VC Fred Wilson Ponders the Future of the Stock Photography Business

A VC: Getting Images VC Fred Wilson recently attended a presentation by Getty Images CEO Jonathan Klein and came back with this:

“I couldn’t help but wonder how user generated content that is free and doesn’t require a license, will change the images business.

The Business 2.0 blog is not decorated with stock photos, its decorated by the Flickr photo of the day. And they are amazing images, every single one of them. Produced by the people, for the people, of the people.

When everyone has a camera in their pocket (or a videocamera) the best of the amateurs is often as good as much of the pros.

Something to muddle on some more.”

One thing to keep in mind Fred though is that much of the “free” content on Flickr isn’t exactly free. Most of it is Creative Commons licensed which means that people or non-profits can use them for non commercial use. Of course some of it does get used commercially as well and a photographer could always object.

I get asked by people who find my photos online or on Flickr almost every day for usage permission. The requests have ranged for everything from a 6th grader’s school report on Italy to a guy making a bootleg Blue Oyster Cult CD to some of my images that are presently on the San Francisco City Ethics Commission website. Non profit film festivals, a first time author, and numerous websites have asked and received permission. They of course don’t even have to ask permission as all of my images are Creative Commons licensed (Flickr makes it easy to do this). I usually just remind people that my images are Creative Commons licensed, show them how to download a high res image on Flickr and that’s that.

I have sold three of my photos now commercially online. I haven’t marketed my work at all and these images were found by others looking for images. One of my images was found on Google Image Search and two were found on Flickr. The Google Image Search photo was used in a Choice Hotels National television commercial and I was paid $500 for it. I just sold my second photo to San Francisco Magazine (of the Chinese New Years Parade which will appear in next month’s magazine). My first was of the Jack Kerouac “On the Road” manuscript which appeared in their March issue. They pay $300.

I don’t really look at my photography as a business of course and would probably fall into that sort of amateur photographer camp. I do love photography though and it is a huge passion of mine.

I can’t help but wonder though if there is not a happy medium between the high priced photos at Getty and Corbis and the virtually free photos given away on the microstock sites.

Is there a market in the $100 – $300 per image world of stock photography that some enterprising young company could offer which would effectively tag, sort, rank and present photos in a compelling way to unite the new breed of high quality amateur photographer with marketers and art directors? Somehow I suspect that there is.

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  1. Patrick Lor says:

    “Is there a market in the $100 – $300 per image world of stock photography that some enterprising young company could offer which would effectively tag, sort, rank and present photos in a compelling way to unite the new breed of high quality amateur photographer with marketers and art directors? Somehow I suspect that there is.”

    Try http://www.istockphoto.com. It was recently acquired by Getty Images, so similar ponderances were had in Seattle, I’m sure.