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Pros and Cons of using rights managed stock

Debra Wager of DW Stock Picture Library looks at the pros and cons of Rights Managed Stock

|  Freelance
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image collageWithin the last decade, the online stock photography market has skyrocketed and continues to grow at a mind-boggling rate. But, whenever there is such rapid growth, there are accompanying issues and concerns that need to be addressed.

While Royalty Free imaging schemes may appear to be in a dominant market position, in fact, Rights Managed licensing continues to generate more revenues, estimated at two thirds of the total stock photography market.

  • Selectively licensed
  • Can include contingencies
  • More discriminating buyers
  • Higher profits
  • Middle ground between commissioned and RF

  • More expensive
  • Complex licensing process
  • Difficult to break into
Some of the pros for the photographer:
Selectively licensed. The majority of RM sites have stringent standards for acceptance, resulting in a selection of higher quality images covering a wide range of topics. Typically, the cheaper RF images are of lower quality in both resolution and content.

Can include contingencies. The customer may want to negotiate some contingencies into the licensing to account for last minute changes or unexpected surprises.

More discriminating buyers. RM licensing schemes have a strong appeal with the more discriminating of buyers. The discriminating buyer is looking for quality, originality, and unique images and is willing to pay more for an image that meets their standards.

Higher profits. Unlike the RF market, with RM, the emphasis is on quality rather than quantity. While the photographer submitting RF stock can expect a royalty of as low as ten percent, RM stock generates royalties ranging from thirty to fifty percent.

Middle ground between commissioned and RF. RM can provide the photographer with a means to market and sell images in the digital age without having to compromise all scruples and literally give work away. While commissioned work may be the most desirable and most profitable for the photographer, it is not always available and often difficult to come by. RM provides a middle ground for the photographer to generate a steady, dependable income without compromising integrity.

Some of the cons for the photographer:
More expensive. One of the biggest drawbacks for RM is the cost. RM, by the nature of its more extensive licensing options, can be more expensive (but not in all circumstances). The customer looking for bargain prices will seek out RF images.

Complex licensing process. Due to the specific details of the licensing agreement, purchasing RM stock is not instantaneous. In this computer age of “get it now” mentality, this can be a drawback. Efforts are underway within the industry to simplify the licensing process. One promising development is the Picture Universal Licensing System (PLUS), an inter-organizational coalition. PLUS is working to promote a standardized and universally recognized vocabulary within the RM licensing process.

Difficult to break into. Another issue for the less seasoned photographer is that RM stock is a more difficult area to break into, due to the more stringent and discriminating standards.

But, RM licensing schemes do not benefit just the photographer. The customer of RM stock is offered some advantages as well:


  • High quality images
  • Protection from re-use
  • No production expenses


  • Higher price (but not always)
  • Less selection (but this may not really be a problem)

Pros for the customer
High quality images. RM stock offers a wide variety of high quality images to the customer. The customer is not obligated to sift through volumes and volumes of poor quality images to find something usable The nature of the RM offerings, with only high quality image available, saves the customer time and effort.

Protection from re-use. Because RM stock has a tracking history, the customer is protected from re-use of an image. The history also allows the customer to know ahead of time if there is a conflict or concern with an image.

No production expenses. The biggest advantage for the customer is the assurance of high quality images in the specific area needed without the production expenses that would be associated with a commissioned photo shoot.

Cons for the customer
Higher price. RM generally is the more expensive option, however, this is not always the case. Depending on the end use, a single use license for RM can actually be cheaper for the customer than RF. The customer should never just assume that RF is the cheaper option.

Less selection. RM stock offers less selection. Less quantity of selection, that is, not quality. If the customer needs a huge volume of images to sort through to feel satisfied, RM might not be the right choice. Maybe this isn’t a con, after all. However, if the customer is looking for images that target his needs, RM is the way to go.

RM stock photography can provide a win-win situation for both the photographer and the customer.

“Understanding Stock Licensing Models”, 2004, Stock Artists Alliance,

article by Debra Wager of DW Stock Picture Library

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