In July 2017 many Getty and iStock photographers were advised of a new initiative – Custom Content briefs. This was positioned as a new way for photographers who currently submit to Getty and iStock to earn income.
What are Custom Content Briefs?
According to the communication from Getty “there’s a fast-growing market for brand imagery that is shot for clients on demand, but which is very different from a traditional commissioned shoot. With our vast customer base and your talent, we’re in a unique position to lead this rising market and grow revenue and royalties”.
Getty will send briefs to select contributors stating that it is for Custom Content. Again, directly from the Getty communication “the brief will explain the content need and any tips that could help”.
What are we likely to see in the Custom Content briefs? and what do I think?
The Getty brief says customers are asking for:
“Simple, easy to shoot, highly relevant topics. The content is meant to be loose and authentic, so making the images should be fast and easy.” This sounds just like the modern trend in stock photography. Less in the studio on a white background, and more with real people engaged in authentic activity. Nothing really new here.
Custom Content briefs are likely to want real people and authentic settings
“Customers come to us looking for large sets of imagery, in a variety of styles, on a specific theme or subject that fits their brand.” Ok, this is starting to sound different to the imagery Getty and iStock are known for. As a stock photographer I would typically try to shoot a wide variety of content in a single shoot. I wouldn’t necessarily be trying to shoot what this outline asks for. I can see the business need here. It’s not likely to be met by current stock libraries and represents an opportunity to get a better outcome for the customer.
“They often have very specific needs, for example that the images contain their product or are taken in specific countries or cities.” There are lots of stock briefs requesting content from specific locations, so that element is not new. But including their products is very new. Previously I would have avoided showing any branded product (so that it could be approved to be part of the main iStockphoto royalty free collection).
“They typically want the imagery cleared for commercial use (released).” This is normal practice for stock photography, and makes sense here as the customer is likely to be a business who will want to use the images in a commercial context.
“They want to license this imagery exclusively.” Again this is new ground for Getty and iStock. The model of stock photography has traditionally been low prices and images which will be bought by multiple customers. In this case they are saying that the customer will purchase exclusive rights for the images.
Custom Content briefs seem to be a form of crowd sourced contract work
So what’s the concept here?
The idea of Custom Content briefs seems to be a hybrid of crowd sourced contract work. This type of content would not have previously been met by image libraries, and a client would have had to contract a photographer to shoot this imagery. Getty’s Custom Content briefs look like they are trying to marry their relationship with a large number of clients, with their relationship with a large number of photographers for mutual benefit.
If it is successful, the client, photographer, and Getty are all likely to benefit. And equally, photographers who were previously shooting this content on contract to the client will be the losers. Their corporate client will be partnering with Getty and their photographer community, and no longer directly with the photographer.
In many ways, this concept is similar to the model operated by ImageBrief. For details, please see this earlier post on Beyond Here New Ways to Sell Your Images.
How will submissions work? and where will the images be displayed?
When responding to a brief, photographers will upload content through the Getty Images portal ESP. I see what Getty are thinking here, they will leverage their existing technology capability to open up a new market. From the photographers point of view this is straight forward as they are already familiar with ESP for their stock content uploads. They just need to add the brief code to the upload process so that Getty know it is content in response to the brief.
Where will the content be displayed? This is where things change. Instead of displaying on the Getty or iStock site for clients to purchase, these images will be “routed to the customer to review“.
If the customer buys your content – great – the photographer will earn an income. One point which Getty have not yet clarified for photographers is whether ‘unsuccessful’ content submissions can then be used in stock portfolios (if the images meet the criteria).
What’s the financial incentive for photographers?
Getty’s communication indicates “pricing will range based on the volume of images being requested by the customer – we expect to have a licence fee of between $200 and $400 per image.” And what will photographers get? “You will receive your standard royalties (in the case of iStock Exclusives this will be your iStock tiered rate).”
Those iStock exclusive tiered rates are from 25% to 45%.
If we take a rate in the middle (35%) that means iStock Exclusive contributors can expect to earn between $70 and $140 per image. (Getty have not advised the currency but we can safely assume they are talking about US dollars given they are a US based company).
Early feedback from iStock photographers says they are skeptical about the potential financial return
What is the early feedback on the concept?
Taking a small sample of iStock photographers – those contributing to the iStock / Getty community forums – the initial feedback is largely negative. Most have a view that earnings per image won’t justify the time, money and effort to invest in the shoot.
Can the concept work?
I’m a glass half full person, and I would say that yes, the concept can work. It appears to be working for ImageBrief and their clients, and it can work for Getty too.
From my perspective, making the concept work will depend on Getty making sure the right clients are using Custom Content briefs.
I would see a client wanting just one image and wanting to pay $300 will not work as the photographer will receive between $75 and $135 depending on their royalty rate. From my own point of view I expect my stronger stock files to produce more income than this and so would choose to shoot stock ahead of Custom Content briefs.
However, if a client wants 25 images at $200 each that’s a $5000 shoot for which the photographer would receive between $1250 and $2250. Depending on the quality of the brief I would consider shooting to a brief that offered this potential return. I would be even more likely to if any ‘unsuccessful’ images (ie not bought by the client) could then be used in my stock portfolio.
Getty intends the first Custom Content briefs to be issued soon. Time will tell whether the concept will work, but I have a view that it can. Do you share that view? Do you plan to shoot for Custom Content briefs?