Friday, November 27, 2009

Getty Images, you're fired.

Cruise ship sets off from Vancouver at sunset heading up the Inside Passage to Alaska stock image
all images copyright protected

Recently I discovered that my images are being sold by Getty Images. Many photographers, particularly those new to the stock photography industry, would be thrilled by this news. I am not.

A few weeks ago I received a royalty payment statement from an agency in the UK which used to represent my images. Because they no longer represent my images, I queried the statement, and a rather murky trail was revealed. It seems that the UK agency had placed my images with an agency based in South Africa who had then placed them with Getty Images.

It can be very hard to get information from agencies about their royalty splits with sub-agents, but having done some research I think it goes something like this:

1) Getty Images pays 20% to 30% of a pictures' earnings to many of their suppliers. Why so little? Because Getty Images dominates the market and many photo agencies and photographers, in desperation, have agreed to these extraordinary terms.

2) The South African agency pays around 50% of their earnings to the UK agency. (I am guessing here using a market average)

3) The UK agency then pays me (in breach of their contract with me, and the reason they no longer represent my images) 40% of the money they receive.

When I confronted the UK agency they told me "the basis of your calculations is not quite correct".

I have asked them to tell me what the correct figures are. Their response:

"I am afraid that I am not going to be able to give you the detail of the existing contractual arrangements between third parties - it is a matter of confidentiality."

What I want to know now:
1) Is this legal? Can they refuse to give me details about the percentage of a sale I earn from my copyrighted material, via two other parties?

2) Why would any photographer trust an agency which refuses to provide this information?

What really concerns me is, if the percentage split was better than my calculations, it would be in their interests to tell me so. Because they will not tell me, does this suggest it is even worse? .

Either way, this means that when one of my images sells through Getty Images, I earn something around 6% of the license fee.

I find this so sickening that I do not want my photos on Getty Images' website. I understand that they are the biggest agency in the world. I understand that they have the best sales record. But if I am paid 6% of the earnings from my images, then I am merely being exploited.

I have had a similar problem before with an agency placing my images with Alamy. I like Alamy's business model, and I like it that they pay photographers a higher than average percentage of their earnings, but if I want my images on Alamy, I can put them there myself. The sheer cheek of an agency putting my images on Alamy, and then taking 50% of the earnings, astounds me.

The whole sub-agency system is a holdover from the pre-internet days when it was difficult for photographers to market their photos in foreign markets. The internet has done away with that problem, and the fact that agencies perpetuate this shady "death by a thousand cuts" system of sub-agents needs to be exposed and addressed.

There needs to be transparency.

- photographers must be allowed to contractually opt-out of sub-agent agreements with their agencies.

- agencies must clearly state the percentage splits in their stock image sales so photographers know where the money from their image sales is going

- agencies need to recognise photographers as equal partners in their business success, and that means paying them a minimum of 50% of the earnings from their images

Getty Images may argue that they are merely the top of the chain, and what happens further down is not their responsibility, but the sheer contempt that they show to photographers by paying them only 20% of the earnings from their images exposes what Getty Images is all about, and it has nothing to do with the interests of the photographer.

For that reason, Getty Images, you're fired.

Please pass on this message to any photographers who you think may feel the same way, or picture buyers who think that photographers deserve a decent percentage of the earnings from the work they create. If you would also like to fire Getty Images, or would like to expose other agencies' sub-agent payment percentages, please post below:


  1. Could not agree more. Unfortunately, few businesses are run by one with your moral principles. And Getty of course is slowly, nay quickly, strangling the picture library industry by entering into terms with media outlets on a level at which none of us can compete.

    As for sub-agents, the excuse that Alamy recently provided re. my query was that they (SA) can achieve a sale in an unknown market. OK, but the resultant three way split, means the photographer, the source of said image, gets next to nothing.

    Example, a rights managed image of Arab women training to be soldiers in a military school in Abu Dhabi was recently sold via a sub-agent in Malaysia.

    No one else on earth would have such an image (it required special government permission to take) and my share: $14.49. Yup, not a misprint $14.49!!

    Of course when you have millions of images like Getty, Corbis and Alamy, the profit is there so they will continue to operate at the photographer`s expense.

    Although it must be said, in the case of Alamy, they do have an opt-out clause for third party distribution, so the choice inevitably rests with the photographer.

  2. Chris it obviosuly deems UNFAIR to you perhaps in direct contrast to your own PD, which I repeat once more, is simply the fairest of all ! Trust my Getty hardly cares for contributing photographers in general or for the future of the stock industry in particular ... what they care for is simpy their own share of profits ... be it through sub-agents, or through mitigating business interests with micrstock or online collections like FlickR etc.

