Getty Images vs. Flickr

Warm Chocolate CakeWarm Chocolate Cake Hosted on Zooomr

[I am CEO of Zooomr]

Reflections of a Newsosaur: You push the button, we do the rest: Alan Mutter has an interesting post out about the future of the editorial part of the stock photography business. He makes some comments on the recent passing of the Queen Mary 2 into San Francisco:

“Having joined the crowds in San Francisco who spent Super Bowl Sunday watching the Queen Mary 2 nose under the Golden Gate Bridge, I hastened home to compare the coverage at Flikr.Com with that of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Although the Chronicle had several fine photographers stationed at key vantage points to record the arrival of the largest ship ever to enter San Francsico Bay, their shots were no better – and posted no more rapidly – than those taken by the Flikr clickers.”

For those of you unfamiliar with the stock photography business there are (to oversimplify) two basic kinds. Creative and Editorial. What Alan is talking about is the Editorial part.

While there are credibility issues that need to be dealt with Alan is spot on about the potential of this market.

But the other side of the market that Alan didn’t mention in his post is the Creative side of the stock business. Here too though I think the potential is just as great.

In his post Alan used two photos of the Queen Mary 2 coming into San Francisco. His point was that the professional image in the Chronicle was no better or no worse than the Flickr image.

Let’s take this a step further though and look at Creative. This is the side of stock photography where marketers go to get images to sell things.

Below are three searches that I selected at random. Las Vegas, candle and clouds. Now click through to the search pages for these terms at Flickr and at Getty Images. Which one is better? Is it clearly better? If you were a marketer would it make a difference to you which one you pulled your images from?

Las Vegas Getty
Las Vegas Flickr

Candle Getty
Candle Flickr

Clouds Getty
Clouds Flickr

Now let’s take this a step further and enter into the long tail of stock photography let’s do a search for Tujunga (a small town in the San Fernando Valley where I grew up) and Mount Tam (a local mountain in Marin here in the Bay Area).

Tujunga Getty
Tujunga Flickr

Mount Tam Getty
Mount Tam Flickr

Interesting what you get here isn’t it? You see with 400 million images in their library Flickr is the better stock agency for long tail stuff for sure. The problem just is that Flickr hasn’t figured out how to turn this on yet.

This is part of what we are working on at Zooomr. We believe that the quality of work coming from advanced amateurs out there today is every bit as good as the Pros.

And the distinction between Pro and advanced amateur ought not be images that sell for $200 upwards vs. microstock where images sell for $1. There is simply not enough meaningful difference between what the best amateurs are creating and what the Pros are creating to justify this pricing discrepancy.

There is an opportunity coming where not only will thousands of advanced amateurs be invited to the stock photography market for the first time in a meaningful way, but there also exists an opportunity for the right company to redefine the equality and monetary relationship between content producer (that’s you and me, the photographers) and content buyer (that’s them, the marketers). I believe that the lion’s share of the $2 billion stock photography market today ought to go to the photographers themselves who are creating these beautiful images.

We are building this at Zooomr right now and if you are a photographer whose images are those beautiful images that I linked to at Flickr above I’d like to invite you to Zooomr. More details will follow very soon, but we believe it’s time for a change.

Like we say at Zooomr, the best images in the world have yet to be taken.

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  1. Chris says:

    Another intersting post on this subject Thomas!

    Thought I’d point out that the same Las Vegas Getty search comes up on each of the Getty links posted for me?

  2. Thomas Hawk says:

    Thought I’d point out that the same Las Vegas Getty search comes up on each of the Getty links posted for me?

    Opps. Thanks for pointing that out Chris. I just fixed it.

  3. I’ve thought that very same thing. With events like the Queen Mary II, Bring Your Own Big Wheel, and the Valentines Day Pillow Fight, the first place I check is Flickr. Even if 80% of the photos are crap, there’ll still be more quality shot than I’ll find anywhere else, plus Flickr users will tend to link to more interesting related sites (as opposed to merely a given event official site).

  4. julie says:

    I am really looking forward to Mark III, Thomas.

