January 26th, 2016
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

It didn’t make the News at Ten but a seismic news event has just occurred in the picture industry,

Corbis, the picture library set up by Bill Gates, has been sold to Visual China Group and henceforth will be distributed by their former arch rival Getty Images.

I’m not really an industry commentator, more of an industry worker, but I can see this will have a massive effect on the picture buying world, and not necessarily all bad. If you want an industry commentator, Will Carleton of Photo Archive News is the tops.

Minnows like fotoLibra can’t possibly compete with this megabehemoth on price or range. We have nearly a million images, a number which when we went into business a dozen or so years ago would have made us a monster.

And unless we stop paying contributors — we have no intention of so doing — we can’t compete on price with microstock agencies or with special deals done by Messrs. Corbis and Getty.

Where we can make a difference is with unique one-off images, photographs which can’t be taken again, the reason we set up fotoLibra in the first place. We wanted to access the photographs in your attic, your shoe box inheritance, the stories of all our lives.

Of course we were swamped by the digital revolution, but we struggle gamely on. We do tell all you fotoLibra contributors that historic images are really popular and remember, anything taken before the year 2000 can be uploaded to fotoLibra without any charge. At all. Ever.

If it’s in a box in your attic, you’re paying its rent. If it’s in a digital file on fotoLibra, it could be helping to pay yours.

We sold a photograph to News at Ten last week. It was an old photograph of a castle before the recent floods. Getty and Corbis hold huge curated collections, not one-offs like that.

Who’d a thought it?


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19 Responses to “One-Off”

  1. Nick Jenkins says:

    Well, definitely food for thought and maybe, just maybe where I and perhaps others, are going wrong?
    Attic here I come 🙂

  2. Philip Carr says:

    I was contributor of news material to Demotix which it seems has got swallowed up in the merger. Only found out when the website went offline and was redirected to Corbis where I can’t login. No notification or explanation given. So this is how the big boys play it!

    • Gwyn Headley says:

      I agree — they seem to be terrified of their customers. My pet peeve is companies which have websites which tell you the questions they want you to ask, not the questions YOU want to ask.

  3. Brenda Skinner says:

    Right after the 2016 batch of Skinner’s Pond Nearly World Famous Seville Orange Marmalade is bottled, I’m going to look at my old photos!

  4. John Cleare says:

    I seem to recall, a long time ago, that when Getty first appeared over the horizon, he / they / whoever announced that the objective was to provide 99 % of all the pictures used in the World. I may have the figures slightly wrong but that was the gist of the boast. Seems it’s happenned ?

    When I first saw this in the DT Biz News the vother day, my first thought was the above, then I wondered about copyright in China…?

  5. Mike Shatzkin says:

    You’re definitely building value. The Chinese investors will want to also manage the FotoLibra aggregation at some point. There’s an exit strategy in there. Investors care about things like that.

    • Gwyn Headley says:

      We’ll be here for a while. I honestly think this move might benefit us — not everyone wants to shop at the same shop and wear the same stuff.
      I guess LA is a little warmer than Budapest?

      • quinton says:

        Hi Gwyn

        I would have liked to ad my thoughts and comments to this discussion very much, but I really do not have so much experience in the operation and work of stock photography as such.
        I am new with fotolibra and are still learning a few things.

        Best wishes and regards.

  6. Ray Chipault says:

    My hopes are that with the pricing competition between Getty and Corbis gone, that we may eventually see an uptick in the pricing and thus in royalties and in the market in general.

  7. Mervyn Benford says:

    @m de facto retired but this brings particular stimulation. Many thanks Are you interested in images from old glass plate negs.? Of course interesting subjects!

    • Gwyn Headley says:

      Of course we are! The difficulty as far as you will be concerned is the metadata. We always described it as the writing on the back of the photograph: “Great-Aunt Angharad, Frinton 1928.”

  8. Noelle Greenaway says:

    you’ve inspired me to sift through my photos! thanks for the info

    • Gwyn Headley says:

      Please do — can’t wait to see the results! One of the first images uploaded to fotoLibra was FOT3028 (search for it) which was in my neighbour’s family album, taken by her grandfather who was a travelling organ-builder. That’s the sort of discovery we’re looking for.