Flickr/Getty vs. Clustershot An Update on the Stock Photography Front

Flickr/Getty vs. Clustershot An Update on the Stock Photography Front

A few months back I wrote a blog post detailing my experience selling stock photography through both Getty Images’ Flickr Collection program as well as a new program allowing you to sell your photography through ClusterShot. The title of my post “Is 20% of something better than 88% of nothing” compared my own experience with the companies and my sales through the companies as of last May. Getty pays out about 20% for royalty free images while ClusterShot pays out 88%.

Today I just received my sixth monthly statement from Getty Images and I thought it an appropriate time to revist my experience selling stock photography through both companies.

At present I’ve got 68 images offered for sale through Getty. You can see my Getty images for sale here. For my first six months in the program I’ve earned $883.35 from the sale of 22 images.

At present I’ve got 30,848 images offered for sale through ClusterShot. You can see my Clustershot images for sale here. So far I’ve earned $338.80 from the sale of 3 images.

I have to say that I’m pleased that I’ve sold any photos at all through ClusterShot. I was not sure how that was going to go as ClusterShot is a new start up vs. Getty Images as the industry leader in stock photography. There is a lot that I like about ClusterShot. Their 88% payout to photographers is *very* generous vs. Getty’s 20% payout. I like that I’m not locked into or committed to any exclusivity agreement with images from ClusterShot. I like that I can market *all* of my photos through ClusterShot and not just the ones selected by Getty editors. I also like that ClusterShot flows seamlessly through Flickr and I can just point my ClusterShot account to my Flickrstream and through the API have my images automatically pulled into ClusterShot without having to do any work on my part. ClusterShot also seems to be indexing well with Google and I’ve received both sales and queries regarding my photos through Google searches.

On the other hand I think Getty is by far the more professionally oriented stock photography agency. Getty ensures that images are cleared correctly. They require model and location releases where needed. They have the marketing clout behind the largest stock photography agency in the world.

As a photographer ClusterShot is much more appealing to me than Getty in a lot of ways. Certainly I hope that they gain significant market share going forward and that more and more image buyers considering using them. They seem very committed to providing the lion share of image profits to the actual creator of the image, you the photographer. I do also hope that new ventures like ClusterShot end up putting pressure on agencies like Getty to bring the payouts up a bit higher than where they are today.

The vast majority of my image licensing profits still come directly. People find my images on Google Image Search, or Flickr, or Zooomr, or FriendFeed or other sites and simply contact me directly about licensing them. Best of all those sales still pay out 100% to me the photographer.

Does anyone else out there have experience selling images with Getty/Flickr or ClusterShot? If so what are your experiences. If you are an image buyer what do you think of these two programs?

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  1. Josh says:

    I’m not a copyright expert but isn’t it a copyright infringement to take a photograph of an artist’s painting and then sell that photo?

  2. Gorgon says:

    I think the case is clear here: 68 images represented by Getty made you $883.

    In the same time period you had 450x the number of images (!!!) with Clustershot and still didn’t make half the amount of money from those 30.848 than what you did from Getty’s 68…

    Clearly the percentage that goes back to the photographer is not the important thing here. What’s important is that the company that represents you actually manage to sell.

    I’d take 20-30% from a huge cake any day instead of 90% from a tiny cake 🙂

  3. I’ve tried Photoshelter (Collection and Archive) and Alamy for years and sold zero. I’ve had plenty of licensing requests via Flickr but in the end they (including multinational corporations) all wanted it for free or $1.
    Two months on Getty with just a small set of images and I’ve sold my first two images last month. Not much yet but a good start. So I am also following both paths. Try to sell directly and have a selection on Getty.
    The creative commons situation with Getty is odd. Once an image has been published under creative commons, it can’t be undone. Whoever downloaded and used it when it was cc-licensed, still has an image with a valid cc-license and can use and re-distribute it within the limitations of the cc-license.

  4. Thomas Hawk says:

    Josh, good question.

