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 (www.bapla.org.uk) 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
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
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 (www.tonystone.com) 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
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
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,’
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 gettyone.com 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.