  3. I will be passing this along and thanks for the info very intersting

  4. This "skuldugery" has been going on for years and just keeps getting more difficult for all of us. Even back in the days of film I have had hundreds of slides stolen by one agency and heaven only knows how many were "duped" and sent to distant lands.
    Now in the digital age mouse clicks make it even easier and add to that unscrupulous people in various agencies pull the rug from under us.

    What can we do, who has the money time and energy to fight back and still work hard just to keep the lights on in the office ? Like many others I feel Chris and "Photographers Direct" understand our problems and do all they can to see we get a fair shake.
    The only thing worse than a paltry check for an image is no check at all, I have had at least seven images stolen outright that I know of. All done with a click of a mouse and no idea how many others were purloined this way. We face continued difficult times at the mercy of greedy people and I am not sure if we can do very much to turn it around but I am sticking with Chris and Photographers Direct to look out for all us, at least that is comforting. RC Hall

  5. the looting of the stock image market was all part of a long standing plan to "separate creators from their copyrights" to quote Jonathan Kline of Getty Images. If not yet fully realized, at least creators have been separated from their rightful incomes. Beware the orphan works act backed by the likes of Getty and Google to complete the transfer of wealth.

  6. One of my favourite Jonathan Klein quotes is that Getty are 'photographer friendly, not photographer cuddly'. Make of that what you will.

    As someone talking from the picture library side of the fence I'd like to add something on a couple of points.

    I don't agree that the internet has made international agents obsolete. Yes you can easily send an image worldwide now in a way you couldn't with slides. But there is still no substitute for having a (good) local agent who knows the market and can develop relationships with local clients.

    The fundamental problem you have encountered comes when libraries sell via other libraires within their own territory. So in the UK you have large numbers of libraries (some small and specialist but not all) selling direct in the traditional way but also having some or all of their collection on Getty, Photolibrary, Alamy, Reflex etc etc. If these large resellers then also have international rights then you get into this situation of multiple parties slicing off percentages of the fee, leaving the photographer (and to be fair often the original library) with a very small piece of the pie.

    Direct relationships between picture libraries and international agents still work. OK you'll get a smaller % because the split is normally 60/40 between library and agent so you end up with 30% not 50%.But you'll still make more sales this way than you would with a library trying to sell direct abroad and paying you the full 50%.

    This trend to sell the same material via a whole host of outlets is very much a product of the digital age. When I started in the industry, the idea that other libraries - your competitors - would have the same material as you was anathema. The whole idea was that clients would come to you because your pictures were better than or different to the competition.

    I now work for a library that has gone back to this 'quaint' model. All our images are exclusive to us in the UK. We do sell internationally through a select number of trusted agents who operate on a similar basis.

    We won't sell the volume of those with their fingers in multiple pies. But we sell at good prices to good clients and our photographers get full value for their work.

    That model can still work. In fact, in the age of microstock, I wonder if it might become the only model once more.

    One final point. For every photographer taking a stand and pulling their pictures there are hundreds more doing nothing apart from cashing their diminishing cheques.

    Ultimately the photographers hold the power here. You're producing the raw material the rest of us are working with. Do some research into how different libraries work - not just % splits but strategy and philosophy. And then, where you can, take your images out of the bad ones and give them to the good ones. And gradually you might see the balance of power shift.

  7. regarding Anonymous's comment:

    "I don't agree that the internet has made international agents obsolete. Yes you can easily send an image worldwide now in a way you couldn't with slides. But there is still no substitute for having a (good) local agent who knows the market and can develop relationships with local clients."

    I agree. But photographers should send their images direct to these international agents. They should be able to opt out from their 'local' agent doing this on their behalf, as that is where the multiple splits happen.

  8. Getty are just b*stards ... I no longer trust them as they have exploited the whole stock industry to their own financial gain and to the photograpers detrement.
    Now Getty's profits are starting to slump they wonder why ... maybe they shouldn't have screwed us all over with this crappy 20% cut in the first place and we'd still be standing by their side and defending our corner by supplying top quality new material.
    It's no longer an honour to be represented by Getty, it's an embarrassment.

  9. I read something, long ago, that with stock agencies, 80% of the sales are made by 20% of the photographers. That means the other 80% of us are nothing more than cannon fodder; filler material. Getty is only required to have monetary loyalty to the 20% that make them money.

    Sales are tough. That's why they've branched out into the micro-stock market and are running their primary business based more and more on the micro model. That is probably also a reason photographers are beginning to pull farther away from Getty by either banding together to create their own stock businesses or going it alone.

    I think the model of the future will be more in line with PD's methodology, and I applaude them for being among early proponents of this style of selling stock.

