Short introduction to Microstock - Basic terminology
Whether you plan to take pictures just for fun, or for microstock, or even you are heading for some paying jobs, sooner or later you will encounter technical terminology describing the various types of licenses. Here I have prepared for you a brief overview of the basic terminology, which you might find useful (taken from my ebook about microstock photography):
A type of license used for selling graphics and other work (photography, vector illustrations, audio, video, flash) via microstock agencies. The word Free doesn’t mean these images are given for free, but that once the license fee is paid, the images may be used many times without paying any additional royalties. If you download a royalty-free image, you only pay once, even if you then use the image in nearly any medium (online, print, adverts). Of course there are limitations (for example the number of copies and the way you use the image). There is no time limit for using the image (unlike the Rights Managed type of license). There’s also no guarantee of exclusivity – the author may sell the same photo on various microstock agency websites, on their own website or even give it out for free. Beware – the author who is selling their photo exclusively on one microstock agency website might have agreed to not sell the photo anywhere else, but the photo can still be purchased by any number of customers. Even though this license permits you to use a limited amount of copies of the image, it still tends to be around hundreds of thousands of copies. If you use more than the limited amount, you are obligated to pay for each next copy or you can buy a more expensive type of license (Extended/Enhanced License).
A type of license that defines exactly how, where and when the purchased, licensed image can be used (it’s the opposite of the Royalty Free license). The price of the license depends on the specific use of the image. It depends on whether the image is used in an advertisement, the amount of copies, the size, what it will be printed on, how many copies there will be, how big of an area it will be distributed in, in what field and whether it will be used exclusively or not. Since the use of the image is so specifically defined (who is using the image and where it’s being used), exclusivity is guaranteed (of course the buyer can decline). In any case, the buyer will have the guarantee that their competitor won’t use the same image. Unlike the Royalty Free license, this one permits a bigger amount of copies.
The Editorial license permits images to be used to illustrate trustworthy news reports in newspapers, magazines and online. Purchasing the license doesn’t transfer the copyright onto the buyer, so you can’t claim the image as your own work. Editorial licensed images might include visible logos of companies or faces of people who haven’t signed the Model Release (agreement to have their photo used for commercial purposes). That’s why you can’t use these images for commercial purposes.
It’s a contract between the photographer and the photographed person. It defines how the photo will be used (what is and isn’t allowed). In relation to microstock agencies, this contract gives the author the right to sell and use the photo (online, offline, advertisement).
No microstock agency will accept a photo with a recognizable person in it if there is no Model Release. The more strict ones demand a MR even when you can’t see the face. For example, if a person can be recognized based on a characteristic musculature or a tattoo. Apart from the signature of the photographed person, in many cases you might also need the person’s ID or a passport photo.
You can’t avoid the MR even in the case of self-portrait. You will have to sign as both the photographer and the model. Furthermore, you will need signature of a witness who will confirm that you agree with yourself. It’s a bit absurd, but that’s how it works :)
Each microstock agency has its own customised Model Release available for download on their website. If you want to upload your photo to other microstock agency website, you need to download their Model Release and let your model sign that as well. Or you can use a universal Model Release form by Yuri Arcurs, which should be accepted by most microstock agencies.
Property Release is quite similar to Model Release, only in this case it’s not a contract between a photographer and a model, but between a photographer and owner or manager of the photographed object. This contract gives the photographer permission to use and sell the photos that depict the object. It’s used when you’re photographing architecture, artwork or other work (mostly design).
There are many monuments, places and objects in the world that require a Property Release. Some of the most popular ones (on microstock agency websites) are Eiffel Tower lit up at night or Sydney Opera House. Here’s a list of some more.
It’s quite common for microstock agencies to require Property Release even for your own drawings. For example, if you’re uploading hand-drawn illustrations, the microstock agency will demand a draft and a Property Release for the illustration.
TFP - Time for prints
TFP is a form of agreement between a photographer and a model for a photoshoot where no payment is involved and both parties can use the final photos for their own presentation. The form in which the photos are delivered is usually agreed upon prior to the photoshoot either in written or in spoken form. Same goes for any expenses that weren’t initially a part of the TFP that one party has to pay on his or her own. It’s a form of barter both parties benefit from. TFP is usually used by amateur photographers who are starting out and want to put their creative ideas into practice.
If you want to know more about selling images online with microstock, you can try my new ebook: