Royalty Free Stock Photography Doesn’t Seem That Great A Deal Now?

This from StockPhotoTalk is both an inspiring and at the same time woeful tale of all that is good and bad with royalty free stock photography …

Carl Purcell is a travel photographer whose art has graced publications ranging from National Geographic and U.S. News and World Report to travel sections in The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. Still, an online archive at is home to 12,800 of his more than 300,000 photos and is a primary source of income for him. One popular photo alone — of palms blowing in a typhoon in the South Pacific — has netted more than $25,000, Purcell says. But this 77-year-old retiree’s most famous image — a billowing American flag merged with the Statue of Liberty — appears on a 39-cent stamp. [..] Unfortunately for Purcell, the 8-year-old image credited to him and his former wife, Ann, was one of a handful of royalty-free photos available from an Internet archive. “The only payment I got for it was a check for $150,” he says ruefully.

So his art has found success, he has even made a bunch of cash ($25k is not to be sniffed at unless you just happen to be the hobby digital photographer called Bill Gates), and his picture even graced a stamp for goodness sake, success! Wouldn’t you feel you had been kicked in the nuts every time you received some mail stamped with your now bargain-basement image?

Thing is they probably wouldn’t have seen let alone used his image had it not been in there and how many people can claim to have had their photographs seen by as many people?

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  1. Chris says

    Quite right, emotionally though I expect he is doing some “what if” thinking. As I say in the post though, had it not been for the service nobody would have even ever seen it let alone paid for it so he shouldn’t feel too down.

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