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.
[Disclaimer: I am the Chief Evangelist and CEO of Zooomr]
Hi Jim. Very interesting post and I think you are largely right on target. I don’t see sites like Zooomr and Flickr replacing the traditional stock business so much as I see them offering a new layer of photography between the microstock sites and the professional Getty/Corbis’ of the world.
The problem with the Getty/Corbis models are exactly as you suggest. Exclusivity. These shops are really only open to the most very talented (and they are amazingly talented) Pros. They are really shops for full time photographers who are the best and the brightest in their field. Heck, I’d love to be a Getty photographer.
Microstock sites by contrast are open to everybody. They include all amateurs but still are edited by humans to try and get the best of what is being produced here.
But what about the advanced amateur? The one that really blurs the line between amateur and Pro. The one that may not be able to commit to a job as a full time professional photographer or make their way through the Getty/Corbis maze but who has many images that would be nearly indistinguishable from the top stock houses out there today? The one who spend their weekends out with a passion shooting anything and everything that they possibly can get their L series lens focused on.
I have seen many photographs like this online at places like Flickr and Zooomr.
I also have to say I have seen some damn impressive photos even at the microstock sites.
When Kristopher Tate and I visited Getty last week we met with iStockphoto CEO Bruce Livingstone. Bruce shared a presentation on iStockphoto with us that just blew me away. The quality of the photographs in his presentation were just absolutely stunning. I wish in fact that they would make this presentation public for everyone (they had some confidential business information in it) because it really rocks.
As you know, there are, however, many *almost* pros out there who are not yet ready to sell their photos for $2 an image, but who will never be Getty or Corbis photographers.
At Zooomr we think that the right vehicles from the social photo sharing websites can be built to help these individuals monetize their collections and fill a gap that we think exists between the micro stock sites and the Pros.
We think we can also build other services and ways for semi part time pros to monetize their collections as well including fine art book publishing and fine art prints.
Whether we build something like this ourselves or partner with the Getty’s/Corbis of the world remains to be seen. But the bottom line is that there is a huge body of *amazing* work out there that is not getting the stock exposure that it could or should today and we are going to work damn hard to make sure that this work gets out there. It’s too good not to.
There will likely always be a market for people who want to buy an image for a buck and there will likely always be a market for companies that really don’t care if an image costs $1000 or $100. But we passionately believe that between the two there is also a market to intersect the amazing body of work that is being done in the social sharing space. And this is what we want to help make happen.
Thanks for your insightful thoughts. This is a topic that I hope gets much more discussion in the weeks and months ahead. Oh and thanks for mentioning Zooomr.