Still Images Market — The $3.2B Industry Waiting to be Disrupted

What’s the one multi-billion dollar industry that still operates under decade-old rules and is dominated by behemoths of the past? The one which products you see every single day and that is expected to grow at least 25% to become a $4.5B industry in the next 4 years? That industry is still images.

“The advertising industry swears by still images, as it makes their content more impactful and helps break the ad banner blindness […]”

What are still images? Just a fancy term for all the photos, pictures and images you see used in newspapers, magazines, blogs and social media. The advertising industry swears by still images, as it makes their content more impactful and helps break the ad banner blindness most people developed.

“[…] the generation of Snapchat requires a new approach”

The most savvy marketers have realised that the generation of Snapchat requires a new approach. The new rule of thumb for brands to earn trust of the consumer is to “keep it real”. Authentic Instagram and Snapchat Stories with hand-held footage are replacing curated studio-quality content. And no wonder — it proved to generate higher engagement for only a fraction of the cost.

The demand for authentic content, including still images is there, and it’s growing fast. But what about the supply? The art of photography is all about skill and gear for anything beyond sharing with friends. At least that’s what the majority think, but that’s a very dated misconception.

“[…] millions of talented Instagrammers are yet to make their first dollar from the hobby.”

Our Instagram feeds are full of photos with intriguing background stories. Even simple snapshots of daily life can often suggest a new angle to look at something familiar. Today, a smartphone is the only thing you need to capture a moment that has real value to a storyteller. Even so, millions of talented Instagrammers are yet to make their first dollar from the hobby.

Apple made a clear statement with their “Shot on iPhone” online campaign with the launch of iPhone 6. Fast forward to 2017 and we see Apple do it again in an even more convincing fashion. Massive downtown billboards across the world are showcasing photos “shot on iPhone 7”. In cooperation with Samsung, Casey Neistat has recently filmed an entire ad on Galaxy S8. A modern smartphone is here to rival a professional DSLR camera in all but most demanding tasks.

“Copyright restricts brands from scraping unlimited vastness of social networks for authentic content.“

What’s stopping ‘millions and millions’ of photographers from making a buck? The true problem is the logistics. Copyright restricts brands from scraping unlimited vastness of social networks for authentic content. At the same time, reaching out to every individual for a permission is costly and hardly scalable. There are middlemen such as GettyImages and Shutterstock, but they cater to professionals. It is tough for an amateur photographer to even get started, let alone compete.

“There is a huge opportunity for somebody to empower the casual photographer.”

The new paradigm is emerging. There is a huge opportunity for somebody to empower the casual photographer. An opportunity to create a major economy around endless supply of content that is yet to make money.

What about the Market itself?

According to Technavio, a global market research company, still images market is valued at $3.2B in 2017. The number is projected to grow at 8% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) to $4.5B by 2021, thanks to rising social media adoption rates and increasing use of visual content in advertisements.

“To meet the rising demand […], market vendors are increasingly adding images that are raw, candid, and captured in natural light with little to no editing.”

Technavio also analyzed the demand side of the industry:

Sellers use meaningful stories with powerful visual elements to capture and engage consumers, which is creating a high demand for high resolution and realistic still images. High-quality images are perceived as more relevant and genuine and add value to the brand communication efforts. To meet the rising demand for such images from various industries and sellers, market vendors are increasingly adding images that are raw, candid, and captured in natural light with little to no editing.

“The main players in the still images market are comprised of a handful of big companies […] challenged by a few newer well-funded startups.”

Main players

The main players in the still images market are comprised of a handful of big companies like Adobe, Getty Images and Shutterstock. These companies focus on working mostly with professional photographers.

They are challenged by a few newer well-funded startups. Such as 500px that raised $22M to take on GettyImages, and Stocksy that was founded by the ex-owner of iStockPhoto, which was acquired by Getty in 2006 for $50M.

But it’s not all competition — EyeEm, which used its $24M investment capital to outpace most giants in the industry, partnered up with both Adobe and Getty to widen its distribution even further.

There are also two notable competitors focusing on mobile photography. Twenty20 was founded in 2011 and raised $9.7M to this date. Snapwire is the only crowdfunded startup on the market and it is built around custom requests from content creators, which is quite the opposite from the supply-driven marketplace model of other players.

There are also dozens of free stock photography providers for content-creators. Most notably Unsplash, Pixabay and Pexels. However, due to their free nature, the sources don’t help photographers make money and the images are downloaded so often it’s hard to stand out if you’re using them.

“Instagram alone has 40 billion images that are unavailable to content creators.”

Untapped potential

There is an abundance of digital photography that is copyright-restricted from use. Instagram alone has 40 billion images that are unavailable to content creators. The platform boasts 400 million daily active users and 95 million new photos every day.

Cloud storage services also see enormous untapped potential with 1.3 billion users storing their photos on Google Photos and Apple’s iCloud.

These numbers represent potential growth outside of the current microstock market.

“[…] there is a new opportunity for a business model that works better for everyone.”

According to Unsplash: “[…] there are potentially 100 times more people looking for usable imagery today, than a decade ago. Image use has moved mainstream which is why there’s a new opportunity for a business model that works better for everyone.”

Enter Picax — a solution that works better for everyone

Picax (http://pic.ax) is the missing link between the rising demand for authentic visual content from advertisers and the huge supply of raw photos made by amateur photographers.

Why Picax?

Photographers don’t need new apps or accounts — by simply adding #picax hashtag to the caption on Instagram they list the photo for sale. As much as 50% of Picax subscription revenue is distributed among photographers. Relative number of downloads each author gets determines their share of earnings.

At the same time, marketers and advertisers get access to authentic photos for a flat $30 per month fee. And the simplified license permits customers to use photos unlimited number of times.

By connecting amateur photographers and content creators Picax aims to:

1. Make photography business accessible to anyone
2. Create economy around unmonetized photography
3. Make copyright-restricted photography available to content creators

Have thoughts and suggestions how we can make it better? Let us know in comments or tweet @picaxphotos.