Getty Cuts Pay for Editorial Contributors

- - Stock

Getty announced pay cuts for editorial contributors and when PDN asked them if that was because they needed to lower their prices (here):

Asked whether Getty has found itself unable to compete for low-priced business without asking for concessions from suppliers, agency spokesperson Jodi Einhorn said, “No….[W]e are developing new ways for customers to use more of our content and as a result, new ways to pay contributors must be created in these situations.”

And exactly how will contributors benefit?

Getty is “making changes and improvements around how we share and license our content, which will benefit our photographers,” by providing more exposure and more potential for sales of their images.

Potential sales and exposure… photographers love that.

I don’t want to beat a dead horse over here… there’s a long thread of comments over on the PDN Pulse blog, but last time I brought up the Getty contract changes photographers found the discussion useful.

There’s no doubt that Getty has found a sweet spot in sales with their subscription model, unfortunately that means contributors are seeing lots of images sold for $5. I often get asked why someone doesn’t step in and create an agency with a better cut for photographers. Truth is, the higher priced sales are very labor intensive and require insurance. Given the choice between selling a handful of images for a million dollars and a million photos for a dollar, stock agencies will take the latter, because it can be done by a computer at no cost and no hassle.

There Are 24 Comments On This Article.

  1. OMG! Who is surprised?
    What is Getty giving up for these new ways?

    “No….[W]e are developing new ways for customers to use more of our content and as a result, new ways to pay contributors must be created in these situations.”

    Ha! Next stop, pay to play. Crowdsourcing on the supply side with licensing on the corporate side to serve these “new ways” (markets).

    “Getty is “making changes and improvements around how we share and license our content, which will benefit our photographers,” by providing more exposure and more potential for sales of their images.”

    The old carrot on a stick routine.
    Should play well to all those passionate newbie photographers.

    “Truth is, the higher priced sales are very labor intensive and require insurance.”
    What is the “insurance” required? Errs and omissions?

    Over ten years ago, Getty’s radical contract changes (and legal fight) put the writing on the wall. Some couldn’t or wouldn’t read it. Getty Images probably has some of the highest quality image libraries* in the world, yet they are unable to leverage that quality into higher sales on a consistent basis. Why is this? Poor management? Doubtful, Getty as a company is too greedy not to consider every opportunity. More likely it is the glut of supply, and the market’s unwillingness to pay more for better quality. This is an iTunes world, where 2″ images, and 128 bit rate MP3s are good enough, and buyers usually won’t pay more for better quality. How long before we hit the bottom, and then what?

    (* I suspect many of these high quality images may not have covered the cost of producing them, or may not have produced a sustainable ROI. The creators may still hold net losses on production.)

  2. Getty turns up the heat a little on their ‘frogtographers’ once again, and once again the frogtographers have to decide whether to stay or jump out of the pot. Because Getty do it so gently gently, little by little, most photographers never think it is the right time to jump.

    I am glad I jumped a long time ago. Don’t want to get boiled alive!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_frog

  3. It never ceases to amaze me at how quickly photographers will roll over and accept less money from their stock agencies because they actually believe the agency’s bullshit reasons why lower fees will…in some bizarre way over the long term…BENEFIT them! I guess I shouldn’t act so surprised, ‘cuz most photographers are such crappy business people they can’t fathom how this sort of high volume/low price scheme might work for a big agency, but rarely makes sense for an editorial photographer who already makes next to nothing in creative fees, even as he’s marching down to Town Hall to file his bankruptcy papers!

    I left Outline a million years ago when I determined that their business model of lower sales fees and a lopsided profit split to the photographer just didn’t work for me, and I have never regretted it. I’m sure I sell my images less than if I was with Getty or Corbis, but God knows I make one Hell of a lot more money!

