Posted on 8/24/2000 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)



August 24, 2000 is set to launch a new brokerage service for photographers on September 20,

2000. This service is designed to aid photographers in marketing their work through

the Internet. The company is headquartered in the United Kingdom and Alexandra

Bortkiewicz, formerly with Tony Stone Images, is Director of Photography.

The company plans to offer photographers 90% of the gross fee collected after a

transaction fee of 3.5% to 5% is deducted. If payment is made by credit card a fee of

3.5% will be deducted, if has to invoice and collect they plan to deduct

5%.) It is expected that when they invoice it will only be to qualified users who are

regular buyer of a quantity of images and who desire to pay on a monthly basis rather

than use by use.

For the most part sales are expected to be automatic with little or no human

interaction between and the client. offers photographers a choice of making their images available on an

image-exclusive or non-exclusive basis and they can specify which option on a

case-by-case, submission-by-submission, basis.

If images are supplied as image-exclusive then the photographer also agrees to a

"substantially similar" clause that is defined as, "all or most of its principal

elements or subject matter are depicted in a way that may reasonably cause a person

viewing the Image side by side to believe one Image is the same or substantially the

same as the other image." The problem with this is that it leaves the decision as to

what is similar up to any buyer and the courts. If the buyer chooses to take a strong

position the photographer is left with little protection, given this language. To

avoid problems the photographer has got to hold a lot of images out of circulation.

I believe most photographers will find it advisable to initially make images available

on a non-exclusive basis so they can continue to use other sources, in addition to, to market the same images or subject matter.

Photographers will also be able to place limits on the licensing of their images so

certain types of uses would not be allowed. The photographer will be able to specify

countries in which an image may be licensed as well as specific terms of use or

industry sectors. This enables the image to be used in other ways not covered under

these limitations.

Photographers should carefully examine how this process works within the

software to insure that potential buyers can not make a use of an image that would

violate an earlier exclusive license. insists this will not be possible,

but is hard to imagine how a software solution can deal with all the potential


If you are always licensing one-time non-exclusive rights to your images then there is

probably little problem, but it seems to me that there is great danger in licensing

any type of restricted use unless there is human negotiator handling all sales of such


Issues To Consider

The following are a few issues that should be given careful thought before signing on


  • What will the pricing schedules look like? In the Frequently Asked

    Questions section of their site has provided a few sample prices for both

    licensed rights and royalty free. The licensed rights uses are somewhat lower than

    the current recommended rates in "Negotiating Stock Photo Prices" and the RF rates are

    lower than the current PhotoDisc prices.

    However, these are only sample prices. They are non-binding on, and they

    may change. Photographers would be wise to see a full operating "license calculator,"

    and the pricing schedules before they rush to sign on. Since everything is automatic

    the breakdowns in each schedule become critical. will also have three price bands for each image. The picture editors will

    select a suitable price band for each image at the time of submission. If the image

    is placed in the lowest band it will always be priced at the lowest of three fees for

    a particular size and circulation. At Stock Connection we have found that often

    customers are willing to pay very high fees for a very common image, because it

    happens to work very well with their concept and because they will be making large and


    uses of the images. Look at such an image in isolation, separate from the potential

    use, and every reasonable person would say that it should be priced at the lowest

    level because it is so common.

    The reverse is also true. You may have an image that is very unique and extremely

    difficult to produce. It gets priced at the highest band. Then a buyer comes along

    who would like to use the image 1/4 page in a small circulation brochure, but the

    price has pushed the image beyond his budget. If there is no means for negotiation

    and the buyer is forced to pick something else.

  • What happens when negotiation are necessary? In their answers to

    Frequently Asked Questions indicates that there will be provisions for the

    buyer to contact the photographer directly and enter into negotiations for some of

    these complex sales. It is not clear how that will work. If the photographer's

    contact information is always available to the buyer then it is entirely possible

    buyers will be going to the photographer to negotiate on a high percentage of usages.

