Tag Archives: photo buying data

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.