The next major disruption in the photo world will be individual licensing – the ability for any individual to license images directly. There are a few forces pointing in that direction.
First, and most visible, is the sheer volume of photos taken. Among those, probabilities tell us, are images of high licensing value. Currently, they are being shared merrily. Soon enough, their author will be looking to earn some revenue from them.
The second force is technology. Up to now, the technology world didn’t care much about the photo market. Between the rise of social media, whose engine is photography, and Facebook’s recent $741 million purchase of Instagram (originally $1 billion before Facebook’s stock plunged), photos are the new web gold rush. Some of the most brilliant minds are now working on the next photo platform and how to make it profitable.
Third: the declining commission rate (anywhere from 20 to 40 percent) given by photo agencies to contributors, both in microstock and traditional licensing. It is becoming unfair. Already you hear grumbling in the more vocal microstock community, but they are certainly not the only ones.
Fourth is the expanding base of publishers. As the internet grows and everyone becomes a publisher, no stock agency will be able to offer the wide range of images needed to service everyone properly.
Professionals already have platforms like Photoshelter or photographers direct. But those require a collection of images to be relevant. With companies like Paya.com or Stipple.com, we already see the emergence of tools that let any image creator directly get revenue from their images, even if it is only one or two.
Getty has been fighting this trend by cutting deals with photo sharing platform like Flickr, but for how long? Those who license via Getty do not appreciate the very low commission rate they receive and since they are already contacted by image buyers directly, can easily jump ship if offered other solution.
So what will be the effect ? While, like today everyone is a publisher, tomorrow, everyone will be a photo agency capable of licensing their images with on click from anywhere. They might license only one image a year each but multiplied by millions worldwide, they will seriously impact the photo licensing world.