    Unfortunately we can say what we want or do what we want - ultimately our destinies are in our own hands. Getty will not change until photographers simply demand more or go elsewhere. I also think that Getty is too entrenched in it's own style and will not be able to change. Soooo ... for me, it's off to other venues. Just as learning to print is essential to a fine artist, learning to market our own work is going to be the way of the future. How, exactly, this will evolve will remain to be seen but my prediction is that we will have to spend much more time away from the camera, behind the computer, than ever before.

    We just can't afford to support those who don't support us. We have to learn to say "I want THIS much for the use of my image" instead of "I'll take what I can get." Unless, of course, you're going the micro-stock route. Then you are more than welcome to you 25 cents !

  10. I think its shocking that the poor photographer, who spends a fortune on his equipment, gets ripped off and paid a pittance by so many agencies.

    I would like to take this opportunity to thank Photographer's Direct for their honesty and support of photographers everywhere. I have been very fortunate to start my stock-photo submissions on this site and haven't had to deal with the problems mentioned by Chris Barton.

    And all those out there who resort to selling a few images through micro sites: STOP AND THINK a moment. Is that all your images are really worth, just a few cents? I don't think so ....

  11. It is difficult for small agencies to go it alone. The 'big boys' have such control over the market, they have forced smaller agencies like mine, to be 'non-exclusive'. This enables photographers to 'non-exclusive' terms and some do prefer to have their images in several libraries (perhaps without realising the smaller percentage of commission). The Internet has resulted in pictures being duplicated and distributed globally. A photographer may pull out their images from their original library, but not possible to remove them from all subagents. This can create discrepancies between photographers and libraries.

    I have had a couple of photographers complain that they 'discovered' some pictures they had in my library, in another library (after they pulled out of mine). But it's impossible to keep track of where all the duplicates have gone and have them deleted.

    If photographers want to have full control over their images, then more libraries should stock only low res images, and purchase the high res direct from photographers (like PD). However, will this ever happen, when some clients want instant access to download images direct from the site?

    Tough times ahead?

  12. ( Quote )If photographers want to have full control over their images, then more libraries should stock only low res images, and purchase the high res direct from photographers (like PD). However, will this ever happen, when some clients want instant access to download images direct from the site? ( End Quote ).

    I have been with PD for a good few years, and I fully agree that the PD concept is brilliant. I don't wish competition for PD however I feel that one of the best things to happen for photographers within this industry would be for more online image suppliers to start up the PD ( Chris Barton ) concept and encourage photographers to steer clear of the photo suppliers that exploit them.

  13. Photographers putting images into photo libraries is the same as digging your own grave, I am pleased that some people are finally waking up to what they are all about - but you don't know the half of it.

  14. "But photographers should send their images direct to these international agents".

    In an ideal world, maybe Chris. But there are plenty of agencies - many with designated international departments - who get fleeced by unscrupulous international agents so imagine what they could do to individual photographers.

    Do most photographers really have the time to do proper research into a network of international agents, deal with people who don't speak their language, go out to visit them to see what they're really like rather than how they come over on the phone or via their website? I doubt it. It's clear from the comments here that many photographers have their hands full coping with one agency in their own country. Are you really confident you could handle an international network?

    And David T - that's a very sweeping statement. Care to elaborate? Maybe fill us in with the other 'half of it' that you seem to know. I'm particularly interested to know the similarities between what my library does and what Getty does - I assume you consider us to be much the same - because I'm not seeing much common ground where I'm sitting.


  15. Despite the valiant efforts of Chris and PD, no one else has attempted to emulate a good working model. We recently had to remove an image request because someone spotted the same image on Alamy, and we received the image from one of our small affiliate agencies we have worked with trying to stay afloat against the 900 pound Getty and Gates.
    A few years ago we put out a request for rare blue whales and howler monkeys: by deadline we had been sent over 900 images for two slots!

    What we have is a completely saturated market, and having q2A (photo researchers based in India working for American textbook publishers) making image requests of 1/4 for $90 certainly didn't help anyone. I once turned down their paltyr request and fee, and they actually called me by phone berating my lack of co-operation (another exclamation mark).
    Chris and ladies and gentlemen: the genie is out of the bottle and no amount of effort will stuff it back in. Maybe I'll start a cheese factory.

  16. I'm very pleased that you have spoken out about this issue and I hope you get lots of direct
    sales of your work as a result.

    I run an agency and I find it so hard to compete with Getty too, as they have pressured almost every publishing house to sign over to their subscription deal, which means that small 'boutique' agencies like ours find it very hard to match their ridiculous $50-per-image flat rate. This means we inevitably lose business to them despite having beautiful images (possibly of superior quality) for sale.

