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?

Getty Images Revamps Flickr Collection Front Door and Builds Facebook and Blog Widgets

Getty Images Revamps Flickr Collection Front Door and Builds Facebook and Blog Widgets

Getty Images announced today that they have created a new front door for their Flickr Collection and that they have also added a “cloud” type imagery widget for Facebook pages and blogs. The new Flickr Collection front page features balls of rotating photos as built by contributors on the site. You can use the Getty Images site to build interesting clouds of 5 – 30 rotating images from the Flickr/Getty Collection and then Getty will make a cloud of these images. When you mouse over the cloud it rotates and speeds up and you can select any image to pull up a larger version of that image and get to the page where that photo is able to be licensed.

If you want to build a cloud of just your images, you need to search by the photo number of each of your photos that Getty has assigned and can add them one by one (up to the 30 photo max). To see what this looks like and feels like you can click through to a cloud of my images here.

Today the Facebook and blog widgets allow you to link to Getty clouds of the most recent clouds on their page, but in the next roll out of this widget they are going to allow you to just link the widget specifically to a single cloud of your choice. This would seem to me to be a smart way for Getty to extend their marketing reach through blogs, facebook and social media to bring more potential buyers to their site and a smart way for photographers to show off some of the work that they have for sell through Getty on their own pages.

To get to the widgets you can go to the main Flickr Getty front door homepage here and click on Explore. In the lower left hand part of the page is a menu item called “Inspiring Downloads,” where you can get these widgets. Here is also a direct link to the widget on Facebook.

There is also a new screensaver app that you can install that will use the most recent Getty clouds to your desktop.

Is 20% of Something Better Than 88% of Nothing? Flickr, Getty Images, ClusterShot and the Future of Stock Photography

Getty to Offer Flickr Images for Sale

I thought I’d put out a post after I received my first earnings report (which I received today) from stock photography agency Getty Images. I signed up to have Getty represent 60 of my individual photographs as part of the recent deal between Getty Images and Flickr. The Flickr/Getty arrangement is by invite only and Getty initially selected about 90 of my images. I listed all of the images that they asked for that didn’t need model releases (which was 60). Most of the other images that they wanted where model releases were needed are of me or my family, so I’ll probably add those to the collection as well in the next few weeks.

So in my first month of production with Getty I sold two of the 60 images. Those two images totaled $689.97 in fees to Getty and $138.00 (my 20% cut) to me. At the same time that I’d signed up with Getty I also listed 24,917 of my photos with the upstart stock photography agency ClusterShot. ClusterShot, started by Canadian web development company silverorange which was co-founded by Pal Daniel Burka (who is also Creative Director at Digg), offers photographers an ability to list their photos there and pays them out 88% of the proceeds. Unfortunately in my first month or so with ClusterShot I didn’t sell any photos.

Which raises the question, is 20% of something better than 88% of nothing?

While I really, really, really like the ClusterShot model, and especially the fact that the majority of the sales proceeds go to the content creator, unless companies like ClusterShot are able to attract buyers to buy these photos, I’m not sure how successful they will end up being in the end. There is something to be said for Getty’s dominant role as the largest provider of stock photography in the world. Because Getty has the existing customers already signed up, at least today, it seems like they are far more likely to sell more images than ClusterShot. On the other hand, you can sell a lot fewer images at ClusterShot and still make more money because the payout there is so much higher. At present I’m trying both to see how they both work.

I think another area where Getty has a big advantage is in their reputation for clearing images. Especially in today’s litigious environment, image buyers are likely to feel more comfortable with Getty’s vetting of images for needed model and property releases than they might be for ClusterShot’s free for all. At ClusterShot there is no image review process where they determine if images need releases or not. And while in some cases (say an image of flower or a rose) no release may be needed, in many other cases a model release is clearly needed. Since the image buyer is ultimately the one on the hook for publishing images without correct releases, an image buyer might consider an agency like Getty as a safer place to purchase their images.

More than both Getty and ClusterShot though, the majority of my licensing income last month came from direct purchases. I sold five photos directly last month for about $2,000 total. I got to keep 100% of that. I was not marketing those images directly in any meaningful way, they were just inquiries that people sent my way after finding images of mine that they wanted to use on Flickr, Google Image Search, etc. The buyers were natural buyers of stock photography, a couple of magazines (including Popular Photography), a visitor’s convention bureau, a local newspaper and a private company for their brochure.

