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What is stock photography?

If you are an experienced stock shooter, you may find some of the following statements simple and elementary, but you would be surprised how many times we are asked really simple questions from the dozens of people and photographers approaching us every month. We owe them simple answers to their questions too.

Stock photography is the business of licensing images. Licensing an image is granting someone the right to use your image for some advertising, informative, decorative, or other use (there are many uses possible).

It’s important to know that the client obtains the use of the image, but the image itself continues to belong to you, the photographer.

As the author of a photograph, you have different licensing options:

  1. Rights Managed (RM) photographs are licensed for a specific use, set amount of time, and in a non-exclusive or exclusive mode. Non-exclusive means that you can sell the same image to anyone interested to licensing it and exclusive means that only one person can use your image for a negotiated period of time. All of these different factors affect the final price of the image.
  2. Royalty Free (RF) is a non-exclusive license for a fixed price. The client can use the image as long, and in as many different ways, as they would like without paying any additional money.
  3. Low Budget Royalty Free (LBRF) is a new Royalty Free model that we have created at age fotostock in response to a wave of lower prices in stock photography created by a combination of different factors. These factors include: the economy of scales in photography, economic recession, technological developments, certain stock agencies’ financial needs, and the decision of photographers to accept pennies for their work. We consider our model, named "easyFotostock", to respect stock photography rules; it licenses images as opposed to selling credits and subscription models that yield pennies to photographers. easyFotostock offers affordable prices to clients and reasonable working conditions and prices for photographers in moments of market instability.
  4. Royalty Free Microstock (MS) sells credits (a money advance) to clients that allow them to download a number of low priced RF images. Photographers are paid by the number of times their images are downloaded, so to be paid they need to wait to accumulate downloads.

Having read the options above, it is obvious that a photograph can’t be sold as both RM, RF, and the modern derivatives like LBRF and MS. RM sets prices according to the factors discussed above such as territory, usage, and exclusivity. All of these factors make RM pricing flexible. RF pricing is fixed, not flexible, which is one reason that the classical RF is struggling in today’s market. Classical RF licensing sets the price according to the quality of the image (as decided by the stock agency which represents it) and the size of the digital file. Everything smaller than 50 MB will be cheaper and everything larger will be more expensive. Generally, clients are more focussed on the price of the image than on the quality, so the cheaper image will have greater chances for sale.


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