In this letter to a photographer Getty claims the 50% split was a typo and should have been 60/40 in favor of Getty [correction] claims the 60/40 split in favor of the photographer should have been 50/50 and justifies taking the extra 10% due to a typo. Seems like a slimy tactic to me.


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  1. I may be missing something?

    I think the letter is saying it should be 50% rather than 60%.


    • @Newmediaphotographer, I think the 50% is what YOU get, down from 60% previously.

      And yes, Getty will flourish as long as fools vie to send them images.

      • @Michael Sebastian, genius!!

      • @Michael Sebastian,

        I was reading it as the reverse. I guess I’m too much of an optimist.

        thanks for the clarification


    • I think the confusion is in the post itself. Getty is claiming 50/50, not 60/40 in favor of photographer. Doesn’t change the point of it though.

      • @Doug,
        ah crap I wrote it wrong it was 60/40 in favor of the photographers and it’s now 50/50.

        • @A Photo Editor,

          If that’s the case, it’s amazing. Major agencies switched years ago from 50/50 to 60/40 and sometimes even higher in favor of the agency.

          • @Debra Weiss,
            well yes but major photographers still get the better rates.

  2. I’M TOTALLY SHOCKED………….not really. The photographer assumes all the risks with hiring models, processing film/files, finding locations, etc, etc. Then Getty feels that it should REAP the majority of the benefits. The photographer is the one with the goods and Getty and MOST other stock agencies feels they are entitled to the those efforts. Not a very good business model!

    • @red, Make no mistake, I’m not a fan…

      But it’s a great business model for them because there is an endless stream of photographers willing to work on those terms.

      Somebody gets fed up and leaves (or never starts) and there are two or three people waiting to fill the spot.

  3. I think I’m the only photographer on the planet who doesn’t have an affiliation with Corbis or Getty (I guess I’m not good enough as they wouldn’t give me the time of day). And I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

    Most people here know what goes into the images we create. Do the agencies sell the images for so much money that the photographer could make a mortgage payment? What about after the agency takes half (or 70%) of the cash?

    It seems that Getty wants you to do all of the work while they take all of the profit. In my book you are working for Getty. You might as well get a day job.

    • @Tony Blei, no you are smart and one of the growing number of photographers who are not going the traditional route and possibly thinking of selling your own stock. Red could not have it any better.

      • @andy anderson,

        Andy – you know I love you but photographers taking control of their stock sales for most is unrealistic. The following is something I wrote in September of 2007 and I believe it still applies.

        Only a select group of photographers will really be able to market
        themselves effectively on the web. These cries of “you don’t need
        them, do it yourself” smell suspiciously like “I’ve got a camera,
        you’ve got a barn – let’s make a movie!”

        There is no way the individual photographer can have the reach of a major stock agency. Most photographers have difficulty getting out four promo pieces in a year so it is hard to imagine that they will be able to effectively market their work and service their clients in order to make a worthwhile income.

        This is what it would take to be successful:

        1) Have an already recognizable name so that buyers will pay attention to your marketing efforts
        2) Have amazing content.
        3) Spend 4-5 hundred thousand dollars a year in advertising and because you will have to treat this as a new business venture, be prepared for all that which comes with launching a new business.
        4) Hire a full time experienced salesperson with pre-existing relationships with the art buying community and allot a healthy sum of money for expenses so that the salesperson could effectively do his/her job.
        5) Be prepared to spend a fortune building a functional website.

        While the frustrations due to what is happening in the industry are understandable, photographers need to step back, stop taking this stuff personally and really think long and hard about what is in your best financial interest.

        The time for cries of “enough” and “no more, already” came and went long ago.

        The fact is that it was the photographers who allowed what happened in the stock industry to happen. Mark Getty was just being a businessman and the photographers weren’t. With the exception of some photographers on Corbis and Masterfile, the most money to be made in stock is via Getty. Art buyers constantly talk about how they hate Getty, yet look at the revenues. There is a huge gap in the numbers between Getty and Corbis. In fact, no one comes close.

        Years ago I told photographers they would have to be crazy to sign the Getty contract. Now, with the exception of a select few who can successfully market their stock on their own, it is the agency that makes the most money. I want to see photographers make money and as I said above, photographers must do what is in their own best financial interest.

