Saturday, December 22, 2012

Getty, Image Search and Participation

A businessman holds out a globe of imagery and data in an photograph depicting database management, Internet search, and future communications technology. 
 For stock photographers image search is critical, and participation in communicating with our agencies is a vital part of every stock shooter's business.

Image Migration And Falling Stock Photo Income
For a while now Getty has been migrating a massive number of iStockphoto images onto their site. It isn’t unusual to do a search and get page after page of nothing but E+ images. I find this rather disconcerting, and it possibly explains the fact that virtually every Getty stock shooter I know has seen dramatic drops in their income during the last two months.

Forums, Complaints, And Strong Emotions
Over in the site the forums have been abuzz with complaints from the micro guys and gals that are unhappy with…well…pretty much everything. It’s interesting that while we traditional shooters are unhappy with the low prices of the micro images being uploaded to the Getty site, not to mention the number of them, the microstock shooters are unhappy with high priced images being migrated to their site. They are not afraid to express their STRONG emotions about everything from site functions to royalty rates. Heck, administrators have even been pleading with the members to pull it back a bit:

What Keeps Me Up At Night
I believe it is inevitable that all the major stock photo sites will have a complete range of stock products available from subscription to Rights Managed. I am hopeful that I can create imagery that is good enough that it can successfully compete with all the other images out there. What really keeps me up at night is the idea that my images won’t get seen. And right now, on the Getty site, it sure seems headed in that direction. I hope it is some kind of ingestion glitch, but glitch or not, I can’t believe it isn’t having a deleterious effect on my sales at least at this time.

The Squeaky Wheel Gets The Grease
Getting back to all those E+ images going up on the Getty site. That huge influx of imagery onto the Getty site is probably happening at least in part because the iStockphoto shooters are not shy about expressing their opinions.  On the other side, we Traditional shooters are a tame bunch. The squeaking wheel gets the grease…and us silent types are getting left out of the search. Time to speak up. By the way, I have been with Getty since the beginning, and have never known them to penalize any one for expressing their opinions no matter how adversarial in nature.

A Fare Shake In Image Search
Frankly, we traditional shooters do have value. Our imagery doesn’t look the same as the mass-produced imagery that is the current hallmark of the really successful micro shooters.  The stock industry needs those of us who contribute images that don’t look like micro, but they need to be reminded of that. If Getty owes us anything it is a fare shake in image search…something we aren’t getting at the moment.

Participation Is Critical
I have been as guilty as anyone in staying too quiet, but participation is becoming rather critical. Whether you are with Getty, Corbis, Masterfile or any other stock agency it is important to stay informed and involved. Don’t worry about whether your voice can make a difference; just make your voice heard. In fact, making your voice heard is doing the agencies, and all of us in the stock industry, a favor.  The more honest input the powers that be have access to, the better decisions they can make.


Anonymous said...

John, to use a metaphor do you ever feel you are in a listing ship with only a tin cup to bail with...then along comes E+ ( or whatever Getty comes up with next) to slam a couple of torpedoes into your bow.

The Getty model is bust for old school contributors surely? I don't need to compare Getty spreadsheets with you to see the direction of sales post 2008.

None of this is to say that we /photography doesn't have a place to thrive in it just isn't going to be in stock land.

My 2 cents


Sean Locke said...

Two points, John...

1. Yes, iStock contributors are unhappy with the Getty imports, whose quality and keywording are not judged at all to IS standards, which come in huge batches from a small number of Getty contributors and which tend to dominate the IS Best Match sort. However, buyers are able to filter out these higher priced collections, but we don't like that solution, because our Agency collection images are held to a much higher standard than the Getty imports as a whole, and we'd like them seen.
2. I don't believe we ever asked for E+ to be mirrored over there. Frankly, this is one of those things that was pushed as a positive to us, but is really because Getty is only interested in foisting as much content onto their site to pay %20 to artists, so it is a positive to them. For myself, I sold no E+ images in October, and 3 or 4 in November, and I have quite a few, so I don't think all of the downturn at Getty is attributable to E+. Like on IS, the buyer can filter out the E+ images if they don't fit the "style" they are looking for.