    Consider that Getty finds it necessary to have 665 call center sales representatives

    worldwide -- despite the fact that they have automatic pricing. From our experience

    we know that a negotiator is involved in a high proportion of the sales made through

    PictureQuest, and they also have automatic pricing. Since does not plan to

    have any staff negotiators all these calls will have to go back to the photographer.

    This could be a good thing. Photographers will have more control. But, it is

    important for the photographer understand how the fixed pricing will be structured so

    he or she can determine how frequently it may be necessary to become involved in

    negotiations. This could require a restructuring of work procedures in the

    photographers' office in order to deal with such negotiations.

  • Pricing Exclusives. In the FAQ's says, "Customers of would typically pay between 20-30% more to guarantee an exclusive license

    for their project."

    This is extremely low -- particularly if the usage is small. Consider, if a customer

    wants to run a 1/4 page ad one time in one magazine -- but they want a year exclusive

    on the image. Don't say it will never happen. It has. Thirty percent on top of a

    minimal basic use fee is nothing -- and the image is locked out of potential sales to

    someone else for a year. Basically an exclusive on such a use should not be sold

    unless the buyer is willing to pay many times the basic use fee for the exclusive.

    Since this is highly unlikely the image should not be made available on an exclusive

    basis for this use. With automatic pricing there is no choice. In my opinion

    exclusives should not be licensed without a negotiator. Photographers will definitely

    end up being the losers is they allow this to occur.

    No matter how complex the pricing schedule there will be many uses that don't neatly

    fit into the structure. More and more frequently buyers who are willing to pay big

    money for a usage, want to use the image for several different things: ads in multiple

    publications with different circulations, in a brochure, a poster, on the web, etc.

    With this much usage there is always a break compared to how each usage would have

    been priced separately.

    Photographers need to fully recognize the limitations of automatic pricing systems

    when trying to license rights in an area where Every Single Product and Every Single

    Use is Unique.

  • What percentage of total worldwide sales are likely to be fully automatic?

    The percentage of sales that will be fully automatic, compared to those where a

    negotiator needs to be involved is a critical issue. Unfortunately, the agencies in

    our industry who are making such sales have not been willing to share details for

    understandable competitive reasons.

    On the other hand it seems unlikely that they would need the large numbers of call

    center sales staff if a high proportion of the sales are automatic. Thus, it seems

    reasonable to draw the following conclusions:

      1 - Only a small percentage of the total worldwide buyers of Rights Protected

      images will be prepared to conduct the entire transaction automatically. A much

      higher percentage of Royalty Free sales can be automatic because there are no rights

      issues to be discussed.

      2 - In order to deal with the issues of Rights Protected buyers, the photographer,

      or someone negotiating for him or her, will need to become involved in the

      transaction. This will require time and effort on someone's part.

      3 - When the negotiation is in another country or language the complexity

      increases exponentially.

  • When will start selling? - They say, "We shall start selling

    images as soon as we have reached our initial target of 100,000 high quality images.

    So please be patient and remember - the more effort you put into, the more

    likely it is you'll be rewarded with early sales."

    Photographers will have to invest a lot of time, energy and money before the system

    ever goes on-line. Keep in mind that ASMP's on-line agency MIRA has about 70,000

    images after seven years. Stock Workbook which has images from about 40 agencies has

    only about 30,000 images after 3 years. The amount of work required of the

    photographers and agencies who place images with MIRA or Workbook is much less than

    that required by

    Reaching 100,000 will not be easy. Those who put forth an effort early will have the

    longest to wait before they start seeing a return on their investment. On the other

    hand a significant presence is needed before they start spending a lot of advertising

    dollars to promote the site. If users have a bad experience early because they can't

    find what they need, they may not return. says, "We are on track to launch in early 2001 with 100,000 images and that

    they have had a tremendous response. This one-off waiting period, prior to launch to

    image buyers, will be probably less then the time on average, that photographers have

    to wait for their images to hit the market place with their existing agencies."

  • Marketing. It is hard to see where money for marketing is going to come

    from. says the 10% commission will cover storage, network and development

    costs. It also has to cover basic administrative overhead and marketing to get

    photographers to put their images on the site.

