Stock Photography Trends For 2012

Guest post by Serban Enache, CEO, Dreamstime

The microstock industry has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. In terms of technology, host sites, available images and prices, there are more options in today’s marketplace than ever before. With the arrival of 2012 we wanted to take a minute to share just a few of the trends we expect to see in this exciting and dynamic space during the coming year.

A little healthy competition:

  • As more players continue to enter the microstock space and jostle for market share, the demand for lower prices will be strongly felt. This, combined with the need for sites to differentiate themselves, and other factors brought on by increased competition, will put pressure on the marketplace.
  • Microstock’s exploding success brings with it high expectations. One of the many future challenges will be to keep up with ever-growing expectations, especially as content gets better and contributor competition becomes fiercer.

What contributors should know:

  • The increased competition in the marketplace is not exclusive to sites vying for market share – it also applies to the contributors populating those sites. With more high-quality options available, contributors hoping to make the cut (and make some money) must focus on delivering high-quality content.
  • Sites will be looking for more specialized content from a subject perspective, rather than just general photos. With the explosion of contributions, sites will also be seeking more diverse and differentiated content.
  • The photo submission process doesn’t end when the post-processed photo is saved – this is only the beginning. In the coming year, contributors must pay extra close attention to submission guidelines. Those that are most successful with their submissions will be engaging with the sites on a daily basis and will have a true understanding of the types of images that are being accepted. Poor “keywording” and submissions unrelated to the agency’s characteristics can negatively affect one’s sales by as much as 30 percent.
  • Despite the increased competition mentioned above, opportunities do still exist for individuals in this market. If contributors pay attention to the above-mentioned points, they can achieve success.

The question of price

  • Microstock pricing currently falls all over the spectrum, ranging from free, to $20 an image and up. There are various licenses that can increase the average revenue per download, and we expect to see more of these in the coming year.
  • In 2012 industry success will remain directly linked to volume. Microstock sites will be focused on generating more monthly revenue through higher sales of lower priced images versus selling fewer higher priced images.


0 thoughts on “Stock Photography Trends For 2012

  1. Sean

    Yes Serban, Thank you. The higher the quality you expect the lower the price you pay. It just makes sense. It’s a little known fact that the less you pay for a product the better that product is. Just look at anything made in Taiwan. And photographers love investing in high end gear in order to make pennies for their work.

    Maybe it’s time Dreamstime became one of those “you remember when those guys used to be in business?” type of companies.

    Designers know very well what it feels like to be under valued and most don’t mind paying a fair price for quality. Perhaps instead of trying to out cheap the competition you should make a reputation for treating contributors fairly and offering high quality for a fair price.

  2. Serban Enache


    You should check your facts before posting. Dreamstime is known as one of the best paying agencies in stock photography, with royalties between 25-55% for non exclusives and 60% for exclusive photographers.
    It’s highly regarded as the one treating contributors most fairly as third party sources show (PDN, independent forums or review sites such as

    The prices do reflect quality, popular/older files selling several times higher than newcomers. Buyers can grab a great image for $1 if they are careful enough but could also pay $19 for regular RF, or $25-50 for Extended Licenses. Exclusive usage sells between $250-$5000 with a record of $5100 for a single file:

    Nevertheless, the content influx, market demand and economical conditions put pressure on prices. We try to fill the whole range from entirely free to expensive, in order to give all designers an option. If you are coming from the old days when an image was selling for $300 no matter what, you are true, those days are over and will never return.