To be free or not

Well being a newbie with stock I have often wondered why on earth would you want to make some images available as free when you are to make money. Let's be honest, you travel to a spot to get that specific landscape shot that you just know will work. It is travelling costs and takes patience for that right moment. Why on earth would you want to make it free?

Go and browse the free images section and have a look at some of the truly fantastic images that for some reason did not make it into the photographers sales PF.

They have been downloaded hundreds of times and would have made the photographer a bundle had they been sales instead of free downloads.


That free image still makes people aware of what files you do have for sale in your PF. Buyers instinctively browse portfolios they come across to check if there might be that something else they could use. If you are lucky they choose to rather buy another file instead of the free one. However, even if they do opt for the free file, you have had exposure and that is what counts.

Just getting the buyer to your stream already puts you in the wonderful position of being able to sell.

Your comments are welcome!

Cheers all and keep stocking

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Photo credits: Michael De Nysschen.
Michael De Nysschen
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March 25, 2012

Love all the responses you are all giving. Thanks all!!


March 25, 2012

It brings sales or no sales....... its always better to get exposure to potential buyers, Since i'm a buyer myself, I always check both free and paid images. And from my experience as a contributor, it does bring sales. Sometimes its also gives a self satisfaction that someone is using your image.... :-)


March 24, 2012

As long as it's your free images driving sales to my non-free images I am cool with that.


March 24, 2012

The Internet is full of free pictures. The reason of Free Section on DT is to bring potential buyers here. Once they are here they start asking if there are better photos. From 100, 99 will dl for free and 1 will become buyer. I think this policy is hard to understand for people with no marketing training. I am one of them :) I have only one picture in the free section :)


March 23, 2012

Completely agree with Mark Stout. Free images do nothing but erode further what little value we get from our images in MS. And if you happen to not be exclusive is it really ethical to offer free images on one site for which your images weren't accepted and charge for them on other sites where these very same images are accepted? Also, there is no evidence that 5-10 images in the free section if you have a port of 1000 makes one iota of difference. Sure, there may be a one-off, but overall the pros I speak and shoot with have tried free images as tests and all have said very clearly it makes not a single bit of difference in their sales. Free does not equal revenue growth or we'd all be doing it.


March 21, 2012

Thanks all for commenting....everything you all say is true. Different strokes for different folks as they say. I do feel however that if you have a portfolio of say 1000 images...5 or 10 in the free section can only be of benefit to you. If you are shooting what is selling and your work is top quality you obviously should not have to worry that it might only be approved for the free section.

Markstout I hear what you are saying but you will need all of the stock sellers to work together in providing a rights managed system and although that would be the ideal I cannot see it realising. Someone somewhere will just make another .14c per image site and that will be the end. Business however is the owner of a business I would also rather make use of a free image that will do the job than pay for one. It is unfortunately how the wheel turns.

It is very true however that we should market to those willing to pay and not want something for free...cheers for all the comments all!!!


March 21, 2012

The appeal and draw to microstock were prices that were basically free compared to what stock previously licensed for. It has now created a market that does not sustain the cost of producing the work... and since everyone rushed to the starting line long after the race to the bottom was on to create a new and cheaper stock photo site, we now see sites licensing work for as little as 14 cents. Now we have the sites encouraging us to offer the work free as a draw!

What is next here? Do we start paying clients to download our work for the exposure?

We need to push to return stock to a rights managed system where the fees paid to license the image are based on the use. The mom and pop store would pay a price they can afford, but the Fortune 500 company with an international media campaign would not be able to get it at the same price (and no, the extended license fees do not come within light years of what they should be paying for such uses). And the image can only be used for what it was licensed for. This allows photographers to track uses and copyright violations and act accordingly.

And believe it or not, it is also good for the buyer. When photographers are getting paid what their work is worth, they have more money to invest in the production of high quality photography. At the current licensing fees and structure the ROI does not justify investing much into the shoot.

The "buyers" who are looking for free photos are not your client. They want what is free, and that is the deciding factor, not whether the image is what they need. If the latter part of that statement were true, they would be willing to pay a fair price for the image and your work to create it.

Market to those who are willing to pay for your work. Not those who want something for nothing.


March 21, 2012

Some buyers do look for "free" images. I have had work associates who work in marketing ask if Dreamstime offers any free images, when I have suggested they check Dreamstime out. They use free images for low budget promotions, and buy images when they have bigger budgets.

I think that providing free images is a way of saying "thank you" to our buyers, for coming to Dreamstime and buying our images, when there are other choices. It is also a means to bring new buyers into the Dreamstime community, to see what we are about, rather than going to a competing site. As mentioned by Peanutroaster, an offer of free images is an enticing carrot.


March 21, 2012

Every day at supermarkets they give away samples - small spoonfuls of product that will hopefully entice customers to purchase the full box or bag. They don't give away the whole box.

NOTE: Don't miss understand my meaning. A free sample in photography would be thumbnail.


March 21, 2012

Interestingly those free images with hundreds of downloads were probably rejected by editors as not suitable or saleable.


March 21, 2012

before getting into stock i worked in marketing for many years..........when i was after images for projects i looked for the image not the photographer. Also unless youre exclusive to 1 library, the image thats free on one site could cannibilise potential sales of that image on another one !!


March 21, 2012

With the social media explosion we find ourselves in, there are plenty of ways to easily promote and get people to your stream without putting 'free' bait images. But from a designers point of view, for low budget projects free stock often keeps the costs down a bit but with some searching doesn't compromise the design quality - so I'm still 50/50 on this topic :)


March 21, 2012

Shift pictures into the free section is the well tested way to link buyers with your portfolio. One day I transferred some pictures and during 24 hours around 15 $ was earned from the related sales. It is not bad for the beginner.


March 21, 2012

Thanks for sharing .


March 21, 2012

I have often thought the same...but I do think that the increase exposure could only be beneficial.


March 20, 2012

I think buyers look for images not photographers. Personally I don't see any value in giving things away for free.