ViewBug branches out into image licensing

After a decade in business, most photo industry members are familiar with ViewBug, the online photo contest community. The Dead Pixels Society recently spoke with co-founder Ori Guttin about the recent expansion of its business model into image licensing. Up until recently, the site provided photo contests for members, along with white-label photo contest services for brands like Squarespace, Snapfish, Sony, Sandisk and more.

“As a free member, you can access about 20 percent of the contests,” says Guttin. Paid members, which make up the bulk of the revenue, get additional benefits like unlimited access to contests, access to educational material, a portfolio site with a unique domain name (with logo and watermarks for images). “We offer a full set of tools for portfolios, templates and so on, but not as extensive at Wix, Zenfolio or Squarespace. We don’t have their full set of features, but that’s on purpose.”

The remaining 20 percent of revenue is white-label contests, says Guttin. Printing services are not currently offered, but they are on the roadmap. (Portfolio users can add printing to sell their images, through a partnership with Bay Photo Lab.) “We like the idea of keeping it simple for our members, rather than adding a lot of stuff everywhere.” The company has also recently added mobile Android and iOS apps to provide the main features of the website.

Guttin says the ViewBug audience skews amateur and advanced amateur, but the service has added some pro-like features, like the portfolio sites, in response to user requests. “Our members are more of the enthusiast who is making the first steps into building a website.”

In the new ViewBug Marketplace, community members can sell their images and license them to worldwide agencies. The licensing program allows the user to license photos for commercial purposes while retaining copyright; the license, however, is royalty-free, which means the purchaser will be able to use the photo as much as they want. This is a curated service, where images will have to be submitted for review before being accepted for licensing.

The prospective licensor must agree to the Contributor Licensing Agreement before uploading photos for review. (If the photo is already on ViewBug, the user must enable a licensing option. Model and property releases are still the responsibility of the photographer.