    I think it would largely depend on a lot of things. A lot of paintings are in the public domain so I’d think that there would be no issue there. Other paintings might have clearance issues though.

    A while back I sold an image of the Grand Lake Theater. A clearing firm cleared the image though paying both money to me as the photographer and the theater for the property license on the place. Certainly though there are artists like Richard Prince who have made their career out of selling appropriated art work. Prince re photographed photos from Marlboro billboard ads and sells them for thousands of dollars.

    Ultimate liability for unauthorized use rests with whomever licenses an image not the person or company who sells it. Getty is quite aggressive about making sure that images in their collection are extensively vetted and cleared. They won’t let you use a photo, for instance, of someone wearing a shirt with a Nike logo. Clustershot on the other hand does no clearing of images that I’m aware of.

    Certainly image buyers from Clustershot ought to consider clearance issues with a photo. In some cases these will be obvious. A photo of a painting would probably also need to be cleared with the original artist should someone want to use it when the painting was not in the public domain. Similarly an image of a specific person or place might need a model/property release.

    On the other hand there are lots and lots of images that any buyer could safely use. An image of an apple or sunset or cat or an unidentifable peson, etc. would clearly need no release.

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  31. Bruce Smith says:

    Great info Thomas. Thanks for sharingHave you tried selling through iStockPhoto. It appears that they & Getty are somehow linked?
    Bruce Smith
    San Francisco

  32. James Rhodes says:

    All I want to know is who the fuck buys your shitty photos ? The only reason I can imagine is that yours are the cheapest option.

  33. Pete says:

    thanks for posting Thomas – really useful discussion.
    I have small sales on istock as I am sure is the case with a lot of spare-time photogs like me. Am happy with small volumes as I have a day job but have been questioning the % cut. Will chew on that some more.
    the other issue when going DIY is of course pricing for yourself – do you go for a flat rate or vary it per image? Could be a lot of admin…
    keep on posting and please ignore the idiots (previous comment) 😉

  34. Libby says:

    To Bruce,

    Getty now owns iStockphoto. I believe the acquisition was Feb 2006 for $50 million.

    iStock started out as sort of a “hobbyist can make money” site, but as other microstock agencies formed that accepted almost anything, iStock refined itself and became known for having the highest quality standards in the microstock industry. It’s one of the reasons they were able to command a nice price from Getty.

  35. steve says:

    as selling stock myself, i wonder about your clusterstock stuff. you’re selling images with trademarks, screenshots and i don’t think you got signed model releases for all the people you have in the shots. i wouldn’t do this.
    your getty income is ok. clusterstock isn’t worth the stress. but with 30.000 pictures online on sites like istockphoto or shutterstock, you could quit your dayjob and go on holiday forever 😀

  36. Grrr… I tried to comment on your post in FriendFeed, but it won’t let me, so I’ll ask here…

    Given the number of images you have out there, and they are good quality images, and how little you made, is it even possible to make a living wage off of stock photos?

  37. James Rhodes says:

    Well if Thomas can’t then nobody can…I can’t keep a straight face when saying that… “Good Quality ” as compared to what ?

  38. Douglas C. says:

    Those are some impressive stock images!

  39. James Rhodes says:

    compared to what Doug ? Seem nothing more than average to me…

  40. […] I’m an eternal optimist, but the evidence I have before me doesn’t bode well though. Thomas Hawk, a reasonably well known photographer/blogger/photographer has almost his entire Flickr collection […]

  41. Me says:

    To James

    Compared to your work , when u have 30000+ photos approved on any site you will know

  42. Chris says:

    how are you going with ClusterShot 1 year on?

  43. Jim Austin says:


    Thanks for posting about Clustershot. There is a lot to like there. Sorry, can’t answer the question you posted , as I just started with Clustershot, after hearing about them through your TWIP interview with FVJ . You are a valuable resource, and I appreciate the sharing you do in your blog.

    Jim Austin MA