If you're new to this site, or have missed some of the stories we have published in 2011, check out these links to 52 of this year's most important and thought provoking stories. This summary of information should provide you with a good understanding of the state of the stock photo industry at the end of 2011. If you need more historical perspective check out the “Top Stories For 2010
Since Getty Images went went private at the end of 2007 and Alamy stopped providing quarterly figures at the end of 2009 it has become very difficult to estimate the size of the stock photo market worldwide. This article is an update of my previous articles and provides an overview of the amount of revenue being generated in each segment of the business today.
After reading Stock Photo Market Size In 2011
Tom Zimberoff asked several question that need a more detailed response. This story explains why growing microstock revenue does not mean that a growing number of microstock images are being used.
For those looking for statistical and trend information related to stock photo industry this story provides links to a series of articles that examine various aspect of the subject.
Photographers are trying to assess how much the acquisition of
PhotoLibrary will add to Getty’s gross revenue and what impact it might
have on Getty’s overall control of the stock photo market. I estimate
that gross 2010 revenue worldwide for still photo licensing was about
$1.45 billion. Over the years I have defined the “stock photo market” as
including the licensing of still photos and illustrations, but not
footage or any of the auxiliary activities in which Getty, Corbis and
some other companies are involved. I also include in my gross figure
revenue generated by the picture divisions of AP, Reuters, AFP, etc. and
of course the editorial division of Getty Images.
PhotoShelter has published a new Free guide to Selling Stock Photography that can be found and downloaded here
. The guide includes results of a survey of 500 buyers of stock that shows which collections they search most frequently.
First thing everyone wants to know about microstock is how much the average person earns licensing images at these prices. This story provides some statistics. The story also deals with the misconception that in order to have high earnings in microstock it is necessary to have a huge number of images in the collections.
and Agency Access
have just released a free ebook entitled “What Buyers Want From Photographers
The information resulted from a 35 question survey sent to Agency
Access’ global database of 55,000 photography buyers. 500 responded to
recently conducted a
survey using their own database and Adbase’s email list of creatives in
multiple industries in North America. The professional backgrounds of
the recipients cover most industries. They received 344 responses almost
all of which came from North America with the next largest groups being
South America and the UK. See the preliminary results at http://blog.cutcaster.com/2011/02/10/picture-buyer-stats-released-market-information-for-online-image-users/
I’m regularly contacted by photographers, some with excellent portfolios, wanting to know how they can license rights to their images in today’s market. Recently, I was contacted by a nature and wildlife photographer whose work was excellent. This photographer regularly conducts Photo Workshops where he teaches others how to take great scenic and wildlife pictures. Here’s what I told him.
In a little over a year the number of images represented by the top four
microstock sites has increased by 41%. Fotolia has had a 59% increase.
The number of people contributing images to Shutterstock has grown by
37% and now totals 313,393. This wouldn't be bad, if demand were growing
at the same rate, but it's not. Demand seems to be relatively flat and
at iStockphoto seems to be declining. How will these numbers affect
everyone who produces stock images? Read more.
It’s time to institute a new pricing model. In the 1980s the only
pricing model was Rights Managed (RM), but the term itself wasn’t even
invented until the 1990s. Back then every price was based on usage and
there was no other option. In the early 1990s Royalty Free (RF) was
introduced. In the early 2000s microstock came into existence. Now, it
is time to introduce a fourth model which I will call Use Pricing (UP).
The following would be some of the characteristics of Use Pricing.
It has been pointed out that publishers need to license rights for long terms (25 years and more) because it is so difficult for them to track down image owners in order to license reuses years after the initial license. This is particularly true as a result of agency consolidations and agencies going out of business. I recognize the problem, but there is a simple solution that would be easier for the book publishers to administer and much fairer for image creators.
Recently, a new stock agency asked if they should develop a pricing
strategy based on fixed prices, or prices based on how the images is to
be used? Here are some things to think about.