Now in the future things very well may change. Personally I think it’s more likely that you’d see ClusterShot (or a company like them) gain traction and market share than it is that I’d see Getty raise their payouts. In the meantime I’ll continue in the near term using both and watching and reporting on how things go.

I will say also that I’ve been pretty impressed with things from the service side of Getty Images. I had some initial glitches getting my photos on their platform, but they fixed my problem and I’ve found the Getty staff to be very helpful and responsive in the Flickr/Getty members only forum on Flickr. Late last week Getty also invited all existing Flickr/Getty members an opportunity to submit five new images to Getty in a promotion entitled “It’s Your Turn.” Apparently Getty is also in the process of inviting additional images into their collection both from new and existing Flickr/Getty contributors, although they have not invited any additional images of mine since the first 90.

I think one of the cool things also with ClusterShot is that they can use the Flickr API to pull your photos directly from Flickr for sale. This makes it far easier than uploading your shots directly to their site. They also pull over your tags and keywords in this process so that your photos are immediately optimized for search on their site. You can also set ClusterShot up so that they pull over all your new photos to their site for sale as you upload them to Flickr as well. That’s slick.

If you want to see my Getty Images presently for sale, you can see those here.

If you want to see my ClusterShot Images presently for sale, you can see those here.

Update: I emailed PR reps from Getty, Yahoo and ClusterShot regarding this article and asking for more specific sales stats. Getty said that they are not presently sharing any sales stats on this program and I got the following email response back from Dan James at ClusterShot:

Hey Thomas,
Thanks for the review. Overall we feel it’s fair and well balanced. A few of our reactions in point form:

– We take it as a huge compliment to even be compared to Getty. They are so well established. Our site is brand new.

– We want to build tools to easily facilitate and automate the sale of that $2,000 you sold privately. We’re going to be building more tools and features focused precisely in that area in the months to come. Hopefully they’ll be useful enough for you to use.

– Right now we are trying to not be perceived as a destination to come and look for stock photos. At least initially. There are many people much better at storing, searching, and sharing photos than us. We want to make the service that sells the photo and ties into all of those other great sites. We’re going to building a full API for this in the coming months. This API will also be encourage to be used by makers of self-hosted gallery solutions as well.

– Currently we have ~1,000 photographers with 160K images for sale. Virtually all of our sales (which is in the dozens, not hundreds) are from photographers who are using ClusterShot as a place to feature and promote their work to previously established offline customers.

Flickr and Getty Images Launch Their Flickr Stock Photography Collection

Flickr Getty invite

Earlier this morning Flickr and Getty Images announced the launch of their new joint stock photography offering called “The Flickr Collection.”

“We are thrilled to provide our customers with this ground-breaking collection,” said Jonathan Klein, co-founder and chief executive officer of Getty Images. “We are impressed with the talent from the Flickr community, and are proud to once again lead our industry in this exciting new direction. We are eager to hear what our customers think, and look forward to their input in shaping this ever-expanding collection.”

I haven’t had a good chance yet to try out the new service but thought I’d offer some of my thoughts on the service here. I just received an invitation from Getty Images to participate in the collection on 95 of my photos, but only yesterday, so I haven’t had a chance yet to either decide what to do or sign up for the service.

My first observation about the new service is that I’m surprised at how limited it is. Out of the billions of images available on Flickr, as of this morning’s launch it would appear that Getty is only offering 4,284 flickr images for sale. Back in July of last year I reported on the collection based on comments made at the Microsoft Pro Photo Summit by Joseph Jean Rolland Dube, iStockphoto’s VP for Content Development. iStockphoto is 100% owned by Getty Images. Dube told us at that time that the collection would initially launch with about 2,500 images. That number was later disputed by Getty’s Bridgett Russell who said that the service would be launching with “tens of thousands of images.” “You have in fact been given an incorrect number,” said Russell last year. “We intend to launch our Flickr collection in the coming months with tens of thousands of images, with thousands more added to the collection each month.”

Getty Flickr Search Engine

I contacted Russell this morning about the difference between the 4,000+ images on the site this morning vs. the tens of thousands number reported last year and got the following answer back from her:

“Today, we have more than 10,000 images accepted into the Flickr Collection. Several thousand are available on today – as you noted – and within the next two weeks, all of them will be available. We are just finishing up some final processing. As a “living” collection, we’ll also be adding thousands of new images each month and Getty Images’ editors will continue to invite Flickr members to participate. “

Although the number of Flickr photographers invited into this program has not been made public at this point, the private “contributor only” group at Flickr currently shows 6,890 members. This is a group that you get invited to when you accept their agreement.

