are reserved and no information contained herein may be reporduced in any


whatsoever without written permission of the editor. Jim Pickerell is also

co-owner of Stock Connection, a stock agency. In addition, he is co-author


Cheryl Pickerell of Negotiating Stock Photo Prices , a guide to pricing

stock photo usages.

Thought For The Month


Buying habits of many photo users are changing. Image producers and sellers

need to track the trends closely and be prepared to move with each shift.

Story 213


April 5, 1999 - We had 185 photographers respond to our Stock Photographer

Profits Survey. They had a combined total of $16,134,555.87 in stock income

in 1998 and additional photographic income of $9,761,851.62 for a total

photographic income of $25,896,407.49.

The survey was mailed to over 3,000 from the combined lists of Selling Stock

and PhotoSource International, and it was made available on-line. About 80

of the respondents completed their survey on-line and the rest filled out

the printed survey that had been mailed to them.

To put these numbers in overall industry perspective, for a long time I had

been estimating that worldwide stock photo sales were about $1 billion, or

slightly higher. However, I had only been estimating that 10% of this

number came from direct sales not through agencies.

The direct sales numbers have always been extremely hard to calculate and

were mostly a matter of guess work. Part of my reasoning in the past for

this low percentage of direct sales was based on the assumption that a large

percentage of the direct sales were for editorial uses at lower rates.

There are several reasons why this assumption could have been faulty.

In any event, this survey showed that 24% of the gross stock sales of these

photographers came from direct sales to clients - not through stock

agencies. Consequently, I am upping my estimate of gross worldwide sales in

the industry to approximately $1.25 billion with that portion generated by

agencies or other types of reps at right around $950 million.The

photographers get to keep 100% of direct sales, but I estimate on average,

considering the involvement of sub-agencies, that photographers receive no

more than 35% of the gross sales made through agencies. This would mean

that of the $1.25 billion dollars in gross sales, photographers receive

about $528 million.

Further extended, this means that those participating in our survey

represent only about 3% of the total stock photographers in terms of gross

income worldwide. This is a very small sample and there was no random

selecting of the group to be sampled. Both factors could result in

distortions. Based on conclusions that will become clearer as we move

through this report, I believe this sample of respondents is skewed toward

being above average, rather than being representative of the average


If this sample were totally representative there would be 6,166 individuals

worldwide engaged in producing stock photography. I think the actual number

is probably much higher, but a huge percentage of them are very marginally

engaged in the business.

With all these factors considered, and keeping them clearly in mind as we

review the numbers, there still may be many useful conclusions that we can

draw from the data these 185 individuals provided.

Summary Figures




Percent of TPI   


From Stock Agency Sales   




Stock Sales Direct to Client   




Gross Stock Income   




Total Photo Income (TPI)   








Expenses for 173 or 185 Photographers   




Net Photo Income   



Income From Agencies

To begin, we asked photographers to provide figures for that portion of

their business that was related solely to the licensing of still photos. We

purposely excluded art decor and motion picture production from this survey.

The total income generated by stock agencies was $11,934,468.64. Thirty

four of the photographers, or 18%, were not represented by an agency and all

their income was generated through direct sales. The total stock income for

these 34 was $1,007,230 or an average of $29,624.41 per photographer.

Sixty photographers, or 32% of all respondents, were represented by only one

agency. Their total stock income was $4,381,312.54 or 27% of the total

income from stock. The average stock income per photographer of this group

is $73,021. The notable fact here is that this includes many of the top

individual producers who are with agencies such as Tony Stone Images, The

Image Bank, The Stock Market and FPG. However, their high incomes are

balanced by photographers who are just getting started and have not been

able to build files large enough to generate high dollars.

Eighty nine photographers, or 48% of the total respondents, were represented

by more than one agency. On average, each of these was represented by three

agencies with three photographers being represented by over 15. The total

stock income of the 89 was $10,234,951.83 which is 63% of the total stock

income reported in this survey. The average stock income of these

photographers is $114,999. This is much higher than the $73,021 average for

those with a single agent, or $29,624.41 for those without an agent. Thus,

it appears that those who are represented by more than one agency still do

significantly better, on average, than those who have exclusive arrangements

with a single agency.

