Photos of garbage or (fully clothed) people posing with fruit are big business. Stock photo sites, which provide images for news organisations, blogs, corporate campaigns and all manner of low-budget advertising, have been growing for years. And Shutterstock, founded in 2003 by Jonathan Oringer, has expanded from hosting 30,000 of Oringer's own photos to distributing about 28 million licensed photos/illustrations/videos. And all those cats riding merry-go-rounds have made Oringer a billionaire.
Shutterstock, which went public last October, uses a different structure than other stock sites like Getty. Instead of owning all of the photos itself, Shutterstock contracts with photographers who retain the rights to their photos and get paid when their photos are downloaded by Shutterstock's 750,000 customers.
Prices range from $US29 for two photos to a year of 25 photos a day for $US2,400. So far the company has paid out about $US150 million to its contributors. Silicon Alley, populated by the ever-expanding group of internet startups in Manhattan, will most likely produce other billionaires, but it's surprising that all the social and new media founders got beat to first by the guy who sells the unintentionally erotic, posed beach volleyball photos.