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Stock Imagery Takes a Turn

(January 2007) posted on Tue Jan 02, 2007

Micropayment sites surge, while RM images look to come back.

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By Theano Nikitas

The main motivation for these content creators to participate in stock photography, says James Alexander, director of Adobe Stock Photos, is that "it presents a new way to have their work be seen and appreciated." Importantly, he adds, "Making a living from CGC is not the priority." No surprise there since images on micropayment sites like Fotolia, Jupiter Images’ Stockxpert, Shutterstock, and Getty Images’ iStockPhoto sell for as little as $1 per image, with an average royalty rate for its creator of 20% to 50%.

As you might guess, micropayment sites have elicited negative responses from some in the stock-image industry, on both the professional photographer and agency sides. But Gary Shenk, senior vice president of images at Corbis, and others see this new source of content as a boon to the industry. "It’s bringing a lot of new customers into the marketplace," says Shenk. Customers like "small companies, agencies, and creatives that would never consider paying $100 for a photo from Corbis or Getty Images."

Gubas of Getty Images, agrees: "Micropayment models are expanding the market by reaching out to a completely new set of customers. Ultimately, they’re contributing to an increasingly visual and much more exciting social media atmosphere."

If sustainable, says Adobe’s Alexander, "this model will have far-reaching consequences for professional photographers, illustrators, videographers, and other artists who create stock content for a living." In the end, he says, "We think that more stock will be used for all the new media outlets including mobile, Web, and Flash video which may sustain industry revenues but on much higher volumes of sales. It’s impossible to predict, but it’s exciting to see how technology is creating access to imagery for people and organizations that otherwise may not have been able to afford it."

Another benefit to the plethora of hobbyist and advancedamateur photographers posting their images online is that these venues provide a new way for agencies to source photography. "This is a very, very exciting trend," reports Corbis’s Shenk. "There are many hobbyist photographers and there’s an incredible amount of innovation on these sites. No longer are the potential sources of images limited to a finite photographer base. Corbis is always looking for new talent and we regularly look at those sites [micropayment and free sites like Flickr], and contact people who we think have potential."