Why I’m Ditching Getty Images in Favor of Stocksy for My Stock Photo Sales


Dear Getty Images: I quit.

I just sent Getty Images the email above, which, I think, is how I terminate my relationship with them. Hopefully. I’m not 100% sure, but I can’t seem to figure out any way to do it online, so I’m hoping that email works.

Why Am I Quitting?

Well, I’m sitting here typing this at 4:56 in the morning on my “vacation,” getting ready to get an early up to the top of a mountain in Idaho to shoot sunrise — and I’m not a skier. It’s dark, it’s cold — and maybe, just maybe, with $10,000 worth of camera gear on my back, I’ll get something that works from this shoot.

After I shoot several thousand images today I’ll go home and spend hours and hours processing them. Finally, I’ll upload them online and maybe sell some. If I do sell some though, bottom line is I feel that I’m getting ripped off with Getty’s lousy 20% payout.


I don’t care how you look at it, for me, 20% is not fair. It’s too low. I’ve been complaining about it for years, but have just grumbled along because Getty felt like the only game in town for stock photo sales.

Artists and photographers deserve more than 20% payouts. I understand that Getty has the buyers, that Getty is the 800 pound gorilla, but still, photographers deserve a better split than 80/20 against them.

There are other reasons why I’m quitting Getty Images too, though.

Since the Carlyle Group (read their Wikipedia page, it’s fascinating) has taken over Getty Images, things seem to have changed. Maybe Getty’s parent is trying to wring as much profit as their stock business as they can, but it feels like artists are getting the short end of the stick even more these days.

In the private, closed, Getty Photographers group, managed by Getty on Flickr, there were almost 3,500 replies to a thread about Getty’s deal with Google Drive. Whatever you think about this deal, there are a lot of photographers who are unhappy at Getty about an arrangement where they receive a pittance for their work. The 20% payout is already pretty low, but when you combine it with a $12 image buy, some photographers feel that was pushing things too far.

Getty Images signed a controversial stock photography deal with Google earlier this year

Getty Images signed a controversial stock photography deal with Google earlier this year

The fact that Getty made this deal doesn’t bother me as much as how they’ve handled the criticism from their members over it. The above mentioned thread is now closed and locked by Getty Images. As a result of the thread, a member was banned and removed from the group — this is the second time that a Getty photographer has been booted from this group that I know of. An earlier member Alex Hibbert was also banned for criticizing Getty.

One of the Getty admins in the group said that the more recent member was booted not because of his criticism, but because he wasn’t respectful with his criticism. I asked whether respectful criticism would be allowed to stand and was told yes. I’m going to post this blog post into that forum and I guess we’ll see if this is true. For me, while critical, this post is entirely respectful. I’m still not sure it will get to stay there though.

When you start to see a company fighting with its contributors, banning contributors, even firing contributors, it makes me feel like maybe it’s time to go. This doesn’t feel like a healthy “relationship” any more. Paying me 20% and keeping 80% already felt a little insulting, but I think we deserve to be treated better.

Where Am I Going?

This has been the hardest part of all about leaving Getty earlier, there didn’t really seem like there was any place good to go — before today.

Today I’m pleased to announce that I’m going to start selling my stock photos on Stocksy.


Stocksy is a revolutionary new photo agency started by Bruce Livingstone, the founder of iStockphoto. A lot of my friends are there selling photos now too. I’m pleased to be joining some of the most talented photographers I know in a new sort of photographer-owned coop.

While Stocksy isn’t exactly “occupy” stock photography, rather than me getting 20% and Carlyle getting 80%, I’ll be paid a much fairer 50% payout. The exciting part about Stocksy though isn’t just the higher payout, it’s that the members of Stocksy actually OWN the agency. That’s right, after paying out costs, Stocksy will distribute profits to its members — so members will get dividends and actually hold real equity in the business.

Now that is an idea that I can get behind, and one that’s been long overdue. Fairly compensating photographers while running an agency with some of the most talented photographers in the world today? Sign me up!

Today Stocksy is launching to the rest of the world. You can read more about that here.


If you are a photographer, consider signing up. One bit of warning here though, Stocksy is being very selective about the photographers that they are adding. I have felt a little bad because some of my good friends and talented photographers haven’t been asked to join.

Especially early on, Stocksy is trying to build a super premium library of images and sometimes this means making hard choices about who you will launch with. They are also trying to keep Stocksy small where the editors and members can know each other on a personal level. I’ve already made lots of new friends at Stocksy and I’ve appreciated the valuable advice that the editors there share with me about why an image may or may not be right. At Stocksy editors and management do Google+ hangouts with photographers. At Getty all they seem to do is fight.