  4. I jumped ship from Getty a few years ago, when they bought up my stock agency at the time, WorkbookStock/Jupiter Images. I never looked back and can’t say that I regret it. Stock was never a large part of my income, so leaving Getty and their contract behind did not hurt as much as it would for those of you who generate a larger income from it.
    I do not want to bad mouth photographers who are currently with Getty, or thinking of joining Getty. This industry is hard enough without peers smack talking on other photographers business practices(I’m looking at you, Brad Trent). If it is a way to make a living, then so be it, and good luck in that endeavor.
    That said, we do need to be aware of what effect this has on our industry, and photography as a commodity. It was easy for me to say no and walk away, not so much for others. But as the saying goes, “the easiest decision isn’t always the right decision”.
    Until a large number of photographers, and by photographers I mean professionals with images of substance, walk away from Getty, things will likely not change. Again, I know, easy for me to do, harder for others.
    MY best comparison of this situation would be during the Depression, when you would wait in line all day for a labor job, and when you finally get up to the truck, the foreman tells you it’s fifty cents a day. Of course you’re going to take it, you waited all day, need to put food on the table, and that’s what the MAN is paying.

    • Damon…it’s neither ‘smack talking’ nor even remotely outrageous to say that on the whole, there are a lot more guys who claim they make their living as professional photographers that are phenomenally bad at business than the other way around! (I’m guessing you never caught any episodes of “Double Exposure”, huh?!! http://www.bravotv.com/double-exposure )

      Having been involved with EP (Editorial Photographers: http://www.editorialphoto.com ) since its inception and as the current secretary to that organization, I can say with some authority that the bulk of our industry is made of of people who typically go into it underfunded, with little or no business plan and depend solely on their ‘talent’ to get them by. They usually live check to check, month to month and rely heavily on what can be a fickle client base whose taste in the photographers they hire can change with the wind, or even that seasons fashion trends. I’ve been in New York since 1982 and in that time I’ve seen busloads of extremely talented photographers who were shitty at keeping their eye in the bottom line close up shop.

      Your Depression analogy puts a nice, sepia-toned image in my head but has very little to do with the reality of what Getty is doing today. On what planet does a 35/65 split make sense for the creator of the work?!! Sure there are always those who will take whatever an agency like Getty will offer for a licensing fee, because they are too scared or lazy or uninformed about what else they can do with their own work once it’s been shot. But it’s photographers who create the images that Getty need to survive. Photographers are ‘THE MAN’, not the other way around! Photographers have always been able to license their own work. It’s not that difficult for an editorial photographer to set up relationships with both the magazine clients domestically and the overseas sub-agents who are clamoring to republish their work. If your work is good enough, it’s gonna sell…period! I get unsolicited calls every week to license my photographs…why? Because I take photographs that people want and they can’t get them from Getty or Corbis or any other place but me! And as I said earlier, I have been out of the BIG AGENCY game for a long, long time and it hasn’t hurt me one bit. Yeah…I probably have missed out on the occasional $17 resale check from that Bulgarian/Peruvian/Finnish business magazine, but by setting my own fees and doing my own licensing all these years, I have come out way ahead.

      • “Damon…it’s neither ‘smack talking’ nor even remotely outrageous to say that on the whole, there are a lot more guys who claim they make their living as professional photographers that are phenomenally bad at business than the other way around! ”
        That may be partially true or all true, but the statement is a negative way of making peers aware of the severity of the Getty situation. To say “You suck at business!” then “Do this instead!” Sorry, I think it’s rude.

        “(I’m guessing you never caught any episodes of “Double Exposure”, huh?!! http://www.bravotv.com/double-exposure )”
        Nah, I don’t have room in my life for that.

        “Your Depression analogy puts a nice, sepia-toned image in my head”
        Thanks, it actually had a little sepia to it when I imagined it as well. I think Woodie Guthrie was playing in the background, as well.

        “but has very little to do with the reality of what Getty is doing today. On what planet does a 35/65 split make sense for the creator of the work?!!”
        Unfortunately on this planet, for now. I don’t like it either.

        Look Brad, I think you may have missed the point of my post. I am actually agreeing with you about the direness of the Getty stranglehold. What I was trying to say was that it is easy for you and I to say walk away, because we BOTH did, years ago. Others are relying on it as part of their income, so they need to find other ways to supplement before they leave Getty. And don’t get me wrong, I think they should leave. I’m just tired of hearing photographers talk about how BAD others are, whether it be at image making or business.
        As for those that are so bad at business that they close shop after a year…well we needn’t worry about them, right? If you want to fix that in a long term way, I would suggest getting your Master’s and educating young photographers at a collegiate level.
        Just don’t tell them they suck at business before every class.

        ps
        The shots on your site of Outkast are kick-ass. Kudos.

