Dreamstime: The Anatomy of a Stock Photo Agency Gone Mad

Several months ago I saw two industry graphs put out by a government agency.  One showed the increase in the demand for images since 2008.  It was going almost straight up.  Year after year.  The other represented jobs in the industry and the earnings of those who create images.  It was going straight down at the same rate.

It occurred to me someone had to be working quite hard to strip photographers of their ability to earn a living for these two conditions to exist side by side.

It’s quite obvious the demand for images is soaring.  Anywhere you look, someone is promoting their product, service or cause.  And the hook to get you interested in it is always an image.  Yet as the demand increases, photographers are working harder, investing more and more into their businesses and earning less month after month.

Why is this happening?  Well, you don’t have to look any farther than the deal Dreamstime cooked up with Google to find out.  In an announcement to their contributors – that apparently contributors were suppose to be thrilled about – Dreamstime hammered out a deal where Google would pay a licensing fee of $2.00 per image and then people using Google display ads could use those images.

The first problem here is $2.00 per image license?  Really?  That won’t even buy a loaf of bread, let alone cover the cost or producing a professional quality photo.  The second is once Google has licensed the image for $2.00, each person running a Google ad gets to use the image without the creator of the image getting paid a royalty.   So the deal also cuts the creator of the image out of future license fees for a lousy couple of bucks.

The insanity here is mind boggling.  And I honestly have to ask myself if they are stupid, insane… or just plain evil.  The action doesn’t just hurt contributors… it hurts every photographer in the business by lowering the overall value of our work in the eyes of the public (a little like pouring toxic chemicals into a pristine river.  It eventually contaminates the river and the ocean it dumps into)… and it hurts Dreamstime.  It also hurts those who need quality photography for their advertising as the quality of images drops in direct ratio to the diminishing return on investment.

By hammering out a deal to license stock photos once and allow the company that licenses them to re-license use of the images (whether charging or including them in the price of the ad) to anyone running a display ad with no further payment to Dreamstime or the creator of the image is cheating both out of untold license fees they could have and should have earned.  The people who will no longer be paying to license these images are the exact client demographic stock photo agencies license work to.  It also cheats ALL stock photo agencies, and ALL photographers out of income because few of Googles advertisers are likely to pay for an image via any source when Google is providing it free… compliments of the photographers that got suckered.

Why do I think it was just plain evil?  Consider this.  What person who can afford to run a display ad can’t afford $2.00 to license an image to use in it?  I mean really???!!!  There was no good reason to hammer out the deal in the first place.  It benefits no one and does great harm to the industry.

I suppose it is unfair to pick on Dreamstime.  They aren’t the only ones in the industry who have gone mad.  In fact the entire industry has become quite cannibalistic.  There was the under the table Google Drive deal between Getty Images (or was it iStock, same thing now days) to provide images to Google under similar terms, also cheating photographers out of any commission they should have earned from the image on subsequent uses.  But in this deal, photographers got the grand sum of $12.00 per image.  Dreamstime has taken it to a new low.

We need look no farther than what Dreamtime employee Malina Tudoroiu told Peta Pixel in regards to the deal to understand just why it is that when the demand for images is out the roof, photographers are going out of business.  She said:  “There’s nothing unusual in this deal, except of course for the famous name…”

So this is business as usual at today’s stock photo agencies.  Hammer out “great” deals that cheat everyone concerned out of their royalties and devalue the industry as a whole.  And it is this type of insane, short term gain with long term destruction, type of business logic that is dragging the entire industry into the mud.

 

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