Besides, our sales are down across the contributor spectrum these last several months, so it is really an industry thing, big picture (or at least a "Getty family" thing).

Happy Christmas! :)

John Lund said...


I haven't given up on stock yet. I am still making a decent living and remain hopeful that with a better economy and increasing visibility for my images things will get better. Hey, hope springs eternal!


John Lund said...


Thanks for the insights. Of course, 20% is also what Getty shooters get for all their RF content. Interestingly enough, if Getty sells more E+ content they make less money because the prices are lower. A lot of what Getty does just doesn't make sense to me.

That "Big Picture" can be hard to see so thanks for adding to it!


Jo Ann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jo Ann said...

John, I'm an ex-exclusive at iStock and I think you might be overestimating the impact of the recent contributor communications with Rebecca Rockafellar. Most of the significant complaints were not addressed.

Getty is trying to keep their profits up however they can. IMO increasing the amount of communication you have with them will not alter their behavior - that's being driven by the financial straightjacket the Hellman & Friendman and Carlyle Group have left them with.

I opposed the "Partner Program" (content migrating to Thinkstock & vehemently while exclusive and opted out. As an independent, I am forced to participate unless I leave iStock altogether. I am watching those numbers grow, month by month. Getty recently sent out e-mail to iStock buyers with a coupon for money off a Thinkstock package "Have budget left to spend before the year ends?..." No mention of puchasing at iStock.

If Getty sells E+ content at iStock, they have to pay up to 45% to contributors, plus give them credit (RCs) towards the computation for the following year's royalty rate. If they sell E+ via Getty, they pay only 20% and no credits to the contributor, so it's a better deal for Getty. Clearly it doesn't feel that way for Getty Images contributors who see so many new images in searches competing with theirs.

John Lund said...


Wow...I keep learning! Now Getty's strategy seems a bit more clear...though the strategy of making all of their suppliers unhappy seems a bit questionable!


Anonymous said...

I've lost sales on both GI and iS, and I've just had 400 E+ images added to GI. I'm giving them until April 1st to see an improvement in sales (not likely), at which point, I'll be selling images elsewhere. GI always seemed like a dinosaur to me. Big, slow and soon to be extinct.

Michael said...

John, I don't think any iStocker will be happy the E+ images are sold at the lowest price point, actually lower than content coming from Flickr. But Getty decided to put the content into the Stockbyte collection and then - due to technical problems - decided to open a new collection at the same price points.

Also I didn't hear any iStocker celebrating their Getty sales yet. The transfer has started late in October and so far only two thirds have been transferred with the majority in late November. Any lack of sales for Getty photographers basically can't come from the influx of these images coming in. If it's any consolation, sales at iStock seem to be very low compared to prior years since September. So there seems to be a bigger pattern, not something that one photographer taking money of another...

donfarrall said...

Hay John, I'm experiencing the same thing that you are. Very frustrating. I have always said that I was okat with competing with more images from more contributors as long as the price point was at least reasonably similar. As a traditional RF shooter it was frustrating to have to compete with similar images that were being sold for 1/10 the price. Even if my images were better, at a tenth the cost this was a tough bit of competition. So I have always wanted / looked forward to the day when micro would be sold for higher prices and I could compete with them more based on image quality than price. Of course there are micro shooters who think istock has higher standards and visa/versa. Thats another subject, lets just say they have different standards. So now in the Getty site we get to compete with lots of E+ imagery and lots of Flickr imagery (much of which may be "fun" but clearly not technically equal) at higher prices. So I should be happy right? Well, this comes back to the apparent "new norm" Search order. E+ is the only collection in the search results that is solidly taking up page after page of results. The istockers don't appear to be seeing much in the way of sales from this, (i'm not surprised) so the result must be that people are going elsewhere. In any case I do believe we have a right to ask if this is the new norm that we have to live with. New content from traditional stock shooters is going to fall off if this isn't resolved fairly soon. Hugh drops in sales don't inspire more investment. It really does appear that Getty/Istock are making all the wrong moves. Starting to remind md of Kodak, a company that was once king of the photo industry and then made every possible mistake they could have until they were no more. I am expressing my angst as you are and will continue to do so. See you on the battle field.

