During tough economic times be careful with skimping on photographys

I’m talking to companies who use photography in marketing and other materials here:

When I worked at PodTech we made a mistake: we used a photograph from a photographer who was shooting at one of our parties without his permission on a sign. It’s an easy mistake to make. You’re surfing around at Flickr, see a cool photo, and want to use it on a brochure, on a sign, on a blog, or something. It’s very easy for normal people to get confused by the licensing. Just because it has a Creative Commons logo on it does NOT mean you can use it in commercial contexts.

I’m sure that lots of you are under even more pressure now to do marketing without paying much for it. Be careful, because if you use the wrong photo off of Flickr you’ll get hit with a bill for thousands of dollars, like we were, and you might face some really nasty PR on blogs like we did.

So, what should you do instead of surfing Flickr or SmugMug? Use a stock photography agency.

“But, Scoble, aren’t those really expensive?”

Not anymore. Shutterstock’s online stock photo agency, for instance, will sell you five images for $50. What’s the advantage of using those images instead of trying to use images off of Flickr, even ones that are public domain? (All my images, for instance, are totally in the public domain — you are welcome to use them for free and without attribution. My gift to you from Fast Company magazine). There’s two advantages:

1. Every image there was checked for quality by a human being. They look at 100,000 images a week and have more than five million images in their library.
2. Every image has “all you can eat” licensing so you can use that image on your blog, on your business cards, on your marketing materials, on your signs, everywhere.

They also pay all the photographers. Some of the photographers on the site are making $10s of thousands per month, although I just was talking with Shutterstock’s president, Adam Riggs, and he told me that if you are a good photographer, with a portfolio of about 500 images, you’ll probably make around $50 to $100 a month. That isn’t a whole lot, but can help pay for equipment and other stuff and as you improve and get better images that companies need you’ll increase your pay. One difference about Shutterstock is that it is a lot easier to get images accepted into their system than on other, older, stock agency sites who usually only deal with professionals with big names.

Most people who submit to microstock sites submit to more than one. For example, Lee Torrens reports his November 2008 earnings at $615.26 per month which is his combined income from submitting to several microstock agencies.

Anyway, is it worth using images from Flickr to save $50? I don’t think so. Don’t make the same mistake we made at Podtech.