Friday, November 28, 2008

The Photographer On The Web - PART 2 – Stock Photography Sites

Microstock Sites

Microstock photography, also known as micropayment photography, is an offshoot of traditional stock photography. What defines a company as a microstock photography company is that they source their images almost exclusively via the Internet, they do so from a wider range of photographers than the traditional stock agencies that include images from "amateurs" and hobbyists, sell their images at a very low rates, anywhere from 10 cents to 10 dollars for a royalty-free images, and generally have no or very low quality standards.

Photographers can upload the same pictures on multiple sites or, with some agencies, become an exclusive supplier and receive an increased commission and additional benefits.

There are no fees to post photos on microstock sites. Some microstock companies do not accept everyone or all photographs and will judge images for technical quality, as well as artistic and commercial merit before submission is allowed.

The mindset of microstock supporters is that quality will prevail and photographers will end up making as much from many small sales as they would from a few large sales on a traditional stock photography site. But some professional photographers believe microstock devalues the practice of photography, since most pictures on microstock sites have been taken by non-professional photographers. Professional photographers see the growth of microstock sites as reducing their own incomes.

Microstock sites are a great place to post your ‘seconds’ or non-subject related images to the type of photography you normally do.

Microstock sites are usually praying on the dreams of photographers wanting to sell their images at any cost. Clients of Microstock sites are usually cheap or Web Based businesses. But, this is not to say that you can’t get great images from Stock Photography Sites.

Usually you can provide lower resolution images.

Pros: Free, Easy to Setup, Some Sales

Cons: Very Little Money to be Made, Can be Lots of Work Uploading and Indexing Images and can be a Duplication of your Web Site, Usually Royalty Free, May Loose the Rights to Your Images


FotoSearch (
SnapVillage (
BigStockPhoto (
Fotolia (
Shutterstock (
iStockPhoto (
DreamsTime (

Stock Agencies

Agencies are different that fly-by-night Microstock Web Sites. Many have been around for many decades and they now have a presence on the Internet. These are highly regarded companies that have a large clientele of excellent Art Designers and Directors that purchase images on behalf of their own clients. Their clients usually have much more money and much larger budgets than people buying art on Microstock sites.

Images are filed at an agency that negotiates licensing fees on the photographer's behalf in exchange for a percentage. Pricing is determined by size of audience or readership, how long the image is to be used, country or region where the images will be used and whether royalties are due to the image creator or owner. Often, an image can be licensed for less than $200 or up to several thousand for larger commercial campaigns.

With Rights Managed stock photography an individual licensing agreement is negotiated for each use. Royalty-free stock photography offers a photo buyer the ability to use an image in an unlimited number of ways for a single license fee. The client may, however, request "exclusive" rights, preventing other customers from using the same image for a specified length of time or in the same industry. Such sales can command many thousands of dollars, both because they tend to be high-exposure and because the agency is gambling that the image would not have made more money had it remained in circulation. However, with royalty free licensing there is no option for getting exclusive usage rights. This keeps many high level designers and ad agencies away from Microstock sites.

Stock Photography sites are a great place to post your ‘best’ photos and your non-subject related images to the type of photography you normally do. Usually you will need to provide higher resolution images.

Pros: Free, Good Sales if You Have Great Images, Usually Rights-Managed

Cons: Can be Lots of Work Uploading and Indexing Images and can be a Duplication of your Web Site, Photographers Approval Process, Image Approval Process


GettyImages (
Alamy (
PaiNet (

Art Stock Sites

There are some great sites that sell Stock Art that includes Photography. However some also sell products. for example sells shirts, posters, prints, calendars and so on. This can increase sales and very often the profits can be much better.

Internet users can check out the sites, all the images including your own images and then they can order a T-Shirt or Mouse Pad. The company will produce, guarantee and ship the product to the end user. They will then send you payment.

Pros: Fun, Free, Easy to Setup, Better Profits than Microstock Sites

Cons: Lots of competition, No Quality Control.


Red Bubble (
DeviantArt (

Warning about Stock Sites

Read ALL the rules. Read ALL the user Agreements. Read ALL the EULA’s (End User License Agreements). Read ALL the site Policies. Read ALL the Fine Print. Know your Rights. Know the LAW.

Your Images – Are your Images sold to the site so that they own it forever? If you leave the site, do you give them the right to continue to sell your images without paying you any fees or royalties? (Some sites keep the rights to your images when you leave.) Are you giving them the right to use your images for ‘their own’ purposes?

Image Licensing – Are your images sold ‘Royalty Free’, with Limited Rights or with Managed Rights?

Royalty Free images are sold for a simple onetime fee. The purchaser is then allowed to use that image as often as they want for the company that purchased that image. Are they allowed to re-sell the image?? They could use it in a Calendar that they sell thousands of every year for the next twenty years. Or perhaps they could use it for a bunch of different magazine ads or book covers.

Limited Rights images are sold with some rules attached. These rules can be hard to manage and harder to enforce but they can give you a lot of protection. Perhaps they are sold for ‘Internet Use’ only. If you ever saw a book with you photo on the cover you may have the right to sue the company.

Managed-Rights images are usually sold for a ‘One Time’ use or a ‘Limited Time’ campaign like a Spring Time Advertising Campaign. Or, they could be used for a Single Book Cover for one writer and any promotional material for that book. This is usually handled by the Stock Agency.

Your Rights – What are your rights? Will you ever lose them? What if you leave? What about image rights that have already been sold? You need to know what your rights are.

Payments – How will you be paid? Will you ever be paid? Are there minimums before payments are made? Do payments expire after a certain period if you do not reach your minimum payment amount?

I have not done your homework here and it is possible that some sites I have listed here may be rip-off sites, so please check them out carefully before using them.

Keep your best, post the rest.

Stock Photography Articles

How To Make Money From Stock Photography - (

Make Money With Micro Stock Photography – (

© 2008 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.00 - November 2008)

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I value thoughtful comments and suggestions. If you like or dislike this post, please let me know. If you have any ideas or suggestion, comments or corrections (I do make mistakes) please also let me know. Thanks.

- Francois Cleroux