The next major disruption  in the photo world will be individual licensing. The ability for any individual to license images directly.

There are a few forces pointing in  that direction.

  • First, and most visible , is the sheer volume of photos taken. Among those, probabilities tell us, are images of high licensing value. Currently, they are mearilly being shared. It will be soon when their author will want to make revenue from them.
  • The second is technology. Up to now, the technology world didn’t care much about the photo market. Between the rise of social media, whose engine is photography, and the recent purchase of Instagram for one billion dollars, it has become the new gold rush. Some of the most brilliant minds are now working on the next photo platform and how to make it profitable.
  • Third is the declining commission rate given by photo agencies to contributors, both in microstock and traditional licensing. Anywhere from 40 to 20 %, it is becoming unfair and pure robbery. Already you hear grumbling in the more vocal microstock community, but they are certainly not the only ones.
  • Fourth is the expanding base of publishers. As the internet grows and everyone is becoming a publisher, no stock agency will be able to offer the wide range of images needed to service everyone properly.

Professionals already have platforms like Photoshelter or photographers direct. But those require a collection of images to be relevant. With companies like or, we already see the emmergence of tools that let any image creator directly get revenue from their images, even if it is only one or two.

Getty has been fighting this trends by cutting deals with photo sharing platform like Flickr but for how long ? Those who license via Getty do not appreciate the very low commission rate they receive and since they  are already contacted by image buyers directly, can easily jump ship if offered other solution.

So what will be the effect ? While, like today everyone is a publisher, tomorrow, everyone will be a photo agency capable of licensing their images with on click from anywhere. They might license only one image a year each but mutliplied by millions worlwide, they will seriously impact the photo licensing world.

Author: pmelcher


  1. It’s not very clear from this article what will disapear: direct licensing or picture agencies? First, direct licensing will still be possible with a single click if technology allows. And it is reasonable to think that a certain kind of images will still need some kind of direct talks/ negociations etc. (assignments for example) Second, as far as the suggested Actually, the same has been said at the emergence of the WWW, namely it gives power back to the individual photographer. Ergo picture agencies are not needed anymore. But that has not happened for the simple reason that picture agencies, with all the foibles pointed out in the article, work as the longer hand of the photographer: they also market the image to more than just the couple of clients an individual photographer can handle at a time. What is the alternative? Collective licensing schemes? But collective licensing agencies, such as CCC, do not do that ; the only stuff they do is manage fees. If they did more than that, they would become … a picture agency. In short: while the sheer volume of images may threaten direct licensing for the reasons indicated, the sheer number of photographers and of publishers make the existence of agencies all the more necessary.

  2. Sorry was interrupted while writing this answer and one sentence is unfinished. It should read: “Second, as far as the suggested disapearance of picture agencies is concerned, the same has been said at the emergence of the WWW. et.:”

  3. As someone who has their photos with a few of the major agencies, I 100% agree.

    It kills me every time I get a statement where I get paid three or four dollars for a Rights Managed image I wonder why I still have my photos with that agency. The law of supply and demand applies. There are too many photographers willing to almost pay to get their work published. The Getty/Flickr group is a perfect example. Getty gets EIGHTY PERCENT! For what?

    I stopped submitting my photos a while back. I’d rather get one or two sales a year worth a few thousand dollars each than see my photos go for a few dollars each.

    The tide is turning. Slowly.

  4. Author

    if images can license themselves from where they are, there are no need for negotiation or conversations. Furthermore, the process is so easy that a photographer can license thousands of images without any problem.
    My suggestion ? check and you will better understand.

  5. I think Paul is on the right track in recognizing that the Internet is fast becoming one huge stock photo agency, especially for photo researchers and photobuyers.his has been in the cards for quite awhile: in a PhotoStockNotes article back in May of 2007, I described how “The Largest Stock Photo Agency in the World” is actually the cumulative consequence of all individual stock photographers, who will benefit when they recognize the Internet advantage. (See Some photographers who wanted the security of a day job, but wanted to prepare for the time when they could go fulltime heeded my idea. Gradually more and more photographers comprehended this Google Effect and disowned their agencies and began working for themselves and 100% of sales. Here’s one guy, a part-timer, from the early days who wrote to me last summer.

    “I have worked with Rohn Engh and his Photosource International for over thirty years. I attended his stock photo seminar when he used to give them out near his farm in a former one-room schoolhouse. I came a way with the impression, “I can do this!” And I did. Although I’m not a full-time professional, (driving truck is my vocation), I earn around $25,000 a year from editorial stock photography. Not bad for part time.

    “I have also read Rohn’s books which helped me get started. I have subscribed to Rohn’s Photo Daily and PhotoLetter all these years and can heartily recommend his marketletters to someone who’s just starting out whether they are a senior citizen or a high school graduate.

    ”Recently I sold one of my photos for $900.00 to a textbook from an ad in the Photo Daily. It paid $500.00 for the photo and $400 for additional rights. That pays for the Photo Daily for quite a while.
    I have Rohn to thank for getting me started and keeping me going all these years.”
    — Mike Siluk, photographer, St. Paul, Minnesota,

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