ImageBrief, the company that helped photo clients crowd-source their image requests, announced it was shutting down earlier this week. Photographers who have worked with them in the past have until March 8 to remove all their images from the site. The company website has been stripped except for a log in, to allow participating photographers to remove their assets this week.
Founded in 2011, ImageBrief worked a little like Uber for commercial photo assignments: A customer would post a “brief,” describing what kind of image they needed, and photographers could submit images in response. For accepted images, photographers got 70 percent of the licensing fee, which is a bigger cut than stock agencies offer. Some photographers also liked submitting stock images that fit a specific request, rather than the even more speculative approach of uploading hundreds of generic images to a stock agency website.
The launch of ImageBrief raised an outcry among photo trade associations because it wasn’t clear whether customers were using ImageBrief to look for existing images they were unable to find—or unwilling to look for—in stock libraries, or sending photographers scrambling to produce custom images on spec. In 2015, Resource magazine reported on a request for images featuring specific products which Reebok had posted on ImageBrief’s website.
Photographers who tried to fill briefs like Reebok’s took on the risk and expense of shooting assignments, but with no guarantee of making a sale.
Rather than “turning the stock business on its head,” as the company boasted, ImageBrief often appeared to be offering commercial photography clients a way to crowd-source tailor-made images for the price they would pay for off-the-shelf stock images.
Before we gloat over the failure of a business built on the cheap commodification of imagery, we should note that ImageBrief has sprung back from challenges in the past. Over the years, the company added a “marketplace” where photographers could promote their stock images. The company also began touting royalty-free images for $49 and up.
Now the question is: Will ImageBrief’s would-be imitators view the company’s demise as an opportunity—or a warning?
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