It’s been already a year since my last presentation of the ranking of the main photo stock agencies I am collaborating with. I changed the name from “Top 8 RaduRazvanPhotography” into “Top 8 Provisualstock.com” because starting from this year, my whole commercial photography activity will be coordinated from the new site, provisualstock.com, which I will soon launching it officially.

The reason why I gave no sign of life on my blog last year is that I’ve been dealing with a lot of unforeseen aspects that can arouse in any professional photographic activity. After managing these, I have succeeded to pass to a superior level in organizing my photo-stock production activity. Maybe I will decide to write a future blog post about all of these.The results as well as many other details may be found in my next articles .

Under these circumstances, when I had a very basic activity in collaborating with agencies, the results were a little bit affected and the trend was obviously descendant. This period is biased and affected by the current implications of the rapid development of Artificial Intelligence in various fields. Like in other sectors, in photography, the urge of implementing at any risk the AI “miracles”, just to be perceived ultra-modern as fast as possible, is not perfectly accomplished. And in general, this has also a negative impact on photographers’ income.

As you may probably recall, starting with my last ranking presented a year ago, I have introduced a personal method which I’ll continue to use. All the rankings that I’ve created from the beginning of my activity do not mention the exact amount of income nor do the graphics have a certain scale. This is the way I believe is best. The earning is something extremely interpretable and depends on many factors generating it, so for its interpretation, a special article about accounting is required. I know that presenting the absolute income value is an efficient PR method in this field. However, personally, I do not like to use it.

The ranking I’m developing has 2 components:

  1. Income: the income produced by the agency. This is the main criteria in establishing the classification. The income is represented by the gross income generated by my photo & video collections. I’m combining the two because the proportion of images is still considerably higher than the one of footages and a separate ranking of their income is not yet representative.
  2. Stability: the agency’s stability represents its capacity to produce a reasonable income for a long period of time due to the lack of major changes within the strategy that can determine the decrease of income (like the change of image selection criteria; deletion of images already accepted; implementation of new and extremely low commissions; the frequency and severity of technical incidents as well as the ability to rapidly and efficiently solve them; modernization techniques etc.) and the quality of the communication  with the agency’s management. The stability is a subjective unit of measure and for its assessment, I’m relying on my substantial work experience (almost 15 years in stock photography with multiple collaborations with over 50 agencies and not to mention lots of stories and “adventures” in this magic world called stock photography ). I believe such a description is very useful for photographers who are very carefully planning their evolution looking for a sustainable collaboration with stock agencies.

Here are the agencies characterization criteria using their stability:

A. GOOD– Agencies with this rate ensure an acceptable income and a good stability. If the agency’ rules and the requirements are met you can be sure that you will get a reasonable income.
B. MODERATE– Agencies with this type of rating can ensure a reasonable income but this is not very sure. For some reasons, the income is not a constant one and it might happen anytime to get undesired results although following their specific rules. There are agencies which often change their requirements; have frequent technical defects, which affects the purchasing capacity; have commission policies regarding non-performing photographies; random changes of these policies; they introduce with a negative impact the new technological updates and new sales techniques; randomly deleting already accepted images or changing the selection criteria of images, etc. This particular category has 2 main sub-categories:
B1- Positively moderate– These are agencies which offer a reasonable income without certain stability but they show up in progress and are future potential candidates for A level.
B2- Negatively moderate– These are agencies whose income and stability are in a downfall. This rating shows that in those respective agencies something is going wrong, although in previous periods of time they improved well.
C. BAD– These agencies have a constant bad evolution; on the one hand they generate a reduced but constant income and on the other hand they have a really great instability or both income and stability are affected.

The results will be presented briefly in a table which will offer an overview of agencies’ evolution.

1. Shutterstock  (B1- decrease from A): Also, in 2018 SS has generated the highest income but its decrease has been significant and with lots of strategy changes, that are not reassuring at all. If so far, they seemed to be very well organized, planning to develop on an original path, in the last year they appear to have given up in trying to establish new sales strategies and they chose to go on a safer path, as the big corporations from this field did. The current development model is very similar to the one from its competitors. Realizing this is disappointing for me because I believe that at their level they could have continued to compete and develop in a completely original way. It is very likely that this phase is just an intermediary step in fulfilling this thing. Nevertheless, it remains the agency that can provide the best income, if you follow their strategies and rules.

