Don’t Customers Have Enough RF Images Already?

Posted on 6/9/2016 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

At the recent CEPIC conference one attendee asked, “Why do customers continue to buy RF images? Don’t they already have enough? If they get unlimited rights to everything they own, why don’t they just use the images they have already purchased and never need to buy another image again?”

The questioner contended that he couldn’t afford to license his images as RF because eventually everyone will have all the images they need. No one else will need his new production.

Customers seek RF licenses, not because they intend to use the same image over and over, but because a situation may develop where it is necessary to use the same image in a future promotion in order to reinforce the message of the first use.  Such uses are relatively rare compared to the total number of images used.

For the most part customers want to use something new and different for every project. The needs of each project vary. They are always looking for something better. Seldom do they store everything they have purchased in the past and review it all before deciding to buy anything new. They don’t even take the time to keep those files efficiently organized. There will always be demand for new and different images.

Since the prices for both RF and RM are now so cheap there is no reason not to use a new image, if they have time to do the research. Research time is the key. (Check out this story on Turning RM Into Microstock.)

As graphic designers are asked to find more and more ways to deliver the same message there is an increasingly tendency to reformat existing messages and get the information out to a different group of consumers as quickly as possible. Often the person doing the reformatting is not the person who originally purchased the image. That person has no idea what rights were purchased and doesn’t want to mess with licensing anyway. The original art buyer may have no knowledge of this secondary use, or have even conceived of the possibility of such a use when the original project was created.

Part of the reason for this is our new “hurry up” lifestyle. There isn’t time to create something totally new every time. But, when they do have the time they want the image to be one they have never used before.

Sure we’ve all watched TV ads that are repeated so often we have them memorized, even if we have absolutely no interest in the product or service being promoted. But in most cases these images are not stock; the were produced on assignment. And such uses are the exceptions.

The big reason why sales are declining – both for RM and RF – is not because customers are re-using RF images they have purchased previously. Rather, it is because there are simply too many choices out there for those who want to purchase an image. Oversupply drives prices down as a result of competition. (See How Low Can Prices Go.) It is becoming less and less likely that any particular image will be licensed.  And the industry is on track to provide customers with a dramatic increase in choices.
Licensing your images as RM is not going to change that. What RM licensing will do is further reduce your chances of making a sale.  More and more customers are insisting on RF licenses and only searching RF collections. If customers never look at your images, there is not much chance they will buy them.

More and more distributors and production companies are encouraging their contributors to move their RM images to RF, particularly if the image has been sitting in a collection for years without any sale. This makes sense. It may not help much (because there are already so many RF images our there), but at least the images will have a better chance of being seen.

The argument that if you license images as RF you’ll never have a chance at a high dollar sale has almost become a non-issue. If you’re looking for a payday of $1,000 or more go buy a lottery ticket. The odds are better. Occasionally there are even some high RF sales. So far Stocksy has made at least one sale for $6,000 plus the cost of a basic image license through its Market Freeze program.

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:  


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