Recently I’ve been reading more of Robert Scoble’s postings and a topic he recently started discussing struck a cord with me. His fairly recent post Getty images: a photo business under pressure was of interest from a work standpoint two fold. In addition to pursuing a profession in photography I’m also a web strategist for a tech company here in northern California. The points made in Robert’s post hold true in my eyes on some level. The social media component of Flickr and Zooomer (photosharing sites) are going to have a deep impact on how stock photography sites including Getty transform over the next few years. There is a significant caveat to this statement though.
On the photo business side stock photography sites thrive based on exclusivity displaying what they feel is the best of the best. In this regard I doubt that this layer of their business will change. I wouldn’t be surprised though if in the future they add new layers to their business that tap the growing surge of amateur work. I can see “amateur” being the in style for stock photography at some point. From the web strategist hemisphere of my brain Getty has a lot to improve on their web site and no doubt sites like Zooomr and Flickr will impact stock photography site design. Having tracked Corbis and Getty over the years I have no doubt that as they find value in these photosharing sites they may revise their designs and even more aggressively acquire or partner with these sites.
Ultimately Getty will remain focused on what makes them money, high quality photography. In my view the impact of people giving away their photographic work at a severe discount if not free will impact individual photographerâ€™s more than large agencies. Photographers will have a more difficult time getting market competitive pricing for their work as the market is flooded with photos from amateurs.
From a client perspective, someone that searches out images to buy and use, you get what you pay for. Photographers need to output work that is of a certain quality, they need to be reliable and they need to be semi-experienced in selling work. Smaller companies may find value in trolling for amateur work, but their design and imagery will more than likely look amateur. By contrast larger more well known companies look at imagery as a way of preserving their brand and maintaining a unique feel on the web. Many large companies now avoid stock photography and hire out to create their own images.
Ultimately I think the stock photography market is still defining itself. Amateurs are never going to replace professional photographers. Stock agencies like Getty will have to adapt, but will never suffer too badly. Based on Robert’s initial observations I think its fair to say that a new market will be developed out of these photosharing sites and they will also push large stock agencies to change their online approach in regard to product offerings and web design. It should be entertaining to watch from a web strategistâ€™s view and likely the process will be slow torture from an aspiring photographerâ€™s perspective.