04 Jul 2009 Photographers Working Together in a Three Tiered Stock Photo Market
Jonathan Ross and his company AndersenRoss are well known in the stock photo market. He has experience selling photos at all levels of the stock photography business, giving him a clear perspective on how photographers are interacting.
I have been working in stock now for over a decade and have seen some big changes from Rights Managed (RM), to Traditional Royalty Free (Macro RF) and now to Micro. I have noticed that each time there is a new sales model added to the market to satisfy buyers needs, there is a backlash of animosity between the photographers that shoot for these different business models.
As a new model is created the original models volume of sales are directly affected by this new addition. There are a finite number of buyers and as much as everyone would like to believe, each new model does not create all brand new buyers. They do add some new buyers but at the end of the day each model’s revenue is affected by the addition of a new sales model. This happened when Macro RF first came on the scene. The RM business model took a hit on sales and the new Macro RF shooter was considered by some photographers in the RM business of stock to be the problem behind their diminishing sales.
Royalty Free Creates Tension
This was the first time I had witnessed the tension between the two models and it created a rift between RM and RF photographers for a couple of years. Tensions would flare at professional photographers meetings and there was quite a bit of anger thrown from both sides. Fortunately with time the photographers grew to understand each others models and that it wasn’t the other photographers that were at fault. If they were to have approached anyone, it should have started with the new agencies. Talking with them in a professional manner to share concerns and grievances. Approaching the new agencies from a frustrated stand point was and is an unproductive effort at communication. It would have been far better to try and work with these agencies and see if the new model fit your company and if you could adapt to meet the changes.
Then Microstock Creates Tension
Now fast forward a decade and I see the same situation taking place between Macro RF and Micro RF. This is even a tougher battle since both models really have the same business framework, the only difference being the price point. So some photographers that were established and making a good living in the Macro market perceived their lively hood as being threatened by this new model, Micro. Once again the established photographers were the first to throw stones if any. They were seeing their income dwindle because of this new model. Some approached the situation with fear and frustration by putting blame once again on the other photographers instead of approaching the new agencies with their questions and learning the new model in detail.
The Micro model has now grabbed enough of the market to be an active part of the stock industry. Micro is not going away, it is in fact growing very rapidly. There are however some Macro photographers losing their income along with their businesses because of this new model and their fear of not being able to adapt or their lack of interest has kept them from investing in a market they didn’t understand or believe in. This is where I believe the problem began again with the finger pointing.
Not One Sided
Unfortunately the tension between Macro and Micro is not one sided. Some Micro photographers have felt territorial as well. Macro photographers started providing content to Micro and competing for sales with Micro shooters. The Macro shooter has the resources and knowledge to produce thousands of top sellers. Also the idea of this new competition sharing helpful information with Macro and Micro shooters about this new tier to the stock world and how to succeed left some of the Micro photographers frustrated and concerned with this level of competition.
Growth and Unity
Hopefully as time passes, I feel that all models will learn to coexist. Photographers battling amongst them selves is not the answer to growth and unity in our industry. Not just a waste of time but it is making a fun and exciting line of work less fun and exciting.
These models are here to stay, that is all I can offer. You are always free to protest if that helps with the frustration but I would love to see and believe we will with time, a point where all three models can find their place in a three tiered market based on price point that offers buyers of all levels an option for their image needs. This is a win-win situation as I see it and the greater the effort made by each photographer individually to support and learn from one another might actually end up giving us photographers a strong voice.
As long as the battle is kept alive between the photographers the chance for some form of unity will never grow. I feel it hinders photographers from joining together and having some form of direct involvement over the future of the industry instead of leaving those choices entirely up to the agencies.
Creating a Strong Future
The opportunity to have representatives from all models working together to help educate the photographer as well as working closely with the agencies to help fulfill their buyers needs. This is what will keep our future strong and will allow us all to feel less fear and animosity towards one another while continuing to make stock photography a profitable investment for many years to come. I try to remember that photographers are artists and they quite often see life differently than the business side of our industry does. The more these people are empowered and educated the stronger our industry will become. Knowledge is power.