Best start with my cards out on the table – I’m a big fan of Flickr, no doubt about it. I love the fact that they’ve provided APIs and people are creating lots of cool extras like screen savers etc etc
But I think Flickr maybe missing a great opportunity. Let me first give some background. I enjoy photography, and could reasonably labelled as an amateur photographer rather than just a snapper. Some of the photos I’ve taken friends have blogged about (Richard’s Blog) and one particular friend has been encoruaging me to perhaps get my photos used. For me, that means allowing my photos to be used is a stock photo library (these are libraries where photos for commercial calendars etc are purchased). So started looking around a bit at services where I could submit photos for use in a stock library.
I have to admit I was a little shocked. Some libraries charge a considerable amount (£60+ or ~$100 per year) for holding your photos which may or may not be picked up and used, and or a large chunk (around the 60% mark)of any payment you might get. I’ve also seen criteria for a minimum number of photos, and if you’re starting out in this area you’re probably not going to have enough photos!
So here we are with Flickr – which if you hadn’t noticed allows you specify a Creative Commons license on your photos (i.e. free to use as long as you don’t modify) – so by default you still own copyright. With a means by which you can track down photos on a theme, you have several elements of what it would take to provide a stock library (i.e. indicate licensing, find photos by type, see the photos and download them). From here surely all they need to do is to allow people looking photos to buy a means to make a purchase.
There is a question of quality of picture – well Flickr could provide a premium service to buyers by reviewing photos marked as stock usable; and resolution – well Flickr already has the idea of the pro account that allows higher quality images for a fraction of the price being offered by the stock library services), so could they offer a pro plus account for a few more dollars which allows you submit even higher res images or the images with their associated RAW format?
Perhaps someone could implement a brokerage solution using the Flickr API?
I’ve seen similar suggestions before – indeed there are a couple of stock photo groups on Flickr, however they have a reputation for not being the easiest to use. Some of the online stock photo searches also trawl through Flickr too.
I’m thinking that perhaps it’s not a market that Flickr want to get in to, with the added overheads of having to police the usage of stock pictures. Bear in mind that in their terms and conditions they don’t guarentee to stop someone ripping off your picture, even if it is copyrighted. My opinion is that if they were to go into the stock photo business they’d have to take steps to address this issue.
Having said that, they don’t do anything to stop people selling their pictures from Flickr, so you could keep all your pictures under a copyright license and then sell them if someone asked.
However, what effect are sites like Flickr having on the stock photo industry? With many people giving their pictures away, there might be limited takers. For example one of my pictures is going to be used on a London travel information site – the guy building the site e-mailed for permission, and is merely giving me the photo credit when the site goes live. The impression I got is that he’s collecting pictures of the underground stations from Flickr. I doubt he’d do the same if he had to pay for each picture. You also need look no further than the pictures on Flickr after 7/7 and Buncefield – many of the pictures that the news organisations were using were from Flickr, not from pro-photographers.