When customers first requested rights to use images in both print and
online it seemed reasonable to charge a supplemental fee for the online
use that was much less than the print price. Today, electronic use is at
least equal to print and tomorrow it will be the predominate use of all
imagery. If we continue to price electronic as a lesser usage we will
be offering a huge discount on the price for the majority of our future
licenses. Therefore we must come up with an entirely new strategy for
licensing electronic uses.
Recently, I posted on the “Stock Photography: buy and sell photos” group
on LinkedIn.com some of the information about photography revenue
relative to printing revenue that is found in this story
Peter Dean came back with a related question that deserves some careful
examination. He asked, “Approximately how many more images are used
these days in print compared to 10 years ago?” He also wanted to know
whether print revenue is Static? going Up or going Down?
With its launch of its myPhone Collection
Aurora Photos has also introduced a new simplified Rights Managed pricing model they call Easy Rights Managed
. “The model offers simple, quick, broad, and managed rights at reasonable prices.” The model is similar in some ways to the Rights-Ready model launched by Getty Images in 2006. Getty later abandoned this experiment.
Many who enjoy photography and have had some success at licensing rights to their images dream of quitting their “day job,” giving up a regular pay check and taking pictures full time. This story offers a few things to think about that apply both to photographers who hope to do commercial assignments and those who want to license rights to stock images.
Photographers complain that stock photo fees are way below what it costs
them to produce images. And they are right. But, the prices volume user
pay for images will continue to decline. Read this story to find out
Educational publishers regularly set up “preferred provider” agreements
with image suppliers who represent large collections. Publishers outline
certain standard terms and uses. The image provider is then asked to
stipulate a fee that will be charged for each use. Based on the fees
providers agree to charge the publisher decides which supplier to use.
McGraw Hill School Education Group has recently requested quotes from
potential preferred providers and they have introduced a new concept for
determining circulation of the product. Instead of talking about the
number of copies printed McGraw Hill now refers to the number of “unique
The concept of royalty-free stock photography was invented in the early
1990s because many picture buyers felt that it was unfair for image
prices to be based on how the image would be used rather than their cost
to produce. The pay-based-on-use system (rights-managed wasn’t even a
term used at that time) was a particular problem for picture buyers
because they needed to track future use of any image they purchased to
make sure the use wasn’t exceeding the license. Customers wanted a way
to avoid this extra administrative hassle.
While fees charged customers for stock photo use have been steadily declining, there is another issue that should be of equal concern to image creators. That is the percentage they receive of the gross fee the end user pays. This can be complicated and not the number many photographers think it is.
In May Peter Phun published an article on BlackStar Rising entitled “It’s Time for Pro Photographers and Hobbyists to Call a Truce
The article has received a lot of comments. I would like to weigh in
with my thoughts on the difference between professionals and
Emily Chow, a photojournalism student at Northwestern University's Medill School, posted a story on Black Star Rising (see here
which basically takes the position that photography students should
ignore what experienced professional photographers are telling them and
forge ahead with determination to launch careers in photography. I had
to respond. Be sure to read her story first.
Photographers who license rights to their images based on how the images
will be used tend to be adamantly opposed to microstock. The principle
reason for such opposition is that microstock images are licensed for
use at very low prices. With microstock there are a few price variations
depending on how the images will be used, but they are minimal compared
to those used by rights-managed sellers. All other aspects of the
microstock business tend to get ignored. I want to examine some of these
other aspects of microstock licensing and point out how traditional
agency photographers might benefit if their agencies would adopt some of
Some argue that there will always be plenty of print publications and demand for images to be used in print. This story provides some statistics on the Magazine industry, Printing Industry, Newspapers and the Internet that provide a depressing picture of where the demand for still photography is headed.
Most print publications have recognized for some time that the
handwriting is on the wall and the old business model for newspapers in
particular where 80% of the cost of producing a newspaper was covered by
advertising and 20% by subscriptions is no longer viable. To a large
extent magazine publishers have the same problem.
According to eMarketer
world advertising spend is expected to be about $500 billion this year.
