To become exclusive or non-exclusive?

This is the question most stock photographers ask, whether at the beginning of their stock photography journey, or after a while, when they learn more about the business. There are pros and cons like with almost everything we do. In this article, we will not help you make a decision but we tell you 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. It 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 get exclusive stock images and such content is not available anywhere else. This adds more individual values to their projects. For obvious reasons designers (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. It is because usually non-exclusive contributors upload images to more than one agency. Such image may appear in many, many projects around the globe.

Exclusive contributors vs. 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 (only by some agencies – see our Exclusivity Program 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. It cannot be sold anywhere else, but you still have freedom of uploading other content to as many stock agencies as you want, or sell it somewhere else. Before deciding on becoming an exclusive or non-exclusive contributor, you should check what stock agencies have to offer. They all have their own terms and conditions for exclusive contributors.

Most important benefits for exclusive authors

  • Higher royalty;
  • Higher upload limits;
  • Shorter review times;
  • Higher ranking in search engines;
  • 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.

Consider the downsides

Higher selling prices of your images, so 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 price is so important…;

You cannot sell it anywhere else (and 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. And again, when you are top producer, probably you will not have many rejections;

You cannot offer your files for free – many stock contributors offer their images for free to attract more customers to their portfolio and increase its exposure. Those who avail of this option cannot do it anymore once they become exclusives. They have to rely purely on promotional activities taken by their stock photo agency. For more information on offering free images read Free Stock Photos article.

So, exclusive or non-exclusive?

As you see from the above, there are pros and cons for exclusive and non-exclusive contributors. It is tough decision, we know. Once you have become an exclusive contributor, you will be bound by specific terms and conditions for a long time.

Check our Exclusivity Comparison to see what stock photography agencies offer to exclusive artists.

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