Flickr and Getty Images Begin Inviting Select Flickr Photographers Into Their Joint Stock Photography Business

Flickr and Getty Images Begin Inviting Select Flickr Photographers Into Their Joint Stock Photography Business

Recently I’ve been getting reports that Flickr has begun inviting select Flickr photographers into the new joint Flickr/Getty stock photography business that Getty and Yahoo announced earlier this year in July.

I contacted both Getty and Yahoo for confirmation that invitations have been sent out and received confirmation from Kryssa Guntrum, Senior PR Manager at Yahoo, that this is indeed happening.

From Guntrum:

“The editors at Getty Images have recently sent a preliminary set of invitations to be part of the collection to a small group of Flickr members. The photos are being chosen based on Getty Images’ expertise in licensing digital content and insight into customers’ needs. As always, Flickr is committed to offering its members full control over their content and they are free to accept or decline the invitation as they so choose. We will keep you posted as more information on the invitation process and other partnership milestones are announced.”

The invitation being sent to select photographers reads like this:

“Flickr has partnered with the fabulous Getty Images to
offer an invitation-only service for Flickr members to sell
their photos for commercial use.

The Getty Images team has noticed your work on Flickr, and
is pleased to offer you an invitation to enroll with them.
They have selected XX of your photos for possible inclusion
in the program. Here are a few of them:

If you’re interested, find out how to get started at the
Flickr page below. Congratulations! And, good luck!”

I’m not sure how many photographers have been invited at this point but personally don’t feel entirely good about how this program is going so far.

Earlier this year, back in July, I blogged about this program after iStockphoto VP for Content Development, Joseph Jean Rolland Dube, made comments about how the program would work in Seattle at the Microsoft Pro Photography Summit.

Originally Dube stated that Getty would start this program with around 2,500 images. This seemed unusually small to me given the magnitude of images that Getty offers for sale. Bridgett Russell, Getty’s Senior Director of Communications, later told me that Dube had provided an erroneous number and said that the program would launch in the “coming months” with “tens of thousands” of photographs for sale.

I’m not sure how many photographs have been selected by Getty here some five months later, but I’d guess that the number is a heck of a lot closer to the 2,500 (at best) number Dube originally provided than the clarification offered by Russell of “tens of thousands.”

Personally I’ve long believed in the opportunity that stock photography represents through Flickr. There are some things that concern me about this initiative so far though.

All along I’ve worried that this Flickr/Getty deal was not a serious attempt at selling stock photography through Flickr. I’ve worried that it was more a lip service attempt by Getty to lock in a relationship with Flickr before Corbis (Getty’s largest competitor) could. Especially in light of the Microsoft offer to buy out Yahoo last summer, I wondered if Getty might try to create a contractually binding agreement with Yahoo ahead of any possible Microsoft ownership of Flickr. Although Corbis is an independent company from Microsoft, Corbis is 100% owned by Microsoft Founder Bill Gates and I wondered if a Microsoft owned Flickr might not make a deal with Corbis more likely.

Given that there has been virtually no communication about this initiative since it’s announcement by either Getty or Flickr, I’m worried that the program is not really moving along. Especially given that Flickr in their FAQ on this program states that the program would “debut later this year” (one day left, guys) and Russell told me that the service would be launched in the “coming months” with tens of thousands of photos back in July, I just don’t see “a preliminary set of invitations to be part of the collection to a small group of Flickr members,” as being very serious in nature. Especially when there has been no formal update to the Flickr FAQ on the partnership since it was announced.

What bothers me more though is the complete lack of transparency on the part of Flickr over how this program will work. More than just a bunch of random nameless faceless photographers, Flickr is a community. And an opportunity to allow Flickr users to sell their work if they want through the site is a huge deal. And yet there is no way that Flickr members can apply for consideration for this program. There is no information about the types of photos that Getty wants. There simply is no communication going on about this new service by Flickr, Yahoo or Getty. There is no reasoning given for the delays in the launch. Will, I, Thomas Hawk be able to sell stock photographs through Getty? Who knows. Will you be able to? Other than a select few photographers who received invitations on very small numbers of their photos not much else is being offered that I can tell.