There were 149 photographers represented by agencies. Of these

photographers, 35% earned more from their direct sales than from any single

agency that represented them. Some photographers, who were represented by

several agencies, earned more from the combined sales of all their agencies

than they did from their direct sales.

Taking Expenses Into Account

The average stock income before expenses for all photographers was

$87,213.81. The average gross photography income adding in Other

Photographic Income and Barter Income came to $145,915.36.

However, the estimated total expenses necessary to produce this income was

$11,211,154.14. It should be noted that 12 of the respondents reported no

expense figures. To give a fair representation, we removed their income

figures from the gross income category before deducting expenses to achieve

a net income figure. We divided the result by 173 to get the average which

was $81,111 before taxes.

In the expense category, photographers were asked to include: film,

processing, dupes, props, sets, models, assistants, travel, digital scans &

outputs, marketing costs, computers, camera equipment, studio and office

rent, phones, office equipment and supplies, accounting, insurance,

depreciation, continuing education, etc. We did not ask photographers to

break out expenses just for the stock side of their business because we felt

it would be too difficult to separate for those who do both stock and

assignment work.

It should also be noted that only 61% of this $81,111 was income resulting

from stock sales so the average net income from stock sales, before taxes,

was $49,477.71. In doing the calculations this way we have assumed that the

expenses for the stock and assignment sides of any particular photographic

business are proportional to the income. This is probably not true. In

spite of the potential inaccuracies of this average stock sales number we

believe it gives some sense of the costs of producing imagery and the

understanding that income from stock imagery is not cost free.

One hundred seventy-four of the 185 photographers made estimates of the

number of days they worked to produce their stock income. The average was

134 days. If we assume 250 working days in a year, and that at least 39% of

the time is spent producing other types of photographic income, based on the

averages from this survey, that would leave, at most, 152 days for producing

stock. Some of the photographers reporting are engaged in activities other

than photography as a means of earning a living wage.

Tony Stone Images

The agency with the most photographers represented was Tony Stone Images

with 46 photographers reporting some income from TSI. The total royalty

payments these photographers received from TSI was $2,885,046. Because we

got such a good representation from this particular agency, and because

other statistics are available from TSI, we may be able to draw some

conclusions about how accurately this survey represents the stock industry

at large.

Gross sales for TSI in 1998 were probably in the range of between $80 and

$100 million. TSI says they pay their photographers approximately 38% of

sales. Thus, if we take the high sales estimate, the amount of that which

would go to all the photographers would be about $38,000,000. We also know

that late last year TSI offered contracts to about 1,000 photographers.

Thus we would expect the average TSI photographer to earn about $38,000 per

year. But, the group responding to this survey earned an average of

$62,718.39 from TSI. Averages don't mean much since there is a very broad

range in earning potential. The individual earnings from the TSI

photographers responding to this survey ranged from a low of $485 (this

photographer was with several agencies) to a high of $450,000. The

photographer with the $450,000 in earnings from TSI sells through two other

agencies, as well as making significant direct sales to clients. He

reported gross stock sales of $625,000.

The TSI photographers who responded to this survey represent 4.6% of the

total photographers represented by TSI, but at least 7.6% of the royalties

paid to photographers. If TSI's gross income was closer to $80 million than

$100 million these photographers might represent as much as 9.5% of TSI's

gross income.

Based on TSI alone we might draw the conclusion that photographers

responding to this survey are more successful than the average stock

photographer. Unfortunately, we didn't get a large enough block of

photographers reporting from any other major agency to verify this


The most successful photographer was with FPG and reported $596,000 in gross

stock income. Seventeen FPG photographers responded. The Stock Market had

11 photographers reporting, The Image Bank had 8, Index Stock Imagery had

16, Telegraph Colour Library had 4, Corbis Westlight had 5, and Stock Boston

and Stock Connection each had 12. The foreign agency that was named most

often was IFA Bilderteam in Germany with 11 photographers responding. The

income from these agencies and TSI represented 49% of all stock income


1998 Survey Comparisons

There are some interesting comparisons between the survey we published in

March 1998 and this year's survey. In 1998 we supplied a series of income

categories rather than asking photographers to list their specific income.

