Stock Footage and Photos and the Future of Licensing

Editor’s Note: A couple of months ago I was approached to check out a new content licensing platform for videographers and photographers called Paya (pronounce PAY-uh). Basically, it lets you license your footage and photos and keep a pretty sizable share of the revenue. I really liked the interface and ease of use. I invited their founder/CEO to write a guest blog post about the licensing biz and how we can get into it. .


The market for creative content has seen a growth explosion; from cult-favorite physical crafts site Etsy reaching $310 million in yearly revenue, to Pinterest’s new status near the top of the social media chain and Shutterstock’s filing to raise $115M in an IPO, the creative and digital imagery space now tips higher volumes of content than ever before. However, despite this rapid influx of content development and the industry’s thirst for creative assets, current licensing and monetization models have yet to harness the many avenues for publishing and sharing linked to this new wave of activity. Traditional, centralized licensing sites only serve a tiny fraction of the billions of photos and videos being created. Today’s industry faces the following challenges:

  • While billions of photos and videos are created and uploaded to social sites—reportedly 140 billion images on Facebook, 9.9 billion on Photobucket, and six billion on Flickr—current centralized commerce models don’t connect effectively to this content or activity.
  • Current models may provide a large volume of content, but offer less diversity, with a narrow range of photos and footage available to content seekers, and miss out on new areas of demand.
  • Current models tightly control pricing and depress value, providing little opportunity for an independent photographer or videographer to earn a living

Despite these challenges, there is a massive opportunity in digital content licensing. Professional and amateur photographers and videographers are sharing billions of creative pieces every month; and with the rapid adoption of advanced DSLR cameras, iPhone cameras, and affordable editing and production tools, higher quality content is no longer just an output of established studio productions and post houses. Yet independent content creators who want to monetize these assets have limited options to conduct commerce on a micro-level.

Tips for Getting Into the Stock Footage/Photography Game

Videographers and photographers who want to get into the content licensing game or have an existing licensing business that has potential to grow in the years ahead can benefit from these tips:

  • Tap into a service that allows you to set and maintain your own terms for licensing, including pricing and usage. Many new licensing models are designed to give the seller more control over how they price their content and how others use it.
  • Ensure that your content does not infringe on the intellectual property rights of any third-party, that you own the media and have all the rights necessary to license to a third-party. Most stock licensing sites, including Fotolia and iStockPhoto, will require that you agree to this responsibility.
  • Shop around to get the best revenue share possible! Don’t settle for a 40 percent cut on the sale of a photo or video that you worked hard to create, as there are sites that provide the same commerce tools but take a much smaller cut. One example is our site, which gives sellers 80 percent from every sale that goes through the site.
  • Protect your assets by including watermarks on all your videos/photos, to ensure content isn’t downloaded and shared without your knowledge.
  • If you want to sell clips within a video, consider using a burn-in timecode to help buyers easily reference the content they want to purchase.
  • Promote your content via your professional video/photo business site or through your social media channels. Some of the new sites provide links and sharing tools that let you automatically tag your content on other sites, such as your website, Vimeo, YouTube or Facebook.

Tell us, are you building out a licensing business around your photos and/or videos? If so, are you satisfied with current models or do you see room for growth?

Kevin Schaff has set the vision for T3Media’s growth since founding it in 2003, and is responsible for overall strategy and business development across the company’s two business lines—Platform and Licensing. With more than 15 years of experience in building successful technology companies, Kevin has been an industry leader in creating new models for access and value for large-scale sports, news and entertainment libraries.

2 thoughts on “Stock Footage and Photos and the Future of Licensing

  1. Very interesting! I’m curious to know if licensing footage is a worthwhile endeavor. I’m always on the look out for new revenue streams in my video production business and have often brainstormed ideas on how to sell our own stock footage or to actually focus on niche footage that is underserved in the stock marketplace. Have yet to pull the trigger though 🙂

  2. If the stock photo industry is any indicator of the future (and I believe it is), the future frankly seems dim. Quantity of content has gone up, prices have gone down, and commission structures continue to get worse for content creators. (Witness Alamy’s recent decision to drop the commission from 60% to 50%.)

    This is becoming a high-volume/low-price game, and it’s just hard to see how someone can make more than a token amount anymore by licensing content. With Shutterstock, you can earn up to a whopping $0.38 per image. Yahoo! For video footage, a “web size” licenses for $19 — the creator’s cut is 30%, which is $5.70. You just can’t pay the bills that way.

    I’m curious to see how licensing video footage plays out, but I don’t see why it would be any different from still photos in the long run.

    The answer, of course, is to license your own content directly (though it’s tough to compete with places like Shutterstock), but that comes at the cost of a LOT of marketing to get noticed.

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