Doing a couple of quick searches, at least as of this morning, in the new Flickr collection you will find some reasonably popular search subjects somewhat sparse. For the search “San Francisco,” the new collection only brings up only 60 flickr images for sale. Another search for kitten (something Flickr of course is famous for) only brings up nine images for sale. One the positive side, it does appear that some of the Flickr images for sale have made their way to first page search results for broader image search requests across all Getty images collections. A search for the term “San Francisco” across all Getty collections shows nine Flickr photos on the first page of 67 pages available for sale. I’m pleased to see that Flickr photos seem to be getting good placement across Getty’s overall search engine.

I suspect that I will probably end up licensing at least some of the 95 photos that Getty has selected of mine to be included in this offering — if for no other reason than to try the service out and see how it goes.

The thing that I like about this offering is that Getty Images, as the world’s largest stock photography agency, has amazing reach. Although I’ve sold lots of stock photos myself, I wonder how much better of a job Getty could do selling them than I can. I also think it’s interesting that as part of the contract with Getty that they also will go after copyright infringement settlements for you on the images that they represent.

What I don’t like as much though is the payout split between the photographer and Getty images. At present the payout grid looks like this:

Rights Managed / Rights Ready Still Images and Footage: 30 percent
Royalty Free Footage: 25 percent
Royalty Free Still Images: 20 percent

I also don’t like the fact that by signing up for the service are committing to a two-year contract with Getty Images. During that two year contract Getty has the exclusive rights to market the images that you offer through them. So, for example, if you have an image that is not selling through Getty and say a magazine wants to buy it for $500 you can’t sell it to them. Of course you could always point them to Getty to buy it, but you would not be able to offer it.

Another issue with this offering is that Getty requires all images included to be registered as “all rights reserved,” even though it would seem that a Creative Commons non-commercial license ought to be sufficient. Ben Metcalfe started a lengthy thread discussion on this issue that you can read more about here. Flickr user Striatic also has a lengthy thread on problems that he has with the Getty contract here. Another interesting conversation (with 94 comments) about the Getty offerings is taking place on one of John Curley’s photos “team getty?” over here.

You can read the official Flickr FAQ on the new offering here. Getty has an FAQ for contributors here. Getty images has a blog post up on the new offering this morning here. There is a private members only group for Getty Images contributors on Flickr here.

Additional reading: USA Today: Online photo services can give shutterbug lucrative outlet. ZD Net: Getty Images, Flickr launch licensing, distribution deal. CNET: Selected Flickr images now sold through Getty.

Second Wave of Flickr/Getty Invites Being Sent “En Masse”

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

Today on the Flickr blog Flickr is announcing that the “second phase” of their partnership with Getty Images is launching and says that a new round of invitations to participate in the stock photography program are being sent out “en masse.” Flickr says that the new service will formally launch in March. Flickr has an updated FAQ on the program here.

An interesting side note to the new offering is that if you are selected for inclusion in this program you will need to change the license on any Creative Commons photos put up for sale to “all rights reserved,” on Flickr.

From the Flickr FAQ:

“There is a chance one of your Creative Commons-licensed photos may catch the eye of a perceptive Getty Images editor. You are welcome to upload these photos into the Flickr collection on Getty Images, but you are contractually obliged to reserve all rights to sale for your work sold via Getty Images. If you proceed with your submission, switching your license to All Rights Reserved (on Flickr) will happen automatically.

If you’re not cool with that, that’s totally cool. It just means that particular photo will need to stay out of the Flickr collection on Getty Images.”

As an advocate for the Creative Commons license personally I would have liked to have seen Getty/Flickr allow this license. There is no reason why a CC non commercial image cannot be sold and it would have been a good endorsement for this license if they could have figured out a way to work with it.

If you want to follow more of the Flickr Community’s reaction to this offering there are a few threads on Flickr that you can follow here and here. Note, you have to be logged into Flickr and allow yourself to see “adult” content in your settings in order to read the first thread.

Getty’s announcement on the new service is on their blog as well today where they say that “thousands” of invitations were sent out today. If you want to see what the invite looks like you can see this screenshot of it here.

Did you receive an invitations from Getty/Flickr today? If so or if not, what do you think of this new offering?

Related: Mike Arrington had an interesting blog post over at TechCrunch last week as well entitled, “The Photo Marketplace That Never Launched: Flickr Stock.”