The comparisons of the number of photographers in each category are as






  Total Respondents to Survey   







Gross Income in 1998

  Over $400,000




  $250,000 to $400,000




  $150,000 to $250,000




  $100,000 to $150,000




  $70,000 to $100,000





  Percent of Total Responding to Survey



Click here to review the 1997 survey, Story 125 ).

Other relationships

Fifty photographers, or 27% of the total made their entire photographic

income from stock. Twenty-one percent made all of their stock income from

stock agency sales, and nothing from direct sales. Thirty-five

photographers reported some barter income, but the total barter income was

only $286,200 or just a little over 1% of the combined total photographic


Ninety three photographers reported that their yearly income from stock is

increasing. Fifty five said it is about the same as last year and 35 said

it is decreasing. Three did not respond to this question.

Less than 2% of the gross stock income came from Royalty Free sales. Nine

photographers reported some stock income from Royalty Free companies for a

total of $310,552. However, one photographer represented almost $200,000 of

this total. Obviously, some photographers are doing well with Royalty Free,

but the broad base of photographers who responded to this survey are not

involved in RF.

We tried to determine the percentage of each photographer's work that was

either generic images that require little regular updating, or images that

need to be updated regularly. The generic which don't change include such

subjects as: wildlife, scenics, babies with no clothes and certain concept

illustrations. The kind of images that need to be updated frequently

include business and lifestyle images where clothes, hair styles and

equipment people use change frequently.

The percentage figures used to calculate this number were estimates made by

each photographer and left quite a bit of room for variation. We calculated

the actual dollar amount of total stock income for each photographer based

on the percentages they supplied. Then we totaled the income in each

category and figured the percentage of the total for that category.

While the percentages varied greatly from photographer to photographer, some

worked almost solely in one category and others worked almost solely in the

other category. The final breakdown when everything was totaled was 49%

generic and 51% images needing regular updating. We looked at the

photographers who earned $70,000 or more from stock and there was a slight

change with 47% of the income coming from generic images and 53% coming from

images that need regular updating.

This 50/50 split happens to fit very well with observations I have made

recently after reviewing various catalogs. Of course some catalogs appear

to be weighted much more toward people pictures, but if we can trust these

estimates there is about as much stock income from pictures that don't

require regular updating as from those that do.

We asked photographers to consider their work in terms of two broad market

categories -- editorial and corporate/advertising -- and give the percentage

of their total production that fit into each of these two categories.

Using the same calculating strategy as outlined above, and taking the

percentages of total stock income, 35% of the income was produced from

editorial images and 61% from corporate/advertising images. Respondents

indicated that 4% of their income fell into some other undefined category.

Again, when we looked at only those who had sales of $70,000 or more there

was a slight change with 32% of the income coming from editorial and 65%

coming from commercial/advertising.

We got some confusing answers on questions 13 and 14. The questions were:

  • Are any of your images available on RF discs or web sites?

  • Are your RF products self-produced and marketed, or does some other

    company handle the marketing of these products for you?

    Twenty one photographers reported that they had supplied images to RF discs

    or web sites. Thirty two photographers said yes to question 13. In answer

    to question 14 eleven said they self marketed their RF images and 21 said

    they were selling through another company.

    In addition to producing stock photography 12 people said they were involved

    in some manner in marketing the work of other photographers.

    Agencies Named In The Survey

    Photographers responding to this survey were represented by a total 134

    different agencies. We have listed these agencies at our online site and

    indicated the number of photographers who were represented by each agency.

    You can review this information at:

    Story 214


    In March, I published in Selling Stock Online an analysis of the Arriba

    Vista's online search engine. Also included was a brief look at Alta

    Vista's AV Photo Finder. Several readers commented that, "None of our

    professional clients will ever use these sites." In the sites' current

    form, I agree.

    Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that technology has made a major

    leap forward in being able to selectively capture images and index them.

    The next step will be a site that only acquires images from certain

    qualified sources (professional photographers and agents that request their

    images be indexed), requires these sources to thoroughly keyword their

    images, and offers a fair and democratic system of randomly presenting all

    images on the site.

