Procedures To Improve Chances Of Licensing Images

Posted on 10/29/2012 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (3)

The buyer’s panel at the recent Picture Agency Council of America (PACA) conference in Chicago offered a number of ideas for ways individual sellers and stock photo distributors might adjust their search, delivery and pricing procedures to improve the chances of their images being chosen and used.

The buyers involved were: Lisa Knust, Producer, Leo Burnett USA; Denise Phillips, Media Acquisition, Microsoft; Laura Laube, Senior Art Buyer, DFCB Chicago and Deborah Schneider, Principal, The Kineo Group. Here are their suggestions.

1 – Make it possible for “trusted clients” to download un-watermarked hi-res images that they could use for comps. The speakers pointed out that they are often on tight deadlines and don’t have time to contact the seller and get a separate file emailed to them. In such cases they simply switch to a different image.

    (It should be noted that “trusted” is the operative word. The speakers on this panel were from large industry leading organizations that purchase large numbers of images. These organizations generally have very good tracking procedures. On the other hand a high percentage of image sales are made to smaller, understaffed organizations with the best of intentions, but which lack good procedures for removing images from hard drives when the license to use has expired, or when the image used in a comp was not selected for eventual use. In addition, most sellers have had experience with large publishers they believed were keeping good records only to discover that these publishers were systematically using images beyond their licenses.)
2 – They want RM pricing options to include an “advertising PACK” price that allows the customer to use the image in a multitude of unspecified ways. Increasingly, when they make the initial purchase of an image, they are unaware of all the potential future uses that might be made of that image. They don’t want to have to go back and re-negotiate each use.
Lisa Knust, of Leo Burnett pointed out they have been doing integrated campaigns over many platforms for the last four years. Thus, they need a license that allows them to use the image in a variety of ways. Consequently, they tend to go to RF, not because it is cheaper, but because they can make unlimited use of the image.

3 – They want to be able to find similars from the same shoot.  (Most microstock sites offer this option.)

4 – They would like for everyone to use a standard release so they that don’t have to send every non-standard language release to their lawyers for review before they can use an image. 5 – Exclusivity is seldom an issue. With RF in particular they often do a Google Images search to determine how and where an image might have been used in the past. Seldom do their clients worry about exclusivity, particularly when it costs more.
    (Editors observation: Exclusivity used to be an issue because clients were concerned that their competitors might use the same image while their campaign was still running. Now campaigns are so short lived and change so frequently that maybe this is no longer a concern.)
6 – They like to receive a renewal notification about 30 days before a license is due to expire. This way they don’t have to rely as much on their tracking of when a license will expire.

7 – They don’t like to see the same images on multiple sites

8 – They would like it if distributors would get rid of the images that are “badly done” so they don’t have to spend so much time looking through images that are unusable.
    (Editors note: Back in the olden days when clients called agencies and requested certain types of imagery, an agency researcher pulled the images for every request and the researcher never sent the “badly done” images to the client for review.)
9 – They asked that all release information be attached to the image and emphasized that they can’t use images that aren’t released.

10 – They want all the metadata including caption information in the IPTC header.

11 – If there are restrictions on how an image can be used they would like for that information to be in the IPTC header.

12 – They complained that often they can’t get the right person on the phone to answer their RM questions.

13 – They complained that many images tend to look too much like stock. They want images that feel like “original photography.” They often go to Flickr because the images are more honest, less staged and less corny.

14 – While creative’s love the editorial look of Flickr and tend to use more of that type of imagery, they are often frustrated with the hassles they must go through to license images found on Flickr.

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:  


  • Todd Klassy Posted Oct 29, 2012
    This is a great article. Well done.

  • Andrea Stern Posted Oct 30, 2012
    There's a lot of common sense in this. However all the pressure is taken off the clients and put back with the agencies to keep track of things!

  • Neil Petrie Posted Nov 5, 2012
    Very interesting to hear from buyers what they like. It sounds like RM is really not a viable model any more!

    Just wondered what you mean by the IPTC header, Jim?

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