I mentioned Alexandre Rotenberg before but he has posted an interesting article on his blog about the decision whether to submit images as RF to all the microstock agencies or RM to the more expensive midstock or macro agencies.
That got me thinking about what this decision is really all about and whether he has asked the right question! So I’ll try and work through the question with some examples. Firstly, this is not really about RF or RM – if you recall one of my previous attempts to clarify RF, RM, Editorial and Commercial stock, RF and RM are just two different licensing types – RF gives the widest license as it allows the use any number of times for ever whereas RM defines the specific use case that the image is being licensed for. Logically, RF should be more expensive than RM (as it gives more rights), but that isn’t the way the industry has developed! Finally, editorial usage is a suggested restriction on the usage of an image because it is believed to contain either people or property which could cause legal issues if it was used to promote a product or a point of view. People often think that if you don’t have a model or property release, then it must be licensed as RM, but that is not the case. As I explained last week, I decided to place one of my images on Alamy as RM and I will try to delve deeper into the logic of that below.
All the microstock agencies sell images as RF – because it is easy to understand and supports an automated “buy it now” or subscription plan. Sites such as Alamy, Corbis (as was), Getty support both RF and RM images as their buyers are sophisticated enough to understand the various usage models in RM and have enough money to pay for something that is a little more unique or exactly meets their needs. It is my belief that many of these sophisticated buyers work for companies that have accounts on Alamy and so simply go there for their images regardless of whether they could have found the same image elsewhere for less money. If your company is paying and has an account, why go to the extra trouble of searching many other sites (and then finding you need to open an account there) in order to save some money?
OK – so what is the answer to the question – where should you put your images to get the best return? Firstly, I looked at all my sales on Alamy and Getty (which I got into via their purchase of Corbis) since last September. I looked at sales where the purchase price was more than $150 and it ranged up to $532. I then sorted those between RF and RM and ended up with 11 RF sales and 7 RM sales greater than $150. I then calculated the average sales price (remember I get at least 50% less than this) and the answer was:
RM sales: $244 RF Sales: $252
Now not a great sample size I admit, but instructive still the same. It appears that it is the type of agency that dictates the price, not whether it is RF or RM licensing. What was also very interesting when I looked at the actual RF images that had sold – they were the same images that were available for a few dollars on the microstock sites. So this one sold for $369 on Getty:
This one sold for $225 on Alamy:
This necklace sold for $378 on Getty. It was made by my wife and so I did have a property release although I don’t recall if I needed it at the time:
What this reinforces for me is that the buyers of these licenses quite reasonably found the image that worked for their project and bought it from the agency they deal with. They have good payment terms, can return it if they don’t finally need it and presumably get great customer service as well. They got what they wanted!
What does this mean to us mere contributors? I think the general message is to put your images on as many sites as you can and that means they need to go as RF onto Alamy. Now that Alamy has a specific editorial marking (it used to be that if you didn’t have releases you had to make it RM), then there are no issues in submitting all your images to all the microstock sites and to Alamy and any other non-exclusive “midstock” sites you are willing to support. But should you only put your “best” images only on Alamy so that people are “forced” to pay that license free? I think the answer is that the image needs to be really special – either because of a location that is really difficult to access (and particularly interesting as well) or the light was so great that someone would be willing to pay extra just to get your image rather than something similar but not as good from a microstock site. To be honest, those images are few and far between for most of us.
So my sunlit waterfall from Kauai? I still think I was right to make this exclusive to Alamy (not sure the RM marking will make much difference), but I’m wavering a bit in my decision. Will I miss a number of enhanced and single sales on Shutterstock while waiting for this $300 sale on Alamy? Would I have got that $300 sale anyway because someone had an account there? I don’t know, but it sure is tempting to put it on all sites!