    So you're not alone, there are many more people like us out there who think that Getty is the devil! Even in my past life as a Photo Editor I would avoid them on principle.

  17. Ok. Anonymous above has come out of the closet. This is a wonderful discussion long due, not to blow wind, but to understand we're all rowing in the same boat, usually in circles.We smaller agencies use PD as an outlet to reach the world, but are not willing to spend the time and energy to create a competitor to PD such as a co-operative; we clutch our images tightly to our chest and bemoan the 900 pound gorillas.

    Can we fight them? Yes of course, we do that daily. Can we win? In the long run they will simply wear us down.

    Six years ago I spoke to an audience of 700-800 art directors about photography and the role that stock played in their business. In the "good old day" stock was where they went in July to buy an image license of a winter scenic for their snowmobile ad or whatever for the coming winter. A senior creative director from Ogilvy approached me after the presentation, gave me his card, and said to call and drop by some time. I did this a few weeks later, and notice, both with awe and some trepidation that his company had given him "carte blanche" to purchase every CD/DVD of images available. His entire wall was covered with at least 1,000 DVDs.

    They don't need us anymore: to them a cheaper albeit medicore image would still please the client and save them money: and money is the bottom line. Quality has slipped to new lows, and the young art directors cannot tell the difference between the two, or for that matter, much care. In this calendar year I personally know of seven photographers, good ones, that have left the business, sold their equipment, and have totally switched careers. Now where are the new excellent images going to come from? I teach stock photography at a local college, usually a mature set of students, who still believe there's gold in their images. The course is called "The Art and Business of Stock Photography, but keep your day job" Every semester I get up to two dozen good amateurs who simply don't believe the genie has left the bottle. And please, don't open a buggy whip factory, Henry Ford demolished that industry.
    G'day again

  18. Overheard, while queuing at Heathrow Immigration earlier this year, a short exchange between two suits:
    "If we want an image we just search Getty / Royalty Free and buy"
    Getty has built a reputation. Buyers prefer speed and ease of access to quality. And of course low price.
    Getty has a reputation that is good for some and bad for others .... but its name is top of mind - and that´s what Marketing is all about.

  19. absolutely Alan - I agree, Getty is easily the biggest name in the business.

    The next stage is to educate people - to let them know how Getty does business, and how they treat photographers.

    Many professional picture buyers and designers (as opposed to the occassional buyer) are also photographers, and hopefully they will recognise that:

    1) they really should look at other places to license images until Getty treats photographers better.

    2) there ARE many other great places to look for images!

  20. Seems Alamy has a similar thing going with stockphoto pro, my royalty free images are appearing on both sites and I only found this out accidentally. Currently waiting for comment from StockphotoPro on exactly the financial breakdown is regarding percentages...

  21. Chris - agree completely with point 2 but we're all living in a dreamworld if we think point 1 will ever happen.

    There is a significant groundswell of dislike of Getty (and the other suspects) amongst picture buyers - Getty are quite capable of treating their less important clients with as much contempt as their photographers. But they simply can't afford not to use them - both financially and because of their control of so much content.

    I wonder whether the mistake of so many small libraries is to try to take Getty on at their own game. One of the posts above says they can't compete with Getty rates. Of course you can't - so why are you trying?

    Boutique libraries should have more confidence in their own photography. As Chris says, there are many other places to get great images and many of those places are offering pictures that are better than or different to what buyers can get at Getty.

    If you're not offering something better/different then you're in trouble. But if you are, then charge fees that reflect the value and quality of the work. You have to make your quality, your exclusivity, even in a strange way your higher prices the selling point of your library.

    I don't agree with the suggestion that buyers only care about price not quality. Some do. Maybe more than used to be the case. But the example of two suits buying RF is only relective of a small part of the overall market. Why devalue yourself by trying to offer these people quality for silly money - leave that to the people who do it well. Concentrate instead on areas where quality still counts and then explain that to get that quality you have to pay properly.

    Sure, you'll lose some people along the way and it's a bit of a high-wire act but you can create a niche for yourself if you have the work to back it up.

    The supermarket comparison is one that's often used in relation to the picture business. And supermarkets have indeed destroyed many smaller, independent high street shops, especially those general stores that did what the supermarkets do, just not as well or as cheaply.

    But specialist retailers still exist and flourish - they do so by offering something (cheese, wine, shoes) that is better and different to what you can get in a supermarket.

    That is surely the way forward. Quality hasn't become as unpopular as you might be led to believe.


  22. I too was thrilled when an image I had place with the now defunct 'Scoopt' was taken by Getty.

    A year later I received payment from Getty... the grand sum of ONE POUND FORTY FIVE PENCE!