Have you been approached to sell photos through Getty yet? If so feel free to post a comment and discuss your opinion of this program.

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  1. Stephen says:

    I have not heard anything about Flickr/Getty, but if your looking to sell, you might consider Flickr/ClusterShot.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Uh… full disclosure Stephen.

    Silverorange == clustershot == your company.

  3. Camera Crazy says:

    It does make one wonder, given the large number of excellent photographers on flickr, how the invites are chosen. Explore doesn’t seem equitable so who knows–could this be a case of it’s not what you know but who you know?

  4. JeffH says:

    My guess is that if they are doing anything, Getty is looking for rather standard stock images, those that sell well. Those types of images typically contain people or generic objects that are used in common advertising. I doubt very much they are looking for artistic or landscape photographs, which would exclude most of TH’s and my work for instance as well as the work of a significant number talented photographers on Flickr.

  5. I wonder if they are going to devalue the “flickr photographer” images compared to the contract Getty photographers.

    Something like the $50 photos from Getty.


  6. Dave Wilson says:

    Stephen is somewhat intimately tied to ClusterShot but I’m not so I’ll recommend it instead 🙂 The site is new and probably doesn’t get a lot of buyer traffic yet (anyone know otherwise?) but the concept is great and their UI is clean, easy to use, and intuitive. I’ve added a couple of hundred of my photos from Flickr to their collection and the process was painless.

    That said, I would love to see some information on site traffic patterns since a stock site that has no buyers isn’t really going to do anyone any good. On top of that, I am slightly worried about the huge diversity of quality and price in the current collection.

  7. Tapani says:

    I call BS on Thomas’ concerns about this business.

    I’ve been reading this blog for years, and here’s my analysis of his real concerns around this service:

    1) How dare they not invite The Thomas Hawk!

    2) Oh, it’s Flickr. See also #1.

    3) Thomas is CEO of Zooomr, a competing service. You’re no longer disclosing that on Flickr-bashing postings, why is that?

    That about sum it up?

  8. davefitch says:

    I am slightly annoyed by the double standard here – on one hand Flickr says no commercial use of your account, but on the other hand is allowing a selected third party to enable the commercial use of some accounts.

    Either everyone should be allowed to use Flickr to lever the value of their photostream, or ‘no commercial use’ should mean no commercial use.

  9. tampen says:

    I haven’t been selected but I suspect there’s a way to find out if Getty is showing an interest in you. If your Flickr stats showed a sudden and unexplained spike on any single day in the past few weeks, that may indicate that someone from Getty has been through your entire stream. (Obviously this may be more easily detectable if your stream has several thousand photos).

  10. Paul says:

    I read your article with interest but I do feel your being overly paranoid. Agreed Getty may just be using this as a way of stopping Corbis gettin flickr but I don’t think that has any bearing on individual photographers selling there work through Getty.

    It’s not unusual for any new IT system to go through a beta test with a small amount of users to make sure everything runs smoothly. Common sense really, as if you did have a problem you’d rather it be limited to a relatively small amount of people, than 10 of thousands.

    So maybe that’s all this is, and eventually they will open it up to more and more people.

    Having used Flickr since it’s conception, I see it as the next natural step and something to embrace, rather than worry over.

    You even have the option to opt in/opt out of the emails that Getty “May” send you….

  11. Tracy says:

    Well, until two days ago I had absolutely no expectation of hearing from Getty, but I had heard that the project on flickr was pending. I decided to wait and see what happened with others, before passing judgement.

    Two days ago, completely unexpectedly, I received an invitation to submit a pre-selected number of images. Fwiw at least 3,000 people so far have signed up, and the numbers grow every day. I suspect (but I don’t know) that invites are being released in mass batches, in order to manage the massive influx of people heading to the (private) Flickr/Getty group to ask questions and seek clarification about everything from the image submission & review process, copyright issues, fees etc – and they ARE providing both Royalty Free (RF) AND Rights Managed (RM)options for ongoing sale. I have to say, so far I’ve been really impressed with the amount of information available and the number of Getty staff responding directly.

