Successes and failures of the Getty-Flickr program

edited January 2010 in General
It's been quite a while since Getty and Flickr got together. Personally, I have not chosen to submit even my invited pictures. However, I am curious about how satisfied others are with the program. Has it been profitable to you in a meaningful way? Have there been any problems with Getty's categorization of your images? Has it been worth your effort so far?



  • Tom,

    The results have been way beyond my expectations. Definitely worth the effort. Getty Images has incredible reach and commands high prices. More than half of my sales have been overseas. They are now allowing contributors to submit 100 images/month for review. I now have 65 images for sale through Getty. They have sold KAP, PAP, and non-aerial images for me.

    One frustration with the program is that there has been a keywording lag. They keyword the Rights-managed (30% commissions) images quickly, but the keywording for Royalty -free (20% commissions) images is taking 6-8 weeks. They have failed to assign the most important keywords to a few of my images, but have been responsive to requests to add appropriate keywords. Until the keywords are assigned, buyers are not able to find images in searches.

    There is a private Flickr group for Getty contributors, and the sales results have been worthwhile for some photographers and disappointing for others. I feel lucky that is has gone so well for me so far.
  • Thanks, Michael. Your answer is unexpected. My expectation was much more negative. One more bit of interesting information that you provided is that Getty does the tagging. I assumed that to be the full responsibility of the photographer.

    I am not doing enough photography of any kind these days but may submit some photos to Getty someday.

  • edited January 2010
    Hey Tom.

    I only have 27 images in the Getty collection, and since most of mine are RF images my transaction sizes are smaller. I also think that my images may not have as much stock utility, which lowers my transaction count. Still, I think it's nice that I've had about 10 transactions in 5 months and think that I'll probably get more from the Getty relationship than I would on my own.

    1. When someone contacts me to see if they can use my image for free, it's nice to be able to refer them to Getty and say that I've signed a contract that prohibits me from giving the image away.
    2. The Getty deal is a step up from microstock and a better deal for KAPers who typically don't produce the volume necessary to make it in the microstock channels. With Getty it's easy for a photographer to make say $8 on a small transaction where as a microstocker would be lucky to get $.08. It would be interesting to hear if anyone here has had any success with microstock places like
    3. If you don't have any other sources of photography income, it helps legitimize the tax deductibility of kite and camera purchases. Though it should be pointed out that you can only write off losses on an unprofitable business for so-many years and you should check with your accountant before writing off kite & camera expenses.
    4. Half the people who talk to me about KAP ask me if I'm selling the images. This Getty deal provides a simple satisfying answer. Especially for folks who recognize the Getty brand.
    5. I can still sell numbered prints of these images. Although the fact that they are in the Getty collection makes them less exclusive and could lower their appeal in a "fine art" venue.
    6. I can pull any of my images out of the Getty collection later on.

    I can't contribute the images to the best-of-KAP or WWKW books.

    With all of this said, I don't think it's right for everyone and there are probably many cases where the photographer is better off handling the licensing on their own. If I wanted to work a harder on the business side I could probably make more money by licensing direct.
  • An acquaintance submits to istockphoto. When I spoke to him a year ago, I believe he said he was submitting 100 photos per week (or was it per month?) and receiving about $100 per week from all the photos. He was attempting to build up enough sales to actually make a living on it. He said that he had to keep his inventory fresh in order to keep up revenue. And of course he was laearning about what kinds of images will sell. Remember, most of these will be used in advertising.

    Since I don't expect to make money from my photos, maybe I'll see about using Getty just for fun.
  • To everyone who has had interest from Getty:

    What are they looking for?

    I'm not asking idly, because "stock" can mean so many MANY things. A really good stock photo may be a hand turning on a light switch. Shoot it with a white wall plate, an off-white wall plate, a chrome wall plate, conventional switch, paddle switch, dimmer switch, etc. and make them all available. Be sure to shoot them as verticals as well as horizontals. Lots of potential. But stock photos aren't limited to hands turning on light switches. They include skylines, landscapes, portraits, studio stills, etc. It's hard, from a photographer's standpoint, to know if a given photo has stock potential or not.