  5. Karoli says:

    Will there be an easy way to import our Flickr images over or will we need to re-upload to Zooomr? Hopefully the former.

    The contrast between the Flickr/Getty images are stark.

    Some of the Flickr images are true works of art.

  6. Daniel says:

    I’m on board TH..great post and I think it’s a wonderful idea.

  7. Raoul says:

    Flickr image quality blows Getty away, and I don’t think that’s an overstatement. I was shocked to see that on all of those searches, better images came up at Flickr. But I guess it should be no surprise to me. I’m addicted to the Explore Last 7 Days Interesting feature. Amazing photos come up every time I hit the Reload button.

    And let’s not forget that even though Zooomr’s smaller, there are some amazing photos there as well. Gosh, I can’t wait for Mark III and Marketplace. It’s going to be sweet!

  8. Gary Crabbe says:

    Exactly why Flickr, Zooomr and any other such similars should also make a specific area available for educating amatuers about things like licenses, values, model releases, liabilities, etc.. There’s absolutely NO reason why the amatuer shouldn’t get the same $200.00 the pro’s get – except for the fact(s) that they either don’t know any better, simply don’t care, or worst of all, are afraid to ask for any significant dollar value for their work because they feel they’re “not worth it”.

    If a client has $200.00 to spend on a photo, and will spend $200.00 on the *right* photo, then there’s only one loser if the person with the *right* photo only asks for $5.00. That poor photographer is now $195.00 poorer due to lack of knowledge or lack of confidence.

    Again; an educational arena is what these sites like your zooomr needs; even if only to explain the types of licensing models and the range of values, and resources to further such lines of knowledge.

    My $0.25 worth of an opinion. It used to be $0.02, but what with inflation and all….

  9. Chris says:

    Good points Gary

  10. Thomas Hawk says:

    Will there be an easy way to import our Flickr images over or will we need to re-upload to Zooomr? Hopefully the former.

    Hopefully, we’re building it right now. But Flickr won’t release a commercial API key to us until we give them our Open API documented. We are working on this and expect to have this as part of our Mark III release. If this is the case and Flickr follows through on their promise to provide us a commercial API key then we will have a one touch Flickr to Zooomr importer.

    Exactly why Flickr, Zooomr and any other such similars should also make a specific area available for educating amatuers about things like licenses, values, model releases, liabilities, etc.. There’s

    Gary, your points are excellent ones and very important ones. We will in fact have a forum dedicated to exactly this kind of discussion when Mark III launches.

  11. SF buckaroo says:

    getty does have some advantages over flickr. getty does a much better job of collecting photos around concepts– tags (and descriptions) tend to be more literal. one of the really great things about the getty image bank is the way it asks the user to refine his search by asking multiple choice about what the user is looking for. for instance, if you search getty for “community” it might ask you if you are looking for the bricks and mortar type community, or the virtual community, or both…

    p.s. I was not able to post a comment using firefox, the word verification asked me to enter the string of letters but nothing was displayed. i tried a couple of times, no luck.

  12. -gary says:

    If you can solve the problems of only the most popular photographers and shots that contain a female in any sort of suggestive pose as always coming out as the most “interesting” and the opposite end of completely irrelevant snapshots mistagged appearing for every search, then you might have something.

    For me, the hardest part of finding anything on Flick, or Zooomr for that matter, is cutting through the noise. Even then, it seems that only the more popular members that spam their shots to 50 groups and include 300 tags seem to make it to your screen.

    How can someone find a great shot from a photographer that doesn’t network on these sites, or do you only focus on the hungriest top two percent?

  13. Karoli says:

    – gary,

    The searches that Tom posted are pretty good ways to locate the top images by tag. The key is to sort them by ‘interestingness’ instead of date. On the other hand if you’re looking for recent images of some general tag, keep them date-sorted.

    I didn’t think the Getty images compared at all to the Flickr images as a whole, which convinces me that there can be a very real market for those of us who are considered amateurs. This was the most encouraging blog post I’ve read in weeks.

    Also, sfbuckaroo is right — the captcha isn’t working in Firefox for some reason.

