Mar 04, 2016

“Competition on Stock Agencies”
- Kirill Kedrinski , Business

More and more is talked about the fierce competition on stock photo sites.

Yes, indeed, a lot of photographers and studios now seek to enter and develop on this market. It does have quite a lot of advantages. This includes lack of pressure from the client, geographic freedom and much more. There are about 30 thousand contributors now, who upload 150 - 200 thousand photos weekly. And even more! Sometimes numbers reach half a million images a week.

However, let's dig a little deeper.

It's clear that not all of these 40 000 suppliers are at the same quality level of photography. Also, buyers of stock photos have different minimum limits for image quality. For example, various news resources are not so critical about the quality of purchased content: firstly, they require a small resolution for preview images and news illustrations; and secondly, news is an extremely fast flow of information, thus, there is no time to carefully select the pictures. And it's not really worth it, due to the fact that news loses its topicality quickly. They use a subscription system and just download the first thing that attracts their attention. A different story are advertisers with a delicate taste. They take long to pick out the necessary pictures, and for this purpose they have piece-by-piece sales, including ones with extended licenses. Using the subscription, they can buy a lot of different content for trying it out, showing the client, etc. And after, using their extended license, they would buy that single picture, which was approved by the team and the client. Of course, these buyers are more demanding to quality. After all, they pay more, and the photo is used to promote someone's business, which in itself is a big responsibility.


Each quality level may be accordingly assigned to a group of clients. Moreover, if demanding clients will take only the top content with a rare exception, or without it, the less demanding will take everything.


I suggest dividing all the 40 thousand sellers into three levels - low quality, medium and high.

Bottom group​

Naturally, happens to be the most populous. What occurs here is that most “citizens” of this group seek to only copy other people's work, and do not have ideas of their own. Or they just produce not cool material. There are stupid emotions here, models with dirty hair on not-white-enough background, youngsters as business ladies, bad color correction and retouching. These people don't plan, don't make up stories. They shoot just like that and hope for sales to grow.

Middle group

The middle group is much less populated. It is home to very worthy authors. They reproduce hit images and make good concepts of their own. This is good, because updating the existing material is as necessary, as doing something new. But you can find more on this in another article. There is a lot of different content in this group, there are plenty of challenging shots. Lighting is much better, models are more suitable for subjects of shootings. There may be problems with the style, as models usually come in their own clothes. The same applies to props. Cool locations are rarely available, and so on. Usually this has to do with budgets. They are not so high in this group. Thus, equipment is pretty average. You would rarely find anything more sophisticated than the Nikon D700 or D800 in this group.

Top group

And the third group could be called mountaineers, in every sense of the word. They are few in number, and they live high above all. They give the market the best ideas, performed outstandingly. And I mean outstanding in every way. Models are not just people from the street. Of course, many work with ordinary people - not professionals. However, top authors are very scrupulous when it comes to choosing. They choose among charismatic people with bright personalities. Not rarely they happen to work with professional actors. Specifically actors and not models. Clothing and props in such production studios (yes, these are teams in 100% of cases and not single photographers) are purchased or obtained from partners in advance specially for a particular shooting. Plus they always have their own basic wardrobe. These teams have access to more interesting and stylish locations. Due to high budgets, great expertise and technical capabilities, authors of the top teams can have significantly more challenging shootings. As for equipment, it's not rare to find a medium format, the best lenses, great studios with excellent lighting equipment and so on. 

Now, talking about competition. In the group with a lot of authors with low level works and the least amount of buyers, as buyers from top groups are very rare guests here, of course, the competition is huge. You have to be realistic about it – it's impossible to sell crappy work to those who hunt for top content. So, don't even expect this pie. Why would they buy clothes in the supermarket, if they can buy in trendy boutiques for the same price? Well, you understand what I'm talking about, don't you?

In the middle group the situation is much more fun - there are more buyers, as there are those who are satisfied with the local level of works, very decent by the way, but also buyers from the "bottom" come here, so to speak. Sometimes “top-lovers” visit the middle group as well. But the number of authors in this group is less. Consequently, the competition here is much lower.

Well, what about the top? 99.99% of buyers hang out here and there is a very small number of authors – only around 20-30 authors. Depending on whom you rank for this group. Of course, you should worry much less about competition here, than on how to keep yourself in shape and not fall off Mount Olympus.


This classification is not perfect and there are different diffusions between groups, and also there is a dependence on the number of works and other things. However, this model captures the idea well. And the idea is that you should not be afraid of competition. It's worth getting rid of it.


How can you do that? The answer is obvious - you need to move to a higher group. Where competition is less. If you're lucky to get to the top, then the concern about competition will be trampled by the care of keeping yourself in a good shape, but I'm sure this concern is much more pleasant.

Therefore, you should not focus your attention on the endless negative articles and tearful complaints on forums about it. I believe that people who write these articles and complaints are those, who simply don't have the strength to get out of the area, where competition is really higher. However, it is worth remembering that everyone will never be able to be in the top at once, there are places there, but they are just super hard to get. But there are places. Just as a blade of grass can find cracks in concrete and asphalt, grow and destroy it, so you can break through the veil of competition on stock sites and grow out of it.

That's all you need to keep in mind about competition on stock sites.