It has been a pretty long time since I have made the last ranking of the most important stock photography agencies I work with. In the first part of the last year, there could be seen a lot of changes in the systems of selling stock photos, which could have had good or bad results. I have waited more than a year in order to make a clear opinion on how these systems evolve in time.
The conclusion I have reached is that the way in which the photography is perceived and understood nowadays has changed dramatically from what is used to represent a couple of years ago. We cannot say if this particular change is beneficial or not to the individual; it only depends on the ability to adapt to new and challenging requirements and concepts. This adapting phase occurs at both agencies’ level and at the level of each photographer.
The main reason for these changes represents the development and popularization of social networks in connection with the technological improvements, given by the numerous software and digital devices, like smartphones or tablets. All these determined the significant change in public preferences for a certain type of images that are different now from what was appreciated a little before. The success comes from fruitful collaboration between agency and photographer.
For me, as a photographer, is important to know which agency helps me to acquire the maximum profit from the photographs I produce and which adapts best to my working style. In the circumstance in which I have a constant work flow of images of a superior quality, trying to adapt to market requirements, I appreciate very much agencies with consistent, constructive and efficient feedback. Each agency has a specific way of giving feedback to the collaborating photographers. The simplest and most frequent one is the review (acceptance – rejection) of photographs. This has to be realistic and adapted to current conditions.
The next classification is based on these criteria and refers to results generated by agencies in the first 10 months of 2014.
1.Shutterstock: is definitely one of the most solid and well organized agencies of stock photography. It is the most advanced micro stock agency. They have a highly complex team and a very good organization, which allowed them to develop a system of attractive licences for photographers and clients. However, the photograph-selecting system is very strict, sometimes subjective. For me, this agency is the only one which managed to organise an efficient promoting and selling system for editorial photography, for which I have a special interest in the last period. This thing is pretty unique and unusual because editorial photography is considered as one of the most unproductive sides of stock photography.
2.istock(Getty Images):It is an extremely interesting agency. Although it has all the conditions and qualities of being an absolute leader of micro stock agencies, unfortunately it is not. It is the agency which invented the micro stock system, which has a very wide market and has support from the gigantic Getty images agency, which is probably the true leader of stock photography market. Despite this fact, Istock(Getty Images) is dealing now with basic system failures, which implies a very hard reporting, low transparency, and frequent mistakes regarding photographer’s revenue. They also have pretty serious problems regarding the communication with the contributors, which makes a lot of their decisions be unsatisfying for the photographers. Nevertheless, it generates a constant income which situates it in the second position of my ranking. But, unfortunately, they do not make use of all their resources at full potential. They present a high interest towards editorial stock photography, but they do not succeed in organizing it as well as Shutterstock. The photography review system lately became pretty realistic, relatively adapted to new conditions and well explained.
3.Dreamstime: It remains an important agency, although it is situated at a considerable distance from the other two contestants. It produces good revenue per sold photograph, among the best stock agencies, but the total number of downloads is too little to validate the advantage of the high selling price for each sale. Lately, sales have dropped significantly. They have a huge interest in promoting travel photography, however sale results are not significant. Neither their effort in promoting editorial imaging is successful. The agency’s feedback system is one of the best, but the reasons for rejecting photographs could be a little more complex explained.
4.123rf: It is one of the fewer agencies which have a positive evolution. Their licensing system is diversed enough and provides a sufficient number of sales to generate a constant monthly profit, which is significantly rising compared to previous periods. They are interested in promoting editorial photography with good results. They managed to enter among the first 4 agencies of the Top 8 RaduRazvanPhotography, which means that they are among the important agencies that you can rely on. The communication with them is pretty prompt and easy.
5.Fotolia: Sadly, the descendent evolution of this company’s results continues and it drops another position in Top 8 RaduRazvanPhotography. Lately, they introduced extremely controversial measures, without spectacular results. Communication still remains the agency’s main problem and they do not excel at their strategy either. In the last few weeks it seems that the descendent evolution has a tendency to stop and to recover in a very slow rate. Still, we cannot talk yet about a comeback from the serious situation the agency has gotten into. They have no interest in editorial imaging.
6.Bigstockphoto: It is a part of Shutterstock but operates as a separate agency. It produces extremely small revenues per sold photograph and the download number is small. Lately, it seems that they introduced and promoted new types of licenses, more profitable for photographers, which explains their location in Top 8 RaduRazvanPhotography. They are interested in editorial photography, but without any spectacular result. Communication and feedback are good.
7.Depositphotos: It is a relatively new agency, which produces low revenues per downloaded photograph, with a small number in sales. The positive evolution is extremely slow. They are interested in editorial photography, without any important results. Communication and feedback are acceptable/good enough but really good results appear extremely seldom.
8.Veer:It is an agency that generally produces fewer sales with medium prices. However, it generates occasionally important sales, which is a good reason why they managed to enter in this ranking in 2014. Their evolution is extremely slow and I do not think there will be reasons for too much enthusiasm in the future.
Generally, the trend is to generate small revenue per sold photograph. An exception make the first 3 agencies of this ranking which are trying to create new types of licensing that will generate greater income. Because I consider that the revenue obtained from the selling of a photograph is more important than selling a lot with small prices, I decided to mention daily, in my flow on goolge+, the picture and the agency which generated the most important sale in the previous day. If you are interested, you can follow my profile to create your own opinion about the evolution of agencies.
Follow my blog, were I will write several articles about how I see the stock photography system, now after 10 year of uninterrupted activity. A new edition of the ranking will probably be published next year.