I organized a panel at the recent PACA ( the Digital Media Licensing Association) conference around mobile photography and image licensing. I invited 4 companies  representative of what is going on in this space, in an effort to show and explain that the next major disruption in the professional image licensing world will come from your mobile phone .

Device group shot outside 1

Everyone is now fully aware that professional Dslr are going to be replaced by mobile phone cameras. It is just a question of time. Already, this year, there has been more phone cameras sold than point and shoots. One main reason: Phone cameras can now do pretty much what any point and shoot delivers but are less bulky to carry, have multiple other useful functions and we carry them all the time. While Dslr cameras offer much more than point and shoots, they are already threaten by the high quality files delivered by phones.

We also all know that print is dying. Slowly, we see print publication number’s dwindling and there is no sign of that trend changing. Everyone is moving to screen-based publishing, with various success. There is less and less need for large image files. Online, everything is 72 dpi with 1024 pixel wide on average. Some phones today deliver already much bigger files than that.

We all know that laptops have mostly replaced desktop. We are all hearing now that tablets are putting a huge dent into the laptop market and that companies like Dell or HP, giants of the computer market, are having a painful time to adapt to the onslaught of tablets. As those become cheaper and more efficient, there will be no need for laptops, as there is almost no need for desktops today.

In other words, technology trends are clearly showing us that the future of image consumption is screen based and screen based only. Wether online or via an app download, all images will soon be only used for those two formats.

Technology evolution is also showing us that speed and replication are becoming fundamentals in photography. Speed, because no one expect to wait to see and any delays is perceived as a failure. Replication, because in the online world, if its not easily sharable, it shouldn’t exist.

This is for the technology triggers.

There is also some more fundamental shift happening. Up to now, it has been thought that the stock photography world should offer a vast array of choices to satisfy an unquantified demand. In other words, create a massive offer in the hopes that some of it will match a demand. This is the model of Getty, Alamy, Shutterstock and others have currently perfected. It is highly inefficient as maybe only 10% of all images stocked in these databases actually find a buyer.

In on always-on and connected world, it is possible to query the demand side before offering a match. In other words, create an offer based on a existing demand. No need for massive, mostly dormant databases, no need for sophisticated search algorithms. Instead, linking a demand to an offer, buyers to creators.

More and more mobile stock companies are offering this service. A brand or ad agency writes a brief which is then submitted to a wide network of photographers. The best matching image gets rewarded by a pre approved fee, ranging from $50 to $5,000 ( or more), depending on the service used. Photographers have to choice to either go shoot the image or just look into their existing database of images. Because these services are mobile first ( you have to download their app to participate), most images are taken with a cell phone. While today, this might create some usage limitations, it will not very soon ( see above).  It also offers both sides the opportunity to play in the current zeilgeist by using tools like Instagram, snapseed and others. Finally, constrains breeds creativity.

This model also offers a very simple and efficient licensing model that anyone can quickly understand. One fee either covers all usage or one fee covers usage specified in the brief.

Why does it work so well on mobile ? Because everyone carries their phone everywhere, all the time and a demand can be fulfilled extremely quickly. No frustrated image buyers. It also taps into more creativity since, instead of buying generic stock, image buyers can get much more customized content. And that customized content is what could kill traditional stock imagery more than anything else.

The companies on the panel were EyeEm, ImageBrief, Foap and Clashot. It is highly recommended you check them out . There are many more, like Snapwi.re RooM, Scoopshot, Fotolia Instant as well as some still in development. These are the frontrunners of what will be the next major disruption in the professional image licensing world.

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