Stock Image Industry Potential

Posted on 2/5/2018 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

I was asked recently, “Kindly tell me how I can determine the market potential of the stock image industry.”

Here’s my short answer.

Your question doesn’t have an easy answer. I think the annual gross revenue, worldwide, generated by the licensing of stock imagery is about $2.5 billion. This breaks down to approximately $600 million for footage, $400 million for editorial, news oriented images and $1.5 billion for generic still images and illustration. About one-third of the $1.5 billion is for illustration, not photographs.

It is very hard to get accurate information because a significant percent of the sales are made by small privately held companies. Even the larger companies do not provide a lot of the detail needed to make an accurate assessment of the industry size.

While there has been significant growth in the number of images licensed over the last decade the number of images available for licensing has grown at a much faster pace and the prices per-image-used have dropped dramatically. Consequently, I think there has been very little, if any, real growth in revenue in the last 10 years. Some companies (Shutterstock) have grown significantly due to low pricing while many others have declined dramatically, or gone out of business, but net revenue has been flat.

A couple data points. A number of the experienced Getty Images photographers who had large collections with Getty in 2007, and have continued to produce through most of the last 10 years, had annual earnings in 2017 that totaled only about 5% to 10% of what they earned in 2007.

In 2017 the number of images licensed by Shutterstock grew by about 1.5% compared to 2016. During the year they grew their collection by about 46% to 170 million images and added about 60,000 new contributors. Shutterstock also offered its customers some better discounts which effectively lowered prices. The average price per still image licensed was probably about $2.94 and the average royalty paid to the image creator was about $0.82. On average each image creator had 1 license in the year for every image they had in the collection. Of course, there were a few creators who had some images that were licensed very frequently and many who had few, if any licenses during the year.

Copyright © 2018 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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