stock photography

Buying and selling mobile imagery - where to go

There have been at least two pieces of news this week featuring companies that sell stock images created on mobile devices: first, EyeEm announced that it has redesigned its Android app and has partnered with Uber to offer new users a free ride to let them go places to take photos; second, Fotolia has also released a new Android app—Fotolia Instant—to complement its iOS version, which allows photographers to upload and sell their mobile images via the stock site. This got me thinking: how many stock agencies are mobile photo-friendly? Or where can you buy images made on mobile devices if that's what you want or need? I did a little digging and a little thinking and put together this list. I've tried to limit it to agencies or sites that are mobile-specific, have dedicated mobile collections, or easy means of uploading mobile images. There are sites such as Picfair that readily accept mobile images, but that's just part of its library.

Mobile-oriented sites



EyeEm is a mobile photography sharing app and community that launched Market, a platform for its members to sell their photos, earlier this year. Invitations are still being issued to join Market, but it's simple enough to request one.

EyeEm Market EyeEm apps: Android; iOS

Foap icon


Images can only be uploaded to Foap via its app. As well as adding images to the Foap library, image-makers can participate in missions set by brands and agencies searching for more specific content. Foap's terms of use are quite broad, which is worthy of consideration before deciding to sell images there.

Foap website Foap apps: Android, iOS

Scoopshot icon


Scoopshot expands on Foap's model, with buyers setting tasks for photographers in order to acquire the images they want. If someone sees a news image that they think is vaulable, it can be sent to the news task. Scoopshot doesn't go in for manipulated or filtered images; they prefer fresh and newsworthy content that meets task criteria.

Scoopshot website Scoopshot apps: Android, iOS

Twenty20 icon


We took a look at Twenty20 last year and while we thought its simple pricing structure for selling mobile image files was great, the sales mechanism required some refinement. It's still in the beta stage, but it is there!

Twenty20 website Twenty20 app (iOS only)

Mobile-friendly agencies

Stockimo icon


The more traditional Alamy stock agency has embraced mobile photography and its photographers can use the Stockimo app to upload their mobile images for sale amongst the Alamy library. Buyers can look for mobile images in the dedicated Stockimo collection.

Alamy website Alamy Stockimo collection Alamy Stockimo app (iOS-only)

Clashot icon


Depositphotos is a microstock agency that sells images under royalty free licences. It has a dedicated mobile photography app and collection: Clashot.

Depositphotos Clashot Clashot apps: Android, iOS

Fotolia Instant icon


Fotolia is home to over 20 million images and it's prepared to add mobile photos into that mix. You can find all its mobile images in its Fotolia Instant collection.

Fotolia website Fotolia Instant collection Fotolia Instant apps: Android, iOS

Getty Moment icon

Getty, including iStock by Getty

When people think of stock agencies, they think of Getty. If they don't think specifically of Getty, they might well think of a Getty subsidiary. Getty photographers are being invited to join Moment, along with the old Flickr collection, while new photographers should be able to join in due course. Whether or not you want to get involved with the Getty licensing machine is another matter.

Getty Images Getty Moment app (iOS-only)

Any other suggestions? Leave them in the comments section!

For one day only iStock is paying 100% royalties toartists

The terms and conditions under which photographers sell their images via stock agencies are frequently criticised and as a consequence the money that they can make from sales is often lamented. For one day only, however, iStock by Getty Images is trying to make photographers feel better about the deal and their contribution to the stock business. As part of its celebration of Small Business Week in the US, it has declared 14 May 2014 to be '100% Royalty Day'. 100% Royalty Day means that:

  • 100% of sales on all exclusive/only available from iStock content sold through cash and credit file downloads will go directly to iStock by Getty Images artists
  • double royalties will be paid to artists whose exclusive content is sold via iStock by Getty's new subscription scheme

However, it's not quite the gold-plated celebration of small businesses that it appears to be at first blush. That pesky word 'exclusive' makes all the difference. If you're not afraid of a little stock agency promiscuity then you won't be eligible for any extra pennies accrued. And of course, it's not exactly easy to encourage people to select your content for download on 14 May; they'll download it at their convenience. Still, if you are an exclusive iStock by Getty contributor, it's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

Feature image: Amesy/ iStock by Getty Images

Instacanvas is now Twenty20, but how is its vision?

