Posted by Glyn Wade

Getty Images….

For free? Yes, free!

The news recently that one of the world’s largest libraries and distributor of photographic images was to make about 30 million of its pictures available to download for free is certainly a controversial one. There are limitations of course and we must take into account what this means for the professional photographers struggling to make a living.

First, the limitations, which are that the image can be used for free if it is for a blog or for social media, anyone else seems to have to pay. I am of course going to investigate whether we can use some of these free images on our site as it’s a club with no intentions of turning a profit so surely that would enable us to share the benefits…..? We try to use members’ images as much as possible of course but generic images or images of celebrities for example can be useful at times. I’ll let you know how my investigation goes as it all looks a bit confusing at the moment.

So what does this mean for our struggling professional photographer? Well maybe not much because images, let’s be honest, are often used in this way and the whole ‘free’ thing is Getty’s way of saying they give up trying to trace them all. Anyone else still has to pay so there is probably about the same amount of money coming in….or they might have put their prices up to compensate…..

The photos will be “framed” with a code that links back to Getty’s website. Its code can be cut and pasted onto any website and is similar to the tool YouTube has for sharing its videos. Images cannot be resized and they will all include a Getty Images logo, as well as a credit for the photographer.

Like YouTube, the company may use the code to serve advertisements in the future, allowing it to make revenue by sharing its catalogue and thus keep the revenue coming in for the photographers themselves.

Unless of course there never comes a day when a photographer ‘sells’ an image yet their work is strewn throughout the internet quite legally, for free. Exposure doesn’t pay the bills unless you’re a stripper and if all the free advertising doesn’t result in a sale more and more photographers may end up becoming strippers. (a bit tongue in cheek that analogy-sorry!)

Some people are saying that this is the way the world is going and that people have to adapt to survive (this is Getty by the way, not photographers becoming strippers….what have I started here!!) and some think that Getty must be planning something.

“If they have thousands of photographers who aren’t making money, Getty won’t make money either. So they must have a plan.’ (Daniela Bowker, BBC News Website 6/3/2014)

It isn’t inspiring me to hand my notice in at work and become a professional photographer that’s for sure and I’m sure I would be worried now if photography was my profession. It is already a career where the customer expects things for free.

If you employ a plumber for an hour to fix a leaking tap you would pay him. If you employ a photographer to spend an hour taking a picture for you (and this doesn’t include any work done on the computer either) people seem to think they can blag it for nothing. So now a company as huge as Getty Images is giving its (and maybe your) pictures away for free a photographer’s work must surely be even more devalued, which is far from a good thing.

Here are some news stories on the subject:

And here is the Getty images website: