Every month, thousands of photographers from all over the world sign up to license their photos through 500px. As Licensing Contributors, they can monetize their work and diversify their income by making their photos available to customers around the globe.
500px works with Getty Images and VCG (Visual China Group), two of the leading licensing platforms in the world, to provide stunning images for innovative, creative campaigns. Buyers pay to use the images, but the photographer always maintains the copyright and is compensated when the image(s) are licensed.
One of the first choices a 500px Contributor has to make is whether or not to license their images exclusively through the platform. This option is only available for photos that have not already been licensed through other websites, but it comes with an array of advantages. First and foremost, an exclusive image will fetch you 60% of the net purchase each time it sells, as opposed to 30% for non-exclusive photos.
“We’re willing to provide a higher royalty because the value-add is significant across our entire distribution channel,” Paul Friesen, Director of Content at 500px, tells us. “Exclusive images give our collection an unfair advantage.” Exclusive photos are more attractive to buyers than non-exclusive ones because they’re unique and different. Many companies and publications are looking to use an image that sets them apart from their competitors.
Case in point: 75% of the top-selling photos from the 500px collection on Getty Images are exclusive.
If you choose to license your photos exclusively through 500px, that means you can’t sell them for commercial use anywhere else, whether it’s through a different website or directly to a client. If potential customers contact you with licensing inquiries, you’ll direct them straight to 500px.
You can, however, still use any of your exclusive photos for non-commercial purposes, so feel free to share them on your website and social media, exhibit them in galleries and festivals, and sell them as fine art prints. As long as the image isn’t available via other stock providers, and it isn’t being used commercially (e.g. to sell or advertise something), you’re welcome to use it for personal purposes.
At first glance, licensing your photos exclusively might sound a bit like putting all your eggs in one basket, since you can’t sell any of your exclusive photos through different platforms. In some ways, it is. But because 500px has partnered with industry giants like Getty Images and VCG, it could be well worth it.
“Being part of a collection, like the 500px collection on both Getty Images and VCG, means that the individual contributor’s content is amplified,” Paul explains. “Getty Images alone has over one million creative clients around the globe, all focused on finding new and interesting content from Getty Images to spice up their campaigns or projects, and VCG is the largest licensing platform in China.”
So, yes, if you choose to license photos exclusively through 500px, that means you can’t sell them elsewhere, and that’s something to consider. But you’re also joining some of the biggest distributors in the world. Even if you were to sell your photos through a wide variety of outlets, you’re unlikely to get that kind of exposure and reach.
What’s more, 500px and its distributors will put in the extra work to make sure your exclusive images show up in as many searches as possible. In the world of Licensing, metadata is as important as your camera Settings. That’s because buyers use keywords to find the right photos for their projects and campaigns. No keywords, no image sales. Indexing your photos is generally a pain and an inconvenience, but if you license exclusively through 500px, you can breeze through the process.
“500px provides services to ensure differentiated images are more discoverable,” Paul continues. The 500px Content Team consults Getty Images and VCG to understand what buyers look for, and they target the language in your metadata to ensure it gains more traction. If you make a mistake and leave out an essential keyword, forget to tag your location, or give your photos a title that won’t get you noticed, 500px will make efforts to fix it for you.
That means more eyes on your pictures, more potential earnings, and less wasted time. “Since we deliver your content to our partners and handle that aspect of the workflow, it frees up Contributors to focus on submissions and shooting,” Paul says.
Bear in mind that only exclusive images are available for “exclusive use” by customers, but not all exclusive images are licensed for exclusive use. “Exclusive use is separate from exclusive representation rights,” Paul clarifies. “And it is completely up to the buyer. Exclusive uses are like buyouts. These licenses ensure that the client who purchases the exclusive use is the only company or organization who can hold the rights to an image for a certain time frame. It’s favorable to clients who are promoting their businesses in highly competitive industries where each competitor is looking for an edge over the other.”
When you submit an image for Licensing, it’s your choice whether you want it to be exclusive or non-exclusive to 500px. You can even pick and choose, giving some of your images exclusive status and saving others for non-exclusive use. Of course, you’re also welcome to join any stock websites you’d like and maintain collections you’ve established previously, as long as you don’t upload any of your photos that are exclusive to 500px.
Right now, the 500px collection on Getty Images comprises three million pictures from talented photographers working around the globe. All of these images are technically perfect and commercially compelling. It’s hard to predict the exact kinds of images buyers will want in the future, but unexpected, original photos will always be in-demand. Make those photos exclusive, and you get a leg-up on the competition.
Learn more about Licensing with 500px here.