  5. Some of us have been shouting this for decades.

    “Given the choice between selling a handful of images for a million dollars and a million photos for a dollar, stock agencies will take the latter, because it can be done by a computer at no cost and no hassle.”

    No shit. This simple paragraph sums up perfectly why shooting for stock is a force in the continued downward pressure on the value of photography. And the ones who are whining the most are the ones who CONTINUE doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

    There is a word for that behavior.

  6. It’s clear the stock industry has been in a downward spiral for sometime.

    The current business model lead us to this point at which there is little incentive for even the most talented artists to participate.

    For this reason we are making it our mission to create a new standard of artistic sustainability -–– one which favors creators.

    We are working to dramatically alter the stock industry by flipping the standard commission rate, instead giving 65% to the artist, and honoring that rate throughout the relationship.

    By choosing to work with VISU IMAGES you can assist in ridding our industry of the social ineptitude and greed responsible for the current crisis, and help move toward a sustainable model, which benefits everyone involved from consumer to creator.

    Truly concerned,
    Blake Pearson
    VISU
    http://www.visuimages.com/
    http://www.visuartists.com/

  7. The only real ‘surprise’ factor in this announcement is that Getty actually has the gumption to continually find more/new ways to screw over photographers… And frankly, that’s no surprise at all.

    I’m currently riding out the end of my contract with Getty because I refused to sign the new one they tried to strong arm all photographers into signing earlier this year. (I should perhaps note that, since refusing to sign the new contract, I have been blocked from adding any new images to their library — despite the fact that I do still have a valid contract with them through the middle of next year…) Given Getty’s already-paltry 70/30 (RM) or 80/20 (RF) split with photographers, I don’t really think I’m going to notice the reduction in my overall income from photography; their ‘contribution’ has been minimal to negligible at best. As for Getty’s claims about “more exposure” and “more potential sale,” what does that even mean…? It’s utter hogwash.

  8. It always seem more and more times us photographers are whining more and more about the rates magazines are paying and or stock agencies are giving. Doesn’t it just come down to if you don’t like it don’t submit. Yes, we all use to make so much more $$$$$ back in the “film” days, but now we’re in a digital era where there is so much dam supply with such little demand. I have an idea, let’s all get a job?

  9. In time, I wouldn’t be surprised if Getty and other agencies dropped most of their contributing photographers altogether.

    Why?

    With devices like the iPhone offering a fairly awesome camera coupled with the constant connectivity, a countless number of people most likely have already uploaded commercial worthy images. It’s now up to Flickr and Instagram to setup a similar business model to compete with the stock houses.

    • Alan, the Getty-Flickr connection already exists; this is old news by now. If you have a Flickr account you can –with the mere click of a button– elect to make every single image you upload to your Flickr account available for licensing via Getty with their handy-dandy “Request to license via Getty Images” button.

      Of course, the photographer/Flickr account holder may not actually have the RIGHT to license every image they upload to their Flickr account (because the image may not in fact be theirs, or because they don’t have, and won’t be able to get the proper model and/or property releases, etc. & so forth), but the potential client will only find that out after entering into a dialogue with Getty (not the image-maker/copyright holder) — who will later take 70%-80% of any licensing fee.

      By striking this particular deal with Flickr (and I’m sure Flickr must get a percentage cut), Getty essentially gave themselves access to millions, if not billions of potentially licensable photographs on Flickr without having to lift a finger, do any special promotion, or invest even ONE minute in an editorial-curatorial function. Heck, Getty doesn’t even have to do any keywording or anything; all of that legwork –whatever enabled the potential client to find the image they were looking for– is done by the Flickr account holders themselves. But Getty then ‘brokers the deal’ and takes the greater percentage.

      I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before other large ‘image banks’ (like Instagram, Tumblr, facebook, or even Google+) will strike, or try to strike similar deals with their users…which may or may not be brokered by a monster agency like Getty.

      (For the record: I do have a Flickr account but did not –and will not– grant Getty this kind of ‘blanket’ access to the photographs I upload there. I’m happy to broker my own deals should a potential client want to license something of mine that they found on Flickr…which they have, and I have.)