    Unlike a number of KAPers, Getty didn't contact me to ask if I was interested in submitting images. So I submitted some of my own. I was told they were not interested in having me sign with Getty at this time. Which is informative (I didn't get the job) but also pretty useless (I don't know why). It could be that the body of my work does have stock potential, but that I chose photos that don't have a lot of resale potential. In that case it would help to know what they're looking for so I can tune my submission portfolio. Or it could be that my style of photography really doesn't lend itself to stock sales. In that case it would help to know what they're looking for so I can either choose to change my shooting style, or understand that this is a dead-end not worth pursuing. And it may be that what I submitted was fine, but that they saw the resolution and balked. I down-size my images when I upload them. I'm more than happy to upload the full size image. But I'm not going to go back and do that to every single photo unless I know this is the cause.

    I know Getty provides some tips, but to some extent they're hard to apply to KAP because it seems like they're just getting into the idea of using KAP imagery. So looking at what Getty is offering and offering something similar, but not identical, really isn't that helpful. To some extent this whole thing is like a black box that you toss photos at, but really don't know if, or why, they will be accepted.

    Michael and Scott, thanks for posting a link to your Getty stock set. THAT is something I can go through and learn from. If either of you have any pointers, I'd be interested in learning from your experience.


  • Scott - supprised you dont have Lady Liberty up on Getty
  • @Tom: I hear you and feel the same way. It is a mystery. I think I've been lucky to have 27 accepted. Some make sense, you look at their picks and usually see exactly what the picture means. But others caught me by surprise. I'm still not sure why any one would need an image of a snow covered tree standing in front of subsidized housing in Chelsea. I think half are there because they illustrate a well known place. From what I've read, the best stock sales come from images that convey emotion and include _people_ as the subject. The people component rules out a lot of KAP. The emotional component possible but can be difficult to compose. It also needs to be original. Apparently they're flooded with flower macros and sunsets and try to discourage those types of submissions. After people, they need places and things. Of all places, it seems like Hawaii would be a place worthy of stock. I'm not sure what ad agencies expect to see when they go looking for a Hawaii image. Perhaps there are subjects in Waikiki that are common and boring for locals, but valuable to tourism? I've heard Maui is the more fashionable destination, but less accessible to the larger public?

    @Snagley: They've expressed interest. I'm still thinking about it.
  • Thanks for the tip on the flower macros and sunsets. Now I know not to include any! ;) But thanks also for your point about including the human element, when possible. I typically do landscapes, whether in the air or on the ground, so that's what I submitted. But I do have people pictures I could submit. This helps a lot.

    Your thoughts on Hawaii being a good location to need stock photos of is why I figured I'd give it a try in the first place. It's expensive to send a photo crew out here, so using stock photos of Hawaii seems like a good route to go from the buyer's standpoint. The Big Island makes an unfortunate percentage of its annual income from tourism, but of all the islands it's not the most visited. So yeah, maybe that's an issue. I don't often have an opportunity to visit other islands, and really can't swing any photography trips on the off-chance that that's what they're looking for. But I'll certainly bear that in mind when opportunity does arise. I do try to pack my KAP gear any time I travel.

    Scott and Michael, I see a lot of landmark architectural photography in your Getty collections. Do you typically need property releases for these shots? So far I've asked for (and received!) a sum total of one property release, for a shot I did of Gemini North. Because of some of the wording in the release, I haven't submitted it to Getty, even though it certainly constitutes a place. Or a thing, depending on how you look at it. But I have a bunch of other photos of other observatories, as well as some interior industrial shots that might work well, given what you described, Scott. But I don't have a good grasp on when you need to ask for a release and when you don't.

    Thanks a bunch for the input. I'm putting together another set of images to submit.

  • Yes, thanks for the input, guys! Your images are all really great, too. If I am not mistaken, Getty assigns the category (RF, RM, etc.). If that is correct, have you been happy with their decisions? Michael, have you made more on your RF or RM pictures?

  • edited January 2010
    @TomB: I've never been asked for a location release, but I was asked for a model release on this photo:


    I did say "Hi" to these guys, but didn't ask them to sign a release. At the time I didn't even know about such things. I really should make a point of printing out a model release contract and keep it with my KAP pack just in case. Getty will want a release for each person in the shot and if they're under 18, you'll need their parent to sign.

    I don't know exactly when a location release is required. I know the Getty site has some instructions for photographers who want to sign up outside of the flickr group. has some long reads about releases and other stock requirements. They included some guidance on location releases. Just try opening a contributor account with them and you'll see what I mean. You have to read about all this stuff and then take a test at the end. This happens _before_ you can send them a single submission and you can go through the process with out being obligated to make a submission.

