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There is a huge benefit to selling photos on microstocks:

Every single image can be sold more than 1000 times, and the photographer who took it doesn't have to do any more work after the upload.

Now you understand why agencies like

have become popular for all those who love photography.

But the problem is that, even if it is true that you can endlessly sell your photo of Big Ben or of the Statue of Liberty, the single purchase generates on average less than a dollar.

Unless the buyer chooses an extended license.

What Extended licenses are

Extended licenses have to be bought by clients who work for large productions:

  • International television formats
  • newspapers published all over the world
  • multinational companies’ websites

and so on.

With this, even though the photos or videos that are downloaded are the same as those sold with a standard license, whoever buys them has the right to insert them in projects with a wide distribution.

I’ll better explain what it is with an example:

This is the table with which Shutterstock identifies standard licenses and extended licenses:

Learn more about the difference between standard and extended license on Shutterstock.

Over time, Shutterstock has focused its collection on a high-level clientele that accepts paying more in order to take advantage of a better selection of photos and videos and also of a greater reliability in terms of licenses.

Therefore, on Shutterstock, the standard license is only allowed for private use. So, if I were creating a website about something personal (like my website which is about when I wanted to be a director of short films) then the standard license is okay if I want to publish the images I buy there.

If instead I need photos for a commercial site (such as microstockguru.com where I teach how to sell photos and videos online and, as well as doing it for free, sell a course about the same topic), on Shutterstock I would have to select the extended license and pay more, even if I insert that image onto a page where I do not talk about my course and there is no advertising.

Why buyers pay more for the extended license?

Many of you might wonder now:

But why should someone pay more, given that by purchasing the standard license they can download the same content?

The reason is that, if you read the contract, you accept when purchasing a photo that, legally speaking, this cannot be used wherever you want.

So, if the customer is National Geographic, which buys a lot of videos from Pond5 and Shutterstock (as you can check in the credits of its shows), it prefers to pay 399 dollars instead of 199 for a 10-second 4K video rather than risking a lawsuit that could give it financial and reputational damages.

If you need a photo, even for the website of your small business, I strongly recommend complying with the licenses policy by purchasing an extended one.

If, instead, you want to risk it just to save a few dozen dollars, you must understand that there are several online services offering a team of lawyers working on legal cases for fraudulent use of images and videos. You won't become rich just because you opted for a standard license instead of an extended one. So, if I were you, I would spend that little extra amount of money to avoid trouble.

Why microstock producers love extended licenses

Having said that, of course, extended license sales are better for us producers as well because there are no contraindications to selling them; they are more expensive for buyers, like all the licenses other than standard, such as the license for sensitive content, which I talk about in detail on my course.

If the price that the customers pay increases, even our earnings increase. And there is also the pride of knowing that our creations are included in great productions.

Unfortunately, it is very hard to know when this happens, at least with videos. In fact, if for photos there are tools like Google Images that show you where these are used on the web, for videos it is much more difficult.

Extended licenses earn us photographers between 10 to 50 dollars for stock images, while for stock footage it is even possible to make more than 100, as has sometimes happened to me in my career.

In the microstock business, you will never become rich with a single sale, and not even with a single piece of content. However, thanks to extended licenses, selling your photos and videos online is not that bad.