Let’s review. Up to now, USG, or User Generated  Content, has dramatically and irrevocably changed the Commercial stock photography landscape. It has brought it down to a commodity by not only bringing the prices down to, well, the prices of a commodity, by making it even more widely and easily available ( no need to call a bored Account Executive anymore) and finally, by not passing the cost of production to the customer. No real news here. However, will it stop here ?Definitely not. UGC has made some roadway in the Video footage world ( Numbers not really available, yet), as well as in the editorial space.  The commercial still space is so overcrowded that, besides the companies offering the distribution ( Istock, Fotolia, Shutterstock), no one will be making money anymore. The top photo producers  of this space are all suffering 40% or more decline in their income and it is certainly not due to the Recession. It also shows no sign of picking up. It’s a dilution effect, quite expected for a Long Tail type of business. So what next ?The editorial space. We have seen some somewhat failed attempts up to now. The news oriented site like Scoopt and others did not succeed in creating enough traction to get consistent exposure to allow them to become a major distribution channel. Demotix, lately, was the talk of the town during the Iranian revolt, only to quiet down ever since to a mere murmur. Without regular income, it is also destined to fail.  News is a very hard, yet not impossible, segment to convert to UGC.  Mostly because the market is already very well served with wire agencies who can deliver pinpoint images extremely fast. Amateur do not have, yet, the reflex to send images out very quickly. Furthermore, they are the first one to be evacuated of a dangerous area, if they don’t leave themselves first. Finally, with current prices and lack of medium, it doesn’t have the appeal of volume that the commercial stock market has. Doubtful that a company will ever succeed in being a UGC only news photo distributor but not impossible that one of the existing distributor, be it Istock, Shutterstock or Getty increase their demand and offerings. Of course, since they will no longer incur the cost of helping a photographer get those images, they will be more apt in lowering their prices if needed.But what about other editorial spaces. Celebrity for example ? Shutterstock is already being trying to perforate it by helping amateurs cover movie premieres and other events that need official credentials. It is unknown how much success they have had in licensing those images, but if credit in publication is any indication, it is inexistent. Not many have followed yet because of the poor prices, huge already existing volume and the added cost of production. After all, Shuttertsock needs a full time person to call, email or fax those publicist and get approved to cover. Not something they do for their commercial stock contributors. Finally, since the red carpet coverage is also already invaded by low pricing photo agencies , it doesn’t make  the UGC pricing special or appealing in any way.What else ? Well there is the street paparrazi stuff. With rumors of images being sold in the thousand , if not millions of dollars, it is a very interesting space. No credentials needed, no risk involved. With celebs twittering their every move or blogs exposing their schedules openly, it is very easy for anyone to find them. If you add the flock of Fame whores who demand to be taken in pictures, well, there is plenty. And you do not need much. Even a cell phone is adequate to snap a celeb in the street. No need for heavy or expensive equipment . And since prices are still quite high, the appeal of lower priced images will be a huge draw for some dying publications. Thus those companies who have been living quite nicely thanks to a small army of tip filled street paparazzi are slowly seeing a rising competition of week end paparazzi’s who would gladly take half of what they are making. If not, 1%. Because like the UGC crowd, they have other jobs and could really care less. Having a picture published will be a treat by itself.Of course, existing Pap agencies are doing all they can to avoid such a leak. They now all offer, on their site, an upload button for those amateurs seeking a representative. But that will not be enough to stop the bleeding.These Pap agencies all know that is doesn’t require any skills to take these images, as they themselves have been employing hungry beginners, fitting them with cameras, showing them where to press the button and telling them where to go. But in this game, the masses have the lead as every celebrity has a neighbor. It will not be long now before we see this market also become flooded with part time shooters looking to make a quick buck on a sunday afternoon. It will not take long now before the prices of street celeb photography will tumble to un-previously known depth.Sure, most people in the photo industry will not care. However, as walls keep crumbling down, everyone is affected. Like an earthquake, it is just not the epicenter that suffer damages.

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6 Thoughts on “Every celebrity has a neighbor

  1. The picture industries will rise from the ashes one day. The day that the amateur will have to pay to show there pictures. I like the idea of doing my own prints and selling them directly to the public on the pont des arts in paris.(MY PRINTS A READY just wating for the winter to pass and see how that goes.

  2. Martin on January 11, 2010 at 6:36 am said:

    Absolutely agree!
    Pixmac is the first of microstockers selling Celebrity stock pictures – http://www.pixmac.com/celebrity

  3. Martin,

    Sure, but those are images of Professional Photographers, aren’t they ? Images from Kathy Hutchins, A.M Parks or even Tony DiMaio among others. Do you have any amateur celebrity images ?

    Also, you only license to non commercial blogs, not to professional publishers. Not really what I was writing about.

  4. Siddartha on January 11, 2010 at 9:05 pm said:

    What makes your article scarry is the tech context. So there is software that can recognise faces. There is also software that helps remove noise and artefacts leading to publish-able photos. Earlier today I was reading about a point and shoot that can pinpoint your location even indoors[1]. With commercialy available applications that can track and index huge amounts of imagery this makes a scarry perspective. And I don’t think that the moron getting a Sunday job (in his oppinion) would have any ethical issues.


  5. Hi,

    I appreciate your message and realize you know the industry well. I would like to reply to this statement because it carries a personal / professional interest to me since I am partly a “full-time UGC photojournalist” (never wrote that before!)

    “Demotix, lately, was the talk of the town during the Iranian revolt, only to quiet down ever since to a mere murmur. Without regular income, it is also destined to fail. ”

    Demotix wrote to me in mid-November as well as many other photographers asking if we could go to Copenhagen, Denmark and cover the UN climate change conference “COP15”. Luckily, I have a friend in Copenhagen and was able to buy a cheap bus ticket to Berlin to go and stay.

    One of my “UGC” images was first published on The Telegraph as photo of the day, later in Metro UK newspaper (1.3 million readers) and also as a full page in The Guardian later on. It was a photo I captured of an Bolivian woman in traditional costume checking her email while I waiting for my press accreditation, chatting to a SUN photographer from the UK.

    For several reasons, the photo captured many peoples attention and for me it was a breakthrough in my aspiration to become a full-time photojournalist.

    The sales from the photos covered the cost of my trip and the Guardian payed 300 pounds for one photo. Recently many Demotix members in the forums asked questions about sales and according to the CEO:

    Demotix sold hundreds of photos in 2009
    Highest selling photo was over 1,000 USD
    Besides the Iran situation, Demotix also had an exclusive photo on Gates, the black Harvard professor arrested etc.

    So to answer directly, I do not think Demotix will fail and I think it is very valid in todays world. Reuters or AP would not give me the time of day, but Demotix will publish my photos and verify my information. I can talk to them via Skype, they got my accreditated to an international meeting, and they are allowing several aspiring photojournalists around the globe get newsbreaking images to the general public.

  6. Every “community” site has their bleeding evangelists. Anyone can sell a image here and there, that is not hard. What is hard is to transform it into a sustainable business. If you had any knowledge of the business, Mr Joabambou, you would know that entering the editorial photo news business right now is exactly like jumping off a high roof. The result is obvious.
    Sure UGC sites like Demotix will have some sales here and there and use those to pretend that all is great. But let’s not be fooled.
    You do what you want, work with whomever you want, say whatever you think is correct but please do not come here and preach your discovery of the photo promise land on this site. We, unlike you, are not fooled that easily.

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