Category Archives: Survey

Jim Pickerell, Stock Photo Guru, Analyzes Cutcaster’s Picture Buyer Survey

A few weeks back, we posted the first part of our stock picture buying survey. T

he response to the release of information on photo buying habits in the stock industry was great to hear. Many people sent us emails or posted on forums saying how much they appreciated a stock agency sharing information and shedding light on an industry that doesn’t have a lot of publicly available information. One email we got was especially helpful and raised questions we felt could be clarified so readers could do more with the results.

Jim Pickerell, stock photo analyst

"Stock Photo" Living Legend

Jim Pickerell is a stock photo “guru,” whose savvy analysis of industry data and experience in the stock photo business stand up to just about anyone’s around the globe. From the information we shared with Jim, he dug through and analyzed our survey results. Jims’ insights helped our team re-sort the way we arranged the data we had collected and better understand what the data was actually telling us.

Below are portions from an email, we received from Jim, along with additional information, we are releasing today to help others make their assessment of the numbers and data. We didn’t want to add too much opinion below but wanted to share Jim’s thoughts (with his permission of course) and add some more background on the data and panelists. This market information on picture buyers and their habits is even more useful now to those studying the size of the stock photo market and the people who work in it.

Jim Pickerell (Jim):
I presume the respondents to this survey are all from your customer base, and not necessarily a good cross section of microstock customers as a whole (I’m not sure how anyone other than iStock or Shutterstock would ever get such a cross section.)

Cutcaster Response (CC):
We wish they were all current Cutcaster customers but that is not entirely accurate. While we did send the survey to a list of our buyers at Cutcaster, the list encompasses a cross section of buyers who have signed up at Cutcaster, contacts from Adbase (Adbase is a email service provider that has lists of creatives across multiple industries in North America who use creative imagery), image users on 3rd party sites, picture buying forums and individually emailing buyers we know to ask them to participate. Their professional backgrounds covered most industries. Almost all responses came from image buyers in North American with the next largest group being South America and the UK.

It is interesting to me that such a high percentage of the respondents (25.3%) are involved in book, magazine or newspaper publishing. I would think that for the microstock industry as a whole that percentage might be somewhat less, although these people may use a large quantity of images.

We made the same assumption but your observation might be changed by our response to the answers we gave above regarding our survey pool. In addition, the percentage could change as we add people who answered the question with “Other” into industry categories that their job would place them in even if they didn’t click off that industry. Some photo researchers who would work with multiple industries might have thrown this off slightly. We didn’t poll the respondents regarding their use of royalty free vs rights managed but we assume they are using a mixture of both of just RF. Also we think some of the higher end buyers who didn’t know about microstock and the more affordable microstock imagery are starting to find these new agencies and pricing models and moving their licensing dollars to those companies.

Here is a cross section of some of the resources that users who answered that they were invovled in the used these agencies when sourcing information. You can see how much Getty and Corbis dominate and that’s to be expected. The question asked, “What are your top three resources for finding stock photos?” and each row shows one responders’ answers.

Getty Images iStockphoto Alamy Images
Getty Images Shutterstock Alamy Images
Getty Images Corbis Veer Alamy
Corbis iStockphoto Cutcaster
Getty Images Corbis Alamy Images
Getty Images Masterfile
Getty Images Corbis Alamy Images
Alamy Images Corbis Shutterstock
Getty Images Corbis Cutcaster we use many
Getty Images Corbis Google Image
Getty Images Corbis Google Image iStockphoto Alamy
Getty Images Corbis iStockphoto Alamy
Alamy Images Shutterstock Granger

It would be interesting to come up with a total number of times a year these people purchase images compared with the number of times for “graphic design firms” and “Freelancer Ad/Graphic”.

We like your thinking here and will re-sort the data into that view you asked about. Scouring over the responses, it appears the publishing industry is buying a larger amount of images at varying prices but more infrequently versus the “graphic design firms” and “Freelancer Ad/Graphic” companies who download a lot images in smaller numbers and at lower prices throughout the year.

