What is going ? I ‘ll tell you what is going on : Recently, Time, inc, the biggest publisher of magazines in the world has made an agreement with AP, Reuters and Getty Images to license any and all non-exclusive images for a flat rate of $50.00, regardless of size or placement . Magazines like Time, or Fortune, or Sports Illustrated, that used to easily pay $200.00 for a 1/4 page will now have the same images for $50.

It is not the first deal of the sort. Recently Getty Images had a similar arrangement with Bauer publishing for a 3 months try out. Probably because of photo editors resistant clamor and the very negative reaction of other photography suppliers, it did not last.

What does all this mean ?  Well, for one, big publishers are trying to cut costs as drastically as they can. After laying of hundreds of staffers, they are now squeezing suppliers as much as they can. It is somewhat predictable considering the hit they have taken on the advertising side.  Some magazines , like Time, know it is just a question of time ( no pun..) before their paper edition vanishes. It is the same for most weekly celebrity magazines who already suffer heavily from the onslaught of free celebrity website that are much faster at breaking news.

But why would AP, Reuters and Getty would agree to such prices ? Well, for AP and Reuters, born and bred on the subscription model, who hardly pay any commissions to photographers, it is not too much of a stretch.  Furthermore, each one must have thought that the other would have taken the deal and thus be shut out. Dividing to better conquer is something that just doesn’t belong to Julius Ceasar.

Getty images in all this? Well, they have recently change their strategy completely. They are moving away from the fully wholly own content to the mega distributor. They no longer care if they pay any commissions or not and where they get their content from. They want to become indispensable so there is no way to avoid them. Be a monopoly without appearing to be. Thus, they will be willing to sell images for pennies (which they already do) as long as they are the sole distributor. In a way, they are applying the istockphoto model to editorial : “if it cost me nothing to get content, then I can sell it for nothing”

Obviously this is extremely damaging to the world of photography . It will continue to force thousands out of this business, including some very talented elements. It will further eliminate the need for good photo editor as their choice will only be a factor of price. It will devalue the role of photography altogether.

Together with the apostles of the free internet, the Creative Commons barbarians of the Free Frontier foundation, those who are accomplice to these ravaging pricing policies , sellers as well as buyers are contributing to the complete destruction of the photographic landscape. Sure, you will always find “push buttons” ready to execute for a few dollars while they search for another job, but you will no longer be able to see great passionate photography done by amazing eyes. It’s going to be the battle of the crabs, pushing and shoving each other for pieces of crumbs in an ocean of boring banality.  There will no longer be careers in photography.

For those photographers contributing with a smile to these “agencies” thinking they bet on the right horse, they will realize soon that they are no better than slime sticking to a rotten ship . Your photos will soon be free, the exact value that these companies have for your miserable little lives. If you think you are in control now, we shall talk in 5 years from now.

For the others, those who continue to stand against these increasing polluted waves, there is still hope. The hope that mediocracy will destroy itself in a vast self sucking black hole, that those nose-in-the-sky corpocrates who destroy the very own land they try to build upon for pure self interest will finally go the way of the dinosaurs, like so many before them. For those who stand for well rewarded quality work, for making and maintaining a trade made by individuals with a soul, with a passion, with a dedication for truth and respect, there is hope.

There is hope in the knowledge that soon readers will be fed up of seeing the same images everywhere, regurgitated by the same gross pipeline of photography. There is hope in knowing that soon, not every website, every magazine will want to have the same exact images that their competitors have, even though it’s cheap. There is hope in knowing that exclusive will soon regain their value and their grace, that talent attracts eyeballs and that pleased eyeballs bring money, lots of money. Finally, there is hope that by committing to these prices, these companies will fail to find anyone able to live to sustain their production.

What we are witnessing  are the first final steps of those who wanted to be giants who will  collapse on their own weight. Because, once you have reached critical mass, once you have cornered every major aspect of this market, there is only one way to go.

Share Button

20 Thoughts on “In no Time

  1. kentucky_burbon on May 13, 2010 at 11:22 am said:


  2. So that’s it? Wait till you die or till they collapse? No third solution, no alliance, no innovation? We just have to cross our fingers and see what happens?
    That’s a terrible way to see things, and worse, it’s a terrible confession about the state of imagination in this industry. Nobody wants to fight anymore, no one wants to think positively about the pragmatic ways to evolve. The analysis is correct (like usual) but conclusions are the worst ever. We don’t have to survive. We don’t because Time.inc and co are not gonna survive the way they are today. They gonna shift their operation to the digital world. If they’re smart, they’ll be around in 5, 10 or 15 years from now with a different revenue stream, a different size and probably a different audience target. They’re are on the way of evolution, that’s it. And WE have to evolve too.
    We have to change our perspectives, agencies have to try different solutions ( and no, Fine Art Print is not THE solution, is cool and everything, but it’s not the a sustainable way to make money). It takes courage and guts, it’s a matter of will. Fear now is not an option. It’s the easiest way to die quicker.

