Posted on 3/7/2013 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Given the competition in the world of professional photography, anything that can help a photographer find customers is worth considering.

A reader recently commented that he is interested in RM licensing and asked for my opinion of Imagebrief allows art buyers to provide a detailed outline brief of their image needs for current projects. In addition buyers usually provide a reference image or illustration and the price they are willing to pay for the right image. Imagebrief then emails these “briefs” to its lists of 2,500 professional photographers. Photographers must be approved before they are added to the list, but the list is growing. Photographers may search their archives for images that fit any of the briefs and post the images for the art buyer’s consideration. If one of their images is accepted they receive 70% of the fee Imagebrief collects. Normally, there are relatively tight deadlines for delivery of the images.

My reader indicated that he had yet to make a sale, but was “learning a lot” about market trends. On Imagebrief’s blog it was reported that one photographer has had three of his images accepted after having submitted fewer than 100 images during his time with Imagebrief. This points to a problem. Given the number of photographers shooting the same type of imagery even when a photographer has an image that seems to be exactly what the buyer wants, the chances of making a sale are still slim.

If photographers are searching their archives of already produced images and submitting those that seem appropriate their only cost is time. On the other hand many of the briefs are very specific. The chance that anyone will have exactly the right image is slim. It these cases photographers may decide to set up a shoot. This, of course, takes more time but at least the photographer knows there is a customer with an immediate interest in what he intends to shoot. However, he has no idea how many other photographers may be submitting something on the same request. And since the request is very specific the images produced will likely have no value as stock.

Customers love Imagebrief. Brendan Donnelly, Senior Art Director at Leo Burnett says, “What a way to open some incredible archives. I like the unexpected results which are a refreshing change from scrolling through thousands of the same images in the usual photo libraries.” And Alex Ross of Penguin Books said, “ImageBrief is a brilliant idea, pure and simple. Any creative looking for the freshest images would have to be mad not to try it.”

Art Directors can submit a brief with no risk and simultaneously search the traditional archives for something that works for their project. If Imagebrief produces something useful, fine. If not then they can hire a photographer to shoot the project.

Budgets for some of the projects are good. Los Angeles advertising photographer Jeff Berting reports that he earned $20,000 from one project. But the chances of hitting the jackpot are slim. Budgets for a significant number of the projects are in the $200 to $1,000 range and the higher paying ones often require paid models and complicated sets.


Imagebriefs seems very similar to OnRequestImages ( that was founded back in 2003.

Initially OnRequest accepted assignments from art buyers and doled out the work to a select group of 1,600 photographers in 53 countries. An OnRequest brief was only submitted to a small number of photographers they thought were best suited to fulfill a particular assignment. Normally, they would not assign more than 5 photographers to a project. Even then, since the customer only needed one image 4 of the 5 shooters were guaranteed not to receive anything for their efforts. David Norris, Chairman and CEO of OnRequest Images said, "Art directors no longer need to compromise. Because we have multiple photographers competing for the same assignment, the results are diverse and impressive."

Photographers needed to deliver the finished work in 48 to 72 hours. If none of the results satisfies the client there was no obligation to purchase any of the images. Given the odds against actually licensing an image after having performed the work the number of photographers willing to work on these projects quickly declined.

In 2005 the stock agency Index Stock decided to encourage its photographers to work with OnRequest. Bahar Gidwani, CEO of Index Stock, outlined the advantages and disadvantages in detail.

About that same time another company called ImageBuyout was founded in Dubai with a similar strategy. The URL for this company ( now seems to be a leasing service, but it is also possible to link from this site to various microstock sites like or to purchase images at microstock prices.

In 2006 OnRequest migrated to what they called their “Custom Assignment Service” and offered to do commissioned assignments with a wide range of customer involvement in the image production process. OnRequest would choose one particular photographer for each job (with the client’s input and approval). This eliminated redundant shooters on the same project. Given the client involvement it also virtually guaranteed the client would find something usable from the shoot. The assigned photographer was insured of receiving some compensation.

OnRequest provided full pre- and post-production support for custom commercial imagery shoots including casting, location scouting, stylist selection and art direction, while providing a convenient web-based production interface for both customers and photographers at every stage of the process. It is unclear how well it worked for photographers as little has been heard from this company in the last few years.

Copyright © 2013 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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