Why Corbis’ New SnapVillage Stock Photography Agency is a Bad Deal for Photographers
[I'm CEO of Zooomr]
“By starting SnapVillage, Gary Shenk, the president of Corbis, said, the company is not just acknowledging the growing importance of microstock sites, but also recognizing the threat to its higher-price images. “Cannibalization is going to happen in our industry,” Mr. Shenk said. “We can either let it consume us or be part of it.””
The New York Times on Monday published an article on Corbis’ newly launched microstock site for photographers called SnapVillage.
SnapVillage works like this. You, as a photographer, submit your images to SnapVillage. SnapVillage allows you to set the price on your image between $1 and $50. Then they pay you 30% of the proceeds from the sale of your images. If you allow your images to be used on a subscription basis you are paid 30 cents per download.
Now at surface this sounds pretty good. Especially when compared to Corbis’ main rival Getty Images. Getty Images runs the iStockphoto site where they only pay you 20% for images (you can get higher by signing exclusivity agreements) and only sell your photos for $1 – $5.
But in reality, both are rips offs. And both represent too late efforts by giants in the stock photography business to try and preserve the bulk of the $2.5 billion that they harvest from photographers today.
First lets talk about the price controls. Getty’s iStockphoto limits the upper price for a basic image to $5. Corbis’ now $50. Why are these limits in place? These limits are in place to prevent photographers from accessing the closed markets that they control where they make, far, far more money. That is the world where images sell on the cheap royalty free side for about an average of $285 each. Rights Managed photos sell for much, much more and individual images can sell for thousands of dollars.
Now. Most free market thinkers would tell you that the market ought to control price, not the major corporations running a $2.5 billion industry. But this is exactly what Corbis and Getty are trying to do. By creating a distinction between their “professional” grade work and their “amateur” grade work. They can set a wide divide between the prices that each charge.
Corbis and Getty would have you believe that there *is* in fact a wide disparity between the images that their professionals create and the images that us weekend warrior amateurs create with our Canon 5Ds and Nikon D200s. Between the images that they want us to sell for $1 to $50 vs. images that they sell for between $200 and $2,000.
Well this is pretty plain talk, but the fact of the matter is that there is not a hell of a lot of difference anymore.
By way of example, check out this search on Zooomr for sunflower ranked by awesomeness (our proprietary algorithm for determining rank and relevancy) vs. a current search for sunflowers on Getty images.
Now when you look at these two seaches. Ask yourself this. Are the images on Getty that much better? Is this image worth $370 for a half page photo in a magazine for a single month?
My own view is that there is artificial price control going on between Getty and Corbis’ microstock offerings and their far more lucrative traditional stock photography business. While I applaud Corbis for letting photographers set a price between $1 and $50. Why not let the photographer set the price between $1 and $1,000? If there really is no market for these images at higher than $50, the market is efficient and these photos would quickly price downward. If Corbis President Gary Shenk is *really* serious about being willing to cannibalize Corbis’ business as he is quoted in the New York Times above, why set the $50 upper price limit?
You won’t see Corbis and Getty allowing images by you and I to be priced greater than $50 for one simple reason. They understand that our images are just as good as their Pro images and they do not want to cannibalize this far more lucrative business. They want to keep the myth alive that their images are so much better than our images and to create a wide valley between the two to continue reaping in the millions that they do each year.
Restricting photographers to $50 is a bad deal for the photographer. Corbis and Getty will come back with a “we make it up in volume” argument. But this is simply not the case.
Now on to the next point. Getty pays photographers on their iStockphoto site 20% and Corbis is going to pay their photographers on SnapVillage 30%.
This is pathetic.
*You* are the creator of these images. Not Corbis. Not Getty. It is simply absurd that you would give 70-80% of the proceeds from your work away to big corporate interests.
Well at Zooomr we are in the process of building what will soon be the world’s largest stock photography agency. We think we can pay photographers out 90% and still operate our business. We also are going to let photographers set their price on their images between $5 and $1,000 for royalty free images.
We are allowing photographers to price images now and hope to very shortly actually open up the library for marketers to purchase images. We are very close.
This new model will be more like eBay and less like Getty and Corbis. We will also implement some “make an offer” type features for stock photography.
What is the real and right price for a photo of a sunflower in a magazine? I’m not sure actually. But what I am sure is that an efficient market where photographers have flexibility to price will figure it out. I think it’s probably more than the $50 max that Coribs is allowing at present but probably less than the $370 that Getty is trying to sell their image for.
But whatever the price ends up being, photographers deserve more than just 20 or 30%. You are the creator of the image. It is your work that made it.
Kristopher Tate and I started Zooomr because we are both photographers. I don’t mean to sound cocky or brag, but I would hold my library of images up against what the Pros at Corbis and Getty are shooting any day of the week. And I ought to be paid the same prices that they are. And I ought to get to keep almost all the money from the transaction. And not just me. You, and you and you and you and you and you and you and you. My friends on Flickr. My friends on Zooomr. Sam and Eddy and Lane and John and Raoul and Jeff and on and on and on. Your work is every bit as good as the so called Pro work being shot at Corbis and Getty.
So if you want to change the world of stock photography and if want to redefine the economic balance between creators of images and buyers of images, then skip iStockphoto at Getty and skip this new offering by Corbis and come join us at Zooomr. Together we can the change the world and make it a better place for photographers.
Oh, and if
you are already a Pro at Getty or Corbis? Come and join us too. You only have to sell half as many images at a 90% payout to make up for the 40% or so that Getty and Corbis pay you today.
Power to the people. The best photographs in the world have yet to be taken.