  23. This is a thorny issue. I originally started up at Alamy once I realised my diminishing fees from another agency were due them selling through Alamy. So I thought I may as well go direct. However I do use Alamy's own distribution netwrok because while I know it will result in a lower cut me on sales through partner agencies, I also think it results in more sales. For a lot of stock imagery this trade off is acceptable in order to get your images seen through as more channels

  24. Reading your post and all comments here, I'd like to share my experience. I'm a photographer but started a stock library (specialised in nature and environment) from scratch two years ago, working now with about 60 photographers around the world. I've spent a lot of time and money in building up our direct client base (international exhibitions, SEO etc). The feedback I've received from picture buyers is very positive. Unfortunately, it hasn't paid out yet and it's a continuous struggle to keep our small library in the air. I don't have the resources and network (yet) as a small business owner. On the other hand, the contributors are very pleased with the way their images are being represented and the help they get from me in the metadata and uploading process. My library also offers them a fair contract (60%, non-exclusive). However, the monthly costs for hosting high-res images are becoming too much of a burden if you are not selling enough, so I'm forced to look for other ways to turn this around. International resellers and agents that focus on a certain niche in the market and have their own network in their territory could give much more exposure for our collection. Many of our contributors don't want to (or don't know how to) approach different agencies and are more than happy to have an agent to do it for them instead so that they can focus on their creative work. I always inform the contributors what my strategies are and what it will involve and they have the choice to opt-out. To be honest, I've started the library because I was fed up with the way other libraries were dealing with their contributors and thinking that we could make a change, but after two years of utterly devotion without financial rewards for myself), I'm wondering whether it's all worth it. One thing is for sure, many of our contributors would be very disappointed if our library has to close down. Hopefully 2010 will be better for all of us! Merry Christmas to all of you.

  25. Hi Fenneke

    thanks for the comments and I generally agree with what you say. What sis key is you give photographers the option to opt in or out. Many agencies do not do this, and do not provide info on their sub-agents and the percentage royalty splits. There needs to be more transparency on this and photographers need to be assured of this transparency before they join an agency.

    Good luck Fenneke - I know you have some great images on Photographers Direct!

  26. Thanks, Chris! I really hope more agencies like ourselves will get a stronger position in the near future.

  27. As bad as the situation is with Getty, I'd rather get a check than no check at all.

    I find at least one of my images stolen per week. This week I found 4 of my images on Zazzle, uploaded by by four different Zazzle members. Go figure.

  28. I'm sorry anonymous. I disagree. When Getty and Co cream off almost all the earnings from my images and leave me about 4%, I would rather get no check at all.

    There is a saying in the publishing industry, regarding agent fees, that 90% of something is better than 100% of nothing. I agree with this, but 4%?

    Getty Images have followed the same business model that the Getty family fortune was originally based on in the oil industry: buy up or put out of business all the competition, then you can charge what you like, and you can squeeze your suppliers as much as you like. They haven't managed to control the market, but they are so dominant that they are squeezing their suppliers (the photographers) for smaller and smaller cuts, and they will continue to do this as long as photographers say "I'd rather get a check than no check at all."

    At what point do you say "enough!"? I am saying enough! I will not let Getty do this to me.

  29. Around 8 years ago I worked for a small picture library that was taken over by Getty. 'We love you guys....your collection is fantastic....nothing is going to change' were the statements made. Six weeks later nearly all of the staff were made redundant and the images were hoovered into the Getty files.

  30. Quote from a Getty family member,"The meek shal inherit the earth, but not the mineral rights". J. Paul Getty
    When a family member was kidnapped and held for $3 million in ransom Getty replied with "Let them keep him, I have 14 more nieces and newphews"
    The apple does not fall far from the tree.

  31. I was only thinking about this the other day. My wife googled my name Dave Gartland and to her surprise a shot I took of a rattlesnake came up copyright to me sold through istock. Dreamstime alamy fotolia they are all the same. When you start out with agencies you are more interested in having your shot acceptedthan how they intend to rip you off. I only wish I could get off their sites

  32. How shocking... all of this. I'm just getting started and, it looks like I'll have to keep an eye on my images :-)

  33. The chain of distributor/sub distributor/sub sub distributor is built to move as much of the licence fee away from the crator and into the hands of the distro chain. Nothing new there, photographers beware.

    But in this case Chris should take action against Getty, no need to worry about the impenetrable chain that leads to them. Getty are marketing his work and do not have a valid licence so to do.

    The downside is that his (UK) claim could only be for the same percentage of the Getty sales he originally wanted from his own agents, reduced if he'd agreed to a chain with them. It's unlikely to be significant - and that of course is what Getty rely on when they knowingly take on work without checking the permissions.