One of the big questions is how much small graphic design firms and freelance graphic artists are driving the business. My guess is that the combined total of the 26.6% of respondents are mostly 1 to 4 person shops and that they purchase imagery a very high number of times per year. (It would be great if you have some type of breakdown of how many images these people used annually.)

From what we can see it appears you are correct. We can re-filter the data to see what we can come up with regarding smaller businesses driving the market changes.

Getting back to the publishers if there is any way to determine how much imagery they are using it would be great. Are they all using more than 50 images per year, or are they only going to microstock sites 2 or 3 times a year. If there is good reason to believe that this group of customers is representative of the industry as a whole, and that they are using a lot of images it says a lot about what the future holds for the traditional licensingmodel.

Here is a sampling of the first 15 results based on pulling some of the information out of our excel sheets. It first shows how many times a year they are buying an image and then how much on average do they spend per image. This appears to be representative of the entire panelist group who responded that they worked in publishing.

1. More than 50 times per year > $101 to $250
2. More than 50 times per year > $101 to $250
3. More than 50 times per year > $101 to $250
4. More than 50 times per year > Over $250
5. 3-10 times per year > $101 to $250
6. More than 50 times per year > $101 to $250
7. More than 10 times per year > $51 to $10
8. More than 10 times per year > $101 to $250
9. More than 50 times per year > $101 to $250
10. More than 50 times per year > $51 to $100
11. More than 50 times per year > $101 to $250
12. More than 50 times per year > Over $250
13. More than 50 times per year > $101 to $250
14. More than 50 times per year >$101 to $250
15. More than 10 times per year >$101 to $250

Another thing that is very interesting is who the 21.3% of “other” buyers are. I would have thought you would have covered virtually everyone in all your other categories of use. More of an explanation of who is in this category would be helpful.

Here is a list of just a few of the job titles that survey respondents used to describe their work. When we dug back over the results from other we realized that some of the respondents could have been grouped in some of the other industry categories and some photo researchers could be lumped into other groups. Below is a short list of some of their responses for other to give you an idea:

1. Occasional buyer small projects
2. Writer/blogger
3. Building my own, small niche web sites
4. Gift Giver
5. Broker buying and sellings businesses
6. Freelance Photo Researcher for book publishers
7. Home entertainment – make DVDs
8. Marketing firm
9. Law Firm
10. TV/broadcast
11. Corporate in-house design unit
12. Record Label
13. Interior design and graphic design
14. Self-employed
15. Wholesale Beverage Distributor

I am surprised that the “government, etc.” category only had 4% of the respondents. I would have thought this group would have been much larger.


53.3% of respondents say they typically spend more than $51 per image. This may be true of your customer base, but it is certainly not true of all microstock customers. Maybe you are only attracting the high end customers. If that is true then it is certainly something that needs to be taken into account when considering the overall survey results.

We don’t only cater to microstock customers because photographers and designers can set their prices at Cutcaster so that is why we believe you will see a broader cross section of industries and spend rates across the board.

Thank you to Jim for providing his insight and letting us respond on our blog. We hope this helps those who want to learn more about he stock photography marketplace in general.

16 Things Picture Buyers dislike about their Stock Agencies

In a continuing effort to release as much information as we can concerning picture buyers and their habits in today’s stock industry, we will look at what things image buyers disliked that their image agency did or wasn’t doing. This question was one part of a two part question relating to what picture buyers liked and didn’t like about the stock agencies they work with. Below is a collection of their responses in no order of importance but cover the range of dislikes that image buyers had.

1. Prefer stock sites that have a current selection images of people using media (my firm sells advertising in magazines, online and mobile devices.) The laptops, computer screens, and mobile devices should be current. People using the devices need to look realistic. They should look somewhat affluent or have some purchasing power.

2. Few images of “ordinary” people of many backgrounds, skin colors or multi-national origins. Few images of disabled individuals or groups doing ordinary (non-medical) activities, bland generic office pictures.

3. Keywords need to be accurately curated, correct caption information, no time to sift through keywording spam. Keyword spam makes me not want to visit a site.

4. Same images on every site and smaller agencies that are different get subsumed by the larger ones

5. Dropping or losing photographer/images and then being unable to re-license them for p/up imagery

6. Caps to RF imagery or microstock imagery

7. Everyone uses the same great images. Should be a system for professional level and entry level buyers so everyone isn’t using the same images/vector files…

8. It’s difficult to find great deals or new imagery since they are all concentrated under Getty and Corbis again…There is very little good, new material.

9. Discontinuing of RF CDs

10. Photos that SCREAM “I’m a stock photo.” More quality stock illustration at lower costs – less computer generated in feel.

11. It’s not very fun and takes a ling time to search for images.

12. Credits packages that do not expire.

13. Sites that don’t allow for repeat download of photos purchased.

14. Overly complex search engines

15. The search engines for iStock and Corbis aren’t very intuitive, or aren’t as intuitive as they could be. Getty has better search filters. The quality of the photos are sometimes hit and miss. I understand that to be acceptable for lower priced images like iStock but some of the other larger ones still have that same issue.

16. I think just having better search and/or search and filtering methods, would save us tremendous amounts of time and get better results. Perhaps better tagging, or more accurate tagging of the images. Many times I will get provocative images when I’m not searching for them.

What do you dislike about the stock agency you choose to work with? Is there anything you hate which they do? What would you change?

Top 10 things Image Buyers Like about their Agency – Understanding Image Buyers in the Stock Industry

Beautiful Portrait Of a Afro American Woman

Are you happy with your image agency?

What features or services do image buyers like and want from photographers or stock agencies? What gets them coming back to your portfolio or the agency that reps your images?

Today, Cutcaster is releasing the comments that some images buyers told us during last year’s survey. We took 10 of the most popular comments and arranged them below in a random order to show you what features or services they like an agency to offer. The question was actually a two-part question and was “What do you like most/least about the stock photo sites that you work with?” Later this week, we will share the things they didn’t like about their current stock image agency. The survey was completed by 344 image users who had used Cutcaster or were working on the stock image business and were mostly from the US or Canada.

Top 10 things image buyers said they liked which their stock agency provided.

1. Current and wide selection of images from international sources at reasonable prices.

2. Special picture collection pricing for royalty free or rights managed photos.

3. Stock agency websites that can show an entire photo purchase history with a simple click to avoid duplicate image purchases.

4. With current rates that image researchers get, we need to work FAST. The most important features for a stock site are direct downloading and embedded metadata. If you do not offer these two things, you are a 2nd tier vendor.

5. Picture pop-up windows to review images instead of having to use “back” button.

6. Advanced features like search filters when we need to give restrictions.

7. Love seeing Creative Inspiration.

8. Great sales help when a user encounters a problem. (From Cutcaster: Most image buyers didn’t say they needed a specific sales representative to help them use an agency)

9. High resolution comp images with metadata embedded.

10. Agencies with multicultural, disabilities, youth, and well executed food shots most cited image needs.

Overall, most image buyers stressed that they needed the highest quality images, fast / accurate search results and lower pricing which is understandable in the current economic environment.

If you are an image buyer, what features would you like to see a stock agency adopt to make your life easier?

Picture Buyer Stats Released – Market Information for Online Image Users

When we decided to re-design and re-write the code for the new Cutcaster site last year, we knew we needed first to get a better idea of who was using Cutcaster, what was their process for using royalty free image libraries and how we could better serve them once we released the new site. Listening to what they told us led how we built Cutcaster and was a valuable undertaking not only for us but we felt that it would be really helpful for our Cutcaster members and the industry in general. Over the past year, we surveyed some of the largest and smallest image buyers using Cutcaster or in the stock photo and clipart industry to learn more about their image buying habits, demographics and photo needs in general. In an effort to provide our users and readers with details that can help educate and improve their sales, we are releasing what we have learned from the buyer surveys to the community at large.

Over the next two weeks, Cutcaster will be releasing a large amount of data from our picture buyer survey to help those interested in the stock photography market or using Cutcaster. If you use this information please link back to Cutcaster ( or this blog post). The survey was completed by 344 image users mostly in the US and Canada who use royalty free or rights managed images. The following results were collected from their responses. Note: Click on the thumbnail images to see the survey results in a larger window.

