Sales Trends At Getty

Posted on 9/22/2017 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

Contributors report that Getty Images believes there is still a demand for RM imagery. However, they are seeing fewer high quality submissions on a consistent basis, despite the fact that they have many more RM contributors than was once the case. The company is trying to encourage more production by posting increasingly frequent shoot briefs on the Getty contributor website.

Contributors also report that the company says it is seeing a “decline in the market for premium RF.”

I’m not surprised at the Premium RF decline. Why would customers pay Premium RF prices when they can find similar imagery in microstock? On the other hand, why would contributors put premium RF with Getty on an exclusive basis when so much of it is being sold at prices that are often lower than microstock.

Based on my analysis of top Getty contributor sales almost 70% of their sales are for prices under $20 and over 55% for prices below $10. The photographers whose sales reports I analyzed have images in both the RM and RF collections.

As one example of these low prices, I’ve been told that Getty has an arrangement with Squarespace, a company that offers web templates enabling anyone to build their own website, which allows any Squarespace customers to download any number of images from for $10 each. No limit on RM or RF. No limit on how long the images may stay on the online site.

Getty may be selling images for the same single image prices as Shutterstock and Adobe Stock, but they aren’t selling anywhere near the volume.

Quality Level

If Getty thinks the quality level of what they are offering is better than microstock, they are only kidding themselves. They may do a better job of editing so the “overall quality” of what’s on the site might be better. They don’t have as much trash as can be found on many microstock sites, but if the customers look at just the best images in both environments the quality is about equal.

Microstock has plenty of good image, and given the search algorithms the best quality ones tend to get pushed to the top of the search-return-order. Getty has 13,423,938 RF images. Shutterstock has 151 million images. Maybe 91% of Shutterstock’s images are trash, but they still have as many good ones as Getty.

Filling The Holes

Production companies like Hero and Maskot may be supplying images in quantity, but they have figured out the subjects that are in greatest demand and that’s all they shoot. At today’s prices they can’t afford to shoot subjects where there is middle or low level demand. They would never earn enough from such lesser demand images to cover their costs. Their job is not to make a profit for Getty, it is to make a profit for themselves. They can’t accomplish that goal filling “holes” for Getty.

Getty’s RM Collection

I’ve been told that Getty’s RM collection is “more diverse” than it’s Premium RF collection, but I have trouble believing that. Maybe, there are still enough photographers out there willing to bet that one of the increasingly rare customers who needs an image exclusively, or with controlled use will fall in love with one of their’s. But the odds against that happening are so great that it’s a real gamble. I think most experienced photographers have decided they can no longer take the risk.

Most RM photographers will point to an occasional huge sale and argue that is why they need to continue to license their work as RM. But how often do such sales occur? The rare company that has that kind of budget is more likely to be doing assignments, not looking for stock. An increasing number of companies are turning to assignments (See here and here because they have trouble finding what they want in the stock collections. However, the problem with the Custom Content assignments where the customer gets exclusive use of the images produced is that the usage fees are so low that most photographers don’t want to be bothered.

What I’d like to know is the percentage of Getty’s RM revenue that is generated from sales over $1,000 and how many actual sales that represents. Only 32% of the images on are RM. I think Getty’s RM revenue is around $90 million. Based on the analysis I’ve done of the sales of major contributors about $10 million is for sales over $1,000 and another $20 million is for sales between $500 and $1,000.

I estimate that the average sale over $1,000 is actually around $3,000. Thus, in the average year Getty might license 3,333 images for prices over $1,000. Currently, Getty has 6,427,820 images in its RM collection so photographers who place their images RM images with Getty exclusively are betting that 1 out of every 1929 images accepted into the Getty collection will sell once in a year for over $1,000. Those are huge odds and getting longer every day. And these figures are gross, not net royalty to the photographer.

Focus on Missing Areas

Contributors say that the increasing volume of shoot briefs added to Getty’s contributor website seem to be aimed at steering contributors away from volume production shoots designed to cover every possible angle of a topic. Now they emphasize that contributors should work their personal networks and connections to find “unique gems” rather than doing day long comprehensive productions.

The Getty editors seem to have very little understanding of what is involved in producing “unique gems.” Such pictures don’t just happen. They often develop in the context of what might be considered a very mundane production shoot. And they invariably require the photographer to spend a lot of time in pre-production research and  shooting around a situation exploring various options. When photographers can no longer justify spending the time it takes to receive a minimal return on their time invested they stop doing it. They may occasionally do short shoots of family and friends hoping such efforts will generate a little money, but photographers who need to earn a living from their work eventually move into some other revenue earning activity all together.

Copyright © 2017 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:  


  • Felix Hug Posted Sep 25, 2017
    Very funny. Getty is trying to encourage contributors to produce more and good quality content? Haha! By slashing royalties to a laughable 15%? By having introduced the premium subscribtion service that pays contributors literally pennies? - Go get a life? Do they seriously believe a real photographer wants to waste his time to produce quality content, doing all the work and gets paid 15%? I hope there are not enough submissions to be honest and i hope they will go even further down,thats the only way prices will go up and the oversupply shift.

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