    Where is the money going to come from to pay for the international

    advertising and promotion campaign that will be necessary to get potential photo

    buyers to use the site?

    They say, "We have done detailed research that shows that we can be

    profitable at this level (the 10% level)." They point our that by being totally

    on-line, they will avoid the high operating costs that agencies normally incur in

    having multiple premises, sub-agents and salaries. They will have no catalog,

    scanning, retouching or dupe costs and no handling of film. Their sales process is

    streamlined and they have a low cost editing procedure.

    They expect to hire "a small marketing team to develop an effective

    marketing strategy for We plan to do global, broad based advertising,

    comparable to industry standards." (Most successful stock agencies are spending much

    more than 10% of gross sales on marketing and advertising.)

  • How does the keywording software work. Photographers are going to have to

    keyword all their own images. This will take time.

    Photographers need to determine what is involved and weigh the costs in time and

    effort against the likely return. Simple category keywording may not make it easy for

    clients to find the images in a large database, but more detailed keywording can take

    a lot of time.

    It appears that does not plan to have a system to import legacy keywords.

    There also needs to be a system to export keywords. If the photographer wants to put

    the same non-exclusive image somewhere else he or she does not want to keyword a

    second time. may offer this in the future.

  • Scan size. recommends photographers send files in the range of

    48MB to 70MB so they will be appropriate for both editorial and advertising usages.

    They will accept minimum file sizes of 18MB. To generate such large scans and to do

    the keywording the photographer is going to have some serious investment in time and

    money for each image supplied. Carefully, consider whether the return is likely to be

    enough to justify the investment.

    One other bit of information regarding scan size. At Stock Connection well over 95%

    of the scans we have available for licensing are 18MB PhotoCD scans. Only in rare

    cases where the photographer created a digital image do we have larger file sizes.

    We do have film available if the client needs it. In the first six months of 2000 our

    average fee per usage was $925. We do license frequent multi-thousand dollar uses.

    All our contracts with photographers are non-exclusive. There are ways to get around

    the necessity of having large scans of every image on file.

  • Photographer's liability. Given that there are automatic,

    non-negotiated, sales photographers who submit images on a non-exclusive and a

    non-released basis should make sure that there is a statement that is part of every

    license that makes it clear this is a non-exclusive use and limits the photographers

    liability if the images is used in a way that might require a release, or in any way

    be considered defamatory of the subject. This is extremely important because laws

    vary greatly from country to country as to the type of editorial uses that are allowed

    without a release. will require photographers to submit copies of their releases for all images

    identified as released. Buyers will be able to view the release and "will not be able

    to buy an

    unreleased image for use in anything non-newsworthy. Their license agreement will

    stipulate where and how the image can be used with details of the release information.

    Release restrictions can be fed through the normal restriction route," according to

    This may work, but it also may limit certain "commercial" uses of images where

    releases might not be necessary. The bigger concern

    is the use of "released" images to illustrate certain sensitive issues. The buyer may

    not consider the issue sensitive, but the model may. In such cases the license

    agreement should clearly place the responsibility on the buyers shoulders.

  • Submission process. The photographer must submit digital files for review

    and initial edit. Once selections have been made the photographer is then asked to

    submit high resolution images. These scans will be scrutinized to insure that there

    are no flaws or technical imperfections. If there are, the photographer will need to

    make the corrections. will not do any clean up or correction of scans.

    Once the scan is approved will then notify the photographer that the images

    are ready to caption and keyword on-line. Then one of their international panel of

    picture editors will double check the information and rate the

    images. This is a complex process. says this review process is only for the "first submissions" and for

    pre-launch marketing. will not be editing images on a regular basis.

    Photographers will be allowed to do their own editing and if there are no flaws in the

    scans, the images can be processed through the system very quickly. says, "It is early days. Our system was designed after extensive

    consultations with photographers and buyers. We have lots of ideas and are very

    pleased to receive early feedback but we have to start somewhere. A digital exchange

    can only work

    if it reflects the demands of its buyers and suppliers."

  • Copyright © 2000 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-251-0720, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

    Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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