Make Money By Encouraging Image Sharing

Posted on 12/5/2012 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Is it possible to earn money by giving your images away for Free? With Stipple the answer is Yes!

40% of searches on the Internet today happen outside of search engines like Google. People discover what they are looking for via blogs, Tweets, Facebook and in general, just browsing around.

Most images contain information that viewers would like to explore. Yet, they are silent. In the best cases, they have a short caption underneath them, explaining the where and why of the photograph and nothing else. Why? Because, up to now, the technology did not exist to easily and tastefully display the content inside images.

Stipple creates an elegant and discreet layer over images, allowing for the precise tagging of images with anything from videos, maps, music, social media, evites, wikipedia and much more. Better yet, it can easily tie an item in a photograph to a place where to purchase it, all in one click. It’s discovery made easy. It satisfies the need of those 40 % of Internet users who look for things and do not use search engines.

We published a long story in May that provides more detail about how Stipple works, but here’s a brief explanation.

How does it work?

You tag your images with Stipple, either on your site (equipped with a special stipple code) or via and they provide some magic coding that enables you, or any advertiser, to pick a spot on the image and supply information about the product or service they offer. This information is normally hidden, but when an online viewer drags his mouse over the image one or more dots appear. Roll over the dot and he gets additional information. Check out a few examples here, here and here.

Of, course, photographers can also promote their own businesses by providing contact information, where to go to see more of the same subject, a new book or exhibit they’ve produced, how to purchase fine art prints, or any other promotion they can think of.

After The Image Is Stipple Coded

You then make your image publicly available online, allowing viewers to share it freely where they want. Brands who have their product or services in your images will then discover them and add their tags on them. Stipple will facilitates this and you may also be able to make appropriate advertisers aware of your image. Obviously, you want lots of people to not only look at the image, but share them to other locations. You want sharing. The more places image can be found, the more people are likely to see it.

 Advertisers pay based on the number of clicks. Paul Melcher of Stipple provided the following example. “Suppose you have an image of Nicole Kidman arriving at the premiere of her last movie. It is published everywhere. Chanel who provided her dress  will want to tag that image with a dot that shows how much it costs and where to buy. They pay for the right to put a dot on your image in a CPA (click per action) model. That is, every time someone clicks on the shop button and is directed to the Chanel web site, they pay .25 cents (for example). With 100,000 clicks, which is very common on the internet, that's $25,000. That revenue is split between the photographer, the publisher and Stipple.” That is much more than the meager $10.00 most images are being licensed for.

Encouraging Sharing

Once an image is Stippled it is up to you to get the image out where it can be seen online.
The more popular an image, the more likely it will generate rewards. Since Stipple uses a powerful proprietary image fingerprinting technology, even if it is stripped of copyright information, the information will re-appear on it automatically. And you can always track live where it is published and how much traffic it is receiving

Some photographers will say, “but I want to license my images to the magazine or newspaper.” That’s fine. There is nothing to prevent you from continuing to license non-exclusive rights for print uses to the same images that you make available for free sharing online. But considering the fees paid these days for print uses of stock images you may be able to earn more with a Stipple advertising strategy than traditional licensing. And the print rates will continue to decline.

Melcher lists the following as a few of the benefits of providing your image for free via Stipple to everyone.
    1) It’s fast and frictionless: no need to interact and bargain with publishers. They see your images; they use them, even when you are sleeping.
    2) You are paid by traffic. If your image is only used on a small blog with little traffic you get less than if it is published on the highly visited site. If it’s published on both, your revenue is combined.
    3) Your image always has your credit with a link back to your site if someone wants to know more about you as the photographer.
    4) You can see where your image is published at all times, as well as see the traffic. It is invaluable marketing intelligence. You can, for example, see which of you image performs better than the other.
    5) You can get revenue as long as your image is published.
    6) You have the potential to make much more than with a traditional fee which are often in the range of $10 for editorial usage online these days.
    7) It is not restrictive or exclusive. There will be instances where a website does not want to have Stipple dots on your images. They can still license that image the old fashion way by getting a hi-res from you.
    8)    Not only are your images free for your clients, but your images actually bring your clients revenue. The publishers are part of the revenue share. Instead of paying for a license they can make money when they publish your image - a strong incentive to use your images instead of those of your competition.
Stipple has just released an automated integration with Twitter that allows the tags to be seen right in your feed. Images tweeted can now display the Stipple tags while you the photographer can see how many viewers you are having and which tags they like the most. It is extremely simple to use:
    go to
    1)    upload an image
    2)    tag it
    3)    click the Tweet button underneath it.
you’re done.

Copyright © 2012 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:  


Be the first to comment below.

Post Comment

Please log in or create an account to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive email notification when new stories are posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

Stock Photo Pricing: The Future
In the last two years I have written a lot about stock photo pricing and its downward slide. If you have time over the holidays you may want to review some of these stories as you plan your strategy ...
Read More
Future Of Stock Photography
If you’re a photographer that counts on the licensing of stock images to provide a portion of your annual income the following are a few stories you should read. In the past decade stock photography ...
Read More
Blockchain Stories
The opening session at this year’s CEPIC Congress in Berlin on May 30, 2018 is entitled “Can Blockchain be applied to the Photo Industry?” For those who would like to know more about the existing blo...
Read More
2017 Stories Worth Reviewing
The following are links to some 2017 and early 2018 stories that might be worth reviewing as we move into the new year.
Read More
Stories Related To Stock Photo Pricing
The following are links to stories that deal with stock photo pricing trends. Probably the biggest problem the industry has faced in recent years has been the steady decline in prices for the use of ...
Read More
Stock Photo Prices: The Future
This story is FREE. Feel free to pass it along to anyone interested in licensing their work as stock photography. On October 23rd at the DMLA 2017 Conference in New York there will be a panel discuss...
Read More
Important Stock Photo Industry Issues
Here are links to recent stories that deal with three major issues for the stock photo industry – Revenue Growth Potential, Setting Bottom Line On Pricing and Future Production Sources.
Read More
Recent Stories – Summer 2016
If you’ve been shooting all summer and haven’t had time to keep up with your reading here are links to a few stories you might want to check out as we move into the fall. To begin, be sure to complet...
Read More
Corbis Acquisition by VCG/Getty Images
This story provides links to several stories that relate to the Visual China Group (VCG) acquisition of Corbis and the role Getty Images has been assigned in the transfer of Corbis assets to the Gett...
Read More
Finding The Right Image
Many think search will be solved with better Metadata. While metadata is important, there are limits to how far it can take the customer toward finding the right piece of content. This story provides...
Read More

More from Free Stuff