The LightRocket and Getty Partnership: What's it about and how does it work?

Yvan Cohen

Wed Apr 17 2024

The LightRocket and Getty Partnership: What's it about and how does it work?

The LightRocket and Getty partnership is something we get asked about often, so let's dive into it. We're proud of the fact that LightRocket has been partnered with industry giant Getty Images for about a decade. It's a partnership that reflects our deep editorial roots. Both founders, Peter Charlesworth and myself, come from the world of photojournalism. The ethics, the aesthetics and the workflows of editorial photography are what we know best.

Who is Getty?

Getty, or Getty Images, is considered one of the world's most powerful media licensing platforms. The company was originally founded in 1994 by Mark Getty, descendant of the prominent Getty oil dynasty. Mark Getty was quick to understand the power of the internet and the business opportunities it represented. He famously declared intellectual property to be 'the oil of the 21st century'.

By the early 2000s, Getty had already established itself as a leading online agency.

Getty's ability to acquire and absorb smaller traditional and often long-established agencies initially drew criticism from many within the industry. By the force of its technology and its financial prowess, Getty inevitably cast a long and transformative shadow over an industry struggling to adapt to the realities of a new digital age.

Since its beginnings in the 90s, Getty has successfully weathered changes within the industry and the uncertainties of new ownership. Today, it remains one of the world's most significant and respected photo agencies.

Silhouette of man holding a camera with a tripod Photo by Pixabay

The Getty and LightRocket partnership

The Getty-LightRocket partnership began in 2014, shortly after we transitioned from our role as a traditional photo agency to become a technology-focused service provider for photographers and picture libraries.

The foundations of our partnership with Getty are based on trust, professionalism, and a commitment to ethical and accurate photojournalism.

Today, LightRocket files content to the Getty platform on a daily basis. Every single image is reviewed, every single caption read and verified. Keywords are checked for relevance and accuracy. It is a painstaking task that requires experienced editors working 365 days a year.

A decade after our partnership began, we are proud to announce that the LightRocket collection on Getty has grown to over 1.4 million images.

Submitting to Getty via LightRocket

LightRocket members can apply to become Getty contributors within the framework of the LightRocket collection (if you're thinking of applying, please read our guidelines carefully).

In practice, this means that LightRocket Getty contributors must submit their work via the LightRocket platform. Our editors review and edit (which means some files are rejected) all content before it goes live on Getty.

Photographers accepted through the LightRocket program will sign a contributor agreement directly with Getty and are paid directly by Getty.

It's not a news service

Though we endeavour to prioritize files that have news value, we do not have the resources or the desire to compete with Getty's own excellent news service or the other global news players like AFP, Reuters, AP etc. If you're a news photographer looking for instant or extremely fast distribution of news coverage, the LightRocket Getty collection probably isn't for you.

Grey laptop on table next to camera Photo by Flo Dahm

Very few applicants are accepted by Getty

If applying to become a Getty contributor sounds like a great opportunity, it does have its limitations.

Getty already has a very talented and diverse global contributor base and thus they are extremely selective when it comes to accepting new contributors. Their objective is to complement and enhance their existing offering.

Aware of this reality, we try to manage the expectations and enthusiasm of prospective applicants.

Talent, experience, productivity, and a proven track record in the world of editorial photography, are pre-requisites, not a guarantee of success.

For photographers based in a location where Getty is already well served, or covering subject matter Getty may deem low-priority or for which they already have a reliable feed of imagery, the chances of being accepted are very small.

Is it worth it applying to Getty through LightRocket?

It would be great if there was a straightforward 'yes' answer to this question. The reality, however, is more complex.

The marketplace for editorial photography is extremely well (if not over) supplied and very competitive. This means that opportunities for sales are not always abundant and rates can seem disappointingly low.

This being said, Getty serves a vast market and its sales teams have delivered some very exciting licenses over the years. The bottom-line is that even if you are accepted as a Getty contributor you should probably view revenue from your Getty sales as supplemental, and not your principal source of income.

Revenue also depends on the quality of content you create and, perhaps more importantly, the type of subject matter you're covering and where you're based. Jostling with other photographers (some of whom will be agency staffers) at news events is unlikely to result in many sales - especially if you can't deliver unique or outstanding imagery.

Exclusive access to in-demand subjects like major sports events and celebrities, have proven to deliver relatively good returns. Economic related imagery, especially if you can link it to areas of topical interest can also deliver sales.

Get in touch with us

This matter has many layers and is complex. If you need some more clarity or if you have any further questions about applying to become a Getty photographer, feel free to contact us at We're always happy to chat with you.

Written by Yvan Cohen | Yvan has been a photojournalist for over 30 years. He’s a co-founder of LightRocket and continues to shoot photo and video projects around South East Asia.

To read more helpful articles on photography, check out our blog page.

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