      • Ahhh, you’re so right! How could I forget about the relationship between Getty and Flickr? That only goes to reflect the kind of activity I have with my Flickr account. :-/

        I mean, I was flipping through Instagram earlier and am consistently impressed by the quality of the uploads and at the aesthetic sensibility (better than Flickr!) of its users. I’d give it a year if not less for them to begin making money off the submitted work?

        Keep in mind that I’m still learning, just an amateur photographer so take what I say with a grain of salt. :-X

      • Bruce Clark

        Hello Cynthia,
        In regards to your Getty contract: when the contract expires, what will happen to all your work on file there? Are you free to take the work elsewhere without any Getty “strings” attached?
        Do you have any suggestions about an agency that might have a more fair commission? i’m considering getting back into “stock”. However, I haven’t been active since the “slide days” and am shocked by the current commission offers.
        Thanks,
        Bruce

        • @Alan: Hey, no worries if you’re still learning the ropes of the business — I am, too… (I think we all are, in a way, because the business of photography is changing so much right now — along with the practice of photography.) There’s a lot of learning and a lot of change happening on all fronts right now.

          @Bruce: I’m not entirely sure what will happen when my contract expires in spring 2012 — I’ll have to re-read the fine print. I seem to recall that there would be a ‘holding period’ on my images during which I would not be able to try to license them elsewhere. But that may only apply to images that have active licenses.

          As for other agencies I might recommend, I honestly don’t know… They all seem to be either owned by Getty or Corbis now, and/or going the route of smaller and smaller percentages to the image-makers, and more and more Royalty Free and subscription (as opposed to Rights Managed) licensing models. As has been stated many times before, here and elsewhere, it’s a sad, fast race to the bottom right now when it comes to ‘stock’ photography. (I say ‘stock’ in single quotes because not all imagery that’s available for licensing was [or is] created with the intention of being used as stock — none of mine has been, for ex. But that doesn’t mean that the images don’t have potential for *use* in the world of stock/licensing…which is presumably why Getty accepted them into their collection in the first place.) I wish there were better news to report on the stock/licensing front; if there is, I haven’t heard about it…

  10. I look forward to the day when Getty announces the zero purchase price model for their business. Why use photographers at all. I think the getty secretary with a 5d can do an equally good job

    • That is pretty funny, yep leave it in auto like an iPhone and hold the shutter release down. It won’t matter what the subject is because eventually something good will fill the viewfinder.

  11. “I often get asked why someone doesn’t step in and create an agency with a better cut for photographers.”

    They have (as has been pointed out), but the problem is that photographers aren’t in the driver’s seat; photo buyers are. We photographers can hold out for top dollar, but in a bad economy with print media ailing, and with a glut of shooters, all too often low price trumps best quality. There are some great, small, photographer-friendly agencies, but few if any can compete with the McDonald’s of stock, Getty. They’re cheap and unavoidable.

    I think for a lot of us, stock isn’t the way to go.

    • What’s sad is that lots of genres of photography ARE stock. e.g. wildlife, unless you’re an author two or get a Nat Geo commission. These photographers can’t just scale back stock work. The specialist wildlife agencies are being gobbled up or going bust every week.

      Oddly, Getty never used to be the McDonalds of stock – it used to be the premium, invitation-only pinnacle.

  12. Walter Briggs

    My ‘experience’ began when they ate alive Pictorial Parade,Inc. That little agency treated me fairly..THEN Getty stepped in.

  13. Anytime you get a big corporation involved in anything you can rest assured that all the folks doing the actual creating of product will eventually (or immediately) get screwed. I bailed out of Corbis years ago and turned down Getty and anyone attached to Getty at every turn. If all of the talented shooters did that, these bastards would go out of business.
    The creators are being marginalized at every turn. It’s time we stood up for ourselves.

  14. I second what Mark Gamba wrote. Getty has taken over two different large agencies where I had work, both of which treated photographers fairly with a 50-50 split. I found Getty’s entire approach and take-it-or-leave0-it attitude offensive told them to take a hike. I’ve never regretted it and only wish more photographers could do likewise. They can only continue doing business as they have always done because there seems to be an endless supply of photographers willing to accept their one-sided terms.

  15. Bruce Clark

    I have a question for Cynthia. When your contract with Getty expires, will they relinquish all rights to using your submitted work?
    Thanks.
    Bruce