01. What is stock photography?

What is stock photography?

If you are an experienced stock shooter, you may find that what you knew years ago no longer applies today. Perhaps some of the following statements may seem elementary, but you would be surprised how many people today want to sell their images and are asking straightforward questions so as not to make mistakes.

Stock photography is the business of licensing images. Licensing an image is granting someone the right to use your image for advertising, informative, decorative, or any other possible use. It is important to know that even though a client may have obtained a license for the use of your photograph, its rights continues to belong to you, the person who took it.

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

  1. Rights Managed (RM) photographs are licensed for a specific use, a set amount of time, and in an exclusive or non-exclusive mode. Non-exclusive means that you can sell the same image to anyone interested in licensing it and exclusive implies that only one person can use your photograph for a negotiated period and usage. All of these different factors could affect the final price of your photo.
  2. Royalty Free (RF) is a non-exclusive license to use an image for a one-time fee. The client can use the image for as long, and in as many different ways, as they would like without paying any additional fee ever. Originally a simple and less restrictive solution to the complex price calculations for Rights Managed licensing, the low-priced variations of RF business models introduced today has severely diluted the historical value of this type of license.
  3. Low Budget Royalty Free (LBRF) is a new Royalty Free model that agefotostock has created in response to a wave of lowering prices in stock photography generated by a combination of different factors. Some of these factors include the economy of scales in photography, technological developments, and the decision of photographers to accept pennies for their work. Our LBRF model, branded “easyFotostock” keeps to stock photography rules as much as possible; it licenses individual images as opposed to selling credits and subscriptions that yield mere cents per image to photographers. easyFotostock offers low prices to clients while allowing for reasonable working conditions and rates for photographers in a moment when the business model in stock photography has changed dramatically.
  4. Microstock (MS) is an extremely low-priced Royalty Free licensing model offering two options to license images by advance payment: a) it sells credits to clients that allow them to download a number of low-priced RF images; b) it offers “subscriptions”, giving clients the right to download a predetermined number of images daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly. Credits and subscriptions are attractive for clients and profit sellers but are unfavorable for photographers. Royalty per image is calculated by dividing the amount spent by the client by the agreed total number of photos to download. Photographers are then paid based on the number of times their images have been downloaded. If the client does not download all the photos agreed upon and paid for, the profits go to the seller, and no additional money is paid to the photographers. Therefore, no matter how much photographers receive, the seller of the subscription always benefits.

Having read the options above, it is evident that a photograph can’t be sold simultaneously as RM, RF, and the modern derivatives like LBRF and MS. RM licenses set their prices according to the factors discussed above such as territory, usage, and exclusivity. All of these factors make RM pricing flexible. On the other hand, RF pricing is fixed, not adjustable, which is one reason that the classical RF is struggling in today’s market. Traditional RF licensing sets their prices according to the quality of the image (decided by the stock agency that 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 today are more focused on the price than on the quality of the image, so the less expensive image will probably have higher chances of sale.