We've all seen those photos of hand-shaking businessmen (and ladies) absolutely delighted about whatever imaginary deal went down in that photo. Complete with bright backgrounds, shining teeth and pressed suits. But what if you could make money out of making such photos? Or any type of photos for that matter. One of the most popular ways for photographers, from beginners to pros, is to sell their photos to stock websites like Shutterstock or Fotolia. Most (if not all) of these sites endorse the two types of trade that are most common; Royalty-Free and Rights-Managed.
The difference being that Rights-Managed transactions involves the buyer paying a licensing fee in order to be able to use the image. That licensing fee is based on type of usage. For example: location, type of media, length of time the photo will be used, etc. The buyer can also opt to pay for exclusive rights and there can be restrictions that apply based on all of the above factors.
With Royalty-Free, a one-off fee is paid to the photographer by the image-buyer, but the photographer is free to sell that image multiple times to different buyers as much as he or she wants. The price for the image can depend on the image size (high- or low-resolution) and/or its content. The buyer gets no exclusivity to the image and the photographer might not know when, for what, and for how long the image is used for. This type being the most popular since you can make revenue several times over.
Still with me? Ok, let's go deeper.
You'll need to be careful not to mix these up while you have them up for sale since if you have a rights-managed photo currently being licenced to a buyer under a determinate set of conditions, you might not be able to continue to sell that photo under rights-management or royalty-free. Let's elaborate...
If a client purchases a rights-managed image, they'll have certain expectations on its exclusivity (depending on what was negotiated). If for instance they buy an image with exclusive rights for one year in the United Kingdom, the buyer will then have the expectation that they’re the only one with those rights for that time in that location. They will also correctly believe that due to its (usually higher) price, that image has been used a lot less or nothing at all. The ideal being it is less likely to conflict with another company’s usage, even without exclusivity.
Now let’s say a photographer has that same - or very similar - image also listed as royalty-free stock in another site, or has sold it in the past, then there’s a enormous problem. If a real-estate agency rents out a flat to a tentant for a certain amount of time, but meanwhile they forgot that they also leased it to someone else during the same period of time, then that's not going to work well for both prospective tenants, and it might go a lot worse for you. The same goes with selling rights to images.
To put it simply, if you have images in a royalty-free website, then you can’t sell those images as rights-managed. The main point being: if you license something royalty-free, there’s no going back (unless that photo is never bought or licensed), but in reality for most of us photographers, your earnings could be much greater and more frequent with royalty-free stock.
Danish photographer and graphic-designer 'Kasper' has specialized in this endeavour and has created a very useful list of his most used stock-photo sites, and to be of further help he has ranked them in accordance to his personal experience regarding amount of sales, upload procedures, and payout. He also has direct links to sign up to those websites as a contributor rather than a buyer.
You can check his neatly arranged list on his website at polarpx.com/microstock-sites.