Stock Artists Alliance Closes Doors

Posted on 3/22/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

The Stock Artists Alliance (SAA), a photographer trade association, has announced that it is discontinuing operations. Founded in 2001, this organization came into being after Getty Images announced that it planned to make significant changes in its photographer contracts. At that time relations between Getty Images and its contract photographers had become steadily “more strained” over a period of 18 months.

The initial purpose of the SAA was to provide its members with assistance in negotiating the terms of this new contract.  Photographer concerns included:
  • Opposition to the proposed reduction in royalty percentage from 50% to 40% for sales made through wholly owned offices. They agreed to a 30% royalty for sales made by sub-agents, not owned by Getty and not in the photographer’s home territory.
  • That Getty was not placing a sufficiently high priority on returning inactive images “withdrawn from the market place.”
  • That the procedures for accepting new images needed to be substantially improved.
  • That there should be no charges for inclusion of images in any of Getty Images’ catalogs whether paper based or in electronic form, and
  • That Getty should improve its accounting and reporting systems to provide clear, accurate and prompt royalty reports.

    More details relative to the SAA's founding in 2001 can be found here.
The organization's efforts led to positive improvements in the Getty contract and improved photographer relations for its members and other Getty photographers. Once the Getty contract issue was behind them the SAA began recruiting stock photographers who were represented by other agencies and became a major advocate for stock photographer rights throughout the industry.

The following open letter has been sent to all current SAA members.

Dear SAA members, friends, and stock artists:

As past leaders of the Stock Artists Alliance, this is a difficult letter to write. For each of us, and for so many of you, SAA has been an important part of our professional lives, as we have grown it into a driving industry force in advocacy, education and community.

However, the last few years have seen dramatic and wrenching changes in the stock photography industry. Photographers’ and agencies’ traditional business models are under tremendous competitive pressures. Unfortunately that has meant that resources to keep SAA vital are diminishing.

As a result, we are sad to announce that next month SAA will be dissolving as a trade association.

SAA was founded to advocate for stock photographers rights and interests and for eight years functioned as an independent trade association. In 2009, after careful consideration, we decided to join AVA to take advantage of the group association management benefits. This meant a major shift in how SAA was run. During that same time period, we have seen a dramatic downturn in stock licensing revenue for most photographers and a steady decline in SAA membership.

Over the past six months we’ve been in conversations with AVA management, considering the options for moving forward. The core issues were:
  • Going forward, how can stock photographers’ interests best be served?
  • Is there a role for a dedicated association for stock photographers when image licensing continues to decline as a major business model?  
  • Without SAA, who can serve as a strong voice for independent photographers involved in the business of stock licensing?
  • How can SAA represent the diversifying business interests of our members when stock is a smaller and smaller component of their overall photography business?
  • Should SAA try to expand our membership base to address other business models (e.g. assignment and editorial)? Or is it best to look to fellow established organizations that are better positioned to support our members.
The issue of multiple overlapping photographic trade associations is key. Many SAA members are also members of other groups and the payment of multiple dues can be a hardship.

We therefore have concluded that the best choice is for photographers to consolidate their affiliations in support of larger, established organizations, which are in a better position to address a broader range of image licensing issues.

We are encouraged that other photographic organizations, such as ASMP and PPA, have established education and community-building initiatives, and are actively engaged in industry and legislative advocacy work.

To aid in the transition, SAA members have received official notification that they will be able to move their memberships to either PPA or ASMP for the duration of their current membership period. This transfer is not prorated: members will simply transfer, with no monies due until renewal time at the end of their current membership term.

The Legacy of SAA

We are proud of SAA’s accomplishments of the past nine years. It has proven that even a relatively small organization, driven by passionate and dedicated leaders and supported by members, can change the status quo. We are the evidence that artists coming together can make a difference. We were truly a “mouse that roared.”

Thanks to SAA, thousands of established and aspiring photographers and industry leaders worldwide have connected through our member community, publications, online resources, and education programs.

We have helped shape major industry contracts, helped artists retrieve millions in unpaid royalties, publicized the level of Internet infringements, worked closely with tracking services to recoup otherwise lost revenue, championed rights management licensing and developed open source software to support its use, educated photographers about metadata and its preservation, and our ombudsmen have tirelessly engaged distributors to resolve contributor issues.

SAA has also developed a rich online archive of education and advocacy resources, which we are committed to maintaining, and will soon be opening up to the wider photographic community. The online discussion forum will also continue, run by volunteers.

Although SAA as an organization will not be continuing, we all as individual artists will still face the same challenging business environment and further technological change. We encourage all members to continue to engage in the broader photographic community and to contribute their time, talent and energy.


Roy Hsu
SAA Advisory Council Chair and President 2008-2009

Betsy Reid
SAA Executive Director, 2002-2008

David Sanger
SAA President 2006-2007

David Riecks
SAA Imaging Technology Standards Chair and Library of Congress Photo Metadata Project Leader

Leland Bobbé
SAA President 2003-2005

Copyright © 2011 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:  


  • Roger Ressmeyer Posted Mar 29, 2011
    Interesting that this would come right on the heels of the contributor contract update that Getty has put out.

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