Selling Images Via The Internet

Posted on 7/26/2019 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

The Internet is a great place for selling things if the finished product must be delivered by FedEx or UPS. But if you’re trying to sell is a digital version of what you’re showing, then long range your business model doesn’t have much future. It’s too easy to “steal,” “appropriate” or whatever you want to call it.

Photographers can claim that they have the legal right (copyright) to restrict the use of their products. But in reality there is very little way they can enforce that right – particularly, if the use is of relatively small value. In most cases enforcement will cost more than any recovery value.

Currently U.S. image creators are pushing for legislation that will establish a Small Claims court. This should improve the possibility of collecting damages when someone uses an image without permission, but realistically it is unlikely to have much impact on reducing the number of unauthorized uses.

The simple fact is that most citizens have been trained to think that anything they find on the Internet is free to use in any way they choose.

This story on Freepik provides an interesting comparison between the number of image users who turn to free image, rather than pay for what they want to use. Freepik offers both options on the same site and less than 2/10s of one percent (0.002) of the customers turn to an image they must pay to use, even when the cost is very inexpensive.

Putting samples of your work on the Internet in an effort to convince potential customers to hire you to take similar pictures such as a portrait, wedding or commercial event is still fine. But, when what you’re trying to sell is exactly what your showing the likelihood that you will be able to make many sales is rapidly heading toward zero.

Occasionally, the potential users will need an image immediately, and not have time to take it themselves, but more and more Free images are piling up on the Internet (see below) giving image user lots of choice. Prices for the images creators would still like to license have declined dramatically. Fewer and fewer image creators can justify the time and effort involved in producing images on speculation and then hoping to license their use to someone who eventually finds the image. As a fun hobby producing stock images may still be something to do. As a business – a way to earn a portion of ones living – it is no longer viable.

There will always be plenty of people taking pictures of things that interest them. And they will use the Internet to show these images to others. For most earning revenue is not their goal. They don’t care if someone else uses an image they created, in fact such uses might even give the creator some satisfaction.

The following is a partial list of some of places people can go to find images they can use for Free. Probably the biggest single source is Flickr where there are over 200 million images from all over the world available with a Creative Commons license. In some cases with such licenses there are restriction on how the image can be used, and in some cases the image creator must be credited, but there is no charge to use any of these images.

Burst by Shopify
Negative Space
MMT Stock
Life of Pix
New Old Stock
Jay Mantri
Fancy Crave
ISO Republic

On some of these sites, in addition to free images, searches will often show images from Shutterstock. If the person searching chooses one of the Shutterstock images he/she will be taken to Shutterstock’s main site and required to purchase a Shutterstock’s credit package in order to download the image.

So while in some cases there is a charge for using some of the images found on these sites, the vast majority of the images are Free To Use.

Copyright © 2019 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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