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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The New Face Of Stock Photography

Get an inside look at the business of stock and learn what you can do to take advantage of the current trends


This Article Features Photo Zoom

new faceWhile stock photography has gone through incredible changes since entering the digital world, at its heart, it’s still a library of images. But how photographers create those images, then which of the stock agencies choose to market them and finally how potential clients locate those images in a massive sea of images are in a constant state of evolution. To better understand this process and the current state of stock, we tap into two of the industry’s powerhouses: Getty Images and Corbis.

Discussing Getty Images’ take on the market is Nick Evans-Lombe, the company’s chief operating officer. Evans-Lombe oversees the global strategy and operational leadership of Getty Images’ products, services, technology and sales. Representing Corbis is Renee Martin, Vice President, Sales & Service North America. This position carries with it the responsibility of overseeing the sales and service for the company’s largest market.

DPP: Let’s talk about the state of the stock industry since 2000.

Nick Evans-Lombe for Getty Images:
In 2000, the evolution to digital was still underway. The rights-managed side of stock was just beginning to get going. In the eight years since then, much has changed. On the production end, the major technical change was going digital, which also brought on big changes for the customer. It has accelerated the speed at which clients work. They’re expected to be able to flip things on a dime.

Renee Martin for Corbis: The change to digital was remarkable for us, especially considering that Corbis has the Bettmann Archive, and we digitized that historic collection. Lately, the biggest changes have been the advent of the micro-payment sites and the trend of crowd sourcing, which has made amateur photographers potential competitors with the professionals.

DPP:
How are rates being set today?
Getty Images: Rates are very much set by the market. It’s always our aim to maximize the revenue that we can get for any given usage. We’re impacted by what’s going on with general market forces—supply and demand. While we’re seeing a lot of downward pressure on prices, particularly online, there are still a lot of people buying images for print and other more traditional uses. There are still a lot of people wanting to buy pictures exclusively. We still, at times, can command prices that were commanded five, 10 years ago, though it’s fair to say that this doesn’t happen quite as often, especially in the current economic conditions.

Corbis: Like everyone, we used to charge based on usage for rights-managed and size for royalty-free. To a certain extent, that hasn’t gone away. What has come into play is the idea of inherent value—its rarity or irreplaceable status. For example, you can’t re-create the images from the Civil Rights movement by Flip Schulke. Last summer, we did do some tiering of our pricing. We found that some people shop by price because they have to stay within a certain budget. In our advanced search, there are premium, standard and super-value pricing.

At the same time the bottom end of the market is transforming, the top end is remarkably sustainable. Images that can be created by anyone—a picture of a soccer ball or a rainbow—those kinds of images tend to put pressure to have a lower price and to sell more frequently. But at the same time, the images that Corbis is famous for, which are unique and impossible to replace, such as those in the Bettmann Archive, aren’t in an area where price would erode. For instance, people are still willing to pay a premium for 20th-century iconic images, including celebrity portraiture by famous photographers. Their value continues to increase.

 

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