If you are an image buyer, consider looking at images on Stocksy the next time you need to buy. Not only will you find some of the best, fresh, and most authentic images in the marketplace today, you can feel good about buying them, knowing that they are treating the photographers fairly.


As fellow creative professionals, you are one of us — if given a choice, where would you rather your money go — to actual photographers who create the images, or to Carlyle? Even if you don’t care, still give Stocksy a look, because the imagery there really is miles ahead of what you see in the run of the mill stock photography library out there today.

Let Stocksy make you and your clients look the best they possibly can. You are the ones we need to embrace this idea most of all.

For stock photography, it will be the primary place where I market my own images (like the other photographer members, my images for sale on Stocksy will be exclusively offered there) and I’m looking forward to a long and successful relationship.

Update: Well that was fast. I’ve been banned from Getty’s Forum. I’m fine with that as I’m not a member, but I’m told that my post criticizing them has also been deleted. I hope those that are still in the forum can keep up the good fight, demanding more for photographers. I’m disappointed (although not surprised) that after being told that respectful criticism would be allowed that Getty deleted my respectful criticism there.

About the author: Thomas Hawk is a photographer and blogger based in San Francisco. Visit his website here. This article originally appeared here.

  • Michael Della Polla

    Yuck.. I’m sorry to hear about that experience.. I also have always thought of getty as being the goto if you want to actually get your work to buyers. Interesting to hear about this new opportunity.
    Have you heard of Image Source? They sell stock and give pretty good payouts to their photographers.
    Trying to learn the whole stock game.. very odd from the art photographer’s world..

  • Stephanie Fysh

    I was banned from the Flickr group several weeks ago within the same hour that Getty acknowledged receipt of my termination of the agreement — even though the agreement then had several more weeks to run (it still has a few weeks more to go). I had expected to have access to the group as long as I was technically under contract to Getty; not so. My photographs were available on the Getty site for licensing for several days longer than I had group access, and some are still being offered through Getty API portal partners — the deals with those partners being the reason I left — but I have no chance to see what my fellow contributors are saying about those partners.

  • Rob S

    Hooray For Thomas Hawk. For all the griping about Micro Stock I get paid more for being an exclusive on Dreamstime (60%) than I would on Getty despite Getty charging significantly more.

    Its good to see Photographers who DO SOMETHING instead of complain about the market.

  • Nathan Blaney

    Yep, Getty is swinging that hammer pretty hard on anyone going Stockys way… or at least those being vocal about it, I guess.

  • Jooks

    To photographers:

    Welcome to the world of Musicians. Carrying around 5,000$+ worth of gear to get 100$ bucks for a gig. I know it sucks. I’ve been there myself both as a musician and a photographer. The market is over-saturated. It’s too easy. Anyone can get a DSLR shoot a mountain, put it on getty and they will be happy if they get 20% because they are getting at least something. Bottomline is if you don’t take that 20% someone else will. Take your career to the next level, through other means and stick out of the bijillion “photographers” out there. Complaining will only get you this far.. to a blog.

  • Focus Dave

    I agree with the point you’re trying to make here, but you should clean up the grammar for something that you’re hoping to use to reach out to such a large group of people (e.g. it’s/its and there/their).

  • Thomas Hawk

    Dave, I caught a few of of those errors and corrected them in my original post at I should do a better job proofing for sure. thanks!

  • Ray T

    Well, criticism aside.. You DID advertise for Stocksy, which I believe is probably against some forum rule….. heh. Try reposting without the advert?

  • Andrea Boyle

    Horray, Thomas! I support you! I have followed you since Trey’s Hangouts started and know he went thru the same considerations. I drink a very nice Oregon Rogue Valley Pebblestone 2009 Cab to your decision (SF Cronicle Silver winner)! :) (Come try OUR wines!)

  • Michael Zhang

    Hmm. A couple of them escaped my gaze as well. We’ve corrected the ones we found. Thanks!

  • Dan Donovan

    50% used to be the norm for rights managed stock sales. Some places even paid 70%. I bailed out when the percent went below 50%. I really can’t believe photographers are contributing when only 20% is the return. If photographers did not contribute, the percentage would have to increase. Please think about the health of the industry for photographers and not getting your name in print or making enough money a year to buy new gear. Getty is part of the problem and the other part is photographers giving valuable images away. Hopefully Stocksy can reverse the trend.

  • Connor A

    Is there a way to signup for Stocksy or is it invitation only (to be a contributor)?