    David Hoffman

  34. Its a sad state of the world when you may be getting ripped off and not even know it.

    As an amateur photographer with photos on several stock sites I am coming to the conclusion that it just isn't worth the time and effort of uploading images to any of these sites; the time it takes versus the money earnt is probably something like a million to one. They also get you by not releasing your hard earnt payments till you have earnt $50, thereby earning interest on your cash for what can be a long time. I have been on Dreamstime for two years or so and earnt $30... Fotolia $4, Bigstockphoto $2.50. Its just not worth the effort of taking pics and editing them. And most of them even have the audacity to reject your pics even though they are only going to sell for 50 cents!

    I stick with Photographers Direct only because you do pay what I consider a reasonable amount but to date haven't sold any shots on here either!

    Its time for people to get back to taking pictures for a hobby and enjoying it again, not having to worry about whether the shot will get accepted on a stock site, and not taking a shot because of that.

    Put them where you can get real payment and enjoyment from your beautiful pictures, on your wall or desk!

  35. Getty will only accept images, (trust me on this) that are totally exclusive to them,. Even if they pull images from flickr the photographer has to state the images are not available anywhere else. If they find out later the photographer has lied he/she will be fined by having their royalties stopped if the offending image sells.
    Also they insist on Model & property releases for all images that require them. So I don't understand how ( or why) they are selling non-ex images from agencies they have acquired.

    As a photographer like myself who shoots UK nature & gardening stock images, it is virtually impossible for me to get accepted by Getty, they simply say they do not need that type of material.

    So why they would want images 'second hand' from other agencies beats me.

    One thing I do know is that if you are accepted by Getty and you can accumulate, say 1000 images on their site you WILL earn big bucks!

  36. Sorry anonymous, you are misinformed about this. It may be the case that when they get images from flickr they demand exclusivity and model and property releases, but this is not true of many of Getty's other sources.

    Getty has a huge quantity of images from sub-agents, and these will not be exclusive in any way. The agency in the UK that was passing on my images to a sub-agent, which passed them on to Getty, never had exclusivity on my images (hey, they no longer even had a contract to market my images!), so the sub and sub-sub-agents certainly didn't!

    Many of my images which Getty has been licensing without my permission (or even awareness until now!) do not have model or property releases - you can see some of them here:

    Why do Getty want images 'second-hand' from other agencies? Because Getty can demand really favourable commission splits, and the sub-agents have already done the hard work in terms of quality control and checking captions and keywords. Getty just takes the 'pre-packaged product' and takes a huge percentage when they license it (70%? 80%?), passing on the remainder to the sub-agent, which then passes on a few scraps to the photographer.

    Yes, "if you are accepted by Getty and you can accumulate, say 1000 images on their site you WILL earn big bucks" but Getty will just cherry-pick the most sellable images from flickr, the ones that cover subjects they do not have, and they will ignore the rest of your images. The odds of you accumulating a large number of images on Getty? Not good. (Infact, in your case, you say Getty won't accept ANY of your images!) And Getty is making 4 times the 'big bucks' that you are from your images, if not more.

    Getty is the epitome of extreme capitalism: everything is a product, dominate the market, and then squeeze your suppliers (the photographers) and keep squeezing. Profit is everything. The photographers are nothing more than a resource to be exploited.

  37. I have been a member of PD for a long time. I also have work on Alamy, Gekko and several other stock libraries. Getty has four of my images and probably that is all I will upload. My concern is still their exclusivity of images plus their extraordinarily high commission rate. I also object to the inability to choose whether you want RF or RM. I questioned the exclusivity on the Flickr site but to date have not had any real answer. Why would one tie up images for a paultry 20% to 30% (minus US tax of course)in the hope that Getty will license it for megabucks. It would have to be megabucks to allow for the loss of use on other agencies. At least with Alamy, one can choose to be in the distributorship scheme or not. This option does not appear to be available on Getty. My biggest complaint (and one which I shared with Chris today) is the constant line coming from prospective clients when they ask to use images is "Sorry, we don't have a budget for photographs". Sigh. More on my blog!

  38. When I started back up in photography last year I started looking into stock site and I was sickened to the point I had to run to the bathroom...the percentages paid out are atrocious, just because company is big doesn't mean they can abuse those who contribute to their success! Thus I check out a few others and decided not to pursue the stock image industry, I don't think it's worth my time unless someone else can prove otherwise. Plus I don't want to list my photos on a website that charges a monthly/annual fee plus a %. Whats up with that? I will have to take a look at fair trade maybe a possibility since I have around 13k images sitting around.

