Switching From RM To RF

Posted on 2/14/2017 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (2)

More and more frequently RM photographers are receiving notes from their agencies, or the production companies representing their work, suggesting that they move some of their older images to RF.

This make sense for images that might have been good seller at one time, but haven’t made any sales in the last year or so.

Collection sizes are growing at such a fantastic rate that images that sold well at one time are getting pushed so far down in the search-return-order that they are no longer being seen by anyone. Moving them to an RF collection gets them “updated,” at least for a little while, in terms of when they were added to the collection. This date is an important determiner of where the image falls in the search-return-order.

In addition, fewer and fewer customers are even looking at RM images. Today’s customers want unlimited rights to use the images they purchase. In most cases they want these rights not because they are going to make extensive use of the image, but simply because they don't want to have to track uses. They are able to find plenty of good RF images, so why bother taking the risk of using RM.

Getty's default search is now RF. Customer who want to see most of the RM images must search for “All” and then half of the images they are shown on any search are still RF. Since most customers will review fewer than 500 thumbnails if your RM image is not among the first 250 shown it is unlikely to be seen by anyone. Most other agencies that offer both RM and RF and mix them in the search return are putting much more weight on showing RF images.

Those customers who continue to search major distributor collections for RM have usually negotiated some type of bulk deal that lets them purchase any RM or RF image for one fixed price. Thus, the prices they pay for RM are often exactly the same as they pay for RF. It hardly makes sense to continue to offer images as RM.
In a recent analysis of the 2016 sales of some of Getty’s major contributors it appears that 60% to 70% of the image licenses are for gross fees of under $100 with the average price is in the $10 to $15 range. Sure, there are still a few high ticket RM sales, but for most photographers they are very rare.
Once the images are available as RF then they can also be offered to some of the microstock companies like Shutterstock, Fotolia, AdobeStock, Dreamstime and 123RF. While these platforms license at very low prices the volumes of sales tend to make up to a certain degree for the low price. And, if the image hasn’t been generating any revenue for quite some time then something is better than nothing.

Another factor in this push to move RM images to RF may a decline in the number of professional photographers who are willing to produce and supply new RM images. More and more of the images being offered for distribution these days come from amateurs. Amateurs may not be producing certain types of imagery that RM customers need, but they are using the same keywords and their images tend to rise to the top of the search-return-order.

Distributors recognize that there are some very good and appropriate images buried in the search. They are trying to get those images where they can be reviewed by their best customers who, at this time, happen to be RF buyers.

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 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.  


  • Grant Faint Posted Feb 15, 2017
    do not overlook that at GETTY RF images return %20 whereas RM can be either %40 or %30 depending on region sold. RF may be the way of buyers now however that is a nasty reality to photographers who see a lower selling price and a lower royalty return. There is no future in this business. I have been at this since 1984 full time and it is a nuclear winter out there now. grant faint

  • Tibor Bognar Posted Feb 18, 2017
    While I agree with Grant that there is no long term future at all in this business, I still manage to earn a modest living by working with several less known but prefectly decent agencies who still pay 50% to contributors. Getty is NOT the only option, in fact they seem to offer the least favorable working conditions to contributors.

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