  • Dave

    Photographers settling for 20% is what has ruined stock photography. Thomas, your decision to go with Getty in the first place is the main reason why stock photography has been gutted. I have stayed with legit agents over the years, and have watched my income drop, but I sleep pretty good at night too. I have colleagues say: “I am getting checks from Getty!” and I look at how badly they are being fleeced. Of course it is tempting, but NO one will make more on my photography than I do. Becoming your own agent is probably the best thing you can do.

  • Donald

    20%? That’s ridiculous!

    I own a small design company and pay out 60% to 80% of earned revenue to any subcontractor design work. Yes, I know my example is a bit specious as I’m very small and Getty + Carlyle are huge, however, under contract law, past the holy triumvirate of offer+acceptance+consideration, a contract must also be legal, not a minor, and not one sided. Getty has partially crossed over and is straddling the line of legal contract definition regarding one sided: paying out 20% of earned revenue is simple usury.

  • guest

    Tip 1. Email Footer: You do not have to ego-manically repeat “Thomas Hawk on…[social media]” 6 more times after you signed the email with Thomas Hawk. We get it, your name must be Thomas Hawk.

  • DafOwen

    “When you start to see a company fighting with its contributors, banning contributors, even firing contributors, it makes me feel like maybe it’s time to go” – Very true. When an employer no longer respects it’s contributors or employee’s – it’s time to leave.

    However – joining a microstock agency instead ?
    I feel that iStock etc has played a big part in the slow death of the stock industry. It is partly because of this that I think Getty etc are reducing their photographer fees – just to survive. So maybe a case of shooting yourself in the foot ?

  • DafOwen

    Seeing as Stocksy was only launched the same day as this post – it raises questions about about the ethical nature of the post.
    Trying to suggest Getty be more ethical and fair to it’s contributors yet at the same time mentioning a brand new service that is launched that day – just suggests pre-meditated advertising.

  • DafOwen
  • mirko

    I had the same feeling. The whole post is more like an advertisment for Stocksy than anything else. And at the same the the selfpraise and self advertisment for the author of the post.

    Stock photo is bad no matter what and 60% is still to low. I rather don’t make any money out of it than joining this madness.

  • Maria

    Good luck to all of you! It’s great to see you standing up for what’s right.

  • PhotoGuru

    Bruce Livingstone, who owns Stocksy, sold Istockphoto to Getty. As a photographer it’s important to remember that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and to beware of the red flags. The idea of this co-op is great, but, it’s not a new one. Nor is it ‘sustainable’ photography. There are agencies out there that have a 50/50 split and great communication with their photographers. Remember, it’s not only about how much split you get, but, it’s about WHO is selling your pictures–how resourceful, and innovative the sales team is-what is their relationship to buyers etc. Keep that in mind. Stocksy can just as easily be sold to Getty as well. Just a warning. Do some research and see who is out there already doing the same job Stocksy claims to do. Talk to the photographers with those agencies and see how happy they are before you jump into something that ‘sounds like a good idea,’ but has no clout behind it. I’m with one of those agencies, and I’d be very very careful about Stocksy because of where it comes from. Just because the storefront changes color, doesn’t mean it’s not selling the same thing in a different package.

  • troll

    Thomas Hawk comes across as the Scoble of photography. Yawn.

  • Thomas Hawk
  • worker88


  • Kyle

    Getty is digging its own grave. Jonathan Klein should be ashamed of himself for doing so much damage to photographers while fattening his own pocket. One of the most unethical business people ever.

  • A

    You are selling photos via microstock agencies and you moan about getting not enough money? Microstock is one of the main reasons why photography is doing so badly these days. Who wants to pay good money for photography when they can go on microstock agency website and get it for peanuts. If you respect your work and yourself as an artist, you quite microstock altogether.

  • Gary Orona

    Bravo Thomas! I hope the courage you’ve displayed results in much success with Stocksy. The fact that Getty did in fact remove you from the forum is significant and hopefully other photographers will follow your brave lead and make a stand for their rights.

    Good Thoughts- Gary Orona

  • Diamond

    Best post here.

  • elgin

    Great poin Dan, I totally agree. I use to shoot for Retna stock in New York. Getting under 50% return is not worth your time and will only piss you off when you do see it in print.

  • elgin

    Dover, I am in agreement. I have become my own agent, however, I must admit its a real tough sell. I shoot entertainment photography and Getty is killing me with their reach and amount of clients world wide. But, accepting %20 is never the answer.

  • DanThePhotoMan

    And these days, sometimes extremely low prices are charged to companies that buy in bulk. That is good for the stock agency, but bad for the individual photographers. So, even 50% does not help low licensing fees.