        There are so many serious issues that photographers will have to face in the not too distant future that it makes the problems with the stock industry look amateur.

        • @Debra Weiss,

          Debra, you make some great points, no question. Venturing out on your own in the stock world is not an easy task, and certainly isn’t for everyone.

          I did want to point out in regards to point #5 that it definitely does not cost a “fortune” to build yourself a fully functional stock site these days. Photoshelter (among others) has an excellent customizable stock platform available to photographers for $30-50 per month with the same (and in some cases, more) functionality than many of the traditional stock sites. As a more-than-satisfied PS user, I have true collaborative lightbox functionality, complete keyword search, online image pricing, e-commerce, and automated image delivery on my website. Many of my clients really enjoy using my online archive, and my direct-to-client stock sales continue to grow. I’m certainly not saying it is easy or fast, but it can be done!


        • @Debra Weiss, great points. But the scale leaning the other direction and NOW photographers are getting hip to the fact to what these agencies are doing. As the internet grows so does this technology and more and more photographers are going to market there images effectively. I know several well known and established shooters that are going to jump ship from these agencies and move out on there own. That should concern mr. getty if he is a so called business man.

          • @andy anderson,

            Andy – it won’t concern Mr. Getty at all since Mr. Getty got out. They were sold last year. Also, the key phrase in your response is “I know several well known and established shooters…”

          • @andy anderson,
            I’ve looked at Photoshelter, who along with Getty, etc. Seems they price the images for you? If you go solo, like yourself, how do you keep your pricing current, and fair?

        • @Debra Weiss,

          “Art buyers constantly talk about how they hate Getty, yet look at the revenues.”

          I think this is a good thing. The feedback I’ve read from art buyers is that Getty has good stuff, but that it’s “too expensive” (yet they still choose to buy from Getty). To me, that says that Getty is doing it’s best to keep price levels high.

        • @Debra Weiss,

          I’m weighing this issue right now.

          What about Photoshelter?

          • @Kristina Krug,


            Photoshelter is not a stock agency so it is impossible to compare the two.

  4. Red @2: I disagree. It’s a great business model.

    Photographers are standing in line to give them images.

  5. Had a call from Corbis who wanted an image rescanned from 6 years ago.

    Anyway the conversation moved to “hows business” and the Corbis guy says it sucks.

    I mentioned that even in today’s economy there is more image use than in the history of photography but stock sales are below flat.

    Why and what does that tell you? The Corbis guy goes quiet and says, uh we blame it on microstock.

    I said before microstock you blamed it on Roylty Free, before RF you blamed it on digital delivery, before digital delivery you blamed it on cd sales, before cd sales . . .
    The point is the stock industry is a flawed business model based on pixel size rather than the worth of content.

    It’s laughable that an image that requires 12 models and a crew of 10 is sold for the same price as a shot of an Easter Egg on no seam paper.

    It is not laughable that with every change in the industry the two major players in stock have only one reaction. Lower costs, cut production and beat up their contributors.

    The whole industry needs to be scrapped and start over.

  6. why all the fuss? there’s a simple solution. DON’T SHOOT FOR GETTY!

  7. Is anyone surprised! They do it for the same reason any business over charges….because they can. Wish I was smart enough to know how to fix the stock industry, but it’s way past me. Sure some photographers are trying to avoid Getty and Corbis and other stock providers, but for every one that ends a relationship with them, there are 5 starving artists that are desperate to get with them even though they may hate them and promise to dump them as soon as they can afford to. And right now, any income is good income even though I hate looking at it that way. While I hate them, the problem runs deeper than Getty alone, although they are the major player in it.

  8. I am going to write my bank and let them know that the interest rate on my mortgage contract was wrong. It should be 3 points lower.

  9. The whole stock industry eerily reminds me of the SubPrime Mortgage mess. You’ve got the masses out there (photographers) who are so desperate to get in the door that they don’t bother to read the fine print, (or worse, just don’t care), so they sign on the dotted line, cross their fingers, and think that they’re going to get rich shooting stock.

