Dan Heller delivers this treatise about the state of the stock photography market on his blog based on an interview PDN did with him (here). It’s quite long for a blog read so I pulled a few highlights out here:
PDN: What do you think the license revenue number [for stock] is, if not $2 billion?
DH: That depends upon how you make the calculation, but I would estimate it closer to 20 billion range.
… We can get a sense of this untapped potential in the huge supply of photos being used for free in one form or another, whether it’s intentional give-aways by consumers, or equal indifference to copyright infringements by working photographers.
… Yet, the real opportunity is precisely because of all those free exchanges of images. They could be converted into real dollars if there were a more mature, sustainable and reliable infrastructure that people actually knew about and participated in.
… That microstocks exist is just a byproduct of this mismanagement. But those small companies themselves don’t present major growth opportunities in their current form, and they’ll largely be reabsorbed back into the system, once it eventually materializes again in another form.
… The only thing that affects broad-scale market pricing (up or down) is the fundamental industry-wide infrastructure. Prices are low because of the lack of efficiencies to the pricing/licensing/distribution models.
… It is true that a market-based system causes unit prices to go down with increased supply, but it would only be for those kinds of images where there’s an oversupply anyway (and whose prices were unfairly and artificially supported by the aforementioned mechanisms).
PDN: Let’s assume there is $20 billion worth of photo licensing business worldwide. A lot of sales are so piddling and diffuse, how can individual photographers benefit?
DH: There are two answers: the short term (they can’t benefit) and the long term (lay a foundation for the emerging industry transformation).