Looking To Maximize Revenue: RM or RF?

Posted on 3/26/2018 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

I was talking to a photographer recently who has both RM and RF collections with Getty Images. The question he faces is whether to put new images into the RM or RF collections. Getty is pushing many of its photographers to move many of their images from RM to RF. Certainly, there is a much better chance that an image will get used if it is available for licensing as RF rather than RM. But, if the photographer’s goal is to maximize revenue, will images offered as RF earn as much revenue overall as those offered as RM?

In addition, the photographer has to take into account that many of his RM images are being licensed for RF prices.

Currently 71% of the images in the Getty Creative collection are RF and 29% are RM. The percentage of images offered as RM is steadily declining.  While Getty doesn’t share any statistics on the number of RM images licensed relative to RF, I have estimated that industry wide less than 2% of the Creative images licensed (not including editorial) are RM.

if Getty is pushing photographers to switch their images from RM to RF one would suspect that more customers are looking for RF images than RM. But, among those RM buyers are still a few customers who will occasionally pay very good money for the images they need. Not as good as they used to be, but a lot better than the average fee paid for RF images.

In this photographer’s case 2% of the sales over a period of months were for gross license fees above $500. Half of those sales were RM and half RF. The 1% that were RF sold for prices between $500 and $700 and generated 10% of the photographer’s income for the period. Some of the 1% of RM image sold for prices (that’s gross to Getty) in the same $500 to $700 range, but a few sold for much much higher prices. All in all, the 1% of RM licenses represented 40% of the photographer’s gross revenue for the period.

It is important to note that these percentage figures are of total uses actually licensed. The photographer has many other images in the collection that were not licensed during this period, and some that have never been licensed. Thus, as a percentage of images the photographer has in the collection the percentages listed above are actually much lower. It is interesting that about one-third of the images licensed were licensed multiple times.

From a revenue point of view, the photographer cannot afford to give up that 40%, but at the same time it is a very risky bet to place new images into the RM collection. The 98% of images licensed for fees below $500 (gross to Getty) only generated 50% of the revenue. The average license fee for all images licensed for fees below $500 was $9.80. Of all the images, both RM and RF, that were licensed 84% were for fees below $10.

One of the RF images that was licensed for $575 to one customer sold to another customer for $0.38 and to a lot of other customers for very low prices in between.

Any photographer interested in maximizing revenue from the images he or she produces needs to keep careful track of the images that sell and the characteristics of those images. Ideally, the photographer will then produce more images with very similar characteristics to those that sold. Agencies supply photographers with a lot of information about “new trends,” but it is interesting how many of the images that tend to generate the most revenue illustrate tried and true concepts that are very generic.

To deal with this problem, photographers might want to place some of the new images they produce in RM collections and others in RF. There are still a few customers with good budgets who only look at RM collections. In many cases the images that are offered as RM, and in some cases with RF, will need to be exclusive to the distributor. However, that doesn’t prevent the image creator from doing a similar shoot with different models, and possibly in a different location, and distributing those images through multi-agencies non-exclusively.

Copyright © 2018 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.  


  • Yvette Cardozo Posted Mar 31, 2018
    My problem with Getty is the 80/20 split for RF images. With RM images, I get 40%, occasionally 30%. But 20% is just not acceptable. ALL images that I submit to Getty are RM. Getty has, in the past, re-assigned some of my images to RF (w/o asking me). I remember a four figure RF sale that brought me a big fat $213. That is simply not acceptable. I do mark ALL my images to Alamy RF but Alamy gives us the same split for RF as for RM. It makes me reconsider submitting to Getty at all. I know many who have just walked away.

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