Don Farrall

Anonymous said...

John: I am a traditional Getty contributor and I don't like seeing all these E+ images from istock taking over Getty's site. It's not fair for us traditional shooters; there is no incentive for us to produce high quality imagery when they flood their pages with E+ cheap shots. Getty needs to hear our frustrations!

Unknown said...

Sorry, it is a little bit out of topic.
From Paul Melcher blog

"Best financial deal: After purchasing Getty Images for $2.4 billion four years ago, Hellman Friedman took $950 million in dividends and successfully sold it back for $3.5 billion. That is almost $2 billion profit in four years.
For the happy Getty contributors, that is also an indication that they are at the wrong end of the transaction. Getty images will continue, unchanged, under the new ownership of the Carlyle group who will certainly try to operate the same kind of lucrative arrangement in the next four to five years."

I could add that a Getty is handled as bank or other big company. An owners took very much money out from it. And loosers are contributors. Always.

John Lund said...


Yeah, seems like there is money to be made in stock photography...the trick is in figuring out how we photographers can earns some of it!


Anonymous said...

Sean it's simply not possible to dominate that search in that way and don't have a lot of E+ sales, my guess is that it will just take a long time to get this sales reported at your istock account. So lucky for you! :-)
I put a lot effort in my Getty portfolio the last two years but this made it for me, Getty is simply not a reliable partner! I'm not giving up Getty but most of my effort will go to other agencies including Shutterstock which seems to be the next big thing.

Anthony Bradshaw said...

Hi John, seems to me that none of the traditional routes to selling
imagery are particularly viable for photographers anymore, we are
just feeding the moneymaking machine that is the stock industry and
not getting a fair cut of the profits.
I don't have any answers to this though, only the thought that
someone or a group of individuals could set up an agency that is both
fair to the photographer and the agency, if such a body were to exist
I'm sure an awful lot of talent would migrate over, wishful thinking
maybe, but there sure are a lot of pissed off photographers out there.

Thanks Anthony Bradshaw

John Lund said...


There have been several agencies started by photographers, Blend Images being one of them. Blend has succeeded by being an aggregator...that is, distributing their work through other agencies include Getty, Corbis etc. The strategy there is that the reduced royalty percentage will be more than compensated for by increased distribution.

The biggest challenge for such agencies is getting clients...a very difficult thing to do, especially when one hears that Shutterstock spends 30 million dollars a year on advertising!


donfarrall said...

Well the word is getting around, that's a start: From ... Getty photographer are complaining that their images aren’t being seen because over 365,360 iStock Exclusive+ images have been placed on the Getty site and are being given search return order preference. iStock photographers are complaining because images from various Getty brands are being pushed into The Agency Collection on iStock. TAC now contains at least 58,546 images.

Anonymous said...

Well, it looks like the smart thing to do to fix alot of the contributor issues is to STOP cross pollinating the sites. Let those who contribute to Getty have their images seen only on Getty, and let iStock stay on iStock, let the Buyers choose where they want to buy.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you missed last "Getty fun" - selling nearly unlimited licence of 5000 images to Google for their iDrive. "happy" IS contributors were not asked if they agree and were paid "sweet" $12 or $6 for each sale. So I do not trust a single word of what Getty says - they run agency like a group of greedy bankers and they do not give a damn about long term. They want huge money now and do not care about contributors - iStock, Getty or other. Thats why they shuffle with photo collections, prices and "best match" - its simply greed.