Are Photographers Getting Their Fair Share in the World of Royalty Free Images?

Are photographers getting screwed?: Andy Goetze covers the world of stock photography over at his excellent blog on the subject, Stock Photo Talk. Today Andy’s out with a post about the short stick that photographers appear to be receiving in the Royalty Free stock photography business. While the established stock photographers might be able to demand the big bucks from Getty or Corbis, it would appear that many photographers might be getting screwed.

Andy quotes Joseph Pobereskin the founder and past International Board of Directors member of the Stock Artists Alliance: “The guys who make the BIG BUCKS in RF are the publishers and the retailers, the photographers are making 20% (most of them) of NET, which by the time the money filters down to them amounts to $6 from every $100. It’s sad, I’m mad and anything anyone tells you to the contrary is bullshit.

Where’s the proof? In the case of the Getty Images study, though it was strictly for internal use, a certain corporate exec who will remain unnamed let it slip over dinner one night. The word leaked out and he got fired. So he resumed his career as a photographer. [The original paragraph has a second ‘r’ after each ‘r’ in this paragraph]

In the case of the shrinking income, SAA did some secret shopping. Found a photographer & a graphic designer to cooperate, paid the bill for a RF license of a FoodPix image through Getty and tracked the money through the hands of *all* the ‘agents’ back to the photographer. His end, though his contract stated 25%, amounted to $6.00 on a $100.00 license. If that’s good pay, if you think you can get rich that way, I’m your mama!”

I wonder if there is a better way? There seems to be a lot of interest recently in this multi billion industry. Is there a way to build a competitive online stock photography business that attracts the long tail of the stock business that at the same time in fact treats photographers fairly?