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Flickr users may already be aware of the partnership between the photo sharing site and massive image library Getty Images. The partnership created the Flickr collection on Getty Images where Flickr users can allow Getty to exclusively sell licenses to use their images to their customer base. This can be in the form of “royalty free” licensing – where the customer pays a one-off fee based on the image size requested and can then use the image more or less however they want – or “rights managed” licensing – where a fee is charged each time the image is used, again, based on the size requested. Getty takes the larger chunk of that fee, with the photographer getting 20%.

Flickr provides users with the ability to flag their photos to show that they would be happy for someone to license it via Getty, and there’s a very busy group for people to post to so that Getty editors will review them and hopefully issue an invite. For my own part, when the partnership was announced I chose not to do either of these things, however Getty also has a team of editors who browse through Flickr looking for photographs that they think they could sell, or that maybe fit a particular need. Recently, one of these stumbled across my stream, and invited eight of my photographs to the collection. As this was, as I said, entirely unlooked for by me, it took me a little by surprise.

Since all the photos invited had been on Flickr a long time already – some five years – I didn’t see much of a downside to joining, and so clicked the link and before too long became a Getty contributor. The joining process is pretty straightforward and quite slick, obviously there’s a lengthy legal agreement to read, and then a tax declaration, but once you’ve got your details entered you’re in and the invited images are all sitting in a queue ready for you to fill in a few details and if necessary add a model or property release. For most landscape photos like mine that’s not really a requirement, so submitting the images is pretty quick and painless – Getty pull the largest possible size from Flickr. After that there is a delay of a day or so while another set of Getty editors review each photo, and then they go on sale, amongst the many millions of images Getty offers.
The integration between Flickr and Getty is very neat and tidy. Once I accepted the invite I was automatically added to two private groups on Flickr for Getty contributors only, to discuss issues and get help, and to submit further work for consideration.

Now I’m realistically expecting very little in the way of actual income from Getty, especially with just the few images currently there. However it’s reassuring that some Getty editors think these shots have the potential to sell, and they have a much better set up for actually making image sales than I do, so I’m prepared to wait and see. After all it hasn’t cost me anything, and in five years on flickr they’ve not done any better.

I have a few observations on the photos that were chosen, which may or may not be significant. I don’t know how the person who invited me found my stream in the first place, as I couldn’t tell exactly which search term in my referral stats they might have followed, but I did notice that all the images invited were in my “Interesting” set – which is an automatically generated set containing the top eighty-one (it’s a nice 9×9 square that way) photographs in my stream based on Flickr’s “interestingness” score.

Now, the algorithm behind “interestingness” is a source of much discussion, with anger, contempt, reverence and awe usually all cropping up, and it has been a long time since I cared whether any of my uploads made it into the Explore pages, however since interestingness follows roughly the number of views, comments and favourites, it’s obviously a guide to how popular a photograph is, and that set is my vanity set, showing me what’s most popular. It also a bit of a challenge to myself, to try and get new photos in the set – despite no longer playing the same Flickr games I used to to bump up the views (and hopefully one day managing to push the Sigma mirror lens photo all the way out of the set).

However, ten percent of the photos in that set were invited to Getty, and no photos that weren’t in that set. Presumably there’s a reason the interestingness is high – lots of people liked what they saw – and so you might well expect to be able to sell something like that.

Another point of note is that all the photos invited were in colour, and all but one were digital, whereas about a third of the set are black and white images and over half were shot on film. Now I doubt very much that Getty care whether a photo is shot on film or digital, but I’d say most of my film shots are much less like my idea of typical stock photography than stuff I shoot with a digital camera, particularly my earlier work on Flickr. My film and especially black and white work fits more neatly into the “fine art” category, even if I do pretentiously say so myself.

Two of the images were infra-red, taken with the EOS 20D in colour and processed as described in my Digital Infra-red post. As such they’re quite unnatural looking, so I was a little surprised they were chosen, but this seems to show that they are not just interested in “picture postcard” views.

If you are interested you can see my photos on Getty here.