What’s In Demand At Shutterstock

Posted on 7/16/2018 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

I’ve examined the number of images in certain keyword categories at Getty and iStock. Today, I’ve done a count of the number of Shutterstock images with the same keywords as the other two agencies to see if it is possible to draw any comparisons.

  Shutterstock Percent Photos Illustrations Percent
  All Of Total   Vectors Illustrations
Total 205,781,944       & Vectors
Nature 58,257,587 28.31% 48,586,945 9,670,642 16.6%
Scenic 6,277,907 3.05% 6,110,079 167,828 2.67%
Landscape 19,029,548 9.25% 17,831,735 1,197,813 6.29%
Architecture 13,984,038 6.8% 11,872,361 2,111,677 15.1%
Flowers 18,242,149 8.86% 12,368,445 5,873,704 32.2%
Animals 11,319,612 5.5% 8,310,045 3,009,567 26.59%
Travel 23,976,357 11.65% 20,190,653 3,785,704 15.79%
Recreation 3,013,212 1.46% 2,431,080 582,132 19.32%
Food 24,832,057 12.07% 21,403,756 3,428,301 13.81%
Agriculture 5,804,033 2.82% 5,173,199 630,834 10.87%
Children 7,055,920 3.43% 5,083,546 1,972,374 27.95%
Industry 7,650,550 3.72% 5,077,756 2,572,794 33.63%
Business 27,467,402 13.35% 12,220,410 15,246,992 55.51%
Family 4,353,670 2.12% 3,585,043 768,627 17.65%
Aviation 595,206 0.29% 394,802 200,404 33.67%
Medical 3,993,578 1.94% 2,245,255 1,748,323 43.78%
Computer 7,938,453 3.86% 3,170,385 4,768,068 60.06%
Office 8,259,881 4.01% 5,294,332 2,965,549 35.9%
Education 5,287,340 2.57% 3,038,489 2,248,851 42.53%
Drugs 909,575 0.44% 596,246 313,329 34.45%
Soccer 916,093 0.45% 578,404 337,689 36.86%
Business Meeting 1,564,085 0.76% 1,082,550 481,535 30.79%
Drone 290,293 0.14% 231,578 58,715 20.23%
  261,018,546   196,877,094 64,141,452  

Collection Size

The first thing to note is that Getty has 26,024,940 images in its Creative collection and these images generate about $280 million annually. Shutterstock currently has 205,781,944 images in its collection and maybe generates $570 million annually (not counting footage and editorial).

Thus, Shutterstock has almost 8 times as many images (7.91) and only generated about twice as much revenue (2.04) as Getty. Getty certainly, has an advantage because they charge higher prices for some of the uses, although many of their images are licensed for prices that are even lower than Shutterstock charges.

I estimate that the average price of a Getty license is about $62 annually and they license about one use annually for every 5.5 images in the collection. Shutterstock’s average price per still image licensed in 2017 (not counting footage) was about $3.00 and they licensed about one use for every image in the collection. Thus, to get a real per image comparison we need to divide the $62 by 5.5 and we get about $11.27 per image in the collection compared to Shutterstock’s $3.00.

In 2018 the number of Shutterstock licenses is likely to be only 80% to 85% of the images in its collection. Thus, even if the price per image licensed goes up to something like $3.40 per-image licensed the average per-image in the collection is likely to drop somewhat compared to last year.

Photos vs Vectors & Illustration

It is interesting to note the percentages of illustrations and vectors images compared to photos in the Shutterstock collection. Based on these 23 collections about 25% of the total images are illustrations and vectors and the other 75% photos. In the past Shutterstock has indicated that about one-third of its revenue comes from the licensing of illustrations.

A very small percentage of Nature, Scenic, Landscape and Architecture images are illustrations compared to photos. It is easy to see why there might not be much demand for illustrations in these subject areas because realistic photos might tell the story much better than anything an artist might draw.

On the other hand, when we look at Business (55.51%) where over half of the images in the collection are illustration and vectors one has to wonder why there isn’t more demand for photos. One would think that most business situations would involve people and that generally means a human rather than an illustration.

There could be a lot of reasons for this. We don’t know if the photos are actually selling better than the illustration even though there are fewer of them. That might be an important bit of information for image creators to understand.

Last year’s VisualSteam survey of Creative Pros indicated that user are searching more agencies and looking for more sources. That probably indicates that they have been having more trouble finding what they need at the sources they have used in the past.

It’s also important to remember that a significant percentage of the illustrations tend to be created by people who are also buyers of stock photography. When they need a visual for one of their projects they may start by looking at the available photos. But if they have trouble finding anything that works, they may turn to illustrations as the easier way to solve their problem and where they have greater control. Later that illustration, or a variation, may find its way into a stock library.

Customers say they want more real, authentic looking people and work environments. But, often those “real and authentic” work situations don’t look all that attractive. Often achieving a “real and authentic” look requires some planning and arranging. An image can be carefully arranged and still look real.

Another factor that is certainly affecting the availability of contemporary Business images is the decline in the number of photographers willing to produce that type of imagery. At first look one might say Getty has 1,548,062 images with the keyword “Business: and another 176,229 with the keyword “Business Meeting” (all those should come up when searching for “Business.”) Shutterstock has 12,220,410 photos. Isn’t that more than enough?

But, many of those are very candid shots, with the focus on “real” and not necessarily what most customers would want to use. One Shutterstock photographer has placed over 500 image in the collection from a single shoot that could not have taken more than 3 or 4 hours. All the images have a very “candid” look. Most focus on one woman. The lighting in the room is poor. The room is one huge open office with no separation between desks. These images may be “real,” but they are not the kind of images someone would want to use to illustrate a friendly, happy work environment. The question is how many of the images in Shutterstock’s total collection have this look, feel and degree of planning compared those produced by someone with a more professional approach to production?

It would be very interesting to know how many unique images with a “Business” keyword have actually been licensed by Shutterstock in the past year. Or how my of Getty’s Business image for that matter.

In my opinion, the images “Business” customers tend to buy need to be carefully planned and arranged. They must look “real,” but that doesn’t mean “candid.” The photographer can’t walk into any office and start shooting. A desirable location must be found and permission obtained. Pleasant looking people, dressed properly must be found and brought to the shoot. The situations must be planned out in advance. Releases must be obtained. It is often necessary to bring in props or remove clutter. Models must be able to take direction, and the photographer needs the skill to direct the models in a way that looks natural and real, despite the fact that the situation is all carefully controlled.

All this takes time and costs money. Many photographers who were skilled in producing such shoots have walked away from the business because at today’s prices they can no longer earn enough to cover the costs of production, let alone earn a profit.

Take a look at some of the agencies Getty represents and the number of new images they have been adding to the Getty collection in the last two years. Focus on those collections that tend to specialize in people and lifestyle imagery. For example: Blend Images, Tetra Images, Image Source, National Geographic, PhotoAlto, Asia Image, Asia Selects, Aurora, Design Pics, Disability Images, Johner RM, National Geographic, Photographer’s Choice, Robert Harding, Science Photo Library, Science Source, Stock Food Creative, Universal Image Group, and Vetta,

The pictures that have been coming in from EyeEm, Moment, Flickr and foap have more than make up for these loses in terms of number of images, but I suspect there are very few cases where the photographers represented by these agencies spent much time or expense on production.

I suspect the same trend is happening at Shutterstock.

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 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.  


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