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So is the New Flickr/Getty “Request to License” Feature a Good Deal or Bad Deal for Flickr Photographers?
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Image by Thomas Hawk
While I was out of town last week, Flickr/Getty launched the latest new twist to their stock photography arrangement, "Request to License." Already Getty images is representing more than 100,000 flickr images on Getty for Getty’s customers to purchase. I’ve participated in this stock offering since it launched, and Getty currently represents 190 of my images (that you can see here).

The new twist is smart from Flickr/Getty’s standpoint. As many, many, many of the photos that buyers are finding online are being privately negotiated between buyer and seller, Flickr/Getty are looking to get a piece of this action. With this new "request to license" feature, Flickr/Getty is allowing you to post a link directly to Getty images on all 100% of your Flickr photos. If a potential buyer sees this link and wants to license your image, they can click the link and license the image through Getty. Getty/Flickr keep 80% of the money and you get 20% of the money.

So why am I declining to participate in this new venture? Simple. I don’t think I’ll sell 5x as many photos through Getty this way as I’d sell myself from private inquiries. I get inquiries about my photos all the time. Every week at least I get someone wanting to purchase one of my photos. These buyers have been magazines, text books, newspapers, websites, advertisers of every shape and form. I’ve been offered money for Holiday cards, billboards, television commercials, whatever. In fact the single largest source of my photography related income comes from people contacting me directly after finding my images on Google Image Search, my blog, Flickr etc.

Most of the time when people want to license one of my images it’s for a very specific photo, for a very specific reason. Last month Outdoor Magazine contacted me about using this image of the Iron Door Saloon in Groveland for 0. The photo’s not particularly great, but I suspect that they are running an issue on Groveland or something and it’s a very specific image that they wanted to buy. Now, as it stands, I simply sold them a license to the image and emailed them a simple invoice for 0. Pretty easy. Had they seen the same image of mine and chosen to license it through Getty for the same amount, I would only have gotten . So why would I want to get instead of 0?

You might be able to argue that people will feel more comfortable negotiating directly with Getty, a known and established provider of images who has a strong reputation in clearing images. You might even be able to argue that this comfort factor would allow you to sell twice as many images through Getty as you would directly. But 5x more image sells? I seriously doubt it. Other than me advertising for Getty on over 40,000 images of mine on Flickr, what are they doing exactly to earn their 80%? Are they promoting these images in search on their website? No.

Images that I presently license to Getty are indexed in their search engine and promoted by them. Even then I think the 20% payout is too small. But to simply redirect commercial inquiries on my images from me to Getty for an 80% cut? This doesn’t make sense to me at all.

I’ve also found that people respond very differently to images when I post them online non-commercially vs. offering them for sale. Many of the images in my stream never would be able to be licensed by Getty. They are of people without model releases etc. So why advertise for Getty on images that I will never be able to sell that also might send the wrong message to a subject who is in a non-commercial photograph that I’ve taken?

I can see where this deal might seem great for Getty/Flickr. I suspect that there is a big pot of money that they both are missing out on right now in terms of privately negotiated licensing between buyers and photographers directly and they’d like to get their hands on this money. But I think it’s a bad deal for photographers and I personally won’t be participating in it. My advice to Flickr/Getty would be to bump the payout up on these images to 50/50.

Here’s a link to a discussion from Flickr members on this new offering from the Flickr Help Forum (where I’m permanently banned). It seems that most photographers representing an opinion on this new offering there are also negative about it. Oh, and Google? If you’re listening, I think there’s a great opportunity in all this for you. Eliminating the middle man is one of the things that you do best. I like the 68% payouts I get on my Adsense ads with you a lot more than the 20% payout I get from Getty.