Comparing the market for picture agencies in the UK and Germany


8.11.2011 13:30 Age: 6 yrs

Category: Consultancy

I have recently returned from a short business trip to Germany and set about a comparison between the German and UK stock photo sectors.

For this trip I researched German picture agencies online in detail to see if there were new agencies with whom I could meet. Having worked in the stock sector and directly with the German market for 10 years now, I thought I had a reasonable grasp of the picture agency sector, the general stock agencies and archives and specialist content providers having met and worked with many over this time.

I discovered with this trip research however that there are many further specialist archives and picture agencies that have been operating successfully in the German market for many years and just arenít widely known outside their local market and beyond their specialism.  

I came back and researched how many more agencies there were in the German market and draw up a list of 107 and decided to compare the number and type of agency with the UK market.  There are just 83 members of the BVPA organisation in Germany as opposed to 293 Bapla members in the UK.

Below is a percentage breakdown in agency numbers by type.

Type of agency

% split of total number of agencies - Germany

% split of total number of agencies - UK

General stock *

32%

11%

News/entertainment/celebrity/ reportage

19%

14%

Archives & museums

10%

16%

Illustration/ animation

2%

1%

Publishers

4%

1%

Nature/animals

4%

4%

Travel

4%

15%

Food & drink

3%

2%

Science / medical

3%

3%

Gardens

3%

4%

Art / arts & culture

3%

8%

Architecture/ interiors/ construction

5%

6%

Sports

0

4%

Transport

0

3%

Niche - people

0

2%

Arial / space

0

1%

Environment/agriculture

0

2%

Charity

0

1%

Other

2%

1%

Video

1%

0

Microstock/ mid-stock/  subscription

5%

1%

All companies needed to have a company based in Germany or UK to be included in the figures. I didnít include companies selling online into these territories from outside the territory. *Getty Images is categorized under stock, even though they supply news content too and have a microstock/subscription product. Those categorized as stock could be large or small agencies but had a general and broad thematic offering. Those that focused on mid stock, subscription or microstock licensing have been categorized separately (and they donít including istockphoto which I have included within Getty). This is by no way an all inclusive list but one researched from industry association agencies and companies actively marketing and  promoting themselves within their territories and findable online.

For both Germany and the UK this data is simply based on the number of picture agencies by type primarily excluding individual photographers marketing themselves directly to the stock image buyer. The number of agencies and the percentage number in each category does not necessarily have any correlation to the percentage turnover of these sectors in the market. That would be an interesting comparison to make but access to private company turnover figures is not readily available. The stock sector for both territories would be, based on turnover, the highest percentage by far as this would include the revenue from Getty Images and other global stock providers with bases in these countries.

The niche or specialist stock agencies in total make up 25% of the picture content providers in Germany and 40% in the UK. Art gallery archives, national heritage, museum collections and historical archives make up a total of 13% in Germany and 24% in the UK.  Generally the UK has far fewer generalist stock agencies and many more specialist and niche providers. In the UK, the largest number of agencies specialise in travel and stock photography of places, including many focusing on the UK and different areas within it.

It is estimated that the German market for stock imagery is the largest in Europe, so even accounting for a number of agencies that donít belong to the trade association and are not easily findable online in searches for picture agencies, it would suggest that a smaller number of stock agencies collectively make considerably more revenue per agency than the average picture agency in the UK. It is straightforward, inexpensive and easy to form a company in the UK and much less so in Germany where paperwork can be complex, the procedure lengthy and investment in a GmbH high. This could account for a difference in number of companies operating in the German market. Also, it could suggest that for many more individuals in the UK than in Germany, a picture agency is not their major revenue source, but a sideline or interest.

Liz Pepper