FOCUS: VISUALS - Perfect pictures in a snap. Getting the ideal image from an agency shouldn’t be a shot in the dark. Creative briefs, forward planning and the advent of digital imagery and transfer makes the whole process child’s play. Ben

Visuals, whether original photographs or stock library shots, play an integral part in media relations campaigns.

Visuals, whether original photographs or stock library shots, play

an integral part in media relations campaigns.

The photo library market is undergoing considerable consolidation at the

moment. Getty has recently bought Stone, formerly Tony Stone Images, The

Telegraph Colour Library, and Photo Disk; and Corbis has acquired the

Stock Market. Both parent companies are based in the US.

In this Under the Spotlight on visuals, we look at how PROs can get the

best out of their visuals suppliers.

How do I find a photo agency/library that suits my needs?

The easiest way to search for a suitable photographic agency is to use

the British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies (BAPLA). Most

photo agencies and libraries are members of the trade association, which

has 380 members in total, and are regulated by its guidelines.

BAPLA receives around 500 calls a week from people wanting to source

images. A PR practitioner wishing to track down a suitable photographic

agency or library can access BAPLA’s web site ( where

they can type in key words in order to search for a company that can

fulfil their needs. BAPLA also offers a referral service to source a

general or specialist photographic agency or library.

How do I brief a photo library/agency?

It is vital that you brief a photographic agency at the earliest

possible stage. Firstly the agency needs to know what the story or

subject is.

Both parties must be 100 per cent clear as to what is required.

There are a lot of small specialist photo libraries but the bigger

players tend to offer images from general categories. Nick Harris, sales

and marketing manager of The Stock Market, says customers can purchase

some images that a copyright fee is payable on and others that are

royalty-free. The latter are generally images that might provide a

background for or an element of a more complex visual or montage.

Getty Images, which owns various brands, has a central call centre that

enables customers to phone up and brief a picture researcher.

Alternatively, each of the US company’s brands has its own web site with

search facility.

Medialink’s photographic agency Eyecatchers offers a full, one-stop-shop

service. A PR agency or in-house department can give the agency a brief,

and Eyecatchers will shoot it and then sell the images in to the


Photography should not be a last minute consideration - it’s no good

expecting to get an amazing image that will be splashed all over the

front pages if you book a photographer just two days before.

Milica Timotic, head of PA Photos, says ’the brief is all’. PR agencies

or in-house departments need to sit down with an agency or photo library

and have a thorough discussion about their requirements.

All of the major photo library web sites have search engines that enable

PR practitioners to find the picture they need at any time. Agencies can

also be phoned or faxed with requests for imagery.

Stone has a web site ( that contains ’disambiguation’

software. This means that the search engine can differentiate between

identical words with different meanings: for example, the word ’orange’

- which can mean the colour, the fruit or the company.

How much should visuals cost?

There is a significant difference in price when buying a royalty-free

image, compared to purchasing a rights protected image. The former can

cost from anywhere between pounds 12 to pounds 119 - depending on the

size of the image used. The latter can cost from pounds 60 upwards.

Rights protected images are subject to negotiation. For example, if a PR

agency wanted complete exclusivity across the globe for five years then

they might pay in the region of pounds 30,000. Price is also determined

by where the image is to appear - be it on the front page of a

newsletter or on a web site.

Photo agencies generally charge more than a freelance photographer (who

will charge by the hour or day and expect expenses to be


This is because, as well as photographing the pictures, they are also

involved on a consultancy level. They generally charge by the half or

full day. Eyecatchers, for example, charges around pounds 500 for a half

day and pounds 700 for a full day.

What comeback do I have if the pictures are no good?

With photographic agencies, so long as a well-constructed brief has been

given with no room for ambiguity, then the work should meet an agency’s

needs. However, if for any reason the end-product is unusable then the

customer can be refunded.

Eyecatchers says it would tell a PR agency or in-house department if a

story did not merit a picture, but as long as they are involved at an

early stage of planning a campaign then they will fulfil the creative


Photo libraries allow the customer to view images prior to use so PR

people can draw up draft versions of layouts and know what they are


Do any photo libraries offer perks to good customers?

Harris says The Stock Market has its own loyalty scheme. For every pound

spent customers collect points with which they can eventually redeem

gift vouchers.