Did you hear of Instacanvas? It was a canvas printing company devoted entirely to Instagram images. You could link your Instagram account to their website and choose your favourite filtered, square-cropped photo to hang on your wall. Or, you could establish your own gallery and let other people wander through your photos and select your Madagascan sunset to adorn their living room. The idea was that it freed people from the tyranny of mass-produced images supplied by Swedish furnishing behemoths and instead provided them with the opportunity to choose from millions of photos created by people like them. Matt Munson and Instacanvas' other co-founders wanted to let people buy and sell images without a curatorial middleman. Smartphones have brought photography to everyone; why can't everyone benefit from the plethora of photos?

Plenty of people agreed with that sentiment.

Instacanvas has grown enormously since those first heady days when it went public in May 2012. Its range of products has grown, although your public gallery remains Instagram-only you can upload photos from other sources to print for yourself, and the number of photos on its books is in the region of 30 million. It's perhaps this achievement, and the potential that it holds, that has led to Instacanvas' next steps.

It's now called Twenty20 and it is venturing into the stock image market. With a book of images to rival Fotolia or Shutterstock, how are things shaping up for this 13-person operation based in Santa Monica?

I have to say that my first experience with Twenty20's website didn't get off to the greatest of starts. For anyone who lives in a cricket-playing country, your first Google hits for 'Twenty20' will be about the limited overs form of the game. Don't forget to modify 'Twenty20' with 'canvas' and things should be better. When you hit the splash page you're faced with something attractive, but utterly uninformative. There's no mission statement or suggestion as to what it is or does, there's no 'About Us' link or 'Contact us' option, and there's no indication as to how to access what lies beneath. How frustrating!

Attractive looking, but what's it about?

Eventually, I learned that in order to be able to find out what Twenty20 is all about or just to peruse its wares, I needed to register. My gut reaction to this was that it felt in someway deceptive; now I'm more inclined to perceive it as absurd. Why actively try to prevent people from learning more about your company by demanding information from them? I persevered because of professional interest, but would someone who's casually looking for wall art?

Taking this a stage further, would someone who's looking for stock imagery be bothered to sign up and then navigate to the stock pages when you can rock up at Shutterstock, Fotolia, or iStock, type your desired subject into the search box on the front page and be presented with pages of findings immediately?

Munson told me that forcing people to register is a recognised tactic to encourage interaction on social media sites and it's something that other social media sites employ, for example, Twitter. It's an interesting theory, but I'm not sure it's quite the right approach for Twenty20. For a start, Twitter's splash page isn't link-less or a desert of information, and Twitter is rather more well known than Twenty20. When your aim is to convince people to part with their money, you need to do everything that you can to lure them in, rather than push them away. Twenty20 might have its roots in social networking, but ultimately it's about sales and this has to be as easy as possible.

Once people have been lured in, selling products via Twenty20 is refreshingly simple. Signing up with Instagram means that your images are there, ready and waiting to be made into prints or prisms to hang on your own walls, or to be curated into a gallery ready for anyone else to peruse and transform into something to hang on their walls. You don't set your own fees, they're standardised, which makes it easy for buyers and you know that you'll always take a 20% cut of the sale.

Oh-so-easy to turn your own Instagram images into canvas prints

Although the pricing structure for digital image files is uncomplicated: $20 per image, with discounts for bulk buys, acquiring them isn't quite as easy. You need to contact the Twenty20 team to proceed. I'm hoping that this is merely a teething problem in Twenty20's new venture. First because it puts it on the back foot when compared with other stock houses; second because this is where I think that Twenty20 could excel. Imagine how much easier it would be to buy and sell news-oriented Instagram images via Twenty20, rather than have them used fee-free by news publications? Wouldn't it be great if your skinny-no-foam-latte photo is the one favoured by wannabe-hipster food blogs? (If they were real hipsters, they'd be using their own Instagrams, clearly.) But this relies on the system becoming faster and easier to use: instant access to your Instagram images.

Make it easier to access and buy your stock and they will come

When you have crossed the drawbridge, negotiated the portcullis, passed through gatehouse and into the bailey, and finally made your way into the keep that is Twenty20, there are some beautiful products for purchase and a welter of images for sale. It's such a shame that Twenty20's website design has made everything so inaccessible. Indeed, it's ironic. It's a company that's built on the principle of bringing the wealth of gorgeous digital media that languish in the aether onto people's walls and breaking down the barriers that sit between digital artists and their potential clients that have been erected by the curators of galleries and stock houses. There might not be any curatorial gate-keepers accepting or rejecting images, but there are technological ones discouraging people from making use of Twenty20.