  3. @Gerald..never claimed that this blog would be a feel good, solution happy remedy. I write about what I see, hear and think. Nothing more. They are plenty of charlatans out there that will be more than happy to take your money against some cliche advice. I am just not one of them.

  4. Paul. Trying to find solutions, trying to solve problems is not the mark of naivety or charlatanism. It’s just a lack of cynicism. I don’t live in the happy country of the “Care bears” but I’m not a fan of the dead end philosophy.
    We should count our assets, see what we share (values, money, interest, technology) and propose better solutions. Not just the cheapest solution, a better solution, a different one.
    I guess we have a different approach of this question, I’m glad we can discuss about it.

  5. Sad as this is do you actually think Getty controls the pricing? You need a basic course in economics where something called Supply & Demand determines everything. There is too much supply and not enough demand. The result is prices fall until the thousands of people who think they are photographers go away and get jobs in other industries. Every time you see a bunch of young photographers hanging out in Kabul willing to work for nothing or someone living off a trust fund playing photographer remember they are responsible for the prices dropping. Not Getty, AP, Reuters or others.

  6. Kalfoto on May 15, 2010 at 8:18 am said:

    I have advised Splash, which I formerly allowed to sell my images, that all of my images have a minimum sales price, and that certain exclusive images have a higher minimum sales price – which they disregarded. I then advised Splash that they can sell my images for my minimum price, or not sell those mages – and Splash will not continue to be my sales agency. Splash disregarded that notice, too – which they received by email, by fax and by Certified Mail Return Receipt (CMRR).
    Splash has now been advised, by the same three forms of communication, that they are subject to all legal remedies available to me under Federal and NY State law – which will be enforced.
    Splash recently sold one of my exclusive images for $14.00. I would receive a little more than $7.00 – 60 % of the sale. I will not cash that check. That check will be returned to them, as were the other piddling checks.
    Instead, I now sell my own images, with far better results, not SELLING images, but licensing those images, for many hundreds of dollars, and in some cases, thousands.
    The first rule of negotiating is to ask the party that wants your image: ‘What are you offering?’ Put the onus on them.
    Then, whatever they offer, say NO.
    You also must be prepared to walk away from the deal.
    An arrogant television executive called me last year and did not ask me, but TOLD me, that ‘we’ve using your image in our production. We’ve used it before so we own it, but we’ve decided to pay you and additional $300.00 because we’re buying your image in perpetuity.’
    Meaning that they think that they already own it, but there is a little bit of doubt in their minds, so they are offering me a mere crumb.
    Considering the above three principles, you can be assured that I said “NO.”
    The exec said ‘What do you mean ‘no?’ You can’t say no, we already own it.’
    I reminded him that I have a contract signed by his boss that gave only one-time usage rights, and that I am billing them triple for their second unauthorized use, which I had not been aware of, and that if they had already planned my image for their production, they had better take it out, leaving a hole, because they do not own my image. I do.
    I finally licensed that image for several thousands of dollars for five years.
    Not forever. Only in that one production and they are allowed to repeatedly broadcast it.
    Don’t give your work away. Respect yourself, your work, and your copyright.

  7. ASuau on May 15, 2010 at 8:46 am said:

    @ellisphoto – The market may well be a factor in determining the pricing but you are absolutely WRONG in that Getty is not a part of the problem. Getty editorial is completely subsides by advertising and other sales within the larger company. Certainly an editorial photo business end can not support itself on $50 an image. In addition Getty is only using TIME as a vehicle to promote its work for secondary sales. That is all truly basic economics. So this is it – Getty photographers who except this deal are SCABs! In any other industry this would be the case. Do what you can to stop it at the source.

  8. DDeNoma on May 15, 2010 at 9:11 am said:

    Kalfoto, SPLASH is garbage, suggest ending relationship.

    Folks, I feel your pain. Editors, Publishers, clients have been sticking it to the photographer since the beginning. If you can’t accept this fact, it will eat you alive.

