Want Higher Prices? Check Out Offset

Posted on 2/1/2016 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

If you’re a photographer who licenses your work as RM because you believe that’s the way to earn the most money (or a reasonable fee) when your pictures are used, it’s time to take a look at Offset. Many photographers are so opposed to microstock and subscription that they refuse to consider anything connected in any way with Shutterstock. If it is a Shutterstock initiative then it must be bad.

Getty has managed to avoid being typecast in this way because they started out licensing images for high prices and introduced lower prices (iStock) later. Now, Getty often licenses RM images for prices that are lower than Shutterstock charges for single image licenses. But many RM sellers still insist that the only way to get decent prices for their work is to license it as RM.

Some have conceded that RF at traditional prices may be alright since over 60% of the images in the Getty Images collection are traditional RF  

Consider these facts:

1 – Less than 1% of the images purchased worldwide annually, are licensed based on use (RM). And the number is declining.

2 – More and more customers need a license that offers flexibility in how the image can be used. Today there are many different ways that an advertising or marketing piece might be delivered (print, web, social media, guerilla advertising, etc.).  When an images is chosen for a project the designer often has no idea of the multitude of ways the customer might eventually want to deliver the promotion. Thus, an RF images that allows unlimited, or virtually unlimited use, in a variety of ways is the preferred choice.

3 – Given the huge oversupply of imagery of all subject matter, increasingly customers can find what they need among the images that offer an RF license.

4 – Increasingly, RM sellers (Getty in particular) are allowing virtually unlimited use when they license RM images. (The idea that the price charged for use of an image should be based on the extent of the use is rapidly disappearing.)

5 – Getty has just lowered its RF prices.

6 – If we back out Gettys’ Editorial and Video revenue, their Creative and Midstock revenue will have totaled around $500 million in 2015. Sales in these categories have been in decline. The addition of the Corbis collection may result in an increase in this area of their business in 2016, but it is likely to be slight. (See here.)
7 – Shutterstock’s revenue for 2015 will be about $427 million (we’ll know later this week) and should be over $500 million by the end of 2016. Around $100 million of Shutterstock’s 2015 revenue came from “Enterprise” customers who are willing to pay higher prices for the images they need.
8 – Shutterstock has over 20,000 Enterprise customers and has been aggressively adding to that number.
9 – Shutterstock probably spends more than Getty on marketing to the Enterprise customers who are willing to pay higher prices for the images they use.

10  – A significant percentage (we don’t know how much) of Enterprise revenue comes from the licensing of Offset images.

Examining Offset

One of the things about Offset that is appealing to customers is that it is a carefully curated collection. Customers are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the huge collections of images because so much time is required to search these collections and the customer often feels that they may have missed some of the best images.

Those that can afford to pay more for the images they need are turning to Offset because it is part of the Enterprise deal they have with Shutterstock and because they know it is a smaller carefully curated collection. Shutterstock have over 70 million images and at the rate they are adding images they will have over 100 million by the end of 2016.

I recently did a count of the images in the 30 different Offset categories. The combined total of all categories was 615,016 images. However, a number of these images appear in multiple categories. I am told that currently the total size of the collection is probably in the range or 300,000. 

  Images     Images
Cavan 25,855   Tetra 2,700
Westend61 19,094   The Good Brigade 2,288
Johner 10,230   Danita Delimont 2,204
Aurora 9,155   The Good Brigade 2,158
Galaries 6,863   Science Photo Library 1,523
Mint Images 4,416   MITO Images 824
Blend 4,248   Rubberball 649
Maskot 3,960   Wavebreak Media 491
Radius Images 3,808   Lived In Images 356
National Geographic
3,772   Mauritius Images 327
f/Stop 3,444      
      Total 2 Columns 108,365

This appeals to many buyers because they in most cases they can easily review all the images with a particular set of keywords, and feel confident that they know what Offset has to offer in its most curated collection. If they can’t find what they need they can easily toggle to a Shutterstock search.

They also know that given the price charged, it is less likely that an Offset image will be “overused” than in the case with an image licensed from Shutterstock.

Traditional Suppliers On Offset

Many of the major stock photo production companies and agencies that have distributed RF images, and even RM images, through Getty, Corbis and other high end market outlets are also licensing images through Offset. They include:

  Images     Images     Images
People 130,682   Lifestyle 20,029   Fitness 5,883
Nature 66,105   Sports 14,781   Office 5,452
Children 52,146   Family 13,845   Wedding 4,568
Women 51,539   Wildlife 12,020   Party 4,100
Food 39,612   Adventure 10,489   Illustration 3,292
Travel 32,796   Technology 9,348   Vintage 2,780
Landscape 29,906   Business 8,023   Education 2,495
Animal 25,486   Style 7,602   Music 2,321
Home 23,132   Beauty 7,065   Medical 2,311
Portrait 20,101   Fashion 6,917   Documentary 190

This group represents at least 20% of the Offset collection and maybe more. There may be others that I didn’t find. There is no publicly available list of all contributors. When Offset started out they prided themselves in finding shooter with no experience in licensing stock and making the work of these artists available at higher prices. Often these people produced interesting images, but often not of the kind of subject matter that was in demand by stock photo buyers.

Over time Shutterstock seems to have begun to realize that many of the traditional production companies had a better understanding of the kind of images that would sell and began accepting selected images from them. They are looking for modern, authentic images but that doesn’t mean snapshots. As one writer said images that sell are, “carefully curated to create a distinctly un-curated vibe.”

One distributor who has images with both Getty and Offset says the two companies choose quite different images. Despite the relatively small size of their collection, Offset seems to prefer showing several images of the same subjects from different angles in more or less the the same situations. Here are a few examples:

Image Images From Same Distributor
Number Basic Situation  
231484 22 Mint Images
293957 30 Cavan Images
279924 4 Auroraphotos
273373 14 Wavebreak Media
98697 10 Galeries
55728 4 Galeries
315463 5 The Good Brigade
315452 6 The Good Brigade
315441 33 The Good Brigade

If you would like to submit to Offset it is worth spending some time reviewing what they show and making an initial submission that fits their style. Offset may not be looking for the same kind of submissions other companies regularly accept. I know of a few very experienced and good selling shooters who have been rejected by Offset.

On the other hand, one distributor with images on both Offset and Getty says that he makes about 3 times as many sales per image in the collection from Offset as he does from Getty and the Offset return-per-image is much higher. Offset seldom discounts its list prices of $500 for a full size image and $250 for 72dpi web use. It also makes some higher priced buyouts.

On the “artists application” () section of its web site Offset doesn’t supply any information about the royalty paid. I understand that one photographer has been offered a 30% royalty plus 30% of the sale is held “on account” by Shutterstock to be used for promotion and marketing of the photographer’s Offset portfolio. The remaining 40% of the sale is taken by Shutterstock. Other options may be offered to distributors that don’t participate in the portfolio marketing.

 Another story readers may find of interest concerning Offset productions can be found on Vice.com.  It is worth noting that Lisa Curesky, the CEO of The Good Brigade, the company producing the shoot was formerly with The Stock Market and Image Source and is a very experienced producer.

Copyright © 2016 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.  


  • Clarence Holmes Posted Feb 7, 2016
    Good info. I think the first two tables are reversed.

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