    In the mortgage industry, customers would just sign on the dotted line, never bother to read the terms, or worse, read them and didn’t care, but they still just signed. And then, the worst happened, when the terms of the contract made themselves known.

    I don’t blame Getty or Corbis or any of these agencies — they’re just business people, and they see an avenue for income and profit, and the source of that profit are desperate, lazy, unknowledgeable photographers, who won’t bother to read the terms, or get educated on how bad the terms are — they just sign (and hope). They know there’s a limitless supply of cheap, desperate labor pool out there, armed with Canon 5D’s, ready to drink the KoolAid.

    Photographers buried themselves. No one else to blame. If you’re looking to get mad at somebody, just look to the guy sitting to your right or left, at the next APA or ASMP meeting. They’re the ones that bent over and signed the contract. No one had a gun to their head.

    Erickson and others, who try to separate themselves from Getty and Corbis, are in my eyes, very smart, in that they have a chance to maintain individuality and the feeling of Value over Commodity.

  10. If I am I reading the letter correctly, Getty is making this royalty change for future submissions? If so, they have the right to change their terms. As others have said, if you find the new terms unacceptable, you’re not obliged to continue submitting images.

    On the other hand, if Getty is trying to make a retroactive change to its terms (i.e., we promised you 60% but we’re really only going to pay you 50%), that is really slimy — and really illegal. The whole idea of a contract is to document the terms so there aren’t any misunderstandings. Typo or not, Getty is bound by the terms of its own contract. It has to pay the amount promised. If they are trying to renege, that’s fraud. Sounds like a class-action lawsuit waiting to happen.

  11. As a professional photographer in NYC who has been approached by both Getty and Corbis, I can proudly say that I refused them both. We have only ourselves to blame for the shambles our industry is in. Getty has singlehandedly devalued our work to the point that even stock isn’t enough to make a living off of. And now that stock has become so devalued, it’s also cut into assignment work. Double edged sword. Nothing is going to get better for any level of photographer seeking to make a living until every single photographer pulls out of stock agencies and demands a living wage. Can you imagine how may assignments there would be for everyone to get if there were no stock to buy? And we would ALL be making a lot more money than a few hundred a month from Getty… Think about it!

    Photographers are the most independent and voracious of personalities, we’ll run into war zones or studios full of intimidating clients and shine, but when faced with a corporation like Getty, we roll over, get beaten up and say “More, please. Thank you.” This is ludicrous!

    I don’t get a check from Getty every month and some may say that ‘s foolish, but at least I sleep well at night knowing that I haven’t contributed to the demise of the job I love.

  12. Just say NO. I went through two separate negotiations with “that agency” where we arrived at terms acceptable to me(a global 50-50 split and none of that “home territory” nonsense). A couple of weeks later that person e-mailed me to say that he had “misspoken”-twice-and then sent me back their origianl contract, which I had very clearly told them I would never sign, with a note about how pleased they were to be working with me. We are not working together and I doubt we ever will. That is OK with me. They came to me, not the other way around. I’m not comfortable being associated with people who do business this way.

    • @john mcd., Isn’t that just out right illegal, to sign one contract, and then the company sends another? I’m surprised they are going to this low of a level to get contributions.

      • @Adam, these were e-mail, and then face-to-face, negotiations agreed to with a handshake. which it turns out didn’t mean anything because the guy who was doing the negotiation apparently didn’t understand the limits of his own authority when it came to changing percentages and not requiring their outrageous “home territory” versus “non-home territory” commission policy. We shook hands on a global 50-50 split on the material they wanted me to contribute.

  13. No surprises here.

    Sooner or later, you would hope that Getty falls on its face.

    There is nothing about getty that is good for the photographer or photography.

    It is the same problem of Flickr, quantitative v. qualitative.

    I for one would never work with getty even if it meant less cash in the pocket.

    It is time other photographers recognize how smarmy getty is.

  14. So the photographers most impacted by that letter are the ones who are submitting editorial content, right? They’ve already been paid by someone else to shoot the image and now they’re just getting short-changed by Getty in the royalties of additional sales? Or is there more to this?

