The Next Step For Flickr, Stock Photography
Recently I sold my first photograph. It was a photo of the Grand Lake movie theater in Oakland. I sold a one year license of the photograph to Choice Hotels. They used it in a national television commercial for this television commercial that they are running now to Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere.” Since I don’t watch commercials (PVR and all) I’ve still yet to see it but the fact that they found my photograph through a Google image search rather than a stock photography house has recently made me wonder.
Why couldn’t Flickr displace the world’s largest photo licensing company Getty Images or Bill Gates’ stock photography competitor Corbis? Have you seen some of the photography up at Flickr lately? It is stunning. Although primarily taken and posted by amateurs, the top shots on the site are every bit as brilliant as anything I’ve seen from the pros.
So why not bring the business of stock photography to the amateur photographer? While Corbis and Getty focus more on the professional photographer I believe that there is a growing army of weekend warriors with digital cameras that stand to offer up an alternative distribution source for the licensing of images. It would seem to me that this would also have the effect of driving more and more top quality photographers to Flickr as they might see it as a place to drive revenue.
Flickr could analyze the way that Corbis and Getty charge for licenses and then offer a comparable (or even cheaper) fee schedule for marketers, advertisers, etc. Flickr could put together a fee sharing arrangement that would take the place of a traditional agent and then let their search do the rest. Flickr could allow those interested in purchasing image licenses (or anyone really) the ability to search by tags and through an advanced search restrict the search to only photos that users have voluntarily submitted for consideration. With the recent enhancements to Flickr’s image search with their “interestingness” thing, you can now search photos and then have them ranked and returned to you by relevancy. Try searching for some terms at Flickr and then sorting by interestingness — the results are impressive for supposed amateurs. Here’s bridge (ok, so I’m biased because a few of mine show up). Or check out sunset. Or try blue. Or even try something crazy like crazy. You get the idea.
The world of Corbis and Getty Images is largely unknown and unavailable to the average amateur photographer. Through Yahoo! Flickr will continue to mass popularize photo sharing. As their/our image library becomes larger and larger and their photo rank technology gets better and better they could very easily become the single best place for marketers and advertisers to find compelling images. What AdSense has been for Google, Flickrsense could ultimately be for Yahoo! images.
Model and location releases would be issues that would need to somehow be addressed and I’m sure there is much more about the stock photography business that I am unaware of but it sure does seem like an interesting way to begin offering competition to the likes of Getty Images and Corbis.
Although a small little thing like Flickr perhaps never could displace the mighty giants of Corbis and Getty Images, even if they acquired the smallest fraction of business in this multi billion dollar market it could be huge.
Of course, if Microsoft was smart they would create/buy a Flickr of their own and coordinate this through Gates’ already established Corbis. But then again, if Microsoft was smart, they would have bought Flickr before Yahoo! scooped them up.