Sell your holiday snaps

2012-01-09 08:28

Berlin - A flood of digital pictures is taken globally every second. Some have strong personal meaning. Many others have commercial potential.

It's easier than ever for hobby photographers to try to make some cash from their snapshots, even if it's just a small honorarium. But it's not as easy as just snapping a picture. Different agencies have different standards and each knows exactly what it wants.

The practice of linking hobbyists with professional agencies is known as microstocking. These internet agencies, where pictures are offered for sale, let shutterbugs get a small sum - sometimes just a few cents, but usually a few euros. And there are cases where the money is a lot better.

One of the biggest movers in the business is the Canadian picture agency iStockphoto, which has belonged to Getty Images since 2006, itself one of the world's biggest photo agencies. "The original idea was very simple," said Sven Ole Schubert, an iStockphoto manager based in Berlin.

"Professional, amateur and hobby photographers are given a global platform to offer up their work."

Clients are usually small and mid-sized companies, bloggers, non-governmental organisations, clubs or educational associations. The basic fee for non-exclusive pictures is about 15% of the sale price. Depending on the deal, this might rise to 45%, said Schubert.

Fotolia, a New York-based agency, has a database with more than 14 million photos. "Fotolia is good for people who want some money as recognition for their photographic skills and publication of their work in the media, and not just virtual confirmation in social networks or communities," said marketing manager Murat Erimel.

Similar agencies

At Fotolia, the commission for non-exclusive pictures is between 20% and 46% of the price: With exclusive deals, it falls between 35% and 63%.

There are countless other similar agencies, like Dreamstime, Aboutpixel, PantherMedia, Zoonar or Crestock.

"Basically, it's important to read the participation instructions thoroughly and check who keeps the copyright," advised Constanze Clauss of the German Photo Industry Association.

There are two basic legal models for such networks, according to German legal website In the first, agencies are just middlemen between a copyright holder and the purchaser who agree upon terms of use.

In the second, the photographer hands over most rights to the agency. The kind of model is key if legal questions about the picture arise.

Photographers can set their own price for their pictures on websites like, where they display it as one of the millions of pictures fighting for attention. Membership of these exchanges is generally free but there may be a fee for additional functions like offering pictures for sale.