Monetizing Flickr

In Personal

A cat in a window

Getty Images – now with more cat photos.

There was news this week that Flickr has struck up a partnership with Getty images to start allowing Flickr photographers to license their images via Getty.

Specific details about how it will work are scarce, but we know the system will begin “soon” and that it won’t be open slather across all images, only the ones chosen by Getty picture editors.

From a photographers perspective

I’ve long thought it would be handy if Flickr had an in built tool to allow people to pay for a license to use an image.

On a semi regular basis i’m contacted by people asking if they can use one of my photos they found on Flickr. From ad agencies wanting it for a campaign, to a band wanting a shot for a run of photocopied gig flyers. Most often it’s opportunists looking for a free photo but sometimes they approach prepared to spend.

Live Earth Crowd

As an example, i was contacted by an ad agency about licensing the image above after they found it on my Flickr page. I’m hopeless at negotiating money deals and knew that i’d probably underquote. I’ve done so before and felt a fool when i realised the proper commercial value.

So i flicked the ad agency over to Retna who i sometimes syndicate my images with. They sold it for US$3000, took a 50% commission and i ended up with US$1500 for an image i took over a year ago and never imagined getting paid for. Regular Flickr users don’t have that facility, i already had an existing relationship with the photo agency.

Without a photo agency involved it’s a fairly laborious process of many exchanged emails before a resolution is reached. There’s no set fee structure, so it’s always a stab in the dark at working out an appropriate fee. Most often nothing gets resolved and everyone’s time is wasted.

I’d find it handy to cut out this process and just let people decide for themselves whether they wanted to license the photo based on a preset fee structure.

Like adsense for photos

I don’t put photos on Flickr with a view to selling them. Many photos i couldn’t sell because of copyright issues or existing licensing deals.

But a bit like bloggers using google adsense on a personal blog, it wouldn’t hurt to get a bit of extra pocket money should someone wish to buy a license to use a photo i already took.

I already upload everything in hi-res, i title, caption and keyword the images. It’s all ready to go.

MTV Australia Awards 2008 Media Call

From a photo buyers perspective

I work in house for a weekly magazine sitting next to the picture editor. Every day she sources dozens of images to use; free publicity stills, agency editorial photos, cheap stock photos. It’s often pretty frantic trying to source the right photo with a looming deadline.

Sometimes a search finds a photographer on Flickr with a photo that would be perfect to use. But if we need the photo in hi-res for deadline that day it’s not even worth trying to get in touch with the photographer.

It takes days or weeks and many emails to negotiate with a photographer about using a Flickr photo. You have to wait for them to read the emails, negotiate a fee you’re both happy with, and then dig out the original hi-res file.

When buying an image from Getty there’s standard rates and you can have the hi-res in a matter of moments.

Even if a photo on Flickr is more appropriate and cheaper than a Getty shot, Getty wins for convenience and speed.

A Photo Editor’s perspective.

A photographer snaps BUST(ED) by Julie Rrap

From a non-Getty agency perspective

Photoshelter is a photo agency that offers more generous commissions to photographers and helps foster a photographer friendly community through things like blogs and events. Prompted by the Getty/Flickr alliance they published a blog post titled “How Getty is killing the stock photo industry“.

They say it’s in trend with Getty’s monopolistic practices and non-photographer friendly licensing terms.

Earlier this year Photoshelter developed a tool to easily transfer Flickr photos directly into a Photoshelter account where they could be sold. It was shut down by Flickr less than 2 days after it launched. It was a shame because i think Photoshelter’s photographer friendly community vibe sits well with Flickr’s users.

I have a Photoshelter account but haven’t taken the time to upload more than a dozen or so pictures because it’s such a time consuming process titling, captioning, keywording and uploading each image.

If the Flickr/Getty alliance means little to no extra work for a photographer it’ll be a compelling proposition.



  1. Hey Dan
    Thanks for the insight. I’ve been wondering how I can make some cash from my images, and hoping to perhaps nuture my limited talents to something closer to yours. This is all great info.
    BTW – that’s my mate Charlie Brewer taking photos of the prosthetic butt in this post. Too funny 🙂

  2. If I was an ad agency, I’d be worried about a model release for the few front faces in that crowd picture. Editorial usage, no problem. Commercial advertising though? Just asking for trouble.
    I’ve shot plenty of crowd pics for agencies, its quite a bit of work to get everyone properly released. We’ve rented out bleachers at local stadiums on days where nothing is happening there to do them…

  3. Craig,
    If you don’t know pricing info, it’s not because the info isn’t out there. Self licensing is only a “stab in the dark” if you don’t flip the lights on. There’s software (Fotoquotepro, for example) that gives you detailed info on pricing by industry and use. You can even cheat by going over the and checking the pricing on any image there — the prices there mirror Fotoquote’s prices. Use that as a starting point. You won’t always get those prices and it’s always up to you what your basement price is — but it’s not a stab in the dark.

  4. Didn’t Virgin already get into trouble for using someones photo from Flickr for advertising? Google Adsense performs exceptionally poorly on photo galleries due to it needing text to display the right ads. Photo licensing is hard to make money out of also. To make any sort of money you will have to have several different methods of selling your photos.

  5. Ryan McGinnis,
    I am utterly confused at your reply to my comment that had nothing to do with pricing, and everything to do with obtaining model releases. Maybe you meant to reply to the original post?
    How many of these flickr crowd shots are properly released? I’m going to guess… statistically insignificant amount.

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