Getty Images Buys iStockphoto

Well Andy Goetze over at StockPhotoTalk was right: Getty Images, as he predicted, did aquire iStockphoto. And with this aquistion one of the greats of stock photography has admitted that there is something to this whole microstock business thing.

From “iStockphoto, the world’s leading stock photography community, today announced that it has been acquired by Getty Images, Inc. (NYSE:GYI), the world’s leading creator and distributor of visual content. The acquisition underscores the growing importance of social media and places Getty Images at the forefront of the explosive growth of the imagery industry’s value segment.”

The price tag? $50 million.

So what does this mean? Well it means that Getty, formerly the elite club for the top pro photographers commanding the highest stock photo fees is realizing that the world is in fact changing. And boy is it. While this move is bound to further disturb some of Getty’s photographers who are already starting to feel the intrusion of high quality gear and cheap digital images coming from amatuers, it is nonetheless, in a lot of ways, the admission that cheap digital images are going to play a big role in the stock photography business of tomorrow.

And why shouldn’t they? Aside from the fact that it errodes your livlihood if you are a pro, the fact of the matter is that amatuers are taking some of the best photography out there these days. As the digital camera has continued to evolve and cheapen and photo sharing sites like Flickr make it easier than ever to share your images, at some point someone is going to see the value of all of these new images that are being created. And being created they are — at an amazing rate. Getty’s move here is just the latest acceptance of this fact of life.

of course, the Stock Asylum is pointing out that Getty is carefully trying to put their spin on the story, “The acquisition iStockphoto by Getty Images will have virtually no impact on photographers who supply work to regular Getty brands, company spokesperson Deb Trevino said Thursday afternoon.” Stock Asylum adds, “Like JupiterImages before it, Getty Images is clearly concerned that the move into the world of micropayment stock photography will alienate some photographers who see inexpensive photography as a threat.” This of course is true and the truth of the matter is that there will always be a market for the very best pros out there and there probably will continue to be a segmented market for stock photography in the near term. But long-term it will most likely be the very top established pros that survive and then a bunch of amatuers producing the rest of the images for sale.

Yahoo!, through Flickr, is better positioned than anyone in my opinion at present to build the tools necessary to filter high quality images and begin seriously attacking this new long tail of the stock photography market at it’s sweetest spot. We will see what happens.

Andy, of course, also asks the interesting question of where Corbis is in all of this.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Thomas – amateurs have always made beautiful images, that is not an issue. There has never been a way to get at these and do anything with them. Now there is. A big pipe and a good filtering system can provide all the content that you need. Getty has the system in place to deliver that. Like you, I wonder when Yahoo will get into the game. How could they not?

  2. Gary Crabbe says:

    I am one of those professional photographers you refer to in your post, and yes, I agree that this is a bit of a scary wake up call. Personally, I’d love to see Getty raise Micro (& RF) prices by 50% immediately, and in 18 mo. another 50%. The prices are really so low that even 50% won’t cause more than a slight disgruntled hiccup.

    I haven’t wanted to get into the RF field, not because I dislike the sales model, but I just thought giving away all rights to an image should be worth more. Obviously there are many amatuers that don’t care about that. For the majority of micro contributors, it’s more about the thrill of “selling” – regardless of the price. A recent article summed it up by saying the few pennies they earn are simply “gravy” to help pay for a new lens, not a mortgage and college fund. It’s a sad statement watching the downward spin in value, such that the ‘traditional’ RF agencies many of us rallied so hard against are now looking more like “The Good Guys”. Worse, is that it really isn’t a surprise to many of us, that our original fears of devaluation in the market have cone true across the board.

    We can argue until we are blue in the face trying to tell another artist to value their work. Howvere, if they don’t want to listen, they won’t hear a word you say. I made a recent post on my own blog called MicroMicro Everywhere where I address the downward sprial of value in the stock photo market. I’ve been saying for awhile that “Microsites are where Photographers that don’t value their own pictures go to sell photos to clients that don’t value photography.”

    Between news like this, and the exponentially accelerating decline of the film camera market, it’s becoming a brave new world for a lot of people, and the challenge I face in learning to adapt and flex.

    Maybe I should just take a shot at trying to be one of the Top Photographers to survive? I wonder how these “hobbiest’ microstockers will feel now living inside the belly of the beast?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Andy Goetze initially commented on a rumor that a Seattle company would buy a Calgary company. Later, he predicted that Corbis was buying iStockphoto. Revisionist history, I guess.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Gary – istockphoto began in the year 2000 and after five years was sold for 50 million. thats a heckuva downward spiral.

  5. Gary Crabbe says:

    Anonymous said…
    Gary – istockphoto began in the year 2000 and after five years was sold for 50 million. thats a heckuva downward spiral.

    What the heck does that have to do with what I’m talking about? Sure, if I’m an Agency OWNER, I’m laughing my way to the bank. If I’m a PHOTOGRAPHER, making $0.20 for giving a client a full use license to a photo, that is a pretty big downward spiral.

    Cheers & Big Happy Smiles to Everyone in the Universe.

  6. QT Luong says:

    From a business point of view, I don’t see anything surprising in this acquisition. It’s well known that microstock is the fastest growing segment of stock photography. A company like getty is about dominating the whole stock photography market, so they also have to have a strong presence in microstock.

    I don’t necessarily agree that this acquisition validates the quality of the micros. If Getty thinks so, it would give equal status on the site to istockphoto and their other collections. Somehow, I just don’t see that happening, but instead them maintaining istockphoto as an independent site with minimal connections to their main site.

    The one thing that surprised me, though, was the amount paid.