    (Alta Vista has a deal with Corbis which shows all of Corbis' images first

    on any search. This means that the images of other suppliers don't get seen

    because they are buried too deep in the search pack.)

    The major weaknesses of the current Arriba Vista site is terrible keywording

    and the inclusion of every image on the web, 95% of which were never

    intended for commercial licensing.

    A search engine that provides a qualified sample of all web images will be a

    desirable business model because it will contain images that are primarily

    of interest to professional image users rather than the general consumer.

    Professionals will want to use this site. Advertisers trying to sell

    products and services to these professional users will want to advertise on

    the site in the same way they want to advertise in special interest



    Arriba has demonstrated that:

  • They can easily identify individual image files on the net and

    separate them from all other related material.

  • By looking at related material they can create keywords for these


  • They can automatically create thumbnail previews of the image files

    found at individual sites.

  • They can acquire information from META and ALT tags in the HTML that

    are connected with the images.

  • They can do all of this very easily and inexpensively.

  • In their current business plan they make all their money by selling

    advertising on their site, not by charging image producers fees for showing

    their images.

  • They have also demonstrated that the automatic systems are unlikely to

    be able to generate useful keywords for a professional image search unless

    the creator of the web site they are searching has supplied those keywords

    in a separate file that Arriba Vista's "spider" can clearly identify.


    The key to the success of such a site will be in how it is promoted to

    picture buyers. Online promotion alone will not be sufficient. Individual

    photographers may link their images to several such sites and determine from

    experience which one works best for them.

    Photographers and stock agencies that want their sites indexed will have to

    do more work than has been the case up to now, but it should be worth it for

    the added control it gives them. For more information see Story 214 at:

    Story 212


    The Stock Market has followed the lead of many other major stock agencies in

    making Royalty Free Images available on their web site. They now market the

    images of PhotoSpin in a separate section of their site. PhotoSpin has

    images in 18 different categories which include: objects/backgrounds,

    travel, sports/recreation, textures, people, nature/seasons, animals, food,

    business, commercial, medical, toys, nostalgia, cars, signs, religion,

    junkyard and graffiti.

    These images are available online for single-image sales with high

    resolution downloads. The current site design gives the user the option of

    choosing traditional stock or royalty free. "By entering into this new

    venture with The Stock Market, we now may avail ourselves to a brand new

    audience, while enhancing our own collection by pairing it with the vast

    offerings of TSM's library," notes PhotoSpin CEO, Val Gelineau. Current TSM

    photographers may participate on the RF site if they choose.

    Story 215


    April 21, 1999 -- Many publishers are now claiming that the copyright law

    gives them the unlimited right to reuse pictures and text that have appeared

    in their publications. They base this right on the Tasini vs. New York Times

    decision. At the time images are supplied, photographers and agents need to

    be much more diligent in defining contract conditions in order to protect

    their rights and receive adequate compensation for their work. Lawyer Robert

    Cavallo has recommended a series of steps that creators should take to

    protect their rights by contract rather than simply relying on copyright to

    protect them.

    Robert M. Cavallo

    There is a tremendous erosion of traditional rights in the new era of

    electronic publishing. Contributors to electronic publishing should be

    looking for three elements in their contracts: Fair compensation on the

    traditional advance and royalty basis, In the event that rights are

    transferred to a 3rd party, not the original licensor, such as a print

    publisher, the author should be compensated by the original licensor on the

    traditional basis with the author receiving 85% to 90% of the fee charged

    for the use. No use of the work should be made without the author's approval

    of the medium, format and content.

    As such, I am recommending that the following concepts be included in

    contributors contracts when they provide works to print publishers who have

    no intention of publishing them electronically.

    1 - Allow the print publisher to issue the work in electronic form to a

    third party only on condition that the terms of the use be negotiated

    immediately prior to electronic publication.

    2 - Divide the proceeds of the licensing of electronic rights to reflect

    the print publisher's role as an agent for the sale of those rights with 90%

    going to the author.

    3 - Retain the right of approval over all electronic licenses.

    Where the print publisher is also the electronic publisher or licensor, the

    following should be attended to:

    1 - Grant electronic rights only on an advance and royalty basis.