  14. There is an article in todays WSJ on exactly this subject. Thomas, if you don’t have access contact me and I will email it to you.

  15. jonny says:

    great piece… i was trying to persuade someone the other day that this was bound to be the way it went….

  16. QT Luong says:

    In photography, the most financially successful is in general not the one with the better images.

    The reasons for Getty success is not the superiority of their images. On the other hand, Getty has built a brand that is extremely well marketed to high-end photo buyers. They provide a one-stop shop with reliable services, with competent images, right clearances and technical quality.

  17. Not to sound like a broken record, but this is a great comparison of subject material, but not quality. An agency provides the overhead of screening images to make sure that the quality is what it should be for the buyer. As mentioned previously web use has far greater latitude in the area of quality than print. When I wear the hat of web strategist during my day job and am helping a client or my company select imagery I don’t have time to tweak images or worry that the images will have dust spots or needs fine tuning with color correction. It’s not just about subject matter. It’s about resolution, file prep, photographer professionalism keywords and managing image availability to demand.

    Of greater impact to this all is how an agency/photo sharing firm reaches clients. Hosting images is one thing pulling in buyers and quality buyers at that is the key to this all. Given my recent experiences on Flickr those interested in scouring the pool of images are more interested in free images versus the traditional route of licensing them. Perhaps that is just a string of bad luck, but I’m getting the feeling that is not the case particularly when Yahoo is as guilty of this practice as well.

    With that being said this photo phisher behavior poses an even greater challenge to the model you’re pursuing. Personally I’m excited at the prospect of what you’re implementing at Zooomr, but there are a lot of questions left that I’d need answered (security, licensing %’s, etc.) before I upload high resolution images to a photo sharing site.

  18. James says:

    The difference is Thomas, that your so-called “pro-am” photographers are just that. Unfortunately, your cavalier attitude to this is removing business from those of us who photograph as a profession, and have no other source of income. The idea that publications will use photos from Flickr or other microstock sites makes good business sense to them, it saves them money, so if you ask for your $200, they simply won’t use your photos, they’ll find someone else. That’s what’s happening to us, we ask for our normal fee, and we’re told “no, not interested, we’ll look elsewhere”. For pro-am’s thats just annoying, no publication, no glory etc. For PRO’s thats no money. End of story.

  19. Augustine says:

    awesome analysis Thomas, re: the niche searches that the massive repository of Flickr can deliver while “old world” stock houses won’t have. Flickr is so large that it becomes my go to place to check first, before checking the other microstock sites because their repositories are like 1 million or or so. So the odds are against me.

  20. Anonymous says:

    I’m an editorial photographer for a major pub….you’re wrong the Getty images are more authentic because they have the weight and journalistic integrity that the others don’t. For editorial usage you need authenticity provided by a major provider, with editors who review the work to make sure images havn’t been photoshoped and manipulated for artistic reasons.

  21. Gerard says:

    [I work for Getty Images]

    To compare Getty to Flickr is surely missing the point and not doing either justice.

    Flickr is a site to share photos, Getty is a site to buy photos. And both do that very, very well. When you buy photos from Getty, you are buying editorial integrity, proper clearance and the knowledge you can use the photo you have purchased in the way you decide.

    Also comparing just one area of photography is deliberately misleading. How about you compare Flickr’s coverage of the 2006 FIFA World Cup to that of Getty? Or the coverage of any major sports or entertainment event?

    Amateur photographers are great but they are just that; amateurs. They can decide what and where they shoot. We at Getty have to cover 1000s of events each year, all with the same quality.

    I don’t doubt there are some photos on Flickr that are better than some of Getty. If that’s the case use our site, istockphoto, and sell your photos. People will buy them.

    Flickr is great. Better than Getty? Not in my opinion. Different to Getty? Most certainly and I for one am very happy Flickr exists.

  22. patrick evens says:

    You’ve kinda missing one major difference. Images on Getty all have the required legal releases which allow these images to be used for commercial purposes. Flikr for the most part does not. File size and technical quality is another very important consideration too. So, in today’s litigious society perhaps its wise to again to ask which is better for marketers…Getty Images or Flickr?