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Stock Imagery's Shifting Landscape

(January 2008) posted on Thu Jan 10, 2008

As microstock continues its move forward, other trends also emerge

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By Clare Baker

A picture, as the saying goes, is worth a thousand words. It makes some sense then, that there is quite a lot to be said about the billions of pictures comprising the stock-photography and stock-imagery marketplace, especially at a time when stock has never been so prolific, accessible, and in demand.

The current buzz surrounding the industry suggests that while rights-managed and royalty-free models are still the market’s stalwarts, microstock photography continues to grow and impact the market’s existing paradigms. And as this growth of microstock is fueled by the increased need for Web images, traditional stock companies have also developed and restructured licensing models to better serve their customers’ needs. Additionally, advancements in the technology and stock agencies’ website search engines are once again talking points given the influx of stock images and the increasing need for fast, intuitive, and comprehensive searching capabilities.

Micro continues to move the market

As it has since its emergence several years ago, microstock photography shows strong growth-in part because this model makes stock photography readily available to a wide-variety of users.

"Microstock," says Jon Feinstein, a photo editor at Shutterstock (, a microstock site, "is less exclusive and really opens the doors up to photographers who otherwise might not have had the option of submitting their work to larger agencies. It allows anyone to submit and anyone to go through the initial screening process without necessarily having an insider connection."

And with the cost of microstock images starting at just $1 on some sites, the microstock model is open to many more users of stock imagery. "In the same way," says Feinstein, "it makes the whole stock process more accessible to photographers, it makes stock photography more accessible to smaller companies and smaller budget-oriented business."

Serban Enache, CEO of microstock site Dreamstime ( adds, "Microstock agencies have succeeded as platforms that provide content to a wide array of customers. Buyers range from SOHOs to top Fortune companies."