Just last week, CNET blogger Stephen Shankland, shared his thoughts that recent changes affecting the professional photography market have a "silver lining that shouldn't be overlooked." While his optimism is a nice respite amid increasingly weary economic times, six professional photographers' trade associations are now speaking out against a new pricing scheme by stock photo giant Getty Images that offers its high-end Rights-managed and Rights-ready images, alongside its lower-priced Rights-free images, for the same low price of $49 when used on the Web. For all but the Rights-free images, this represents a price reduction of more than 90 percent for images that used to fetch anywhere from $550 to $1,460 for their use.
In a press release issued yesterday, the Stock Artists Alliance (SAA), along with the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), the U.K. Association of Photographers (AOP), Advertising Photographers of America (APA), Editorial Photographers (EP), and the Canadian Association of Photographers (CAPIC), expressed their worries that Getty Images' "extreme competitive response presents huge risks to the image licensing business, and threatens the livelihoods not only of Getty contributers, but of professional photographers industry-wide." What makes matters worse is that in many cases, the photos Getty offers are owned by the photographers who shot them. The SSA statement goes on to say, "As the market leader, Getty's actions affect the entire industry. We therefore expect that your action of devaluing digital usage risks the long-term earning potential from image licensing, whether it be stock or commissioned."
It's no secret that Getty Images has been having a hard time of late, with its stock at $30.40 as of this afternoon, compared with a 52-week high of $57.28. As such, the company is likely slashing prices in an attempt to increase sales volume and boost overall revenue. However, it could be a dangerous path to tread for a company that has become known for its high-quality images to alienate the people who provide those images while simultaneously devaluing their work and threatening their livelihoods. Meanwhile, as is usually the case with big corporations, Getty's CEO Jonathan D. Klein seems to have a pretty sweet deal, making a cool $1 million for his annual salary, with up to a 70 percent bonus as well as copious stock-based bonuses, should the company be able to meet its goals. Too bad his plan to meet those goals seems to come at the expense of the photographers who helped build the company up in the first place.