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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

One of these players is iStockphoto, a microstock site acquired by Getty in 2006. Kelly Thompson, vice president of iStockphoto ( and vice president of Web marketing for Getty Images, indicates though that not all micro-stock customers are looking to make the investment in midstock photos. "There’s a pretty big range of prices in even that mid-market. There are lots of customers that are willing to move up to that price range and lots that are not."

Whether a customer moves up to another price bracket or not, it’s evident that customers have a wide range of options. "I think microstock offers a wonderful contribution to what stock photography is today," says Kacy Cole, vice president of market strategy at Corbis ( Price can really be aligned with quality, she says, and customers have more choice along the spectrum of stock photography.

Edward Grossman, Jupiterimages’ ( senior vice president and general manager of operations and marketing, perhaps sums it up best: "Customers are in the driver’s seat in a way that never before has been the case."

But while microstock continues to grow, Cole points out that, "We can’t discount that rights-managed imagery is still 60% of the market today." Rights-managed, she says, is still a valid model and it will continue to be so in the future. "Customers want to protect their brand and choose imagery that won’t be mass replicated or commoditized." In fact, Cole believes that the increase of imagery and commoditization by microstock will make rights-managed as important and relevant as ever.

LeVasseur agrees: "Rights-managed is always going to have a place in the industry. It still plays a very important role because it allows customers to pay exactly for the use they need. You can think of it sort of as a custom-pricing solution that does a really good job of matching the value to the customer as well as the value to the photographer. There’s always going to be a need for custom licenses based on use-and we don’t see that going away." He explains that "a big part of the market demands professional photography for professional use in brand and ad campaigns. Because microstock is such a low price model, photographers can’t afford to put high production value content into that model."