2.  Istock by Getty Images  (B1- an increase from B2): Istock, as a component of the giant GettyImages, had a difficult period in the last years, caused by a series of measures through which they became unpopular for a whole global community of dedicated and performant photographers. During 2018, although extremely slow, they are in an ascendant path. Their income did not decrease but even increased lately and they are starting to implement new ways to generate efficient capital. Unfortunately, the direct communication with the people from the agency’s management is inconsistent and based just on some social media channels and forums, which from my point of view is not satisfying at all. The email communication seems to be initiated just from one side, meaning that the messages from agency reach the contributors but the ones from the contributors receive no answer. However, their trend tends to be positive.

3. Adobe Stock- Fotolia  (B1- stable): As we all know, AS appeared once Adobe took charge of Fotolia; a very good agency which was one of the most challenging agencies at the beginning. All expected that this taking over by Adobe will have magic effects on its positive return. But it was not the case. Their evolution after they were taken over by Adobe is very slow and it is very little from what it used to be Fotolia once. Their income is very small, considering our expectations regarding Adobe. Moreover, the agency is using classic corporate methods with multiple “special” collaborations following the same style as the two above mentioned agencies. They accept editorial material just though so-called “special” and questionable collaborations. Despite this, this year they had an interesting advertising for active contributors, who registered good results, a factor that could represent an interest in supporting their effort. It’s very likely that this phase is just a step in improving their process in the future. They seem to be in an active and positive change process. Also, the communication with the agency’s management members is an extremely fruitful and consistent one, which makes it very different than the first two agencies.

4. Dreamstime  (C- a decrease from B2): Unfortunately, DT is on a major descendent path and, which in comparison to the last classification, it has been even more pronounced. At this moment, they are in a position where it’s unprofitable to waste your time constantly supplying the agency. It’s a shame because they’ve created an agency with lots of positive aspects, but in this moment, they are having serious difficulties. The communication varies; sometimes it is good but sometimes it is unsatisfying. If they will not recover soon it is very likely to not appear in my next ranking of top 8 agencies I am collaborating with.

5. Eyeem  (B1-new entry): this is a new agency which looks extremely promising. Its concept differs very much from the other agencies presented in this classification. It is strongly connected to GettyImages. Practically, it’s more like an application through which the best selected images are going to be presented on GettyImages. The images which are not that perfect to be presented on Getty are sold directly via their application. However, their upload method it’s not that easy. Is more like an application formed for a community of photographers but due to their relationship with GettyImages they became practically a valuable stock-agency. Although based on Getty Images agency, the idea seems to be a new one. Maybe they are hiding the idea and attitude, which I expected from Shutterstock; the idea of generating new sales concepts in selling photography that can have concrete and real results for photographers. The communication is a positive one. If they continue to sustain their evolution I will start to present in detail their concept because it is really an interesting one. Anyway, I’m still not perfectly sure they will succeed to convince me, but they have good chances to do so.

6. Depositphotos  (A- increase from B1): in 2018 their sales were constant, in obvious progress from the last period. Their global income is still extremely low, tough. The commissions and the total number of downloads are reduced but their evolution (to be more precise, their micro-evolution) is clearly positive. Moreover, to this there is added a great and constant communication, which for me is valuable when assessing an agency performance.

7. 123RF  (C-decrease from B1): This is the second disappointing agency of this ranking. The amount and the number of commissions are extremely low. Their measures this year encouraged discounts and made it difficult to collaborate with them, lately. However, they are still on my ranking, and probably because of the above-mentioned reasons from the beginning of the article I was unable to supply as it should other agencies, which remained out of my classification, at a very small distance from the performance of 123rf.

8. Pond5  (B1- new entry):  P5 is the second agency present in my ranking for its first time. This is an agency specializing in footage sales, which accepts also images. Because I’ve started to develop my footage portfolio just in the last months of 2018, the number of videos is still insufficient to generate consistent sales, but however, it generated an income which surpassed the accomplishments of old agencies. In the future, as the footage portfolio will increase, it is very likely that P5 to reappear on a higher position in my classification. It’s a promising agency with a good price-policy; they let you choose the prices if you want. Unfortunately, they are not that performant in selling images. The communication is a good one.

If you consider my classification an interesting one, please leave in the comment field your impressions and opinions, especially regarding the stability viewed as criteria in characterizing photo stock-agencies.