Future For RM Photographers

Posted on 10/25/2019 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

A 65-year-old photographer who has been selling his work as stock for many years and licensing his images as RM wrote recently asking my advice. He has a large collection of images and licenses a lot directly to clients, but over the years he has also made a small percentage of sales through stock agencies.

He said, “I personally do not feel that it makes sense to convert all my RM into RF knowing that I currently make negligible sales via stock agencies. I was hoping to find a good reputable RM stock agency but they are almost non-existent. Perhaps working with a reputable RF stock photo agency might be palatable if the royalty structure was half decent. To me, they seem almost all the same - all racing to the bottom!”

Here was my advice.

Basically, my recommendation is to forget about trying to find an RM agency or to continue to try to license your images as RM. The market for RM stock photos is basically dead. When it comes to stock everything is RF now. Less than 2% of the images licensed worldwide are RM and a huge percentage of them are licensed at RF prices -- particularly at Getty. I believe that one-third of the RM images that Getty licenses are for gross prices below $5.00. Forget RM.

Concentrate on your direct sales. Most clients are happy to use RF these days and are not worried about someone else using the same image. There are just too many images out there and the likelihood that some competing customer may use the same image is very slim. This may not be true of the calendar market (where he licensed a lot of his work). It is possible that you may lose some calendar sales if you can’t guarantee the customer that no one will use the same image on a competitive calendar. You’ll have to weigh the loss of these sales compared to what you might make if your entire collection is available as RF.

If you’re going to make your images available as RF the places to be are Shutterstock, iStock and AdobeStock – all on a non-exclusive basis. The big question is how much effort it will take to meet the various requirements of these agencies (they are all slightly different) and whether you will generate enough revenue to make it worth the trouble. If your image are in all these agencies as RF, I think you will probably earn more than you have been earning trying to sell them as RM. However, given that you’ve not been earning much selling your images as RM it still may not be worth the trouble. On the other hand, since you’re retired you may have the time to go through the hassle of getting your images accepted.

If you decide to try RF I suggest you try to contribute a few hundred of your most saleable images to all three of the above agencies and see how much work and hassle is involved. Then if after six months to a year it looks like it might pay off you can consider contributing more of your collection. You might also try to put your RF images with Alamy.com.

I would be surprised if looking for new clients using an Agency Access database will produce much in the way of results. Virtually, all customers are now getting the images they need by going to one of the major RF seller, or grabbing or stealing free images off the Internet.

I wouldn’t bother trying to create a separate RF collection that you market to your own clients. You’ve already got you’re a good personal website where customers can see your images. If some of those customers think your prices are too high, then offer them the image for an RF price. Some companies like Stocksy and Offset are selling images with RF licensed for prices in the range of $100 to $250 for certain uses. At least it is something.

If you have former customers who aren’t using you anymore my bet is it is because they just want cheaper pictures, not because they want expansive rights. They have discovered that they can get what they need for less money and if they happen to want to use the same image again for something else they can without additional negotiations or worrying about infringing copyright.

Copyright © 2019 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 www.selling-stock.com, 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: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


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