    Once the darkroom was eliminated in the process, digital mediocrity spread like the plague and the rules changed forever.

    Good luck, and I suggest taking up Yoga to ease the stress.

  9. Having been one of the creators of Getty editorial I can assure Tony and everyone else that Getty editorial is profitable and not paid for by advertising. The fact is stock sales are all headed to the low end and is a fast declining business while editorial is doing great. The sales are driven by sales people who try to get the best price possible as their salaries are dependent on commissions. There is no plot to lower prices, the market is forcing it. Look at Newsweek. They use to pay hundreds of dollars for images and assign dozens of photographers daily. Now they are for sale and less than half the circulation they ever were. The market is changed and people who want the old days to return should consider joining an Amish community as that’s about the only place the old days still exist. Next time you want prices to go higher buy more magazines and newspapers.

  10. Yunghi Kim on May 18, 2010 at 9:07 am said:

    I think your views are little too simplistic, to justify Getty’s predatory low pricing.
    I agree with Tony.

    1) Magazine’s are in trouble not because there are abundance of images, but that advertising has gone to the internet. Google made 33 billion in advertising last year, very little of that goes to the original content provider.

    2) There’s a perception among the general public, what is on the internet is free. So theft of original work and content are rampant. Including by legitimate media outlets. A picture gets posted on one site, it gets used by others without permission like wild fire. It used to be you ask permission before use, now use it and see if you get caught.

    3) Fee structure isnt there on the internet.
    Several things have to happen in order for this to happen, for one, big one, is the copyright laws need to catch up to the internet.

    4) It’s important that anyone who is a creator of original content, including photographers should push for better fees next few years. If someone offers you $30 a picture, say no say your minimum is this….
    Put a value to your work.

  11. ASuau on May 18, 2010 at 8:16 pm said:

    Richard, if Getty editorial is making a profit then things have changed drastically since I was there. I was repeatedly told by management that this was not the case.

    It’s impossible to not hold Getty somewhat responsible for the state of the photography market. I don’t know of many people who support your ideas that do not have some what loyal to them. You are pretty much on your there.

    All that said, if what is stated in article is true and the three big companies named have conspired to set prices and thus control or interfere with free market competition, they have violated antitrust laws. Price fixing is considered a criminal offense. We are not talking about the Amish or the old days Richard we are talking about braking the law.

    I have my doubts about the truth to this story as I think Reuters knows better. No one (but a few) would believe that Getty would not do this in a heart beat.

  12. Tony – Getty Editorial has always made a profit. What would make you think otherwise? Getty is a for profit company. Their only purpose is to make money. They are not a charity. They are in business to make money which is what photographers need to start doing.

    The only conspiracy to set prices is by the magazines. Getty, Corbis and all the others work with commissioned sales people. They live to get more and higher prices. The magazines live to get lower prices. They set the prices, not Getty. Further they have lots of lawyers who make sure they don’t get involved in price fixing. They know the laws and abide by them because they have too much to lose.

    Yunghi Kim – I made it simple cause I’m trying to get across a point. Yes there are dozens of reasons why prices have dropped. But it begins with the magazines and publisher having looked at the Internet as a curiosity from the beginning and not a profit center. They destroyed their business model. At the same time thousands of new photographers appeared where they never were. The result is the prices were forced down by the magazines and there was a ready and willing abundance of photographers there to accommodate the low prices.

    As for theft on the Internet can you name specific instances where you lost money due to misuse? How is that different than kids who use to photo-copy articles or photos for their own use? Plus there are plenty of technological tools for reducing misuse which work well. The problem is photographers don’t want to do the work to protect themselves and defend themselves when they do. To you follow the ASMP guidelines and register you photos? Do you pursue violators? Don’t expect someone else to do this for you.


  13. ASuau on May 19, 2010 at 4:52 pm said:

    “Getty Editorial has always made a profit. What would make you think otherwise?”

    Richard – Because I was told repeatedly by Getty management that editorial was a money looser and it is there only to promote the company within important publication. I am also told it is a mater of public record.

    As it turns out this story is false. Reuters did not make this deal with TIME. I have confirmed this. That said no one would put this past Getty, with a few exceptions. Richard you have too much personal interest in this and too much faith in what company lawyers are capable of. Where were Goldman Sachs lawyers before and after they got hit by the government law suit? I don’t think Getty’s lawyers are better the GS’s. They are fallible. Thinking that they are not is the same as trusting your investments to Bernie Madoff.

