Photo Licensing for All: Microstock Photo Services

Have a camera? Consider yourself a decent photographer? … Want to earn a buck from your efforts; see your pictures on a web page or in print?  Increasingly all that and more are possible thanks to a concept called Micro-Stock Photo Agencies which are gaining popularity almost as fast as their archives of footage are gaining new pictures. 

photoThe premise is simple: anyone with a camera can take a picture and upload it onto some Micro-stock Agency’s site.  There, the images will be displayed for any members to see, and if they like, license for a nominal fee.  If I need a graphic for Metue, for example, and don’t have the time to create it myself, I can go to a site like iStockPhoto.  There, if something catches my eye, for a few dollars I can license the picture (subject to some limitations) for use on my site alongside my content.  In theory, an entire website could be populated for licensed footage for sums that might only break my piggy bank, but not my real budget.

The idea of this open-access, micro-stock agency is relatively new but their older sibling, traditional Stock Photo Agencies, are not new at all.  Big agencies have for years managed the portfolios of untold amateur and professional photographers.  In fact, Stock Agencies   are generally the most consistent revenue stream for many professional photographers. They act as cataloger, distributor and licensing agent for orphaned photos (e.g. images not shot for a specific assignment). 

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Amazon acquires DPReview

Yesterday Amazon acquired popular London-based digital camera review site DPReview for undisclosed terms. DPreview, which was founded in 1998 by Phil Askey, offers unbiased, reviews of digital cameras and accessories as well as discussion forums, industry news and a product comparison database.

The DPReview site, which has fans on both sides of the Atlantic, has become extremely popular. For March, the site had more than 7m unique viewers. That coincides with the rapid growth in the digital camera marketplace. Last year (digital still-photography) generated nearly $18b in camera sales.

An article on financial news blog Seeking Alpha is noting that the back&ndashend infrastructure for DPReview’s ecommerce links has been provided historically by CNET. If that report is accurate, the purchase by Amazon could steal away some traffic from CNET’s monthly totals.

Following the announcement, web forums have been filled with speculation about the terms of the deal. The web has also been abuzz with questions of whether DPreview will retain its editorial independence. DPReview has largely been known for its unbiased reviews. Fans are questioning whether they will continue to be able offer the same unbiased quality of services that built the site’s reputation if it is now owned by a retailer who will have a vested interest in the reporting it offers. Without that independence DPReview will be no different than any of the many companies providing professional, or user-rated, reviews of cameras: from Yahoo to AOL, etc.

Getty Images: shopping spree

Seattle based Getty Images continues to pursue an aggressive expansion model by means of acquisition.

Today, in its second acquisition of the year, Getty Images announced that it was acquiring Ireland-based Pixel Graphics holdings for $135m in cash.

Pixel Graphics Holdings is the parent company to Stockbyte and Stockdisk, two royalty-free content providers. The transition will be an easy one: most of Stockbyte’s image collection was already distributed through Getty, and the remainder of its catalog will follow shortly.

Speaking of the transaction, Jonathan Klein, Getty Images’ co-founder and Chief Executive Officer said: “Worldwide demand for imagery continues to grow as our customers increasingly explore new, image-rich communication platforms as a means to break through the clutter. The acquisition is in line with our strategy of acquiring and producing increased amounts of relevant wholly-owned imagery."

The wholly-owned royalty-free content available through Stockbyte is a significant departure from the user-owned royalty-free content delivered through Getty’s other image service: istockphoto.

There is no question, Getty is busy. In addition to this transaction, earlier this year Getty acquired the parent company of Wireimage, which owned the largest celebrity photo and video archive. In March, it also, signed a partnership deal to license and distribute photos and video footage from Warner Brothers Entertainment’s archives. I wonder what is next on the shopping list.

Getty Images adds Celeb Archive

Getty Images, one of the dominant companies in the Stock Photo industry, and a company comfortable with growth via acquisition, announced it would acquire the holdings of MediaVast, Inc (the parent of photoservice Wireimage) for approximately $200m in cash. The deal will give Getty an increased archive of celebrity photos and video to add to its already vast library of images and video, including the royalty-free that it acquired in 2006. (Wireimage owns the largest entertainment photo and video archive in the industry).

Wireimage will retain its photographers, executive staff and name. Wireimage and all of Mediavast’s other assets, which also include the Film Magic and Contour Photos business lines, will be incorporated in the editorial division of Getty’s business which focuses on providing images for new services.

The deal will likely close in the next two months but may draw some antitrust regulatory oversight or review before being completed.

Getty Images Q4 Earnings

Getty Images (NYSE: GYI), owner of and its own library of stock video and film footage, released earnings for the 4th quarter.

4th quarter revenues were up 9.5% to $203.5m. For the fiscal year, revenue reported was up 10% to $807.3m.  Royalty free licensing revenue was up 15% in Q4 and 13% on the year. Rights managed growth was down 1% for the quarter but up 3% on the year.

Film footage, as opposed to still images accounted for 5% of total revenue.

Internationally, 46% of Q4 sales were from the Americas.  46% originated in Europe, Middle East or Africa (EMEA).  Only 8% of sales came from the Asia Pacific region.

More detailed press coverage on Getty Images’  finances can be found at:

Yahoo Finance
Google Finance

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