Potential Market for Straightforward Content

Posted on 4/12/2010 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (2)

Ernie Monteiro of Time Inc. Content Solutions is looking for new images and sending the following letter to many photographers.

Hello There,

My name is Ernie Monteiro and I’m a photo editor at Time Inc. Content Solutions, the custom publishing arm of Time Inc.  We work on range of publications for a variety of clients; from non-profits to financial services companies. As I am sure you are aware photo budgets are ever tightening so we photo editors are ever more reliant on existing images. Unfortunately there is a dearth of beautiful imagery at the traditional stock houses, it’s really grim out there...

We often find ourselves reaching out to photographers directly as we are always looking for photos but as custom publishers our bugaboo is finding model and property released images.  We are mainly looking for lifestyle images; intergenerational families, seniors, couples on the beach, domestic scenes etc...

I have attached a sample from one of our projects to give you a better idea of what we work on and what we are looking for.

If you have anything in your libraries that fits the bill please send it over. This is a continuous process for us and so if you should find yourself shooting something in the future that you think may work, please send the art our way (don’t forget to get a signed model release!) we’d love to see it.  We will happily pay for images that haven’t run in dozens other places.

If you have any spec proposals we’d like to hear them too! We are open to ideas and suggestions we really want to find the best images possible for our projects!  Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss further or if you have any questions.


He can be contacted at 212-522-9871 or at ernie_monteiro@timeinc.com

Let’s break it down.

He is not satisfied with the content at existing stock agencies, but if we look at his samples of “beautiful imagery” (see image), I think most photographers would agree that there are tons of similar images at all the major stock agencies.

Granted, it may be further down in the search-return order and hard to find, because it is of a style that goes a few years back—or what many now see as microstock style. Today, editors at the major agencies tend to not accept this type of images, because they know they have something similar and are looking for something different and unique. They have defined “different” as “contemporary,” and it is those images that make it to the first page of search results. Traditional editors also tend not to select images that have a microstock look, which just happens to be exactly what Monteiro wants.

(Note to traditional agencies: Maybe you ought to find some way to bring this simple, straightforward imagery that has been in demand for years and years back near the top of the search-return order, so customers like Monteiro can find it rather than being forced to go somewhere else to get what they need.)

Microstock is not a satisfactory solution for Monteiro either, because he wants “images that haven’t run in dozens other places.” He could find virtually every one of the situations shown in his samples in microstock, and they will be released (an issue he makes a point of), but they will also have been licensed hundreds of times.

One of the interesting questions here is how many of those hundreds of uses were for publications of the size and distribution of Monteiro’s? Many may have been for Web or PowerPoint uses. Many may have been used in other parts of the world. Despite the huge number of uses, the likelihood that one of his readers will have seen the image on another publication may be no greater than it is when he buys an image from a traditional agency.

But what he is really looking for by going directly to the photographer is an image that has not been used at all by anyone else, or at least no more than a few times. Is he willing to pay enough for that usage to offset the expense of producing the image? Probably not; while he says he “will happily pay for images,” he begins by making it clear that “photo budgets are ever tightening so we photo editors are ever more reliant on existing images.”

The fact that budgets are tightening could be the primary reason for the letter. He might think that agency rates are too high, and that if he works directly with the photographer, he can cut out the agency’s share of the fee and maybe get a better price. If this is his motivation, and considering how much agencies seem to be discounting these days, it seems more likely that the photographer would expect a higher fee than the agencies are getting, not lower.

In effect what he and many other photo editors are saying is: “We cannot afford to pay you to produce exclusive images, but we want you to supply an exclusive image to us, and we will pay you a lot less than it cost you to produce it.”

Monteiro also asks for spec proposals. However, it is hard to know what to propose without at least knowing the titles of the publications his company is working on and the kind of stories they normally run in these titles. However, since these are spec proposals, that probably means that if the company likes the idea and the end product, they will pay you their standard rate, which is probably less that it cost you to produce the story.

But at least it is a potential market for the right kind of content.

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.  


  • Maggie Hunt Posted Apr 13, 2010
    Thanks for this article Jim. This is exactly the market we are looking to serve. Our images are 100% exclusive to StockShop and are model-released. We will follow up with Ernie.

  • Peter Bisset Posted Apr 25, 2010
    As a stock photographer specializing in nature and farm photography I like to do what I enjoy and am good at which is photographing. I hate the idea of sitting by my computer waiting to sell images at less than cost to photo editors who keep telling me that they are on a restricted budget and will not accept that I am entitled to make a living just like him or anyone else is. I leave the selling to my stock agent which is his job, but who is struggling even more than I am as a result. Why don't photo editors or their bosses realize, that it is like a car dealer having lots of buyers who tell him they are on a tight budget and can only afford $3,000 for a new car and insisting that the dealer sells him a new car for that price. It is largely for this reason I am getting out of the stock business as are many other photographers, and stock agents are closing down. Peter Bisset.

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