    By the way I do know that Yunghi does protect her images and does go after those who misuse them – maybe better then any photographer I know. She has set the standard by which we should all aspire.

  14. Yunghi Kim on May 19, 2010 at 4:59 pm said:


    You really have no idea what’s going on.

    Theft of images on the internet are rampant. You just need to talk to a freelance photographer and you will know.
    And yes I do go after them.

    YES I DO COPYRIGHT REGISTER MY WORK, and have been even before ASMP had their guidelines!

  15. Yunghi,

    Please don’t go there. I do know exactly what is going on as I have been a working photographer since 1980 and am still working as a photographer today. Great that you register you work which is something everyone should do and even better that you enforce it. But Internet theft of images is not the reason prices are low. The business model of the Internet is the problem first and foremost. It is based on free whether the images are stolen or not.

    Tony, I’d be interested to know who at Getty told you that as the fact is I was the management of editorial for a long time and know as a fact that it has always been a for profit business. If you want to look at money losing editorial operations look at the AP. The only not-for-profit in the picture business and is the one driving down prices both on picture sales and assignment rates.

    My only interest is in stopping the stupid comments attacking Getty or any of the agencies. I don’t work for Getty now, but it doesn’t stop me from speaking up and defending the facts. Just because you say it doesn’t make it true. Someone has to speak up for reality. I have worked both as a photographer and executive and have experience on both sides and the one fact I know is that photographers are great at blaming everyone but themselves. The problem is photographers, not agencies.

  16. Yunghi Kim on May 20, 2010 at 6:53 am said:

    I never said internet theft is why the prices are low. I mentioned it as a part of big problem that the fee structure is not there YET. Again simplifying to justify Getty.

    Getty is digging themselves in a hole.
    When you have headlines like “Getty sells images for flat rate of $50. ”
    They just BRANDED themselves…..GETTY = $50 SALES!

  17. Thanks or your comments guys :


    I have a degree in Economics, thanks. Furthermore, you are absolutely right in saying that Getty Images sales people get a commission. However, it has been a long time since they have dropped the per image model for the mass product subscription model. if you do sell your images via Getty, you will see, like may other Getty contributors, editorial sales at around .20 cents to companies that are considers some of the richest in the world; Those so called “preferred subscribers” that Getty keeps so secret.
    Thus sales people at Getty are making a hefty commission by signing these multi year buffet deals. Finally, if you feel that my comments are “stupid”, may I suggest you skip reading my blog from now on ? I don’t like what Fox News has to say, and you know what, I don’t watch it.

    Saying something is wrong doesn’t make it wrong. If you are going to put my information in doubt, you are going to have to do better than that.

    @ Yunghi,
    Getty has not digged themselves into a hole, quite the opposite. As Richard says, they are doing quite well. Photographers submitting to Getty are putting themselves into a hole. By accepting to have their images be treated like commodities, they are digging their own tomb. Microstock model coming to editorial ? you Betcha !! and Getty’s leading the charge with your images..


    Paul M

  18. ASuau on May 20, 2010 at 11:15 am said:

    Paul – saying something is true does not make it true. You have made an extremely bold and important statement that could effect the loves of hundreds of photographers. I and many of them would like to know your source on this. My source in Reuters is excellent and categorically denies that they have made any deal as such with TIME.inc. You need to supply some proof here not me.

  19. Yunghi Kim on May 20, 2010 at 12:41 pm said:

    Getty’s a private company, god knows what the real story is with their revenues on editorial in the current market.

    Your right photographers should stop contributing. Its’ their fault, absolutely! So then you can do the same branding, photographers who contribute to GETTY, are saying their creative vision is only worth $50.

    They are not leading the charge with MY images…Or any of the photographers who’s visions that I respect.

  20. grazia neri on May 21, 2010 at 6:23 am said:

    It was not the digital,it was not the Web: we lost the copyright and business and practice.
    Corbis and Getty did not understand that they had to get informed by existing agencies how to deal with the market.Themselves and new photographers entering the market did not see that loosing copyrights (granting too many photos for press review, not using fee against space and time and content, unableto negotiate fee in assignments, etc. made of the work of Agencies, which was fascinating, a risky business with no more passion, no more return, no more excitement. I never hear of Festival or meeting or Grants or whatever giving space to copyright issue. And we are loosing copyright day per day like we loose neurons frm our brain after our 20years.

    Very sad my dearest friends

    Grazia Neri

Post Navigation