    With the Flickr/Getty deal, you submit (or they request) an image. After you both agree to make the image a candidate, they'll analyze the image, request a higher resolution file, and let you know what releases are required. If they don't ask for a property release you're good to go. If you can't provide the releases they ask for, then the image won't make it into the collection. It's not a big deal if you can't come through with the paperwork, and at least you'll know what _would_ have worked.

    @Poky: Of course I would be happier if I had more RM pictures since they sell for higher prices. Still, RF isn't bad considering what I would get on the microstock market. Why are some RM and others RF? Who knows? In my case, I have a single RM image and would concede that it probably has stronger composition and aesthetics than the other 26.

    @Quakeguy:from what I've been reading that 100/month or 100/week sounds about right. Seems like a lot of work. I can't imagine trying to generate 100 usable stock worthy KAP photos in a single week. In a month, I _might_ be able to work hard and get 100 "nice" photos, but easily half of those "nice" shots wouldn't work for stock. At this point I'm thinking that KAP and microstock are not a good fit. Mostly because at this point the microstock model doesn't offer a way to value the rare subject/perspective, but low sales volume photography. Even Getty's higher priced RF model is a tough sell for KAP. I'm hoping that over time the RF model will pay off. We'll see.
  • For what it's worth, here's a recent blog post showing samples of top Microstock sellers:
  • edited January 2010

    I don't think I can be much help regarding what Getty wants, because my 9 photos that have generated sales have been extremely varied: 4 KAP, 1 PAP, 4 non-aerial. Three have people in them, 3 have animals, 2 have vehicles. Some have generated several sales, others only a single sale. If you can detect any pattern, let me know.....

    Since you asked, when submitting a portfolio, they don't care what size the images are as long as they can get a decent look at them. They don't ask for full resolution images till they've accepted them. Only then do you upload high-res images directly to their site for them to sell.

    They usually don't need property releases for government owned buildings, which is why my San Francisco City Hall and Palace of Fine Arts shots are in their collection. This may be different for the Marin Civic Center, which is a Frank Lloyd Wright design....I'm waiting for Getty to decide. They don't appear to need any releases for cityscapes, either.


    You're correct, Getty assigns the Rights-managed or Royalty-free license model. My RM sales have averaged about $130, my RF sales about $50. I didn't agree with their decision to assign a couple of recent images to RF and asked them if they'd reconsider. They said no. I believe they are trying to maximize $$ for themselves, and I think what's best for them is also best for the photographer. I don't really understand the business, so I'm hoping that they know it well and are making the right decisions.


    Iagree: direct licensing is definitely better, at least in the short term. I hate marketing my stuff, though. It's so nice to have Getty doing it. Their website is translated into many languages (and currencies). My one non-Getty international sale was to a large non-profit for $50 which they wired to my bank account. The bank charged a $15 wire fee. A marketing genius I am not!! :-(

    In case anybody cares for more detail , 2/3 of my sales have been non-US, about 2/3 have been RM, highest individual royalty: $232, lowest: $4.69. Best month: $650. Average month, just under $200. Getty has made $4650 from my photos, I've made $1750 (I wish they gave a more equitable cut!!) The images have been licensed for use in the US,Canada, Germany, France,Great Britain,Spain, Hong Kong, Mainland China, and Thailand. They've been licensed for use in textbooks, corporate reports, magazines, websites, tradeshow displays, brochures, video, and direct mail. It's been really interesting looking at the statements and seeing how and where the photographs are used.

    Though I have done some searching based on the information in the statements, I have not seen any of the uses of my images so far. My photo of the color-dyed baby chicks which was taken in Java, Indonesia was licensed for what Getty calls the the "Social and Environmental Issues" industry. It was licensed for the months around Easter. Maybe it's being used in some anti-animal cruelty campaign?? If anyone comes across any of my photos in commercial uses, please let me know!

    I can't help but feel that I've gotten lucky and that maybe my best sales are in the past. I certainly hope not, though!!
  • I didn't know much about this program before reading this. I sell my KAP images as fine art prints and occasionally for commercial use, although I don't market them commercially. For that reason I would be hesitant to offer them through getty. I do see how this program can be profitable for a lot of people though.
  • Today I received an invite for 6 KAP images.... thanks to those sharing their experiences on this thread. I have a lot of reading around to do before deciding.
  • Scott, Michael, do you have experience with 'model release' pictures? Is model release a global requirement or US only?