  15. I sold many strange images in all these years.
    Some of them where shot inside my home, in the morning.
    Those where the most profitable. I believe that you have to develop a vision. I don’t believe in Getty, Corbis and others agencies they are trying to make more money upon our shoulders but we can’t change the market, as photographer I try to be more flexible, during the last years a lot of my friends were surprised when I start a business based upon wedding photography ( today I’m an happy man I have a little business a lot of happy clients and I can face the future without fears. I trying to have more money from agencies and to produce some new images and to open new markets.

  16. Surprise, surprise! Getty Images takes more of your money. What else is new?

  17. hm I have only gotten 33 % since I signed up with getty all over the years and its similiar in Germany with the other big stock agencies – actually 50% or even the 40 % I get from the others would have been quite nice. I have to check but I dont even remember getting more for sales in Germany.

    I actually would even be ok with the percentage if they would treat their photographers better. You just don’t get a feeling they care about the people whos images they sell.

    Otherwise: Everybody hated the Roman Empire. Everybody hates Getty, – the photographers, the art directors, the picture editors but everybody works with them. What can you do – wait and hope that it goes down one day I guess.

  18. This story reminds me of the employees that were laid off by Microsoft. Microsoft had an equation to calculate the severance package and cut checks to the former employees. Unfortunately, there was an error in the employees favor and they sent out letters asking for the money back. After it was made public, MS decided to not pursue the money. In Getty’s case, it also appears to be greedy and adds insult to injury in regards to the recession and disappearing Stock sales. I fired my Stock Agency a year back because of their affiliation with Getty and the lopsided commission.

  19. So as a young photographer trying to break into the industry, what am I supposed to do?

    Everyone says to avoid Getty, AP, etc., because they steal your rights.

    But let me tell you, no one cares about some kid just out of college with a “pretty good” portfolio if his track record is just a couple internships at newspapers and that has a few editorial clients under his belt.

    No one is going to hire you unless you have experience with the big industry players. And to get that experience, you have to give up your copyright…

    Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

    I’m discovering that in this industry, just like in most industries, it’s not about what you know or how good you are, it’s about WHO you know that matters.

  20. @Joe M: Don’t give up your copyrights.

    • @James Godman,

      Step 1: Don’t give up copyright
      Step 2: ???
      Step 3: Profit!

      Is it possible to break into the industry, retain my copyright, AND make a livable wage?

      • @Joe M.,

        Step 1: Make great work
        Step 2: Value that work
        Step 3: Write a business plan (including marketing)
        Step 4: Execute plan
        Step 5: See what works and revise
        Step 6: Maintain positive attitude

        Good luck!

        • @James Godman,

          Thanks for the response James. I’m an eternal optimist, so at least I have that going for me!

          What exactly do you mean by “value that work”?

          • @Joe M.,

            By value the work, I mean don’t give up your copyrights, and have work that you can charge proper sums for. I have only given up my copyrights a few times (twice that I can recall), and that was because I was offered big $$.

            So value your work and keep trying to make better images, and let people know you exist!

  21. While I haven’t seen the original contract with Getty, it probably has what is called a “merger clause.”

    A merger clause says that the agreement is the entire agreement and no other promises or agreements made outside of that agreement are effective, unless signed and in writing.

    If there is a merger clause (and in many cases if there isn’t) I would be surprised if a judge considered the contract modification valid, unless it was signed by the photographer.

    Passive acceptance to a contract, or a contract modification (silence) is sketchy at best. Considering the original contract was drawn up by Getty in the first place, they would have a hard time convincing a judge that they didn’t mean it.

    Just my personal opinion. (not a lawyer).

  22. So when are photographers going to get organized and start a real alternative to Getty/Corbis?

    At this point, with digital delivery and ecommerce, all it takes is some web servers, a programmer and a lawyer to draft contracts (with favorable terms).

  23. I’m a Getty Photog.
    I get 40% and always have… Why should this photog get 60% ?

    Getty made a mistake.. or I should say, an employee at Getty made a typo…

    Would everyone like to fire this person for a typo ?

    Damn, i made SO MUCH more money at Getty than i ever did at Corbis, or marketing photographs on my own. Every photographer i know wants to get into Getty. Why are people never happy?

    If you want 100% profit, shoot, market, and sell yourself. If you don’t like Getty that much, don’t work with them… period…

    We all have that choice…

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