    2 - Grant the right to issue electronic versions of the work only in

    specified existing formats, preferably on a non-exclusive basis.

    3 - Retain control over any abridgement or anthologizing of the work and

    over any illustrations to be added to the work.

    4 - Unexploited electronic rights should revert to the author.

    5 - Grant periodical publishers the right to republish an article

    electronically only in the same format and context as the original article.

    This grant should be non-exclusive.

    6 - Insist that periodical publishers pay an additional fee at the time of

    the electronic republication following traditional industry practice with


    7 - Publishers should indemnify authors for all claims arising from

    illustrations or other materials added to the author's works.

    8 - The work should not be considered in print because there are electronic

    versions of the work available.

    9 - The publisher should be responsible for obtaining publication

    permissions in electronic publications.

    10 - Royalty statements should contain accurate records of production runs

    and number of units sold and accessed, etc. A photographer or author may not

    be able to get all of the things I have requested above, but it is necessary

    to at least try.


    Robert M. Cavallo, an attorney specializing in all areas of photography law

    is the senior partner in the firm of Cavallo & Wolf, located at 400 Park

    Avenue, New York, NY 10022.

    Story 216


    Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied

    Brief arguments on the appeal of Jonathan Tasini vs. the New York

    Times were heard on April 26th. When the case was first heard in New

    York District court in late 1996 it took Judge Sonia Sotomayer almost eight

    months to release a decision. Photographers should not be surprised if there

    is no decision on the appeal before the new millennium.

    On the basis of this August 13, 1997 decision many publishers have been

    re-purposing large quantities of work, without additional compensation to

    the creators, arguing that "Tasini" allows them to do this. That will

    certainly continue, and accelerate, if the lower court decision is not

    reversed by the appeals court. For more background on this case see stories

    86, 88 and 107 online.

    This case has greatly diminished the value of copyright protection in the

    United States. To protect their rights, photographers must be much more

    vigilant than they have been in the past in drafting contracts for

    assignment and individual stock sales.

    Agency Loses Liquidated Damages Case

    In a Utah case for reimbursement for 34 lost transparencies a judge has

    ruled that The Stock Solution and its photographers suffered little or no

    financial loss because the photographers still had similar images which were

    not lost.

    In The Stock Solution vs. Axiom Design, LC, Judge David S. Young ruled that

    Axiom had indeed lost 34 original color transparencies that were received

    from The Stock Solution. However, he also ruled that the $1,500.00

    liquidated damages provision in four signed delivery memorandums was

    unenforceable because the agency and the photographers had other "similar"

    images that were not lost.

    The expert witness for the plaintiff, James Kay, argued that images

    delivered to a client and later selected by the client usually constitute

    the best images taken by the photographer. Loss of such images can cause a

    potential loss of future income according to Mr. Kay. Judge Young did not


    At one point, the judge interrupted Mr. Kay's testimony, took out a

    calculator, and proceeded to divide James' total number of stock photos into

    his annual income and announced that his images were only worth about $8.00


    Judge Young also ruled on April 14th that The Stock Solution must pay about

    $7,000 for Axiom's attorney fees and expenses. TSS has only until May 14th

    to file an appeal and post a bond in the above amount.

    Royce Bair is seeking financial assistance to pursue an appeal of this

    decision. Anyone wishing to contribute to a trust fund for this purpose may

    contact him at 801-363-9700.

    Stories 212 and 216


    Getty Images plans to move their corporate headquarters from London to

    Seattle and has leased 72,000 square feet of office space in the Quadrant

    Lake Union Center, located in the Freemont district of Seattle. The space

    offers high-quality data cable capable of handling networking speeds of

    100Mb and higher to each desktop. Each workstation is wired with advanced

    telephone, ISBN, and fiber optic cable, as well as the capability of graphic

    images and video to the desktop. Getty currently has approximately 240

    employees in Seattle and expects to occupy the new office space by late

    fall. The space was formerly occupied by Adobe Systems, Inc., the Center's

    major tenant.

