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One Stop Shopping

Click to a Universe of Stock Photography

By Melissa Tetreault

Time is money, and powerful search engines enable instant access to the perfect image for your design project. Thanks to market consolidation in stock photography during the last decade, designers now enjoy the benefit of powerful, content rich sites from companies like Corbis, Getty Images, and Jupiterimages. These players have emerged as market leaders and primary providers of stock photography on the Web. What is their number one selling point? Fast access to hundreds of thousands of high-quality images.

Variety in a Reliable Market
In the 1990s, Corbis, owned by Bill Gates, became one of the top stock photography companies in the world. The Seattle, WA-based company offers both rights managed (RM) and royalty free (RF) photos. Currently, the majority of Corbis’ business is RM, but Kacy Cole, VP of market strategy at Corbis, explains that the company is "aggressively growing" its RF business. This year alone Corbis added more than 100,000 images to its collection.

According to Cole, customers are attracted to the "depth and breadth" of Corbis’ portfolio, as well as its "service, quality, and expertise." Distinctive images are what Cole argues set them apart from other stock photography services. "Our collection is one of the highest-quality collections available. Through careful and consistent editing and archiving by a team of industry experts, our portfolio upholds the high standards of value customers have come to know and expect from Corbis." Possessing such a large portfolio has allowed for Corbis to emerge as a prominent figure in historical, fine art, mobile, and celebrity/portraiture images. For example, they are the company that licensed the image of the Mona Lisa for the cover of The Da Vinci Code.

Corbis’ fee structure is straightforward. RF photo prices are based on the physical dimensions of the file whereas RM photos are based on how frequently an image may be used.

First Come, First Serve
Getty Images, also based in Seattle, WA, offers both RF and RM images to their customers. It was the first to sell imagery over the Web and the first to provide RF images. Being at the forefront of the stock photography market provides significant advantage. Deb Trevino, VP of communications for Getty, says that the company is four times larger than its closest competitor, offering more than 8.4 million images online. "Today, offers approximately 3.2 billion thumbnails, and receives 6.5 million visits, 3.5 million unique visitors, and an average of 167 million page views each month."

Getty’s newest acquisition is the RF image site, iStockPhoto. The addition is convenient according to Trevino because it gives customers more variety. Payment wise, the site is a little different than most. It is based on a credit structure—a Web-ready, small photo is one credit; print ready, medium photo is three; full page, large photo is five; full page bleed, x-large photo is ten; and double page spread, xx-large photos can either be 20 or 40 credits. Credits are one dollar each and there is a minimum purchase of ten. Buy as many credits as you need, however you save money when you buy in bulk. Credits are valid one full year from date of purchase.

More recently, Getty launched Creative Express, a RF subscription-based site. It has over 50,000 images and some of what is offered can also be found at the main Getty Images site. A response to the high demand in subscription services, Creative Express offers both one-month and one-year subscription plans in Web (1-3MB) and print (10-16MB) resolutions. Monthly subscriptions are $399 for Web and $499 for print. Annual subscriptions are $1,599 for Web and $1,999 for print.

Images À La Carte
Due to consolidation in the market, a third competitor has joined top players in the industry. Jupiterimages, based in Darien, CT, launched in 2004. According to Alan Meckler, CEO and chairman of the company, Jupiterimages is a major player in the stock photography industry. "I believe we are now the equal of both Getty Images and Corbis and our quality is right up there too."

Jupiterimages truly caters to the customer, à la carte style. The company, a division of Jupitermedia, believes in a multiple purchasing options marketing strategy. Meckler comments that in allowing the customer various options there is, "more flexibility and less risk." For example, Jupiter offers three different ways to purchase images through their main site. You can either shop for RM or RF images separately (pricing based on the photo size or how frequently the image is used) or you can shop on their subscription Web site, Jupiterimages Unlimited.

Jupiterimages Unlimited has over 400,000 RF images that come from a variety of smaller stock photography Web sites under the Jupiterimages umbrella. Sites include BananaStock, Brand X Pictures, Comstock Images, Creatas Images, Goodshoot, IT Stock Free, ThinkStock Images,,, and Three different subscription options are offered on the site—multimedia, medium, and high resolution images. With each, you have the option of either a monthly or yearly subscription. The monthly subscription prices range from $599 to $2,499 and the yearly from $2,499 to $9,999.

Jupiterimages recently acquired Workbook Stock, a RM site labeled as the, "leading source for high end, rights managed images." Meckler believes that the purchase is what will make JupiterImages a major player in the RM, high end market. However, he sees a strong push for the lower end market in the near future, stating, "Low resolution images for Web use provide a mass market opportunity. The market is really much wider for them because there are a lot of non-profit organizations out there and almost anybody is marketing themselves and in one way or another I think we will be using the images for the digital content we have." Ultimately, Meckler sees Jupiterimages opening a super-portal for lower end images hopefully in the next six months.

Would You Like Photos With That?
Adobe is offering a different spin on the accessibility of stock photos in the market. Embedded in various software suites, including Adobe Creative Suite 2, Adobe Production Studio, Adobe Photoshop CS2, Adobe Illustrator CS2, and Adobe InDesign CS2, is Adobe Stock Photos. It is truly one stop RF image shopping. James Alexander, director of Adobe Stock Photos, explains that, "Adobe Stock Photos is one of the few places where a user can search across the top collections of all the leading suppliers in one search. We have almost two dozen collections from the eight leading suppliers including Getty, Jupiter, and Corbis." An additional perk is that the most current collections from the suppliers are available to users while searching for the image, just as if they were on the actual site.

With over 850,000 images available, all customers have to do is select a picture and drop it into their workspace. Alexander believes that the whole concept of Adobe Stock Photos is a unique time saving operation from start to finish. He gives the example, "When a designer is ready to buy images after client approval, they usually go to the client’s project folder and then begin the process of trying to remember where they found all the images they now need to license. Adobe has eliminated that time consuming step by enabling our customers to license those images right within their InDesign or Illustrator layout. Just open the client approved layout, click on the images and license them from Adobe Stock Photos."

As for pricing, images found in Adobe Stock Photos are competitive with the prices that are available from the participating stock photography library providers. Many customers will be surprised to learn that Adobe does not mark up the prices of the images it sells. In fact, Alexander shares, "Our refund policy specifically allows the returning of an image that was found for less somewhere else." And, like other stock photography suppliers, Adobe also runs discount promotions from time to time.

Its All Out There
Whether you choose to search for an image in one place or jump around between the competitors listed here, one thing is certain, you will find the image that you want. Variety and abundance, the key components to any search, are crucial to how Adobe, Corbis, Getty, and Jupiter all function successfully. Now, designers have the world virtually at their fingertips, and the ability to make unique, one-of-a-kind projects thanks to the giants of stock photography.

Aug2006, Digital Output

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