Getty, Yahoo, Flickr & Picscout

The title Might Picscout Ultimately Cause Yahoo to Acquire Getty? is probably enough to put most people off readingĀ  Dan Heller‘s latest post on his Photography Business blog, but if you want to see what the future so far as buying and selling photography on the web is likely to be I’d suggest you struggle through it. What follows come from my own attempt to understand what he is suggesting – and doubtless to put my own spin on it. It also helps to read some of Heller’s other pieces he links to, and in particular his comments aboutĀ  Picscout’s Index Registry Connection (IRC.)

I’m not sure that there is a lot of good news for those of us who try and make a living – or a part of one – selling stock images. Heller sees a future in which image use will be integrated into applications such as DTP software so that when someone putting a page together wants an image to use, the software will find suitable images on the web using image recognition technology, identify the ownership of the image and licensing fee (if any) required and carry out the appropriate payment transaction.

Of course all the companies involved in this process are going to want their cut – the software provider, the search company and the company providing the licensing data etc – as well as the site hosting the images, whether it is an on-line agency or a social networking site.

So, as others have also pointed out, with so many taking their cut, there is going to be less for the actual creator. Heller does however suggest there will be a silver lining in that the actual volume of sales should increase greatly, so in total we may do better.

Agencies he suggests will also change; they will need to work at getting good rankings in search engines (at present some are virtually invisible) and Heller also suggest they will need to give up their current policy of acting as editors and instead aim for volume content – the more the merrier, never mind the quality.

I’m not sure that this is the case. Some agencies at least have a reputation for quality that enables them to charge premium fees. Years ago I remember being rather shocked to find that some photographers working on the same project as me were getting paid exactly twice the rate I was, not because their pictures were better but because they were Magnum. There were two prices for the same job.

Whatever new system emerges I’m sure that such differences in licence fees will continue, and that quality control will be essential in maintaining them. When the putative buyer is presented with a page or two of thumbnails of similar images, it will perhaps be even more important that your image stands out to attract sales.

Virtually every photographer will be familiar with the experience of opening a paper or magazine and thinking “why on earth did they use that picture?” when you know you had a much better image. With a much more comprehensive search based on image-recognition, your picture might have a chance too.

As to Getty, Yahoo and Flickr I think perhaps the writing is on the wall for Getty. I certainly wouldn’t mourn its passing.

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