    The decision to relocate is based on the Company's increasing emphasis on

    e-commerce and is in line with its strategy to further integrate the six

    separate brands it has acquired over the past four years. Approximately half

    of Getty Images's $185 million in 1998 revenue was generated in the U.S.

    Getty Images has approximately 690 employees in North America. Total

    employees worldwide is 1,350. Jonathan Klein and Christopher Roling, Chief

    Financial Officer, will be relocating from London to Seattle. Mark H. Getty,

    Executive Chairman, will continue to spend a significant amount of time in


    In other news Getty's revenue growth in 1998 was 84% over 1997 sales, due in

    large part to acquisition. Klein expects revenue growth in 1999 to be about

    15% over 1998 sales. Sales in 1998, excluding acquisitions grew 18%.

    New TSI Catalog Format

    Tony Stone Images Volume 11 catalog introduces the next generation of

    catalog design by presenting the image collection in a metal covered, 3

    ring-binder. They believe the format will be more conducive to designers'

    work styles and it offers the following features:

    • A compact 8x8" book complete with spine handles allows for easy

      portability to internal meetings and off-sites.

    • Pages can be removed and scanned or rearranged and organized per


    • The book lays flat when opened to the desired image page.

    • Subject color and divider tabs increase the effectiveness and

      efficiency of image searching.

    • Four images per page and more overall images than previous catalogs.

    • It is designed to enable easy location of conceptual or illustrative


    • Photographer Ernst Haas has his own subject divider for his unique

      image collection.

    Some TSI photographers have nicknamed this catalog the "tin can."

    Getting Images Seen At TSI

    The period between image selection for Master Dupe Collection consideration

    and the point at which it is duped and available to potential buyers has

    many TSI photographers concerned. Some report that it can be as much as 18


    Worse yet, after this waiting period the London office may come back and

    say, "Sorry, this image was not accepted," and return it. At that point the

    photographer has lost 18 months and now has to try to find somewhere else to

    place the image. In the past TSI has held images for catalog consideration

    until the catalog selection was made, rather than placing them into the

    files. Then they dupe those selected for the catalog and after all catalog

    images are duped, they consider whether to dupe non-catalog images or return


    TSI is now considering the possibility of putting images into the on-line

    catalog immediately after selection and making print catalog selections from

    those images that are on-line.

    Image Rejection At TSI

    On top of this, TSI travel and nature photographers are reporting that they

    have been told by their editors that TSI is no longer accepting new material

    on these subjects. Many top shooters have had no new images selected from

    their submissions for months.

    Despite these photographer reports, Patrick Donehue says, "I can assure you

    that it is NOT the policy of TSI to exclude travel or nature photography

    from our collection. As with all imagery, these subjects must be

    photographed in a new and innovative way that would differentiate such work

    from the photography that already exists both within TSI and in the overall

    market. We expect our photographers to produce imagery with this in mind. If

    they do, their photos will get selected. If they don't, their photos won't

    make it into the collection. It all really comes down to photographic

    vision, innovation and the ability to take a creative risk or two."

    Story 216


    Losing Deal For Photographer??

    There is some indication that getting one's image used in a stock agency ad

    campaign that appears extensively in industry magazines and direct mail

    promotions does not help generate more sales for that image.

    I have heard several stories that certain images that have been chosen for

    ad campaigns have never made a single sale after the ads appeared. The

    theory is that the image got so much over exposure in being part of the

    stock agencies ads that no client wanted to use it for their own projects.

    This is a very important consideration for photographers because normally

    stock agencies pay nothing to use photographers pictures in their ads. It

    should be noted that these usages are totally separate from images that

    appear in agency print catalogs. Print catalog placement definitely

    generates more sales for photographers. I would like to hear from

    photographers whose images have been use in agency print ads to determine if

    the few examples I have heard of so far are the exception, or the rule.


    After the above story initially appeared online Tim Conaway of FoodPix made

    the following comments.

