London-based stock photo distributor Image Source has announced that it will pay a higher royalty rate–60 percent, compared to its usual 40 or 50 percent–for all images it accepts from its US contributors from now through December 31, 2013.
Could the pendulum in the moribund business of stock photography be swinging back, more than a decade after stock distributors began cutting royalty rates? One promotion doesn’t make a trend, but the Image Source promotion got our attention because stock prices and royalty rates have fallen so far, that few photographers are producing rights managed stock anymore. There’s simply not enough money in it.
So why is one agency raising royalties? Image Source CEO Christina Vaughan says, “We are on a mission and that is to get all professional photographers excited about stock again when all we ever hear is about microstock, agencies cutting their margins and general doom and gloom.”
The company’s recent acquisition of Cultura, a Euro-centric stock photo agency also based in London, provided Vaughan with the impetus to encourage rights managed stock production in the US. “I thought it would be a great opportunity for us to reinvest in the premium space and demonstrate to great photographers that great photography still has a place.”
Vaughan says Image Source is trying to encourage production in the US market in particular because the agency needs to update its rights managed images for that market. The timing is also right, because now that the US presidential election is over, Vaughan says, “we are anticipating growth and renewal in the US and we want to ensure our collection continues to be on the pulse, creatively and commercially.”
US contributors will be paid 60 percent royalties for the lifetime of all images accepted from December 1, 2012 until December 31, 2013. Images produced prior to December 1 paid royalties ranging up to 50 percent. The agency will revert to those lower rates starting in 2014.
The question now is whether other distributors will make similar offers to refresh their own rights-managed collections–and keep their best contributors from defecting to Image Source.