Getty Images is a creator and distributor of still imagery, video and multimedia content with customers in more than 200 countries.  (Getty Images is a creator and distributor of still imagery, video and multimedia content with customers in more than 200 countries. )
Getty Images is a creator and distributor of still imagery, video and multimedia content with customers in more than 200 countries.
(Getty Images is a creator and distributor of still imagery, video and multimedia content with customers in more than 200 countries. )

Glenn Parker |The advent of social photography has stimulated demand

The vice-president for the Asia Pacific region for Getty Images talks about the changes in firm’s business model

Mumbai:Glenn Parker, vice-president for the Asia Pacific region for Getty Images, elaborated in an email interview on changes in its business model, the approach to crowd-sourced content and the future of professional photography. Getty Images is a creator and distributor of still imagery, video and multimedia content with customers in more than 200 countries. Edited excerpts.

Getty offers crowd-sourced images for a small fee. Will this not cannibalize your other business?

The advent of social photography has done what one always hopes for in any business—it has stimulated demand, grown the market and given broader choices to customers. It has also provided a creative outlet for more people, as well as millions of dollars for contributors.

In recent years, user-generated content, particularly within the creative space, is being monetized in a material way for image makers. At Getty Images, we have been quick to embrace this trend and to drive it ourselves. As one of the world’s leading digital media companies, we had a simple choice—do we stand in the way of technology and creativity and hang on to a singular supply and distribution approach, or do we embrace it and apply our deep knowledge of the industry and customer requirements to expand our business?

So, in 2006 we acquired iStockphoto, the pioneer of the microstock business model, which enables the monetization of user-generated content for both the business and the contributor in a meaningful way. Getty Images now also crowd sources content through its partnerships with Flickr, Vimeo and SoundCloud.

What is the future of professional photography, especially when everyone seems to be crowd sourcing?

Let’s start by looking at editorial imagery and editorial usages. Crowd-sourced content comes with significant challenges, namely, authenticity. Unlike commercial or creative imagery, viewers want to know whether an image meets the long-held standards of journalism, that it is accurate and reliable, has not been manipulated for the benefit of one side of an argument at the expense of the other and has not been staged or set up.

If an image was taken by a non-professional, then its editorial integrity needs to be proven. Provided the imagery is reliable, it is of enormous use. Social photography allows for a visual expression of the same story from tens, hundreds, even thousands of different viewpoints capturing the atmosphere with the broadest possible brush. It often can lack depth, nuance and context though, and this is where the professionals are needed.

On the creative side, the massive increase in the number of images uploaded and viewed has also changed the visual language of the photography. Raw, spontaneous and authentic imagery often captured on the fly on camera phones now has an association of trustworthiness, integrity and reality. This photographic style has also directly influenced the style of imagery shot by professional photographers for high-profile advertising and marketing campaigns.

French courts recently ruled in favour of a designer furniture brand, which took offence to a photo of their couch appearing in stock pictures. How do you deal with that?

When developments like this unfold, a key priority for us is to communicate with our contributor network so they are aware of the implications and the action that needs to be taken to ensure their work is not at risk of infringing third-party copyright. However, even with careful diligence we appreciate there can still be risks, and we recommend all contributors carry their own insurance to protect against third-party intellectual property claims.

Getty has been criticized for its usage contracts. Please comment.

The traditional image licence models, royalty free and rights managed, adequately service the majority of our customers, and they will continue to do so, but as a dynamic growing business, it is crucial for us to be looking for innovative ways to expand the market in which we operate.

Connect by Getty Images was launched in February 2012. It is essentially a toolset that enables customers to use our content as part of new businesses that are being built, primarily online, where traditional licence models are not appropriate. Connect offers additional opportunities for revenue that can scale up or down based on the customer’s need and business model. As we create new ways for customers to use and license our content, Connect also provides many new opportunities for our image partners and contributors to earn incremental revenue in ways that have never before been possible.

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