Ron Chapple: New Directions, Embracing Change

Posted on 1/5/2010 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

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.

Ron began his career shooting advertising and commercial assignments with about a 50/50 split between corporate and fashion/lifestyle. He shot “tons of annual reports” for companies like Wachovia and the predecessor of Bank of America. In the 1980s, stock became the new, hot thing in photography. Always prepared to “embrace change,” Ron soon became FPG’s top producing stock shooter. As his stock business grew, he basically gave up assignment work and concentrated first on producing right-managed stock and later on royalty-free and video. Given his overall experience, if any traditional photographer could profitably produce imagery to be sold at microstock prices, it should have been Chapple.

However, in early 2008, after a couple of years of exploring microstock’s potential, Chapple went looking for new opportunities. For a year, he stopped producing still images as he concentrated on developing a video business. During the last 16 months, he has only added about 500 images to his iofoto collection and is in the process of adding another 1,000 in the first quarter of 2010.

In most of 2008 and 2009, approximately 70% of Chapple’s efforts and investments went into his aerial video projects. No more than 30% of his time was devoted to producing still images, and most of that work was an integrated service that he provided along with the video. He is no longer doing any stills-only projects.

Aerial Filmworks is the source for gyro-stabilized Cineflex aerial HD projects. Chapple’s company provides complete Cineflex V14HD systems with HD LCD director monitors, experienced aerial crews, aerial directors, helicopter brackets and Sony SRW-1 record decks. Cineflex provides rock-solid aerials, using the newest technology with Sony CineAlta HDC-1500 dual-link 4:4:4 HD cameras.

In the past two years, Chapple has built an entirely new business. While many photographers have struggled, Chapple doubled revenues in 2009 compared to 2008. 

Overall, his microstock revenue is down 30% to 40% from the September 2008 peak. His iStockphoto revenue declined by about 40% over the last six months. In trying to explain why, Chapple said, “I’m not sure, but iStock seems to make changes to their search every 6 months, and sales go up, then down. I don’t worry about the vagaries of the search algorithms on any of the micro sites. There’s nothing we can do to change them.”

In the microstock arena, Chapple has always been a strong advocate of dealing non-exclusively with multiple sites. Of his 15,500 images, iStock has only accepted 1,204. Despite this fact, Ron has rapidly risen to be a major revenue producer for iStock. Currently, his images have been downloaded more than 78,000 times, or an average of 65 downloads per image, and he is 140th on the list of top iStock producers. According to iStockcharts, only 86 iStock photographers have more than 100,000 downloads, and most of them have contributed for several more years than Chapple.

Many of the other agencies that represent his work have accepted all or virtually all his images. He has had 79,891 downloads on Dreamstime and says that he makes almost as many or more sales on several of the other sites, which include Fotolia, Shutterstock, Stockxpert and others. Despite the huge number of downloads, when production costs are taken into account, Ron estimates that his microstock business has only recently become profitable.

A major complaint of iStock photographers, particularly those that are non-exclusive, is that they cannot get enough images accepted into the collection—and iStock is about to make things worse for non-exclusive contributors. The Web site already gives preference to exclusive photographers in the search-return order. Early in 2010, iStock plans to introduce new collections, in which only exclusive photographers are allowed to participate. The company also intends to make it more difficult for everyone to move to the next canister level, which allows them to submit a larger number of images per month. 

Most of Chapple’s work now is video assignments, but he also produces video clips for stock. Currently he has 1,106 rights-managed clips on Corbis Motion/Thought Equity Motion, and sales are growing.

Chapple believes that the biggest challenge for photographers currently is, “finding a new combination of photographic endeavors for a successful business.” He stressed, “Embracing change is critical. Photographers should work closely with clients asking them what else they need. Each photographer must find a niche within their area of expertise and passion.”

He continued, “I’m having a blast, learning a ton of new things, meeting a whole new cadre of clients that I never knew existed, and finding opportunities that could easily exceed the stock revenues of the past.”

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:  


  • Bill Bachmann Posted Jan 11, 2010
    I am glad that Ron is doing well and having fun. His work is good enough to go non-Microstock. Continued success Ron.
    Orlando, Florida

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