Going Getty: How Much do Photographers Actually Make?

August 22, 2013 | Mark Goldstein | Photography Techniques | Comment |

Right from the off, it's important to note that uploading work to Getty Images is not for everyone. From an anecdotal perspective, there are many photographers - professional and otherwise - who claim to have seen outstanding success through Getty, and an equal number of detractors on the other side of the line who feel it's doing a disservice to honest, hardworking photographers.

Whichever way you slice it, Getty is here to stay and it's certainly made a couple of people rich - namely, founders Mark Getty and Jonathan Klien, since the image giant was valued at an astronomical $3.3 billion late in 2012.

That's no small feat, and it has arguably become a useful resource for anyone trying to purchase stock images. But the question today isn't whether it is a positive or negative force in the industry - it's whether image creators can get in on the cash flow, and if so, to what extent.

Going Getty: How  Much do Photographers Actually Make?

Let's take a look at how much you can realistically expect to earn through Getty Images.

The Average Income for a Getty Uploader…

… is really, really hard to quantify. This probably isn't were hoping to hear, but hey, at least ‘it depends' is more promising than ‘nothing.'

The problem here, and a big consideration you should take into account before signing up with Getty, is that average earning figures vary wildly from one photographer to the next and given that no official figures have been released by Getty in recent years, all we have to go off are discussions in photography forums. We get a bit closer when looking at average image sale prices for images, which is around $200-$500 per sale (again, the figure is pretty wide due to lack of hard data.)

Going Getty: How  Much do Photographers Actually Make?

On the face of it, this sounds brilliant. “$500 per photo?” you might be thinking. “I could sell four while I sleep and take it easy for the rest of the month!”

Unfortunately, if it was that easy everyone would be furiously uploading images to Getty (even non-photographers, probably.) The company themselves take a cut of this; although their commission rates are variable and some notable photographers have special contracts, it's probably best not to expect more than 30% of the sale price to make it into your own pocket (this drops to just 20% if you're contributing images via Flickr.)

Don't forget that you'll generally need to pay income tax on these earnings, of course, and PayPal will also take a bite of the cherry on its way from Getty's side to your account.

So, it's not all champagne and caviar…

… or is it?

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