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10 March 2014 Stock Photography

Exclusive or non-exclusive?

This is the question most stock photographers ask, whether at the beginning of their stock photo selling journey, or after a while, when they learn more about the business.

There are pros and cons like with almost everything we do. Here, we will not help you make a decision but we will try to describe what our opinion is from the point of view of a non-exclusive contributor.

Most of the stock photography agencies try to bring in as many exclusive contributors as possible, which is obvious, because content uploaded by these contributors is exclusive to one agency and it cannot be sold elsewhere (sometimes even on your own website). As a result, photo buyers/designers receive exclusive stock images for their projects, and such content is not available anywhere else, making their project to have more individual values. For obvious reasons they (and their clients) would prefer an image that is less distributed, making their project stand out from the crowd. On the other hand, non-exclusive content can be bought by anybody anywhere, as usually non-exclusive contributors upload images to more than one agency, thus one image may appear in many, many projects around the globe.

Usually there are two types of exclusivity: exclusive contributors and exclusive content only.
- Exclusive contributors create exclusive content that cannot be sold elsewhere, and they cannot contribute to any other stock photo agency. Content they upload becomes exclusive automatically.
- Non-exclusive contributors are given an option (by some agencies only - see our Exclusivity Comparison) to contribute only some of their content as exclusive, while still holding their status of non-exclusive contributors. It means that you can decide whether you want to upload some of your images as exclusive content (and it cannot be sold anywhere else), while still having freedom to upload the other content to as many stock photography websites as you want, or sell it somewhere else.

First of all, you should learn as much as you can about what agencies have to offer. They all have their own terms and conditions for exclusive contributors, and among others, the following are possible aspects you will benefit from:
- higher royalty;
- higher ranking in search engines;
- higher upload limits;
- shorter review times;
- legal protection for contributors by an agency;
- special programs/offers for exclusive contributors only;
- image collections with exclusive content only;
- showcasing your work on the website's home page, etc.

The above are very tempting, but you have to consider downsides, such as:
- higher selling prices of your images - even if your content cannot be purchased anywhere else, will a designer/customer be happy to pay more for it? If it is top quality work, an answer is probably yes, but nowadays money is the most important, so...
- you cannot sell it anywhere else (in many cases not even on your own website) - will you earn enough to compensate for lower exposure of your content? Will an agency promote your work aggressively enough to bring more profit for you than when you have freedom of uploading it to 10 or more other stock photo websites? Again, in case of really top quality imagery it is probably possible;
- your rejected images cannot be sold elsewhere - this is very tough, but true. But again, when you are top producer, probably you will not have many rejections;
- you cannot give away your files for free - many stock contributors offer their images for free to attract more customers to their portfolio and increase its exposure - (for more information on free images read this article) - those who avail of this option cannot do it once they become exclusives, so they have to rely purely on promotional activities taken by their stock photo agency.

As you see from the above, there are pros and cons and they all have to be considered. It is tough decision because once you have become an exclusive contributor, you will be bound by specific terms and conditions for a long time.

Here is the Exclusivity Comparison to check what stock photography agencies offer to exclusive artists.

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