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.


Getty Images: The Cheap New Whore on the Stock Photography Block

I have tried to remain silent about the stunt Getty Images recently pulled, but I have noticed a consequence to those who use Getty’s cheap new wares that is probably not what they intended.  Each time I visit a website now and see “by Getty Images” emblazoned across the image or in the required tag line, I think: “Wow, you guys are really cheap!  I don’t think I want to deal with you.”  I mean the images are often great, sometimes works of art, but the Getty “brand” now spoils the whole show.

Perhaps the Getty Image brand used to mean something… though this has become debatable after she wound up in court a few too many times for little things like stealing images off of social media and then selling them as if she had the legal right to do so… but now her new “branding” has established her as the kind of girl you don’t want to introduce to mom.

On several occasions, Getty has had the muscle and opportunity to set things right in the ailing stock photo industry.  Instead, she chose to put on her shortest mini skirt, the spiked red heels, and torn fish net nylons.  Then she smeared the bright red lipstick into the equally bright rouge on her cheeks, dripped on the mascara until it ran down her face and hung tawdry cheap jewelry from every appendage on her body and marched right down to the red light district in the worst section of stock photo town (microstock) where she loudly announced herself as the cheapest new hooker on the block.

I mean, the other girls on the block are cheap… but at least they ask to be paid.  All Getty requires is that you tell the whole world you hopped into the sack with her.

That of course is a mistake.  She may look pretty… to some… and after a a few too many shots of tequila you may even want to take her home.  But no matter how much you may have cleaned her up before taking her and showing her to all your friends, associates and clients at the corporate dinner party, the morning after will be filled with regret.

It may be that she really is a good girl, and has her pimp, the Carlyle Group, to blame for her self degrading new actions, but it doesn’t change what your friends will think when they see you with her.   She’s the new girl in the stock photo industry.  The hooker who thinks so little of herself that she will sleep with anyone for free… and everyone knows it when you do!

The tragedy isn’t what Getty has done to herself.  She chose to tell the world she is worthless.  It’s that in making herself over as a cheap whore and marching to the front of the line, she said that the work of all the artists who have contributed to her, and all of the “buyers” who use her are equally worthless.

None of the artists were given a choice.  They can only walk away and build their stock photo libraries elsewhere (and many have).  But the image buyers do have a choice.  Have you saved anything by telling the world you are hanging out with the cheapest whore in the business?   It’s something you need to consider.  It is your image, after all, that drives your business.  Can you afford to be associated with someone that cheap???


iStock angers photographers… AGAIN

While it hides behind the “credibility” of being part of Getty Images, iStock manages to raise the ire of photographers (and clients) more than any other stock photo agency in the business and their abuses of both are frequently in the news.

I’ve been seeing the latest pop up in the forums and now it has made headlines in PetaPixel  about how 9000 contributors have been informed they were “overpaid” and have to pay iStock back!  What PetaPixel missed in their article is how frequently this occurs over at iStock.  I have seen numerous threads over the years on the forums about iStock chargebacks to contributors due to “miscalculation” or supposed credit card fraud…

In this last instance, iStock should have sucked it up and eaten the loss… if there really was one at all.  Instead they pushed the liability for their incompetence down to their contributors one to many times and now have a PR nightmare on their hands.

It doesn’t matter how you look at it.  The best thing that can be said here is that iStock is incapable of accurate bookkeeping… which of course also says that most likely there are a similar amount of “mistakes” being made in calculating just how much a contributor is earning in the contributors favor as well.  This is if 9000 photographers were overpaid, how many were underpaid?

iStock started the race to the bottom with their images for pennies business model that pulled the rug out from the stock photo industry.  Apparently they didn’t just choke photographers when they built the express elevator to the bottom… they also choked themselves and are constantly on the lookout for more ways to gouge photographers.

While the overall abuse is typical in large sectors of the stock photo industry, iStock leads the pack for abuses.  It is seriously time for photographers to back up and take a look at things.  What do any of these agencies have of value?  YOUR images.  Why enable them to abuse you?  Delete your account and move your images to Photoshelter where you can charge a fair price and keep the majority of the earnings!

The Sun Sets on the Gates Rubber Plant

A couple months back I decided I had better get some shots of the old abandoned Gate Rubber Plant before it was torn down.  I knew nothing of any plan to do so, but then noticed about 2 weeks ago that demolition had begun.

I have always had a fascination with the old factory, from back in the days when it was still manned and producing.  For some reason that fascination grew when the plant was deserted and I have spent many hours photographing the historic old building in different light and exploring new angles.  I have a post from the shoot I did just before demolition and have loved the photos that resulted.

Somehow, I found photographing the demolition the most fascinating of all.  The light coming from the setting sun on the now exposed interior view of the western drew me right in to the color and light it cast onto the otherwise shadowed concrete floors and supports.  Shooting multiple exposures of each view, I noticed the “dance” of the many backhoes scooping away the debris.  They began to remind me of the plumes of water shooting into the air and sweeping in graceful patterns in the fountain at the Bellagio Hotel in Vegas.

I guess it just goes to show there is beauty in all things.  You just have to be willing to experience it.  More from this collection can be seen on my stock photo site Private Collection Stock Photos in the Beauty of Industry gallery and the Metamorphosis of Denver galleries.  I am also still adding to these collections.


Beauty of the sun setting on the Gates Rubber Plant Demolition – copyright Mark Stout, no free use allowed.

End of an Era

At several points over the years I have found myself out with the tripod taking pictures of the old abandoned Gates Rubber Plant on South Broadway.  A few months ago, I decided I had better get my fill of pictures of the old factory as it might not be there long.  It proves I was right.  I noticed the other day that demolition has started.  I have to say it makes me sad.  There is so much character and history in that old building in ruins (not to mention the jobs that were lost when they closed it down!).

You can see more photos of it on my stock photo site.

Gate Rubber Plant

The old abandoned Gates Rubber Factory before demolition started – copyright Mark Stout, no free use allowed.

The magic of night, men’s fashion

The photos posted here are the shots we took after the shot list had been completed.  I spoke with the model and the powers that be and suggested we try just a couple more concepts.  These ended up being some of the best images from the shoot.  Sometimes you have to throw the plan away and bring out the magic in what you see surrounding you.

See the images in my men’s fashion gallery.  They are also available for licensing on my stock photo site by clicking on the images.

Sexy male musician

Sexy Jazz Musician at Night stock photo – copyright Mark Stout, no free use allowed

Sexy male musician

A sexy street musician at night – copyright Mark Stout – no free use allowed

Denver’s Union Station

The images below are part of a project I am currently working on.  I must say I had a good chuckle while shooting them.  As I was standing there with about $10,000 in gear including a long telephoto lens, a teenager came up and surveyed the scene and said, “Wow, what a great shot!”  He then promptly pulled out his iPhone and took one for himself.

Hot shots and their iPhones calling themselves photographers used to get my dander up.  It’s offensive to see the work degraded to such a degree.  But this time it just didn’t bother me.  No matter how “cool” it is, the iPhone will never be able to deliver the kind of image that results from having the right gear and the experience to know how to use it.  There is no “threat.”

These images are part of a new collection I have up on my stock photo site entitled The Metamorphosis of Denver.  I will have an announcement on this coming soon.

Denver Union Station

Denver’s historic Union Station with the new multi-model transportation hub in the foreground – copyright Mark Stout

Union Station Denver

Denver’s historic Union Station with the new multi-model transportation hub in the foreground – copyright Mark Stout

Please !