Licensing Stock Photographs

There are only two factors to consider when pricing a license for stock photographs:

  • The uniqueness of the image.
  • The terms of the license — the use.

Production and creative fees are not considered when licensing existing photographs.

Stock photographs are predominantly sold through on-line distribution channels. Whether large mega-archives like Getty and Jupiter Images or, the other extreme, an independent photographer’s web site, the Internet is the vehicle for most stock photography sales.

If a photographer places work with a distributor, there is a signed contract giving the distributor the authority to set the prices and transact the sales. The photographer is sent a contractually agreed-upon percentage of each sale.

Licensing stock imagery directly eliminates the middleman and the photographer keeps the entire licensing fee. That may sound great, but stock photography is very competitive and the difficult part of being independent is marketing your images. If only a few buyers see the available images, you will not make a significant number of sales.

Image portals are a sort of hybrid of the larger distributor and the independent. These businesses bring many independent collections together, providing a better market presence. Some set the pricing; some allow photographers to control it. Portals take a percentage of each sale, but that percentage is dramatically smaller than the commission taken by the traditional archive structure.

Stock Resources

The ASMP web site offers a number of articles that discuss aspects of licensing stock photographs.