Lots of people have asked what to do in a down economy ? Some answer with what not to do, like slashing prices, but no one really offers a solution. Yet, answers are everywhere. I know of at least 2 photographers that had a hard time selling their images who created a  multi-million market for themselves and many others.

Bruce Livingston, recently retired from Getty images started Istockphoto by putting some of his images on it and trading them with others. Surprised by its popularity, he decided to charge, not really to make money, but to pay for his hosting bills. He thus invented microstock.  Another ” failed” photographer, Jon Oringer, started Shutterstock with 30,000 of his own images, mostly because he couldn’t get accepted in a traditional stock agency. Both are doing quite well as per the graph below.


Unlike many others, they didn’t rely on traditional outlets to license theirs and others images. Instead they reinvented themselves, and the market.

Others are following the same path. Celebrity photo agency Splashnews, for example, also seeing a slump in image sales, has decided to venture in other markets. They are currently at MIP TV in Cannes selling a full blown TV show based on their production. Not a bad idea at all.

splash tv


Instead of scratching their heads or worse, dropping their arm to the ground in complete despair, these guys have taken matters in their own hands and have create a new offering that taps in their core business. This should be a good pointer to those who have not yet understood that survival resides in inventiveness and creative solution.

The pattern here is that all of these entrepreneurs have or are going directly to the consumers, a market always avoided by the photo industry. Even Getty Images, with its Jamd.com, has reach half a million visitors and is probably starting to  see substantial revenues. If publications are not doing well, it does not mean the public does not want to see your images.

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