Getty Custom Content

Posted on 9/15/2017 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

Getty has sent its photographers a new Custom Content assignment for T-Mobile. “T-Mobile is looking for photography shot on mobile phones* that is the total opposite of stock images.” (*The images don’t actually have to shot with a mobile phone, and most of those submitted probably won’t be.)?

The request has been Extended with a deadline of September 18, 2017.

T-Mobile wants:

    “Regular people in regular places. No location properties, no famous landmarks, no fake-smiling at camera, no posing, no constructed or directed images, please. It can be shot everywhere but needs to work for the US. Natural lighting is preferred, but try to avoid lens flares. Crops, composition and symmetry are yours to choose; the only thing they ask for is a bit of negative space to let the image breathe.??

    “They want to see people from all backgrounds and cultures living their lives and enjoying sharing it with the people around them. This is an opportunity to turn the camera on yourself and your family and friends and catch those moments of human interaction that are hard to fake. ??

    “T-Mobile wants images that get into your home and see how you live, see what your neighbourhood is like, what you enjoy doing with your time, how you connect with those you enjoy spending time with. Don't go generic, and don't shy away from eccentricity!”?
The focus doesn't need to be on the device. A cell phone can be in the shot, or not. They do not want any pictures of young kids using phones.

Sample scenarios include:
  • Family with teenagers out and about
  • High school or college friends hanging out outdoors
  • Eating out with friends
  • Parents and student visiting generic college/university
  • Hanging out after school
  • Owning a store
  • Getting to and from work
  • Visiting a local unrecognizable museum/gallery

Breaking It Down

In terms of an assignment, let’s break this down.

  • The photographer has no idea how many, if any, of the images submitted will be chosen. Thus, the photographer may earn nothing for the time and effort expended producing images of this type.

  • The photographer has no idea how many others will be submitting images. What’s the competition?

  • T-Mobile gets exclusive rights in perpetuity to any images it accepts. That will certainly include all variations of the accepted images. It may include all images from the shoot and all images submitted as part of the request, even if none are chosen. If T-Mobile doesn’t accepts any images from a particular photographer, it may be possible to place those images into Getty’s regular stock collection, but that is unclear.

  • It is expected that the license fee will be between $200 and $400 per accepted image. The photographer gets between 20% and 40% of that, or $40 to $80 on the low end and $80 to $160 on the high end, for only those images that are accepted.

    What Is A Non-Stock Image?

    It is hard to tell how pictures of these subjects are “the total opposite of stock images.” Yes, some “stock images” (mostly shot 5 or more years ago) may contain these same subjects in more sterile, perfect situations with people looking at the camera. That’s not what T-Mobile seems to be looking for. But will they accept images of people wearing T-shirts with logs on them?

    If people are “eating out” with friends is a property release required from the restaurant, or should the photographer shoot it in the studio and make it look like it occurred in a restaurant? What about a property release from the “museum/gallery” or “college/university?” Model releases are required for all people in the pictures, and all the imagery must be cleared for commercial use.

    The general subjects requested seem to be exactly the same things most stock photographer have been shooting for a long time. The only difference is that these pictures are supposed to look more “natural” and “authentic” because they are not supposed to look like “stock pictures” even though that is exactly what they are. Any professional photographer who has been shooting pictures in the last few years has been trying to arrange all his/her shots so they have this more natural candid look.

    It seems to me that this constant denigration of “stock pictures,” and the emphasis on “non-stock” pictures is simply that for the most part customers no longer want pictures of people looking directly at the camera (but some such images are still selling and getting used), and they are willing to accept a few flaws in the image (but not too much).

    Finding Such Images

    One photographer points out that there are many images of the type being requested already available in the stock image collections. They could perfectly solve T-Mobiles request except for one important factor. They are not released.

    No one goes out on the street with a packet of releases in their pocket, shooting candid pictures of people they’ve never met, or even their friends, and say, “Here, will you sign my release so I can sell this picture of you to who knows who for maybe $1.00.” Nobody would sign such a release.

    Companies that want images for “commercial use” can find plenty of photographers who will produce the kind of natural, free flowing, appearing to be authentic imagery they want. The problem is that photographers will not do it for the kind of money some companies want to pay. It is not in the photographer’s economic interest.

    The only way a photographer can possibly earn a reasonable minimum wage for his or her time, and sell images at these prices, is to sell multiple images from every shoot multiple times.

  • Also see: Stock Agencies Focus On Custom Shoots.

    Copyright © 2017 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:  


    • Dale Wilson Posted Sep 15, 2017
      Jim, you write: "It is not in the photographer’s economic interest."

      However, let us not forget that vanity was also a major contributing factor to the demise of traditional stock as we once knew it.

      The primary factor I would trumpet long, loud and clear on "No Releases" is the vey fact that somewhere in the contributor agreement I will wager this years stock sales (just kidding) it says the contributor agrees to indemnify ...

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