On Content and Contracts

May 24, 2011 | By Andrew Saunders | Creative

As the VP of Creative Imagery at Getty Images, I want to share our thinking about our recently updated contributor contract.

To do this I’ll step back a bit to explain how stock photography has arrived at this place as an industry, who we are as a company, and how we envision the future of this business.

Getty Images, Ivan Piven/Flickr 102963529

Whether still images, graphics, footage or music, the range of content we provide at Getty Images is as diverse as the editorial and creative communities we serve.  We spend a lot of time studying the complexities of this content – its creation and use — very closely.

This is what has helped us navigate many recent changes in technology and media consumption, so that we can continue to offer a range of trusted content to meet the media industry’s changing needs.  In the face of this shifting landscape, we’ve also had to examine ways to work more effectively with our contributors so we can all benefit.  That’s why, after seeking input from some of our field’s most respected creators of content, we recently updated our contributor contracts.

Getty Images, Paul Edmondson/Stone+ AV1351-001

So what’s been happening in the stock photography industry?  

I’ve been at Getty Images since its inception 16 years ago, and before that, I was the Director of Imagery working with Tony Stone (himself) at Tony Stone Images. In other words, during the past 20 years of evolution, I’ve had a front-car seat on the roller coaster.

During this time, the industry moved from analog to digital, and advances in technology that enabled consumers to skip traditional ads gave rise to more digital image uses and the emergence of digital creative agencies.  The introduction of crowd-sourced imagery, the consequent rise of low-cost, high-volume content, the availability of quality cameras at every level of society have all changed the business.  Throughout all these seismic shifts, it has always remained our goal to put the right imagery, at the right price, in front of the right customer.  For if any one of these elements are wrong, the entire range of products we offer can be compromised.

I can assure you that creating value for our contributors is something we take very seriously. We do this by engaging our creative teams to gather and share creative research and art direction, and by acting as curator and then marketer to both traditional and new kinds of customers, all over the world. Our people work very hard to support our core belief that “quality content is the cornerstone of great communication,” and to that end, we are committed to educating the industry about its value.

Getty Images,Jasper White/Stone+ 107483612

I should also mention that despite the challenges of the recession and the explosive growth in new sources of imagery, Getty Images retains the largest Creative team in the industry. Over the years the benefits and value of the curator, art director and creative research information we gather and distribute to our artists has proved obvious. 

We’re delighted that thousands of our creative contributors have found our new contracts to be agreeable and are moving forward with us. There have, however, been a few recent comments that suggest our new contributor contracts are disadvantageous to photographers, accelerating a “race to the bottom” in creative imagery pricing. This is simply incorrect.

I can definitively state that undermining photographers is not an objective that would make any sense to us as a business. On the contrary, we are working on ways to maintain the value of high-quality creative imagery while also positioning ourselves for new and evolving areas of content use – all for the mutual benefit of our contributors, our customers and our company.  We welcome open conversations with our contributors, and in our Contributor Forum, we are actively addressing and resolving concerns so we can continue to work together effectively.  I can assure you that we’ll be working hard to earn the continued trust here, since the new agreements provide contributors with more flexibility to place content elsewhere, if we aren’t doing a good job for them. 

 As our customers continue to demand content that provokes the right emotional response – conveniently and in the best format for their needs — we’re committed to finding the right balance with our contributor community and to delivering great products that provide the best quality and value. It is our goal to inspire content creators, our contributors and the customers who depend on their great imagery, and enable those customers to deliver inspiring work of their own.

Editor’s note:  Andy Saunders is the Vice President of Creative Imagery for Getty Images. Contributors who would like more information on how we envision the future of creative content can read more at our contributor website, under Contributor Resources.

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