    I think everyone needs to be very careful about generalising regarding the kind of images Getty appear to be asking to be submitted. I don’t see any evidence whatsoever of chosen images being related to Explore, the type of camera used to take them, film or digital, serious professional or rank amateur. None whatsoever. I know this because I am I guess, a ‘rank amateur’, I shoot 35mm & some medium format, double exposure, redscale stuff – ‘arty’ you might say. Mostly on lo-fi cameras but I do use several old film slr’s. They (Getty staff) do not seem to be interested in the process, they are however interested in quality of the end image; that model releases/permissions & licensing is formally established, and that resolution & image quality meet a minimum standard.

    I’ve followed a lot of your stuff over the last couple of years TH, and this time I think you’ve got this very wrong. I don’t believe that this is being kept a ‘secret’ for some nefarious purpose; rather, the sheer volume of numbers merits careful step-by-step management. The best web-sites and projects should be tested through a a ‘beta’ or ‘pilot’ before being let loose. It serves to deal with the bugs, most common concerns, fears, irritations, identify what works etc. The early threads in that group (started before I arrived), indicate that a hell of a lot of active consultation and consideration has taken place between flickr staff, flickr members and Getty staff, and I see no evidence to believe that will change.

    It’s very, very early days, and no doubt there’ll be problems and disputes – not all the images that Getty have initially identified will get past the resolution/quality/permissions issues and there will be people who will get pissy about that. It’s a huge learning curve for an enormous number of people.

    …and as far as the number of images they want to be able to have in the flickr/Getty branded stock pages for launch in March? They are consistently talking about tens of thousands, still. It appears to be ‘a work in progress’, building up slowly and steadily, but it will be huge for sure. The invite thing makes sense right now – realistically, can you imagine how new servers might cope if the entire flickr community landed, and started trying to navigate the Getty image upload software? Oh yes, I forgot, you can remember what that looks and feels like can’t you……

    I don’t at all think that the invites are some kind of ‘superior photography thing’, it looks to me like they are getting a broad sweep of skill, and style and experience – and internationally too. Almost as if they want the ‘idiot’ questions, the common mistakes, the endless clarification of licensing, releases, copyright, fees, royalties etc to happen – so they can thrash them out now not later. This is not some elite club of the great and the good I can tell you….

    I’m being realistic, I don’t see this as a gravy train or a way to make lots of money – chances are, if any of my stuff makes the cut – it’ll be too off the wall for most and I’ll make jack! Meanwhile, it won’t stop me from continuing to experiment, learn & aim for a gallery show every now and then, and maybe sell some limited edition prints if I get lucky. None of this stops me from doing that.

    I for one am delighted to be given this opportunity, and I don’t think I’ll be on my own in that.

  12. Anonymous-Flickr'r says:

    I recently got an invite.

    When they announced the partnership with flickr I read various postings about how it would be a bad thing for photogs, and I wasn’t planning on participating on the off chance they actually invited me.

    When I got the invite and looked at the images they selected I have to say I was extremely disappointed. They claimed to have world-class inspectors with vast experience. The majority of the images they selected are taken at an extremely well known US location that doesn’t allow photos to be used in a commercial way – without their permission which is as hard if not harder to get than let’s just say: Breeding Giant Pandas… And of the remaining images only a few are ones I would think are good enough to be considered.

    So, I have no idea how they actually did their image selection / research. The images are not my best, and would probably not sell much if at all.

    At this point I haven’t made a final decision, but I probably won’t accept the invite. It would probably be a lot of work to get joined up, re-work images, submit them, and for what I think would be a very limited return on my time.


  13. Andrea says:

    My only concern is that the price they pay, which I understand to be the bare minimum may very well devalue stock photography overall for those looking to make a living through their work.

    This issue came up before, ie: a Flickr photographer was offered a pittance for a photo for the cover of Time I believe. He/she of course was thrilled by the invitation but the professional photography community went into a tailspin.

    Something similar happened to the antique community when everyone and their uncle got on ebay and offered items for a song not knowing the value or the history of their ‘finds’. Antique dealers who were paying good money couldn’t complete with the part-time dabblers.

    Overall I agree with Thomas that the long term implications are potentially more serious that they may appear on the surface.

  14. Getty images are over the world and we should adjust on how it’s implemented.