  39. @ Anonymous

    How the heck you are supposed to earn big bucks with a 1000 images on Getty's site if they now also sell tiny images of a few pixels for the cost of a latte? Some people I know on flickr signed up with them, they Getty came up with he clever micro cheap stamp size deals and the photographers are now locked up in that stuff til their agreement expire!

  40. First, the problem with your images being sold isn't Getty's fault. It's the fault of a 40-year legacy of small photo agencies who have always scammed photographers with the mindset that photographers are stupid. While Getty has many issues the resale of your images isn't one of them. Put the blame where it belongs. We should stop blaming Getty or Corbis and start looking at ourselves. The problems are not because of companies, but photographers. As long as there are thousands who will play by the rules set by companies we will always lose. I can tell a plumber to fix my sink for $1 and he will tell me to stuff it. So why are photographers so willing to do it?

  41. Hi Richard (Ellis)

    I understand what you are saying.... but Getty squeezing photographers to just 20% of the earnings on their images? That is Getty's fault.

    I agree that a lot of other agencies are also to blame in terms of abusing photographers via their contracts. The agency in the UK (Travel Ink) still refuses to tell me the percentage that the South African agency pays them on the sale of my images, or the percentage that Getty Images pays the South African agency.

    Generally agency contracts say that they reserve the right to license images through a sub-agent, but:

    1) they generally won't tell you the percentage they get from this
    2) they DON'T tell you that that sub-agent will then sub-contract your images to yet another agency, reducing your earnings further and further.

    If agencies operate like this, how can photographers make valid decisions about the contract they are offered?

    I believe the majority of Travel Ink's earnings are now actually from Getty Images. If Travel Ink told their photographers this, and what percentage of their image sales they are actually being paid (2%? 4%? 6%?) how many would keep their images with Travel Ink?

    And it looks like other agencies are trying to follow Getty's lead. Stockphotopro now offers photographers 20% of earnings on their images! And for other reasons, Stockphotopro is an agency you do not want to be dealing with, but more on that later...

  42. Hi Chris,

    Getty pays what they can get away with and we let them. Many photographers tolerate it because they are a sales machine. In fact so many tolerate it that Getty makes it hard to get your images into their system and force photographers to work with partner agencies who do all the work and get only a percentage of the sale which becomes even smaller when the photographer receives it.

    It sucks, but I don't see many photographers leaving the business because of it. Problem is there are just too many photographers and like any part of capitalism when there is too much supply prices fall to meet demand. When demand is shrinking then we have price freefall.

  43. Thanks a lot for your story, would never think of coming close to Getty.
    I'm actually thinking of working with only 2 agencies: and

  44. Thats what I do. Keeps things simple. I am confident with PD and less so with Alamy but I think they do try to keep their contributors relatively happy - whereas Getty obviously doesnt care.

    When sales dip though, one tends to naturally look to alternative options ... and all I see is a market turning uglier!

  45. "- photographers must be allowed to contractually opt-out of sub-agent agreements with their agencies."

    I wholeheartedly agree and recommend that anyone entering into an agreement with an agency adds this as a clause to the contract if it doesn't already exist. If they won't accept this, then walk away as you wish.

  46. I was approached by a photo agent here in Montreal (Canada) claiming to represent Getty. When I investigated further and checked with fellow pro's here, it turned out they were little more than a sub-agent. Had I allowed them to represent me, to get an "in" with Getty, I would have been in the exact position of sub-agents, misrepresentation and meagre commissions that Chris has so eloquently revealed.

    Thank you Chris for brining up your unfortunate experiences. I apprecaite your honest, professional and upfront approach with PD. Glad I chose NOT to deal with Getty, in any form or matter!

  47. Chris, I am Diego Giudice, director of a online photo archive specialized in Latin America. We have made some sales through Photographers Direct, Adriana is the one of us in charge of tracking your requests.
    I agree completely with your words. We photographers are squezeed more and more by the big octopus of this bussines, call them getty, etc. They are now more agressive than ever, I think that the international crisis fueled their greed. Besides, they care little about photography, the could sell socks instead of photos, they are just interested in profit.
    our contract guarantees our photographers 50 percent of the final sale price, something I think is a basic fact of ethics. But keeping this position is harder every day, we are very often pressed to accept deal that would mean downsize photographer´s share. Or pressed to accept prices and conditions unthinkable just few years ago.
    Receive my best regards, go ahead, we need guys like you.

  48. I seems your problem is not GettyImages but not having a detailed contract with the first agency you gave your images to. That contract should have a clause to prevent sub-licensing and be non-exclusive. That way you could license them to Getty also and get the full amount you are entitled to, unless you market them yourself then you keep 100%.


