Update: March 2014 - Getty have announced the end of their flickr partnership
A recent post on flickr makes for interesting reading. It's long been anticipated that flickr would include some way for users to sell their images, and until now there has been lots of debate about how this might be implemented. Because flickr is photo sharing for the general public, it's less likely that photo editors / image users are going to want to wade through screen after screen of pictures of kids and pussy cats. Flickr is also not really the place that photographers think about selling photos; while flickr has many quality images, it is still by it's nature, 'amateur'.
Further to some of my previous posts, people do promote their work on flickr and some buyers do look at flickr for prospective purchases, but explicit promotion of anything commercial on flickr is prohibited by the flickr terms or use. People do make sales for images after they have been seen on flickr, so how can this be converted into a business model?
Getty select photos from flickr
From what I understand from the current information about the Getty / flickr post, the Getty collection will be completely separate from flickr, and gettys' image editors will approach flickr users to ask if they are interested in including their images in the collection.
It's an interesting marketing move from Getty, photographers make submissions to Getty, and they only accept the highest quality of images, form very experienced photographers. This seems like a complete turn around, instead of photographers queuing to get into Getty, Getty appear to be chasing the photographers!
There are currently no details about commission rates, and the 'getty-flickr' site has yet to be launched so I can't make further comment on what this will mean in relation to microstock pricing (if anything). As I understand it flickr users who agree to the scheme will be under the same contract as other getty photographers (not microstock priced). The only statements I can make at the moment are:
1) Getty will select the best, creative and most saleable images from flickr and make them easily available to image users in one place; and obviously charge a premium for this 'service'.
2) If Getty can select images and approach flickr photographers, there is nothing to stop anyone else creating a niche photography site and approaching photographers on flickr to see if they would like to be included (doing it under the radar of flickr of course!)
After talking to professional graphic designers, one thing that they dislike about microstock and indeed sites like Alamy, is that despite the fantastic improvements that have been made in search technologies they still prefer to buy images from a collection (many of which still include printed design books). Because a search on stock photo sites reveals a 'flood' of 'great-but-average' looking images, designers choose a collection they like the style of and choose images from that. Even if the prices are significantly higher for specially selected 'collections' many designers are willing to pay for the convenience of having someone else selecting stylish images which fit a certain mood.
With sites like dreamstime offering an API to allow sales of images, a new marketing model is on the horizon, niche microstock sites selling select images sourced from the major players. No need to recruit photographers and review photographs, just create a brand, style, select some photos and go.