    "FoodPix is somewhat different than most agencies since we specialize in

    commercial images of food, but we have experienced a high sales response

    with images used in ads and promotions. On one direct mail piece using

    fourteen images, 9 of them have sold since the piece went out, and a couple

    of those have sold more than once. On another piece using one image, a sale

    occurred less than a week after the piece was mailed, and that image has

    generated sales of other images in the same series. On a two-page print ad

    that uses 26 images, eight have sold, and others have generated searches and

    subsequent sales of similar images (usually from the same series). Sales are

    pending on at least three more of the images on that ad. We generally hear

    that buyers are "starved" for good food images, so that may be why our ads

    seem to turn directly into sales."

    Photographer Ted Rice had the following experience. "I had a picture used in

    a small stock agency ad last year. It ran not large but quite extensively in

    design and ad trade magazines. I was initially pleased but was concerned

    that it was uncredited. After inquiring, I was told it was not company

    policy to credit. My position was that I was happy to have them use the

    picture to extend their brand, but, in lieu of the obvious value of the

    picture in support of ad copy, that I would appreciate credit to further

    extend mine as well. As yet, the picture has not sold (it is only a few

    months since it was used.) In that it was used extensively, I had exactly

    the concern you expressed- that its value is diluted by the overexposure.

    Especially in light of the fact that I am thousands of dollars in the hole

    to them due to catalog fees, the practice seems quite unfair."

    Story 217


    There is an increasing trend among stock agencies to produce print catalogs

    that are designed as "image builders" rather than to sell the specific

    images found therein.

    Photographers need to understand the difference between these two approaches

    to the market, and carefully track sales of their images.

    Much of the "edgy" material chosen for catalogs is designed to catch the art

    director's eye and draw him or her to the "web site", not necessarily sell

    the particular image found in the catalog. This is a relatively new

    departure from the traditional approach to image selection for catalogs.

    Art directors end up using the generic images found online -- one agent

    calls them, the "white bread" of stock. Increasingly, these images are only

    available on the web, or through a general file search, not in many


    Simultaneously, there is a move at some agencies to pressure photographers

    to produce "edgy" material and to accept less and less of the "white bread"

    images that photographers produce.

    If "white bread" is what is selling then why aren't agencies accepting it?

    There are two answers. First, they already have a lot of it in their files.

    Second, when they want to update "white bread" images they produce the work

    in-house so the agency can retain a larger percent of the fees generated

    from such images. Look for these trends to continue -- more rapidly at some

    agencies than others.

    As one agent explained it, the problem is that the "edgy" stuff is almost

    impossible to assign. For this they need a broad base of photographers with

    differing creative visions. When it comes to the high demand "white bread"

    images, the agent can generate statistics on their best selling subjects,

    and easily shoot file material that fills a similar need.

    Steps For Photographers To Take

  • Track sales of "edgy" images and whenever possible compare results

    with other photographers who have had this type of imagery in print

    catalogs. It is critical to understand how well this type of stock imagery

    is selling, and the portion of total sales it represents.

  • Recognize that it may be difficult to get straight answers from your

    agent because the agent needs to keep you producing "edgy" material.

  • Consider how much of your time and resources you should be devoting to

    producing "edgy" images, based on how well those you have produced in the

    past are selling.

  • Point out your sales results to your editor.

  • If you are going to continue to produce "edgy" work and pay to put it

    in the catalogs, insist that the agency include a liberal proportion of your

    "white bread" work in their online catalog.

  • Don't give up on producing "white bread."

  • Make sure your "white bread" is somewhere where it can be seen. When

    placement costs are compared, and as we move ahead in the next couple of

    years, it may be more to your advantage to get more images on the web and

    fewer images in the print catalogs, particularly if those catalogs focus on

    showing very "edgy" images.

    Story 209


    In the March issue Getty reported that e-commerce sales were 15% of total

    sales for the final quarter of 1998 and that in January 1999 10% of TSI's

    North American sales were e-commerce.

    The question everyone else is asking is can the small agencies and

    individual photographers participate in this e-commerce trend?

    This article compares sales results for PNI, Stock Workbook Online and MPCA.

    For PNI and Workbook the figures are based on sales made by Stock

    Connection which is a small percentage of the total data for these two

    organizations. The reader should recognize that the averages may not be

    valid for any agency other than Stock Connection, but they may give some

    indication of the possibilities at the moment.