Chart for What category best describes the type of company or organization for which you work

What category best describes the type of company or organization for which you work

The above shows what type of individuals, companies or industries are buying images at Cutcaster.

Image buyers role at company

When purchasing digital images and illustrations, which of the following activities do you perform?

The above chart shows what role the image buyer plays in their organization’s decision making process for searching, obtaining pricing, purchasing and approval process for using Cutcaster. It will give you an idea for what type of decision makers are coming to Cutcaster to find images and download them on behalf of themselves or their firm.

How many people work at your company?

How many people work at your company?

The above chart shows the average size of the firm that a buyer works for.

How frequently do you purchase stock photography in a typical year?

How frequently do you purchase stock photography in a typical year?

How frequently are image researchers or buyers downloading royalty free images or clipart per year. We can see that a very large percentage of responders said they license more than 50 images a year.

Image buyers annual budget

Image buyers annual budget

Check out how much a typical picture buyer spends on a single image or clipart download from a stock agency. The above chart shows image buyers spend per single image. Remember that this includes both royalty free and rights managed licensing (as well as free).

Next week, Cutcaster will release more information regarding what decisions go into choosing an agency / image library, what picture buyers like most and least about their stock agencies they work with currently and what things image buyers want to see an agency do but aren’t at the moment.

Cutcaster October Review and Highlights

Fall is here, and Cutcaster is in full swing. We now have a carefully-reviewed and edited down collection of over 525,000 photos and illustrations from emerging artists worldwide like yourself, and we are constantly working to get this collection in front of image buyers. We released a new version of our search engine making it easier and faster to find and purchase photos.  We are also knee-deep in redesigning our next version of the website and overhauling our back-end.  Traffic to the site and sales are up, but we know the main reason you joined Cutcaster was to get a trusted partner to help make you money. Please know that we are working tirelessly on this, and appreciate your support as we grow.

Here’s quick round-up:

Create a funny photo caption and win $50, $20 or $10 in Cutcaster credits if your photo caption is one of our favorites. We launched a new weekly contest in which you submit funny tag-lines for photos we post and each week we pick three winners. See the photo this week and make us laugh!

We are pleased to announce the launch of Stock Photo License, a new educational resource dedicated to helping image users and buyers avoid legal pitfalls and better understand copyright law. We are actively seeking partners and individuals who would like to contribute to the site. Check out the site here or read more about Stock Photo License on our blog.

Have you added a link to your Cutcaster portfolio, or to individual images or lightboxes at Cutcaster?  Please do so if you have not. Links, “Likes” and “Re-Tweets” improve our visibility in search engines and social networks.  In other words, they make a BIG difference in driving buyers to your work and compliment all the work we are doing in the background, so please link and like as much as possible!

Want a chance to win the latest iPad or $500 in Cutcaster credits? (That buys you as many as 500 images on Cutcaster.)  Take two minutes to complete our Photo buyer survey and we will enter you in our drawing for prizes at the end of the month. Check out the details on our Design and Photography blog or go directly to the survey by clicking here. If you are a seller, we want to improve and provide the best service to you as is humanly possibly but we need your help. Please lend us two minutes of your to complete our anonymous Photo Contributor Survey.

Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace for inspiration and links to top-notch resources. We have dug through countless websites and blogs to find the best of the best, and we want to share it with you.  Give us support and important feedback by hitting “Like” on our Facebook posts or retweet posts that you like by us. If you follow us on Twitter so we can follow you back.

Photo Buyer Survey – Chance to win an iPad or $500 in Cutcaster Credits!

We want to hear about your experiences in the photography industry and with Cutcaster. Your honest feedback ensures that we provide the best possible service each time you visit our site.  Please click the link below to answer a few short questions.

The survey takes only a few minutes and at the end you may fill in your email and contact information if you wish to enter the drawing for the latest iPad or $500 in site credits. The grand prize winners will receive email notification at the end of October. Click here for guidelines and further information.  Feel free to forward the survey to anyone who might be interested.

Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences!


The Cutcaster Team