  49. Can't see why you guys seem to think Alamy is any different to Getty (apart from %) they are both driving us into the ground! 50% of bugger all is still bugger all..

  50. Your rights to enforce the term of a contract to which your not a party to (third party) are contained in the "Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999"

    In order to establish your rights as far as the contract between your UK agency and the South African Agency I would need to see your contract with your UK agency. However you have the copyright and it would be a breach of copyright to allow those pictures to be used without your express permission. If you didn't give it then you may have an arguable case. Unfortunately civil litigation is expensive. If you have the time to dissect your contract and read through the legislation it can be found at:

  51. I am fast coming to the conclusion that the only way to stop Getty is not to compete with them because thats pointless, but to campaign against them.

    After a discussion on Linked I have started using "I support the "I AM NOT A GETTY PHOTOGRAPHER CAMPAIGN" on all my emails, blogs tweets etc. I give the reason " Would you work with a company that took up to 80% of you earnings, No will I, that's not Fair Trade Photography". It looks great on emails to clients who are also Getty buyers and hate them. It reminds them that there are other ways to buy photos.

    If all of us did something like this and put "I AM NOT A GETTY PHOTOGRAPHER" in our emails, blogs, tweets, facebook etc, and encouraged all other photographers to do the same the message would slowly roll out and actually even giants like Getty hate and suffer from negative PR.

    Chris has been doing a great job with the Fair Trade Photography idea. I think its time to support the idea with words, posts, tweets, blogs etc etc. Passive resistance is very powerful.

  52. We solved our Getty syndrome Problem. We do not sell photos at $2.50 for any one. NO exception.

  53. So photographers direct is acting as a sub-agency for archivolatino, which is taking 50%. and I think you take 40%, so the photographer is getting just 30%. Is that how it works? According to your argument you should terminate your agreement with archivolatino and any other agency you are subcontracting for.

    The subcontracting chain poses a problem, but your complaint about your S. African sale is also like saying the S. African agency should not have access to any material except that where it is the primary agency. By cutting off access to foreign images you could very well put many third-world agencies completely out of business, forcing customers who would have liked to shop locally in SA to look around until they find an agency that has a comprehensive supply of images from around the world. And who would that be, do you think? Photographers Direct? Or Getty Images?

    I think you've got snoot vision. There are a lot of other viewpoints which illuminate the subject from different directions.

  54. thanks you for your comments Anonymous, though it is always far nicer if people are willing to put a name behind what they say. It will then have more 'weight'.

    Firstly, re your comment: "I think you take 40%"

    - no, you have been misinformed. Photographers Direct takes just 20% on sales.

    Regarding agencies selling through Photographers Direct. Photographers Direct was originally called Picture Search and was directed at both agencies and photographers. We have some 'legacy' agencies from that time. If agencies wish to use Photographers Direct we now specify that they need *explicit* permission from their individual photographers to allow the agency to add their images to Photographers Direct, because of course, the photographers can do this themselves.

    Regarding the South African agency, again you are misinformed. They were not licensing my images to buyers. Every single sale made through this agency was actually through Getty Images. The South African agency were doing nothing more than passing on my images to Getty, and then taking a 50% cut of the earnings passed back to them from Getty, before passing on the remainder to the UK agency.

    Regarding "cutting off access to foreign images", we live in the internet age. No-one is cut off from (pretty much) anywhere in the world. Any individual photographer could supply their images direct to a South African agency if they wished - just go to their website and send them a message.

    Re: "you could very well put many third-world agencies completely out of business"

    - we have many developing world (your third world) photographers using Photographers Direct. They get to deal direct with buyers anywhere in the world through Photographers Direct, and they will earn 80% of the licensing fees from their images. In comparison to the (average) 50% they would earn from their 'local' agencies, and the maybe 25% they would earn from images that agency passed on to 'foreign partners' (or maybe 15% they would earn if it was Getty Images) which is better for the photographer?

  55. Great article and I've only added my work to companies that offer 50/50 or better. I sell a bit of HD stock every month. I own and have been working on and open to all ideas on making this a serious site.

    It's far to costly for me, myself, and I to build and promote this project. I've put it out there once again that I would like to form a co-op.
    open to making this happen ASAP!!
    Darrin Nupuf

  56. This is actually sickening, the biggest most expensive (ludicrously expensive) stock agency in the world RIPS me and everyone else off with a mere 20% commission. What a stab in the back. Unless you schmooze your way in through some partner agency into an RM contract Getty will just continue to screw you and smile all the way to the bank. I am removing all my stuff from Getty and placing it on Alamy. This is not the first article I have read about Alamy's commission rates. I'm a bit tired of Getty now as clearly they are not there to support photographers or help them grow, merely to fill their own back pockets.