The online portion of this spend will make up about $80.2 billion, or
16.1% of the total. By 2015 online advertising spend is expected to
reach $132.1 billion and be 22% of total advertising spend.
According to WhatTheyThink?
leading research organization serving the printing and publishing
industry, January 2011 commercial printing shipments were $6.7 billion,
up $270 million (+4.1%) compared to 2010. Adjusting for inflation,
shipments were up +2.5%. Shipments for 2010 were also revised to be
$86.7 billion. “Despite a dreadful first quarter in 2010, the remaining
months were up +3%, to finish the year slightly higher than 2009,”
explained Dr. Joe Webb, director of WhatTheyThink's Economics and
Research Center. “January's shipment rise benefited from an easy
comparison to the first quarter of 2010, but it continued a string of 10
months of positive comparisons to the prior year. We hope it
The stock photo industry has evolved in many interesting ways in the
last 50 years. This story looks at the changes from mostly editorial
rights-managed, to the 1976 copyright law change, to the print catalog
era, to CD-rom delivered royalty-free, to the Internet and finally to
microstock. We identify some of the key drivers of these changes and
show how some unrelated developments made the changes inevitable.
For those in the stock photo industry October is always a time for intense networking and education in New York with Visual Connections, the PACA International Conference and PhotoPlus Expo. Now that these events are over its time to reflect things learned. Here are a few of my take-aways.
At ASMP’s recent Strictly Business 3 education weekend in Philadelphia
four photographers explained how they had reinvented their businesses in
the current challenging business environment. Here are their stories.
There will be more success stories at the last Strictly Business 3
conference in 2011 which takes place in Chicago April 1st through 3rd.
In certain segments of the stock photo market Alamy has been
experimenting with both price points and the nature of licenses in an
effort to grow sales and stem the tide of customers moving to
microstock. One particular segment where they have seen a significant
decline in sales is travel. Recently, one of Alamy's travel customers
outlined for me the details of Alamy's new offer. This story examines
Many Western stock photographers are beginning to wonder if it isn’t time to explore the potentials of the Chinese market. I asked Jerome Lacrosniere, CEO of ImagineChina in Shanghai for some information about the state of the Chinese stock photo industry.
Shannon Fagan, a very successful former New York stock photographer, has
set up shop in China as a consultant and content aggregater. He has
spent a cumulative equivalent of 2 years in Shanghai and Beijing since
2006 working with, and doing business development for, China's
commercial photo agency sector. He permanently moved to Beijing in
December last year. He has interacted with nearly all the key players,
support components, and service providers, and developed an “insider’s”
knowledge of the opportunities and pitfalls of China’s stock photo
industry. This interview provides some insights into the Chinese market.
Today, the biggest problem for professional photographers is how to get
their images seen by potential customers. This story explains how the
search return order at Getty Images is organized. Most photographers
would agree that gettyimages.com gives them the widest possible exposure
for their work. Sources at Getty Images tell me that 96% of the
company’s sales come from images customers find on the first three pages
of the search returns. Customers may choose the number of thumbnails
they want to see on a given page -- with a maximum of 100 allowed. Three
pages of images would be a maximum of 300.
Given Internet capabilities, society is rapidly moving away from
Business to Business (BtoB) transactions and more toward transaction
where small Businesses sell all types of things direct to Consumers
(BtoC). Some images will continue to be used in major ad campaigns and
there will be other sales of stock photography at traditional prices,
but the number of such requests will decline. Meanwhile image use by
small businesses and individuals will increase dramatically.
Photographers need to start focusing on how they can prepare themselves
for the new market.
What happens when the iPad becomes the primary vehicle for delivering educational information? Check out this story for some of the things that are likely to occur the education business. Consider how disruptive these changes are likely to be for writers and photographers. The disruption that microstock has caused may be minor compared to the impact the iPad will have.