    According to Dick Weisgrau the average gross sales for MPCA photographers

    with MIRA (MIRA has direct relationships with certain photographers who are

    not MPCA members) is currently about $5,000 per month or approximately

    $60,000 per year. Seventy percent of this is distributed to the

    photographers, or approximately $42,000 on an annual basis. The MPCA

    photographers have about 60,000 images currently on the site so, on average,

    a photographer will receive $.70 per year, per image on file.

    A year ago MPCA had 39 qualified buyers. Now they have 600 qualified

    buyers. About 350 photographers currently have images with MPCA ranging

    from a low of about 25 images to a high of approximately 1,000. Weisgrau

    said, "MIRA is meeting its sales targets and they are pleased with its


    Workbook and PNI

    By way of comparison, Stock Connection has about 2000 images on the Stock

    Workbook site. In the seven months from September 1998 through March 1999

    our average sales resulting from this site were $4,880 per month. Assuming

    that average continues for the rest of the year the photographer's average

    return will be $19.03 per year, per image on file. Photographers receive

    65% of gross sales.

    Stock Connection also had about 1900 images with Picture Network

    International at the beginning of 1999. Our number of images on-line is

    growing and we are seeing month to month growth in our sales. Total gross

    sales in the first two months of 1999 were $19,845. In this situation PNI

    takes 40% of the gross sale off the top and, we split the remainder 35/65

    with the photographer. Thus, the photographer actually ends up getting only

    39% of the gross sale. PNI has 47,000 qualified buyers.

    If we assume that our PNI sales remain level throughout 1999, as we have

    assumed with the other organizations, then Stock Connection's total sales

    for the year for 1900 images will be approximately $119,070 and the share of

    that which is divided among the photographers will be $46,437. The average

    each photographer will receive is $24.44 per year, per image on file.

    It should be noted that these are averages. Sales for some individuals will

    be higher and others much lower. There is no guarantee that any of these

    organizations will maintain the same level of sales month to month, although

    in all cases sales growth has been showing a steady increase.

    It should also be noted that Stock Connection is only one of about 60

    agencies on the PNI site and the total images in the database from all these

    agencies is approximately 400,000. There are 46 agencies on the Workbook

    site with a total of about 30,000 images. We have no way of knowing whether

    our returns are better or worse than the other agencies who obviously

    represent the vast majority of the images.

    Gross sales is one factor, but not necessarily the only factor, that needs

    to be considered when determining where to place ones images.

    Story 192


    Todtri Productions has still made no payments to stock agencies or

    photographers who supplied images for their Picture Perfect 12 catalog.

    Capstone Financing is no longer returning telephone calls from agencies and

    it appears they no longer intend to participate in the refinancing as

    discussed in the March newsletter. Images are still being licensed, but

    creators are not being paid.

    Story 216


    According to TrendWatch the total number of professional creative

    organizations in the U.S. marketplace is 62,000 -- 26% graphic designers,

    20% commercial photographers, 18% corporate designers, 16% magazine and book

    publishers, 13% ad agencies, 4% graphic illustrators and 3% catalog

    publishers. The total number of individuals working in this market are

    219,000--35% corporate designers, 20% graphic designers, 19% ad agencies,

    17% magazine and book publishers, 5% commercial photographers, 3% catalog

    publishers and 1% graphic illustrators. Nearly 15,000 firms will purchase

    stock photo images this year led by graphic designers, corporate design

    departments and ad agencies.

    Story 216


    More and more people are turning to online to get their information. Some

    futurists predict that we will begin to see a decline in the use of paper

    publishing in the next decade.The need for video images will increase. Many

    still photographers are already producing video stock. Selling Stock is

    exploring the possibility of expanding our coverage into the production and

    marketing of video stock. If you have any interest in video; if you own or

    have used a video camera even if you haven't yet been able to sell the work;

    we would like to know who you are and start building our database of

    videographers. Send an e-mail to:

    Story 211


    At the 1999 Spring Seybold Publishing Conference in Boston, Ray Kurzweil,

    author of the "The Age of Spiritual Machines." provided a daunting view of

    where technology will take us in the next 30 years. For a summary read

    Story 211 online at:

  • Copyright © 1999 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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