Many libraries have dedicated business development teams. For example,

Joanne Aaron, worldwide director of gettyone, says the company sends out

teams to determine people’s needs. Libraries will also do deals with

regular clients, for example reducing rates for customers who

continually use them.

Can I buy exclusive rights to pictures or do I have to pay each time I

use them?

The area of copyright is seen as confusing by many PR practitioners.

The Stock Market offers a basic package that just gives the customer

non-exclusive rights to images. However, if a PR agency or in-house

department wishes to completely buy a picture then they can generally do

so. It would need to negotiate with the library but could ensure that

the image not be used by anyone else anywhere for a stipulated period of


Royalty-free or copyright-free images are pictures on which a flat fee

for unlimited usage is payable. They can be downloaded from the library

web sites, which charge a fee according to the file size of the image

being used. With rights protected photography photographers generally

own the rights to their photographs and so the photo library acts as an

intermediary and charges commission on any images used, as well as the

cost of the photographer’s royalties.

If a PR agency or in-house department wants to buy exclusive rights to

particular image to stop anyone else from using it then it is going to

have to pay top whack. Price is dependent on many factors. ’We price

according to a number of variables including print runs and exposure,’

Harris says.

He adds that if a UK company wanted to buy an image with world rights

then the head office would contact affiliates around the world to

establish whether the agency can sell all rights.

The Stock Market also sells CD-ROMs that contain around 200 royalty-free

images. One of these CDs may cost a couple of hundred pounds but once

purchased the PR agency can use any of its images.

As a news photo agency PA Photos is not in a poqsition to hand over

exclusive rights to clients. The customer pays a licence fee that is

based upon print runs, and the size at which pictures are used. However,

PA can be commissioned to host the photography for a launch, for

example, and then distribute images to the relevant media.

Eyecatchers keeps the copyright on photographs. The company holds the

negatives and when a client wants to sell images into the media

Eyecatchers will deliver the images accordingly.

How will technological advances help me?

Rapid advances in technology mean that all services are becoming

quicker, easier and cheaper to use.

The internet enables a PR agency to view and purchase images on a

pictures library’s web site at any time. It also means that PR people

can download low resolution versions of images to work out a design

layout at no charge.

Using stock photos can seem like an expensive option, but BAPLA

spokesman Stephen West says one of the reasons for this is that picture

libraries have invested substantially in web sites with the necessary

broad band width. Ultimately, with digitalisation PR agencies or

in-house departments are no longer liable to pay scanning and repro

costs and so are reducing costs.

Technological advances mean that pictures can be sent out to, or

collected by, the media via e-mail or ISDN.

Eyecatchers sell pictures into the media on behalf of the client. The

company can tackle ’any subject, give it a visual angle, go and shoot it

and sell the story into the media’, says Rice. ’We can distribute

directly to picture desks and/or post images on our web site,’ enabling

journalists to access pictures and download them.

At Thistle Photography, managing director Alistair McDavid says many

news picture desks will now only accept digital pictures by ISDN and are

not interested in receiving images by post or by courier.

The advance of technology has made the whole process of delivery quicker

and easier, as images can be delivered worldwide in minutes. Scanning in

prints is both time-consuming and expensive. Digital photography is

constantly evolving. Picture quality is improving the whole time and

will eventually match the quality of photographic film.

How are photo agencies and libraries coping with the globalisation of


Thanks to the consolidation of the business, picture libraries are

increasingly able to meet the demands of a global market. With the big

players buying up smaller libraries or agencies around the globe the

industry can offer a 24-hour worldwide service via the web. However, as

Aaron says, it is important for agencies or libraries not to lose the

’the element of human interaction’.

Harris adds: ’What’s happening with all this consolidation is that

ultimately we can offer full service on a global scale.’

The internet has meant that most picture libraries are on the web and

that pictures can be sent out or downloaded anywhere in the world and at

any time. Aaron says aims to launch in Europe next


Getty’s global sites are presently available in multiple languages.

Photo agencies can distribute pictures direct to picture desks across

the globe, and images can also be downloaded from their web sites.

- The next Under the Spotlight will be published on 11 August on the

topic of corporate video and business TV. If you have a question to put

to suppliers in this sector, please.


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