21 Oct 2008 Microstock in Hollywood

Last night I sat down to watch The Nanny Diaries featuring Scarlett Johansson and Laura Linney – as you do when it’s your wife’s turn to choose the movie. Guess what I saw in the opening scene?

Screenshot from the move 'The Nanny Diaries'

Movie Star Microstock PhotoYep, my humble microstock photo up there on the big screen! Well, we were watching it on DVD with a 13 inch MacBook, so it wasn’t big, but last year when the movie was in cinemas it would have been big.

We paused the DVD and verified the image by matching the numbers. Sure enough, our top selling microstock photo was a Hollywood star! (click the thumbnail on the right to see a larger version)

Additionally, the golf ball is a flipped version of this photo by super microstocker Andres Rodriguez.

There’s Two Ways to Go with This

I could, as many do, get upset about how a big budget Hollywood movies can afford to spend more than a few dollars buying photos in the microstock market. I could cite it as an example of how premium photo buyers are forcing traditional stock photographers out of the market by buying microstock photos. And I could try to figure out from which agency the producers purchased the photo and if they needed an Extended License for that usage and if so whether they purchased one or not.

Alternatively, I could dance around in excited little circles for a few minutes and then start telling all my friends that one of my photos was used in a Scarlett Johnasson movie.

Which way do you think I went?

  • Debbi_in_California
    Posted at 10:43h, 21 October Reply

    How do you get an image of the stock exchange board anyway? Is this Photoshopped or??

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 15:46h, 21 October Reply

      Hi Debbi, I just went to the stock exchange and shot it.


  • Antonio D'Albore
    Posted at 10:54h, 21 October Reply

    Personally, I would not waste my time checking what agency sold it or licensing stuff. Just enjoy the milestone and keep uploading good imagery.

    Antonio D’Albore

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 15:47h, 21 October Reply

      And that’s exactly what I did. 🙂


  • Jacque Vaughan
    Posted at 12:11h, 21 October Reply

    That’s less than Six Degrees of Separation from Scarlett J. I would just enjoy the moment!

  • pdtnc
    Posted at 12:35h, 21 October Reply

    Can we get to see you on Youtube Dancing then ?

    Nice one 🙂

  • Rasmus
    Posted at 13:12h, 21 October Reply

    My guess is you sued the crap out of the Hollywood studios, since this would almost certainly require an extended license. And you won a million dollar settlement. And now, there’s gonna be a huge party!

    Congrats on finding your image in a Scarlett Johansson movie. I hope it was better than her album of Tom Waits covers. 😉

  • gfaint
    Posted at 15:25h, 21 October Reply

    just goes to show how microstock photographers are allowing themselves to be cheated out of a proper fee for their work…. too excited about getting published to see how they are being taken advantage of..


    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 15:56h, 21 October Reply

      Hi Grant,

      I would agree that they had taken advantage *if* I wasn’t aware of the options. I know I can put my images into different markets where I would get what you’re describing as a “proper fee”, but even while fully aware of the alternatives I choose to put my images into the microstock market. I know it’s difficult for you to understand why someone would make such a choice, but I’ll explore the reasons in a future post.


  • James
    Posted at 12:33h, 22 October Reply

    Hahaha! Awesome! So – was the movie any good? 😉

  • John
    Posted at 13:25h, 22 October Reply

    Add this to your “cutsheet” folder.

  • Marco Venturini-Autieri
    Posted at 05:50h, 23 October Reply

    …I think you went the right way! 🙂


  • cudazi
    Posted at 10:39h, 23 October Reply

    What a great find!

  • Debbi_in_California
    Posted at 19:44h, 24 October Reply

    Thanks for answering my first question! You are lucky to live close enough to be able to drop in and photograph there. I have been pondering this, and feel they really did rip you off if they did not purchase an extended license. I’m new to this stock stuff, and it seems you should get a small cut of each copy of every DVD made at least.
    Anyway, it’s an awesome thing to see your own image in a movie or magazine!

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 13:48h, 28 October Reply

      Hey Debbi, this is a function of licensing. A movie cannot realistically keep track of every image they used and pay commissions on sales of the movie to all the license-holders indefinitely. That’s where the Royalty Free license comes in – it provides them the rights to use it in this context without paying a royalty each time it’s used, assuming they purchase a license version which gives them these rights (like an Extended License).


  • Rob Davies
    Posted at 20:49h, 26 October Reply

    Hey Lee, Big Gratz M8 🙂

    I’d defo be chasing up that extended license tho lol 🙂

  • Torben Birkmose
    Posted at 18:16h, 27 October Reply

    I sure enjoyed your article – that is fun! That sure is a milestone for a microstock photographer – featuring a hollywood movie. Now you’re going for the Oscars??

  • P. V.
    Posted at 18:54h, 28 October Reply

    Hey, congratulations!

    I just have similar sale of my illustration – coca cola used it on the bottles – here are some photos of it: http://petr.vaclavek.com/article/537/Reference-Kde-se-pouzily-moje-fotky-ilustrace (all in Czech, sorry)

    Maybe they use it only in Czech Republic…

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 21:01h, 28 October Reply

      Great find Petr! As products go, they don’t get any more high profile than Coke!


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