Going Pro with Getty — Stock Licensing Your Portfolio

Apr 17, 2007

Getty Images is a great resource for PR and communications pro’s looking to buy stock photos — but did you know it’s a marketplace for creatives to sell work too? Many image creators have leveraged existing portfolios into a profitable side business by licensing their photos through the agency. While it’s not for everyone and there are considerations to take into account before signing up, Getty offers flexibility, ease and potential that distinguishes it among other digital image marketplaces.

Finding the Right Price

The first step is to determine whether the potential income stream is worth the time and effort of setting up a presence. Unfortunately, there’s no real benchmark to determine how much you’ll earn off the bat, as the organization does not release financial reports on its contractors and income in the photography world can vary wildly regardless.

The average sale price of a Rights Managed image is roughly between $200 and $500. However, between in-house commission rates and transaction fees, the original artist should only expect to take home roughly 30% – 50% of a licensed image’s sticker price. Furthermore, you’ll have to pay contractor taxes on this income — hobbyists thinking it’s as easy as uploading a .jpg and waiting for the cash to roll in may have a nasty surprise come tax time.

The Upsides

Even with financial considerations, there are upsides to Getty licensure as well. Since it is a large-scale and reputable stock photo site, the images are much more likely to be purchased (in some cases multiple times) by consumers. Potential future marketability matters too — if a prestigious brand buys the image, you can use “work published in Rolling Stone” as an eye-catching hook on your CV to draw in private clients.

Success Metrics

According to a Selling Stock report by Jim Pickerell, photography business analyst, the majority of people who photograph full-time make their living on private clients and commissions. However, the trends indicate that stock photo sales are a common source of supplementary income, offering a modest but steady stream of cash to offset the expenses of running a photography business.

Ultimately, expecting stock photo sales to become full-time money (especially right off the bat) is unrealistic. But if your portfolio is rich with technically proficient and aesthetically interesting work samples, letting them soar into the digital marketplace can yield surprising rewards.

Size Does Matter

In order to make things actually happen your files need to be big enough that buyers can find what they need. Thinking that uploading 50-100 images will bring you a steady stream of income is wishful thinking. A more reasonable number would be to start with at least 500+ images and continuing to add additional images on a regular basis. With a file of thousands of images fro which to select, you are more likely to reap consistent rewards from your photography.

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