One of our photographers forwarded me an email he received this week from a stock photography agency called PurestockX:
I have been studying your photography on-line and decided to get in contact with you. My name is Johnnie and I work as a picture editor for Ingram Publishing, a leading European royalty free image provider based in London. We are currently looking for talented professional photographers to contribute work to our subscription website PurestockX, for single image distribution and possibly a DVD collection.
Like many professional photographers, you may have a back catalogue of unused and potentially profitable images. For example this could be personal work or offshoots from your commercial practice. We would be interested in distributing these images on your behalf in exchange for a commission.
As a contributor you would benefit from direct marketing in nine European countries. Typically our marketing includes mailing printed brochures as well as telesales campaigns to promote DVD products and our subscription service, PurestockX, throughout the year. The revenues our contributors receive can be substantial.
Ingram Publishing has hundreds of thousands of images available for direct sale within the UK and an international client base; comprising direct customers and a network of third party distributors. The mission of Ingram Publishing is to provide high quality, fully released imagery at competitive prices – without underselling the value of photographic work.
Please feel free to give me a phone call or e-mail to discuss this in further detail. Meanwhile please visit www.ingrampublishing.com and www.purestockx.com for a better understanding of our company.
I look forward to hearing back from you.
With best regards,
Of course, it is quite flattering to find an agency has been "studying your photography on-line" and considers you a "talented professional photographer", but I suspect this is a standard 'fluffer' email they send to anyone, with just a personal name stuck at the top (on a side note it would be great to hear from photographers who may have received the same email!)
Alan forwarded the email to me asking for "information/awareness/comments", but having never heard about Purestock, I asked him if he could find out anything more from them about the commission splits they offer talented professional photographers.
Alan sent Johnnie at PurestockX an email with a list of detailed questions.
So, Alan took the initiative and phoned Johnnie, which is always a smart move as you can tell a lot from someone's 'on-the-spot' answers to difficult questions. Alan reported back:
Johnnie claims they sell hi res images for £150 down to £100
Photographer gets 20%.
When I asked how much after going via a distributor, was it 20% of the total or what they got?
He mumbled a bit and then said '20% of what we get'.
So.... if Purestock sell one of your stock images direct to a buyer, you get paid 20%. If they sell your images thought their "network of third party distributors" you get... what? I am guessing 10% at best.
And who exactly are this "network of third party distributors"? Doing some research online, I find that PurestockX is "a division of SuperStock Inc.". What I would really like to know is, if images you submit to Purestock are sold through SuperStock (which seems to own PurestockX) what percentage of the original sale price do you receive?
What also does not add up, as Alan pointed out, is that PurestockX is a subscription site, advertising "10 high res credits for 45 pounds". That is 4 pounds and fifty pence per high res image.
Having got this info, Alan said:
"I left it at that as it is plain to see what it is, as his claim for £150 does not match 10 hi res image credits for £45."
"The photographer gets about 40p - 80p per image according to my sums - if they are lucky!"
This is another example of the contempt with which some agencies treat photographers. Offering just 20% of earnings for direct sales, let alone the even lower sub-agency rates, cannot be justified in any way.
PurestockX seems to be another 'front agency' for the shady 'death by a thousand cuts' network of distributors out there designed to part photographers from as much as possible of the earnings from their creative work.
For these reasons, Fair Trade Photographer has this verdict: