Why customers love royalty free stock images?
Royalty Free stock Images means once the image is purchased by a customer, he can use the image any number of times, without the need to pay royalties for each use.
Who is buying stock photos?
Traditionally whenever an advertiser or magazine need an image, there were two options; buy the images from a stock photo agency or employ a professional photographer to take the photos for the project.
Rights Managed (RM ) Images.
When you buy photos from stock photo agencies, they sell it for a particular project or a use.
This licensing is known as Rights Managed (RF) license. If the customer want to use the same image for another project then he must buy a seperate license for that.
The Rights Managed licensing was complex and expensive for customers. But the only other option was employing a professional photographer to take the photos. This was even more expensive and time consuming.
Before digitalization, the images were a physical product. It is stored on films and distributed using courier. And every time you sell an image, the image stock is reduced. When you want to restock the images, you must physically produce it and store it.
The storage and distribution of images were costing money for the stock agencies.
Rights Managed Licensing helped stock agencies to recover their expenses and they usually made good profits on it too.
Royalty Free Images
When the digital cameras started to replace the film cameras and Internet become more widely used, it became easier for stock agencies to display and sell the images over the net.
This benefited both the stock agencies and the customers alike.
The stock agencies need not worry about the stocks running out as it is stored as a digital file. They also need not send the photos by courier as the customer can now download it.
This digital storage and distribution by download resulted in savings for stock agencies. The associated file storage and courier expenses are now gone.
Customers too benefited. They can now view the images online, purchase it and use it immediately
The rapid development of Internet witnessed the emergence of millions of websites, blogs, online magazines and online advertisings.
And they were all in need of affordable images.
The stock agencies sensed this new opportunity. They simplified the availability of images by making it a self-service store. People who are looking for a particular type of image can now go to the stock agencies site, search and locate images using keywords. When they find the image, they can buy it as Royalty Free image.
This severely lowered the price per image. Prices came down to as low as $10 per image.
The agency also started offering subscription models where the customer can download a set of royalty free images for a monthly fee. The price now came down to as low as $1 or lower per image.
This is Microstock model; high volumes but low prices.
This made the customer’s life easier. They can now buy the images at a lower price on Royalty Free licensing and use it any number of times without any worry of breaking the copyright law.
The benefits for photographers
To sell at such a lower price, the microstock agency also need to get the images at a lower price.
They managed this by encouraging amateur photographers to submit their photos for selling through their Microstock sites.
Competent photographers are also beginning to see the benefits. They can now turn their otherwise expensive hobby into a money making one.
If an agency need photos of tourist attractions in Fiji island, they can now request photos from photography hobbyists in Fuji. This will drastically save the expense of sending a photographer to Fiji.
The result was the explosive growth of both Microstock photography and amateur photographers alike.
What is the future of Microstock Photography? Is it going to stay?
Definitely. Microstock photography is here to stay; at least until another more flexible option to store and distribute the images are developed. Even then I doubt if the Microstock photography will be affected severely.
Does this mean you should offer all your images to microstock only?
Not really. If you take a rare shot that will be too difficult to shoot again, then it is not worth selling it as a Royalty Free image. That image must definitely be offered as a Rights Managed image.
What do you think? Share your story in the comments.