Does RM Licensing Still Make Sense?

Posted on 6/15/2016 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

Does licensing images as RM make sense anymore? If you’re licensing your images as RM the following are a few things to think about from both the customer and the image creator points of view. If you really want to license your work you must consider why fewer and fewer customers are buying RM images.

For Customers:

1 – Establishing a price for usage is much more complicated for the customer than purchasing an RF license.

– With RF, customers have less worry about accidently making an unauthorized use. If they are going to print more than 500,000 copies they must purchase an additional Extended License, but most do so if they think there is the remotest chance they will print that many copies.

– With the oversupply of imagery it very easy to find good quality RF images. For customers, it is no longer necessary to turn to RM to get quality imagery.

– Customer tend to look at RF images first.

5 – If the customer wants an image that hasn’t been used a lot, then RM may be the best choice, but that is seldom an issue for most customers.

6 – RF decreases the risk of a legal liability problem.

– There is little or no use of reverse image search to track the use of RF images. Thus if there is an accidental unauthorized use it is much less likely it will be discovered and grow into a legal problem.

– A small percentage of customers are willing to pay higher fees for RF images when they can find them in curated collections that save them research time, or on those occasions when they have a higher budget. Check out Offset.

For Image Creators:

1 – I estimate that less than 1% of all image licensed are RM. That percentage is declining.

– The old argument for RM is that when the fee is based on usage the image creator will earn more when an image is chosen for a big use. But:
    A – The big uses are very rare. Prices for most RM uses have dropped so low that they are often less than RF prices and sometimes lower than Microstock prices.

    B – Based on analysis of sales of some top selling RM photographers, way less than 1% of RM sales (probably less than 0.5%) are for fees of over $1,000. Take these high value sales out of the mix and the average price of all the rest of the RM sales is probably about the same as an average price for an RF sale.
    C – In terms of all images licensed (including both traditional and microstock) roughly 1 image out of every 30,000 to 40,000 is licensed for a fee greater than $1,000. For most photographer there are very slim odds that one of their images will be chosen for a “high dollar” sale.

    D – It is occasionally possible to make a high value sale (over $1,000) of an RF image when the image can be removed from the market for a period of time (See Stocksy). Such sales can be negotiated even when the image has been licensed to someone else previously and the other user may continue to use the image.
3 – Through traditional agencies, there tends to be 2 to 3 times as many RF images licensed as RM. (This does not include microstock and subscription which represent the vast majority of all RF licenses). Thus, if you license your images as RF through a traditional agency you are likely to make many more sales than if the images are offered as RM.

- More and more agencies are pushing photographers to move their RM images to RF. The default search on is for RF and 63% of the image in the Getty Creative collection are RF. That percentage is rising every day. Getty is encouraging photographers to switch images from RM to RF. Blend Images and ImageSource, two top quality image production operations, are encouraging their photographers to move older non-selling RM images to RF.

– With RF there is less pressure to be represented exclusively by one distributor. That way the photographer can put the same images with multiple distributors and have a better chance of making more sales.

– If images are licensed as RF rather than RM it is possible to place them with some of the microstock distributors as well at with traditional agencies, and thus generate additional revenue. I believe the total worldwide revenue generated by microstock and subscription sellers is greater than the total Creative stock revenue (not counting editorial) generated by all the traditional agencies.

Copyright © 2016 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 301-461-7627, 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:  


  • Sarah Fix Posted Jun 16, 2016
    Jim — I’d like to clarify, Blend is being more strategic in our decision making to convert Rights Managed content to Royalty Free than what this post suggests. We will continue to have a RM collection but our criteria is much more nuanced than just moving older content to RF. Going forward, Blend RM will be a much more specialized collection, representing imagery that is best suited for this licensing model in the market today. Taking in to consideration imagery that continues to have value beyond an average RF license and addressing more specific subject matter.
    Sarah Fix,
    VP Creative
    Blend Images

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