Will convenience be the powerful  feature to  make Adobe’s $800 million gamble succeed in the stock photo market? Launched amidst a flurry of Creative Cloud updates for Photoshop, Illustrator, and Premiere, Adobe Stock is a fully integrated stock photo offering within the company’s flagship product. Created with the content of recently acquired Fotolia, it boasts, at launch, 40 million images, putting it right in the path of mighty competitors Getty Images and Shutterstock. However, it has a strong advantage: it is there where you need it, something we had predicted.

To succeed,  Adobe  will have to change habits. Today, stock images are licensed before firing Photoshop, not after. Users download  photos from their favorite sites based on  specific needs and might do work on them using Photoshop. But not always. With Adobe Stock Creative Cloud integration, the thinking is that users will already be in Photoshop before the need to use a stock photo arises. Good for last minute purchases, at first, but not critical for those who plan ahead. While no empirical data is available, Adobe Stock might capture a much smaller second sales market  for a long while before eating in the primary market. With a pricing model lower than Shutterstock  for the cheaper plans and much lower than Getty’s iStock for the larger plans, Adobe offers a competitive alternative, even outside of its CC integration, clearly signaling that it’s not just a plug-in for its suite of software, but a full-fledged division open to everyone. In other words, the battle will be held inside and outside of Photoshop.

Adobe Stock is a now a full-service stock photo agency, competing with he likes of Shutterstock, Getty and Fotolia
Adobe Stock is a now a full-service stock photo agency, competing with he likes of Shutterstock, Getty, and Fotolia

In order to add more credibility, Adobe is launching an ambitious call for content which will surely attract a lot of contributors. Offering a 33% commission on sold images, the highest on the market today, it clearly signals its intention to gather top fresh renewed content at the possible expense of its competition. At a period when Microstock contributors are feeling the pain of crunched revenues, it will certainly resonate very well. While there is no mention of exclusivity, there is a good chance Adobe will be the first on the market with fresh top images, a clear reason for users to remain loyal customers.

It will be of interest to see if Adobe plans to extend this contributor friendly hand to the crowdsourced  community, currently being lured into the stock photo licensing business by companies like 500px, Twenty20, EyeEm and maybe soon Flickr. Their more authentic content is of growing appeal to a large market of professional image buyers.

users can license images directly from within Photoshop
users can license images directly from within Photoshop

According to Adobe’s senior marketing director of Creative Cloud Scott Morris quoted by TechCrunch,  about 85 percent of stock content users today already use Adobe’s tools. That is a formidable market advantage for the launch of a service and while it is not a closed environment that Adobe can completely secure against competing offerings, it can certainly make is so convenient that user forget there are any alternatives. Surprisingly, the company did not include the One Dollar Photo Club, a bottom priced option created by Fotolia to secure the very low-end market.  Corporate thinking probably wants to avoid association with cheap products that could  devalue both the offering and Adobe’s name in the process. Furthermore, based on results, they can always add it later on.

While Adobe Stock will certainly have an impact, both on the selling and contributing segment of the stock photo industry, it is too early to define how big it will be. It will take a while for Shutterstock’s customers to abandon their subscription plans, if they ever do, preferring to let them run out. Furthermore, both Getty and Shutterstock are not caught off guard with this new competitor and had plenty of time to prepare for it. Both are companies with very aggressive competitive cultures whose reaction will certainly be of interest.

Author: Paul Melcher

Paul Melcher is a highly influential and visionary leader in visual tech, with 20+ years of experience in licensing, tech innovation, and entrepreneurship. He is the Managing Director of MelcherSystem and has held executive roles at Corbis, Stipple, and more. Melcher received a Digital Media Licensing Association Award and is a board member of Plus Coalition, Clippn, and Anthology, and has been named among the “100 most influential individuals in American photography”

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