COM0015, Blog 4: Out of the Box

From Social Media to Stock Image Storefront

I find it interesting that social media not only helps market products and services and even serve ads, but it can also be the storefront. For example, some photo-sharing social media sites, like ViewBug and 500px, allow photographers to charge royalty fees for their images through a stock-image system.

While Instagram and Flickr may be the best-known photo-sharing social media platforms, I love ViewBug. The community is much more active. Not only does ViewBug have 20 or so free contests going on at any one time (plus contests for premium and pro members), but anybody can set up a photo challenge, asking users to submit images on the most eclectic ideas imaginable. This really boosts creativity and inspiration.

I have Curator status, which means I’m one of the volunteers who greets new members and offers pointers to budding photographers. ViewbBug recently invited me to become a Collaborator, which means they would like my input on new contests and promotions. Because of my status and the 138 awards I’ve won so far, I’m confident that I should be able to sell a few of my images.


While I have to do more research before turning on any revenue-generating feature, 500px’s Marketplace seems to be the most complicated. Not only does it require model-release forms (which is common practice for taking, let alone selling, images of people), but it also requires property-release forms. As an architectural photographer, I need to see if I can legally sell any of my existing images. I also need to determine whether I need to ask property owners to sign a form for any photographers I want to take.

I have not been able to find a similar feature on Instagram. I’m not surprised by this as:

“Instagram is a fun and quirky way to share your life with friends through a series of pictures. Snap a photo with your mobile phone, then choose a filter to transform the image into a memory to keep around forever.”

Even if your mobile phone boasts 20 megapixels, in most (but not all) cases, the quality of those pixels and of the jpgs they create are not of high enough quality to allow for professional purposes and printing. Instagram does not allow people to upload photos directly from a desktop or laptop computer, so it becomes more difficult to post pictures taken from a DSLR (although Hootsuite sends push notifications to my cell phone to post images and captions I’ve uploaded from my computer).

I find it disappointing that Flickr does not offer a marketplace. My hopes were raised when I saw that it allows photographers to choose which licence they want for their images. These range from public domain or government work to all rights reserved, with variations of attribution in between. While public domain and government work are free for anybody to use, all rights reserved protects photographers’ copyrighted material from being reproduced without written permission, which is the licence professional photographers would choose.

Whether the social media account is for, my husband or me, we already have accounts set up on each of these sites, have joined conversations with groups and have gathered a following. For 2017, we will take our photography hobby to the next step toward a retirement business by starting to sell our images. Wish us luck!