Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Transitioning Stock Photo Market

A funny stock photo shows terrified business people riding a roller coaster illustrating the wildly gyrating markets, economy and business climate.
A transitioning industry such as stock photography business results in a wild roller-coaster ride!

Stock Photographers, Agencies, And Clients Are Missing Out
Both stock photographers and stock agencies everywhere are missing out. Traditional stock photographers are missing out on the huge audiences of the microstock agencies. Microstockers are missing out on the higher prices of traditional stock. Clients are missing out by not having access to a full range of visual solutions. While a lot of “solutions” have been offered up, the real solution, the only viable solution, is happening slowly but inevitably.

Higher Priced Content On Microstock Sites
Microstock agencies are slowly bringing higher priced content onto their sites whether through the addition of content from traditional agencies, or through the addition of higher priced content. In the case of, their higher-priced content offering, Vetta, has also been migrated onto the Getty site.

The Difference Is Price
As far as I can figure out, at this point, the biggest difference between high-priced stock photos and low-priced stock photography is the price. It may be that traditional and microstock agencies can successfully create different price brands that hold up…time will tell. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the lower prices climb a bit and the higher prices continue to fall…though I hope not.

Cleaning Up Rights Managed Collections
It also seems that traditional agencies are starting to clean out material that hasn’t sold well, or at all, and are moving that work either into lower priced collections. Getty is culling out material from its RM collections that hasn’t sold in three years and moving it into RF collections. Getty is also running a campaign pointing out the value of RM material by the work and resources that go into the images. I do think that RM will continue to exist, but primarily for high-end advertising use.

Volume Sales, Or Higher Priced Sales
Someday, probably sooner rather than later, all the different collections will be available to all audiences at various price points. Hopefully photographers will see the wisdom of putting better images into the higher priced collections, though it is inevitable that the lines will remain blurred as photographers struggle with the decision to go for the volume sales or to go for fewer but higher priced sales. My own strategy is to go for both while avoiding the very lowest price points.

Higher Priced Collections Are Where The Money Is
Right now I would advise all photographers contributing to stock photography to do their best to get images into higher priced collections. From what I have heard from the photographers I know who participate in microstock (hearsay only…), the higher price collections are where the real money is. I also know from my own experience that the images I have in TAC (The Agency Collection) that are on both the Getty site and the site, are earning extremely well. I can’t say yet whether images will earn more than similar images in RF or RM, but it does look promising. Keep in mind though, that those TAC images are being licensed at traditional RF prices, not microstock prices.

Traditional Stock Agencies And Non Commercial Use
There is another area in which we are missing out as well. I get contacted several times a week by individuals wanting to use one of my images on their blogs or for some other personal and non-commercial use. Unfortunately there is no provision for such uses by the traditional stock agencies…at least not at rates that make sense for those individuals.

Production, Improvement And Distribution
It is my belief that the market is in transition to sorting itself out. The bummer is that we don’t know what it will eventually look like…or how long it will take. In the meantime we just have to keep producing, improving our work, and doing our best to get the work distributed as effectively as possible.


Anonymous said...

very good article John

Jaak Nilson said...


Could you tell us. If photos are in TAC. It means exclusivity for Getty only. TAC option prohibits distribute a photos via other agencies. Am I corrcet.

Now my point. Is it better to use a TAC or use an option that photos are distributed via lot of agencies simultaneously.

John Lund said...


TAC images are on and Getty Images only. For those of us who have no other way of getting our images in front of Microstock audiences, at RF pricing, it is great. I personally am not aware of an alternative that distributes to multiple microstock agencies at RF prices....