In recent years, images from the 500px collection on Getty Images have appeared on websites for leading newspapers and magazines, such as Forbes, Metro, The Telegraph, Smithsonian Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Buzzfeed, Country Living, and Men’s Health, to name just a few.
Unlike most photo-sharing communities, 500px empowers their Licensing Contributors to sell work online and earn passive income from their shoots. With 500px distributor Getty Images reaching nearly one million potential buyers alone, it’s never been easier for photographers worldwide to license images for use by publishers and brands, ranging from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies.
With the stock photography and video market expected to generate more than $4 billion in revenue by 2023, interest in commercial photography isn’t slowing down anytime soon. What you might not know, however, is that you don’t necessarily need to set up brand-new, big-budget shoots to start building a marketable Licensing portfolio. In fact, you might already have valuable photos uploaded to 500px, ready to be licensed.
Licensing your photos on 500px
In the last year, as photographers faced canceled shoots and sessions, many have found new ways to market and monetize their existing work. “Many photographers and 500px users already have amazing photos on their Profiles that would make for strong commercial/creative content,” the 500px team tells us.
Luckily, 500px makes it simple to submit photos you’ve previously shot and edited to Licensing. Here’s how to do it: visit your Photo Manager, select the image or images you’d like to submit, and check “‘License this photo.” When uploading new photos for commercial Licensing, you’ll check the box indicating you’d like to submit those to Licensing during the upload process.
Whether you’re uploading new photos or Licensing old ones, you’ll follow a few easy prompts, including indicating whether or not there are any identifiable people in your image. “Beyond the obvious, the term ‘identifiable model’ also includes silhouettes and people in the distance of photos that may be identified by clothing, location, or context,” the 500px team explains.
If there are recognizable people present in your shoot, you’ll need a model release to license the photos for commercial use. By signing a release, the model gives their permission for the photo to be used in advertising or marketing materials, giving up any claim that could be made in the future.
During this part of the process, you can upload an existing release or create a new one. For your convenience, 500px offers digital releases you can send to your models to be filled out entirely online. If you go this route, you can complete the release on your time and receive a notification once the model has signed and the image is ready for review.
As you might expect, property releases are required for commercial photos of any identifiable private properties, including houses, apartments, stores, restaurants, shopping malls, and gardens. Property releases can be signed by the owner or tenant. This requirement includes interiors, but it also extends to some exteriors. If, for example, a building is the main focus of the photo rather than a small part of a vast cityscape, you’re likely to need a release.
There are some exceptions, including generic photos where the owner or tenant would not be able to identify the location. Maybe you use a shallow depth of field to blur the background beyond recognition, or you move in close to your subject to remove the surrounding context. You can read more about navigating troublesome locations in this how-to article.
Keep in mind that ticketed locations are best avoided, as it’s difficult to get a signed release in these situations. Similarly, some examples of modern architecture are off-limits for commercial photography; you can browse the Getty Images Intellectual Property Wiki for an idea of what buildings to avoid.
Speaking of intellectual property, buildings and landmarks aren’t the only elements that can require a release. Works of art (e.g., paintings, sculptures, illustrations, street art, murals, and tattoos) are the intellectual property of the artists who created them, so unless you can get a signed property release, remember to leave them out of your photos.
Intellectual property also covers trademarked elements like brand logos, designer patterns, and design elements you find on tech devices like phones or laptops (e.g., ports, buttons, apps). Check out our article on copyright and IP issues to learn what kinds of elements can interfere with your Licensing submissions. Although it’s best to avoid these details when you’re on location (say, by choosing generic clothing and props for your models), some of them can also be edited out in post-processing using the clone stamp tool.
Earning passive income
Any photo on your 500px Profile can be submitted to Licensing, at which point they’ll be reviewed by the Content Team and either accepted or declined. If accepted, your photos will be available for Licensing on Getty Images, where they can be discovered by brands, marketers, publishers, and more.
If your photo sells, you’ll receive a percentage of the license fee. While these fees can vary—it’s common, for instance, for a photo to sell for a lower fee if sold as part of a package deal—they can easily add up over time. What’s more, 500px also empowers you to sell your photos privately or on your own while also Licensing them through their platform.
The best commercial stock photos are timeless, and they sell again and again over several years. They might be used on a subway ad one month, a book cover the next, and then a social media campaign sometime down the road. It’s easy to shoot this kind of content on any budget, and in the last year, photographers have set up profitable shoots at home with their families. You might already have pictures like these sitting in your Profile, so consider putting them to work by submitting them for Licensing.
Finally, keep an eye out for your photos “in the wild.” We’ve spotted photos from 500px Licensing Contributors on travel guides, food and recipe blogs, and websites belonging to multinational companies. Over time, seeing what photos sell—and discovering where they end up—will help you find your niche and tailor your portfolio to the right clients. As always, stay tuned for more tips on the 500px blog, as we regularly cover Licensing trends and ideas to shoot.
Not on 500px yet? Click here to learn about Licensing with 500px.