If Twenty20 wants to truly realise its vision, I think it needs to follow through with its technological accomplishments to the same degree as its ideological principles. The theory's simple; keep the practicalities that way, too.

PhotoRankr is a photo sharing site where you can sell them, too

It's easy to think that there are far too many photo-sharing websites in the world. How many can you name in the next ten or twenty seconds? And how many of them meet your needs and expectations? For brothers Jacob and Matthew Sniff, the fact that these sites didn't meet their expectations inspired them to build their own; they called it PhotoRankr. It's a platform that gives photographers the ability to share and sell their work in one place. It's a social network where photographers can interact, learn from each other, and rate each other's images in a gamified setting. It's an online marketplace where they can sell their images at their own price. And it provides photographers with portfolio hosting to help them make the most out of their photography.

PhotoRankr lets you vote images up and down

Does it work?

PhotoRankr was built by photographers who felt frustrated that their images weren't accepted for sale by the major stock houses. They wanted anyone who takes photos to have the opportunity to be able to sell her or his work. As Jacob Sniff puts it: 'It’s a fact that more people who [sic] have it [photography] as a hobby than as a profession, and the barrier to entry is low. Yet, no site openly allows for anyone to sell images today and this is a mistake.'

In addition, they've attempted to make it more appealing to photographers by building in the social elements that bring success to sites such as Facebook and Flickr. In particular, rather than having a picture editor determine whether or not a photo makes the grade, any photo is allowed to be displayed on PhotoRankr, but the community votes it up or down.

The things you'd expect from a social network: somewhere to say something about yourself, the chance to comment and choose favourites and to accumulate followers

It's a reasonably priced platform, providing photographers with three subscription options. There's a free account to which they can upload 30 images each week, charge up to $20 for them, and retain 60% of sales. The 'Plus' account ($40/year) allows for 10GB of uploads, has a $100 price cap, and a 70% sales retention. Those subscribing to a 'Pro' account ($100/year) have no pricing limits, no upload limits, and retain 90% of their sales fee.

The aim is admirable, but being so photographer-oriented is also the site's failing. In constructing a platform aimed at photographers, they haven't paid as much attention to the buyer as they should have.

First, what type of buyer are they attempting to attract? Are they attempting to create a more stock-house model, with digital image files provided for professional use? Or are they aiming at the fine art market, with canvas prints? Not all images are able to be purchased as prints, but all are available as digital files; however, there's a distinct feeling that the collection is more skewed towards hanging on the wall than inclusion in corporate booklets.

There's a definite feel to the highest rated photos

Stock houses work because they provide a diverse spectrum of images; these images include subjects that aren't necessarily pretty or compelling, are perhaps obscure, but are still in demand. Examples would include factories, rotting meat, or ploughed soil. When you introduce the social element into ranking images, it's going to be those that are appealing and attractive that rise to the top, not necessarily those which are needed. You'll end up with a market where the photographers are at risk of serving themselves and their social ranking, rather than the customers.

If the intention is to allow people to hang images on their walls, there needs to be a more streamlined process that allows buyers to see more easily in which formats their chosen images can be purchased. Some are available as canvases, some as posters, some as postcards, some not at all. It isn't obvious immediately, though.

Second, searching for images suffers from a few hiccoughs, too, with duplicates appearing with alarming frequency.

PhotoRankr search - a few too many duplicates for my liking

Finally, the purchase interface requires some refinement. The licence agreements are buried away in the bowels of the terms and conditions section, rather than being a click away from each photo. Anyone buying an image needs to be able to identify how they're able to use it quickly and easily. Chashing through the website is not user-friendly. The shopping cart page does not render properly, which makes it unappealing for purchasers. And there is no easy means to access your shopping cart from the front page or a search page. This makes browsing after you've made a selection and then wanting to return to the cart without attempting another purchase impossible. It might be easy for a PhotoRankr photographer to sell her or his images; but it isn't easy for the public to buy them.

The sales mechanism needs some refinement

I think PhotoRankr needs to consider what it wants to be and what its priorities are. Is it a 500px-style community of photographers that offers sales on the side - in which case, they're already competing with an established market. Or are they a sales site where consumers can find what they want and need, purchase it easily, and provide photographers with a useful sales platform? If that's the case, they need to pay some more attention to the customers.

If PhotoRankr can decide on its direction, and clean up its sales mechanism, I do think that it has potential. And I don't want to see the work of a dedicated group of people come to nought.