Getty Images Changes the Stock Photo Game, Again

Getty Images is big. Getty Images has changed the game. Again.

For those who weren’t paying attention a while back, Getty changed the stock photo game when they made the number one (yep, first, primary, numero uno), behind the scenes search return criteria ‘date uploaded’. What did that mean? It meant that if you went to Getty and searched for, say, images of “Paris”, that the most recently uploaded image of Paris came up on the first page of displayed search results. Thus, if you and I both had images from Paris posted there, and yours was accepted last week and mine has sold 200 times, but was uploaded 6 months ago, yours would come up first. No quality assessment of the image, no sales history, nothing. Recency became number one in the algorithm. And, obviously, the proven assumption is that the images that come up earlier in a returned search have a greater likelihood of being licensed.

What did this change do? It turned the stock world into a race. Was that good or bad? Fine by me I guess, but harder work for sure. It would’ve been easier if I could sit back and rest on the laurels of those images that used to sell 20 times per quarter, but it’s not that way anymore. Competition became a full-fledged reality of the new stock photo market – and it certainly began to weed out the chaff. But did it begin to weed out the good image makers in favor of those who are interested in quantity over quality? I’ll wait till market forces tell the rest of the story, but early indicators have showed the beginnings of a dramatic industry polarization. WalMart or Gucci.

And that move was well over a year ago if you didn’t notice.

What’s their next move been (and the focus of this post)? Even bigger than above. They’re soon accepting images from anybody. That’s right. If you’re willing to sign their contract, pay $50 to have your image represented exclusively by them, they’ll host it and take their percentage on sales, and give you the rest. So, for all of you that have been uploading to istockphoto for two years making sales $1 a pop, hoping to someday have your images ‘represented’ legitimately by Getty Images, the world’s leading agency, your time has come. Get on board. If you’re on the opposite side of the fence and thought your ‘stock’ images were your retirement: wake up and smell the pixels. Those days are over.

This does a couple things… You’re now gambling. You wanna play? You gotta pay. (AND create great images). Now, rumor has it they’re still accepting non-placement-fee images from established contributors. So if you’re from the old guard, you’ve got that going for you…but you’re now competing with more people.

Like ‘em or hate ‘em, they’ve single-handedly defined stock photography in the last 10 years. I’ve historically done well with them. Will I continue to do so? I dunno…I think I will, but the strategies are certainly changing. Will the rest of the industry follow in the race? Do they have a choice? Where do you fit in?

If you’re new to this biz, put your money where your talent is; there’s real potential for you if you’ve got what it takes. If you’re established in this business, don’t be the guy or gal who writes in saying you’re afraid that 15-year-old what’s-his-face is taking your stock buying clients with his Nikon D80. Go out and make better pictures. And btw, you should make ‘em faster too ;) Or, go the opposite direction: make ‘em slowly and make ‘em really, really standout. Unless I’m missing something, those are your only two real options.

Read the PDN Magazine story here.

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