    I ask because one of my chosen shots has about 20 random people in it who I have never met and weren't my intended subject. The target was a bunch of different coloured kayaks laid up on a beach.

    There are lots of discussions in the private Getty Flickr pool on the subject but I don't see any real firm guidelines. Can you guys offer any advice on this?
  • It's probably in there somewhere, but since some of you guys do the 3 second intervalometer thing, I'm wondering what the limitations are on selling similar photos outside of getty and who decides what "similar" or "identical" is.
  • edited March 2010
    What type of images are we looking for?
    Look at creating images that can be associated with concepts. Imagery with strong conceptual appeal and an emotional connection has the greatest power to make multiple, global sales. On a popular topic, consider what visual angle will result in new and fresh images.

    What type of images do we have enough of?
  • Fresh, new visual angle! Hmm, I think KAPers ONLY do that.
  • edited March 2010

    Model (and property) releases are not just a U.S. thing, they are worldwide. They seem quite arbitrary at times, seemingly dependent on the whims of the editor who chooses your particular image. One of my best selling images is a pole photo which required no model releases, but certainly could have if invited by a different editor. If they are requiring releases for the image you described, my impression is that they won't relent. If they aren't requiring releases, you're good to go. My best advice is to read as much as you can in that contributor's forum.

    FCB, Getty requires exclusive rights to represent the images and all similar images. In one web page, thet describe similars as follows: "Similars are images in the collection that have been identified by Getty Images as being from the same photo shoot and containing the same model or subject, in the same background or scenario, at the same time of day, telling the same story."
  • edited April 2010
    Michael, congrats on the big Getty hit this month with that pole photo you mentioned last month! (If viewing the link, scroll down near the end to see Michael's news)
  • Ditto to what Kev says, Michael! It proves that there can be money in chalk drawings.
  • Thanks, guys. Kevin, if I'm not mistaken, that Flickr group is only viewable by people who have signed up with Getty.

    What Kevin is referring to is that I received my Getty statement for March sales yesterday and found that a huge Spanish telecommunications firm had licensed one of my pole photos for all worldwide uses for the next year. I almost fell off my chair when I saw it....that single statement just about tripled my income derived from Getty for the past year. To add a little perspective, last month my statement was $0....
  • Michael, of course, didn't think of that!
  • Bravissimo, Michael! There is a Getty Claus after all!
  • I am revisiting pardon me for bringing up an old thread.

    I am trying to decide if I should start submitting work to getty, but I have some questions about the program for the people who are involved with it or know more than I do about it.

    First, a little background info. Right now I exhibit and sell my KAP work in art shows, most take place in the summer. I do well at these and plan to continue with this. Some of my images are sold in small galleries year round. I would like some day to make a book of my work (a very long term goal, I'd like to have 10+ years of solid work before even considering this). I occasionally (once or twice a year) am asked to license my photos for commercial use, and have made some good deals this way, although I don't actively market them that way. I like submitting my work to the WWKW and best of KAP books.

    Now...would any of these things violate the getty program, and in what way? I am not totally sure what kind of exclusivity getty expects from the photos that are submitted, and have heard various things from people who are and are not involved in the program and I don't really know what is the right information. I definitely could use the money that I could make through getty, since I don't actively market my photos in that way right now. However, I don't want to lose the income I get from selling the photos as artwork.

    Also, do you have the ability to approve or disapprove sales made through getty before they are made? And how does the image credit work, is it the typical 'Photographer name - Getty Images' format, or does it just say 'Getty Images'?

    Thank you in advance!
  • edited October 2010

    Getty allows you to sell "limited edition, signed and/or numbered prints." I believe that greeting cards and note cards are unacceptable since they license images to those types of companies.

    Regarding books, here is what they consider acceptable:

    Self-published books focusing on your work as an artist that are:

    -distributed to family and friends, or contacts and potential clients for self-promotion;

    -sold via limited bookstores (e.g. regional interest books) your website, at gallery shows;

    -for sale to consumers as long as it is sold in a limited edition.
    (exception for this kind of distribution only: your cover images should not be submitted to Getty Images).

    I'm not sure about the WWKAP Week book. Getty has invited me to submit one of my 2010 WWKAP Week photographs, so I better figure out if this is OK in the next few days. I suppose I should officially ask if they consider such a limited edition, limited distribution book acceptable, even though it's not self-published.