Hawaii photographer Douglas Peebles is exploring a new market for his
images – iPhone Apps. During his more than 30 years of photographing the
Hawaiian Islands he has produced 18 books
and a number of pocket guides to the various islands. He currently has
seven iPhone apps which give him another way to reach consumers.
Many photographers licensing images at RM and traditional RF prices believe that it is impossible to have as profitable business licensing images at Microstock prices. They argue that despite the fact that some microstock photographers earn significant revenue due to sales volume their expenses must be so high that there is very little profit for
their time invested. This story explores the validity of that theory.
Every photographer detests copyright infringers. When one of their images is used without compensation they want to be paid not only their normal fee for the use but a reasonable amount for chasing down the infringer and enough penalty to insure that the infringer won’t do it again. The goal is to give everyone incentive to be honest. But is going after infringers really accomplishing that goal and is it generating more business for the future?
Google has released a new function that allows those who use Chrome or Firefox browsers to search the web for use of specific images. If you go to to http://images.google.com
you will see a little camera icon in the search box. Click on that icon and you get a popup that says “Search by Image.” Either paste an image URL or drag an image onto this search box you will get a view and list of the URL’s where that image can be found.
Most newspaper and magazine publishers have recognized for some time
that the handwriting is on the wall and the old business model where 80%
of the cost of producing a newspaper or magazine was covered by
advertising and 20% by subscriptions is no longer viable.
Stipple Marketplace, the San Francisco based company with the goal of turning editorial images into e-commerce storefronts for consumers, has developed a system that allows publishers to earn money from the images they publish, not just sell ads around those images.
Many photographers believe they will make more sales for the best prices if their images are represented by the biggest distributors. They may make more sales, but definitely not for the best prices. For years the biggest distributors have been seriously undercutting price – at least in the education field. There is a big question whether increased volume at low, dramatically discounted prices results in increased revenue overall for creators. Here’s how and why.
A philosophical battle is being waged on the web between ASMP
(American Society of Media Photographers) and APA
(American Photographic Artists) over how to address the issue of the lack of compensation from the Copyright Clearance Center
(CCC) for the collective licensing of reprography and digital uses of literary and visual works, and other secondary uses of audiovisual works. Here’s some background.
The big distributors are missing a huge opportunity to capture an even larger share of the market than they already control. Learn how visual search could help them grow revenue and take market share from the small suppliers.
Some Flickr photographers are given the opportunity to place some of their images on gettyimages.com. One photographer who was recently approached by Getty asked if he should have any concerns about dealing with Getty or if there are things he should be aware of before agreeing. Here are some of my thoughts.
At the recent PACA International Conference in New York internationally-known visual journalist Tom Kennedy discussed the “Changing Media Landscape.” Kennedy was Managing Editor for Multimedia at The Washington Post, Director of Photography for the National Geographic Magazine, and Assistant Graphics Director at The Philadelphia Inquirer before taking up his current position as Alexia Chair Professor for Documentary Photography in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.
Given the existence of these contributors stock photography is unlikely to be a dependable way to earn a living in the future. Those that are trying to earn their living taking pictures should focus on getting assignments or doing something that guarantees a certain level of compensation before they undertake the work.
plans to buy Masterfile Corp
. for $21.4 million, in a bid to expand into the traditional 2D market. Under the deal's terms, full consideration will be paid in cash, unless Masterfile opts to receive $12 million of the purchase price in stock. The Masterfile portion of the business will continue to operate under its current brand name and under the direction of Steve Pigeon, founder and president.
In January of 2011 Yuri Arcurs was interviewed by John Lund and gave the following account of where his business is today. Yuri is the world’s best selling microstock photographer, has a staff of more than 50 and the overhead for his stock operation exceeds $200,000 a month.
On May 23, 2011 in an open letter to contributors Andy Saunders, Vice President of Creative Imagery for Getty Images, outlined what Getty sees as the future of creative co ntent. His analysis will be of interest to everyone engaged in the stock photo business and can be found at http://www.gettyimages.com/contributors
, in the bottom right corner of the contributor log-in page. No password is necessary to view this link.