    If you're thinking about having a book of your work published with unlimited distribution, then you would either have to license the images back from Getty for that use, or discontinue having Getty represent any of your images. You must initially sign up for 2 years. After the initial period the contract renews for one year at a time. You can discontinue the contract at the expiration date by giving at least 60 days written notice.

    Regarding exclusivity, they require exclusive rights to represent the images and all similar images. Definition of similars: "Similars are images in the collection that have been identified by Getty Images as being from the same photo shoot and containing the same model or subject, in the same background or scenario, at the same time of day, telling the same story."

    If you've previously licensed photos which are invited by Getty as Rights-managed, you can submit them to Getty if they were licensed for one-time use or for a limited duration. Otherwise you cannot submit them to Getty. If the invited images are assigned Royalty-free by Getty, it's OK to have previously licensed them, but you must discontinue any further licensing of those images.

    Once Getty is representing your images, you have no say in how they are licensed. When they invite new images, you get to choose which ones you'd like them to represent.

    Regarding credit, I have seen "photographer's name / Getty Images" for editorial use. I don't believe that credit is required for commercial use.

    Have I answered all your questions? If not, let me know.
  • Michael,

    Thank you for the reply. That answered my questions, but raises another. The prints that I sell are signed, but not limited editions, would this be allowed? I don't do greeting cards or any novelties like that, just photographic prints.
  • Evan,

    My sense is that Getty has not made a hard and fast rule about the definition of "limited". There have been a number a discussions about this on the Getty Images Contributors Discussion Forum, but the Getty people have noticeably stayed away. Since they don't require the prints to be numbered, I think that any number of sales in the hundreds is probably fine.

    Here's what one of the Getty people said about self-published books: "without being too restrictive I will offer up that limited edition in the neighborhood of up to 500 would be what we would expect. But we haven't officially put an number on it, and hope not to have to if we can help it." I believe that this is their position on prints, too.

    I appreciate them trying to not be too restrictive by not making hard and fast rules about this. I think they're just trying to prevent people from selling prints directly through SmugMug and other similar online gallery/printing services. I think if you don't go overboard with large scale distribution, you'd be OK.
  • I'd create a new topic under "Lessons Learned", but most of this is pertinent to this thread. I've been participating in the Getty Flickr program since November. So far no sales, but I've had a number of license requests that I've done my darndest to fulfill. In the process I've learned some lessons:

    Lesson 1: Save Everything

    I had a couple of panoramas requested that were made using Microsoft ICE. ICE has a strictly non-commercial license that I'm pretty sure precludes selling images made with ICE. It also puts its little fingerprints all over the resulting panorama file, so it's pretty effectively watermarked. I had to re-create these using Autopano Pro. This required the source images. So far so good. I'm a digital packrat. But in case you've used software that doesn't let you sell your resulting images, be sure to save your originals.

    Lesson 2: People Will Request the Weirdest Stuff

    Earlier in this thread I asked what Getty was looking for. I get it now. They're looking for what sells. So what sells? Ask the customer. And sometimes the customer has some seriously bizarre ideas about what they want. I use my Flickr account as a sandbox as well as a portfolio. I upload pictures I'm proud of having made, and I upload pictures that illustrate a point (IR filter tests, photos demonstrating perspective control, etc.) For the examples I typically resize the picture to a Flickr size before saving, much less uploading. Lo and behold, a customer wants to use one of my illustrative pictures. That means pawing back through originals to find the particular image I used, re-edit it, save it full-sized, etc. I'm learning.

    Lesson 3: Getty Will Want Releases

    Have you ever been at a great KAP subject, and gone just a liiitle too far past that "Private Drive" sign in order to position your camera? Hop that fence that's just ten feet too close to let you get the angle you're after? It makes for a fantastic photo (ok, or even just a keeper when the rest of the session has been ho-hum). But it also makes for an awkward situation when a customer places a license request and Getty asks for a release. Errmmm... I wasn't supposed to be there in the first place? Oops...

    Lesson 4: It Helps to Fill Out Your Headers

    I started being more careful about this in the last few months, but I wish I'd been more careful about it all along. Filling out a bunch of fields months or years after the fact is a real pain. Even better, Flickr reads the IPTC fields from an images headers and uses them to populate descriptions and keywords when you upload them. Besides, having your copyright info in the header of your file is a good thing when it comes to putting your work on the web.

    Like I said, no sales yet. But there's at least interest. Time will tell.

  • Interesting...they hit you up for a property release?
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