FreeRangeStock is a photo-sharing site that I've been using for over a year. So this is a review recording my experience of the site during that time.
Two Main Features
The site has two main features of interest:
- Free photos for users - Anyone can sign up and download photos completely free for both private and commercial use under a royalty free licence.
- Earnings for photo contributors with Adsense accounts - For Google Adsense account holders, there's the ability to upload their own photos and earn revenue from adverts placed on the site. This is the only way to earn revenue from FreeRangeStock.
The conditions attached to all downloaded photos are that the copyright of the photo remains with the photographer. You can use downloaded photos as often as you like and publish them in websites, article sites like HubPages or other projects online or offline, and you don't even need to credit the photographer (although, it's appreciated if you do).
What you can't do is claim the photo as your own, and you can't make derivative products using the image either, such as putting it on a thousand T-shirts or posters for commercial distribution. It's exactly the same licence conditions that MicroStock Photography sites offer; the only difference being that there is no upfront fee. Full details of the licence conditions are published on the site.
For any photo that contains identifiable persons, the photographer must first obtain a model release signed by the persons appearing in the photos before submitting them. For children, a model release signed by a parent or legal guardian is a requirement. This is standard industry practice among all stock libraries. FreeRangeStock doesn't require photographers to upload the model release form along with the photos, but they must confirm that they have it, and be able to supply it should the need arise. Similarly, photos can't contain protected company logos, brands or prominently featured, design protected buildings or structures unless they have a signed property release.
As a longtime contributor to Microstock photo libraries, which charge customers and pay a percentage of the fee for usage of photos, I can see the differences between those libraries and FreeRangeStock. The majority of people who actually pay for photos require very high quality. Those who want free photos don't require the same high quality. They don't want poor quality photos either, of course, so there are quality acceptance standards applied by FreeRangeStock reviewers.
Photos must be in JPG file format with a minimum pixel size of 2400 x 1800. However, they don't want files in excess of 2 MB which means you may need to reduce the quality in order to reduce the file size. On Photoshop, I mostly save the photos at 2400 x 1800 and with a quality setting of 8.
The Advantage for Contributors
The obvious advantage is that you can earn even if the ads are viewed but not clicked. That's because Adsense have two main advert types; Those that earn you money when viewers click on them (CPC ads) and those that earn you money just by being viewed on your photo pages (CPM ads). Both types are served by Adsense on the site.
While reviewing the site, I came across a question in a legal issues forum. The questioner asked if there are any legal dangers associated with downloading free images from the likes of FreeRangeStock. The answer, from several lawyers, was basically that the danger for the user is that they may be downloading a photo that has been uploaded illegally by someone falsely claiming it as their own. This is possible but unlikely as most contributors have Google Adsense accounts and risk losing their account if they're caught. Adsense accounts aren't easy to get, and once lost, are usually lost for ever.
For the contributor, the concern is that while every photo is downloaded anonymously with legal conditions attached, there's no guarantee that the user will abide by them. As everyone who has ever uploaded photos anywhere online is well aware, stealing photos from any website is like stealing candy from a baby. However, as you're already inviting anyone to use your photos, the only danger is that they'll use them in a way that violates the licence, such as producing and selling merchandise bearing your photo. That's the risk you take whenever, and wherever, you upload photos online.
About the Site
FreeRangeStock has a partnership (of sorts) with Shutterstock, one of the most successful microstock libraries. Shutterstock supplies the search feature and the first few results to appear are paid photos that link to Shutterstock. Ignore those and scroll down to those supplied free by FreeRangeStock.
While I'm pleased to have found FreeRangeStock and to be earning Adsense revenue from it, there are improvements that I feel would make for a better user experience. These include the following:
There's not a lot of interaction on the site, so I don't even know how long it's been going. Their Facebook page isn't very active, either, but goes back to 2008, so the site has been active for at least that long. I would like to see more communication from whoever runs the show.
As a contributor, you have a portfolio section of all your approved photos, but there's no way to access it directly from your accounts page. The only way to get to it is to search for one of your photos in the search engine using a suitable keyword. When it appears, you can click on it. That takes you to a page containing an enlarged version and also a link to your portfolio.
When a photo you've uploaded is rejected, there's no reason given. Worse, there's not even any indication that it actually was rejected. You can only assume a photo was rejected when you find no trace of it.
There should be better policing of keyword abuse. People uploading their photos often include a long list of irrelevant keywords so that their photos will show up in more searches. This makes for a bad user experience as users looking for a particular type of shot will often have to wade through lots of photos unrelated to their search.
My experience so far
My interest lies in making money, so I've signed up as a contributor. I initially uploaded a dozen or so photos, most of which were accepted, and within a couple of days the first few pennies arrived in my Adsense account. So, seeing that it works, I've been uploading sizeable quantities, and seeing the revenue rise accordingly. Google Adsense terms and conditions don't allow specific information to be given out regarding payments, but I can say that with increased uploads, the revenue is rising - slowly but surely. The site has a stats page for contributors, but there seems to be little relation between the stats and those shown by Google Adsense stats. As it's Google who pay according to their stats, those are the only meaningful ones as far as I can see.
Anyway, whether you want a source of free photos or an Adsense earnings opportunity from sharing your own photos, FreeRangeStock will provide both. Check it out:
© 2015 chasmac
chasmac (author) from UK on May 06, 2017:
Thanks, and I wish you success with it.
Power Ball Pythons from Mobile, AL on May 05, 2017:
Very useful article. I'm going to check this website out. I take a lot of photos, especially of animals. It'll be good to put them to use.
chasmac (author) from UK on July 17, 2016:
Forgive me if I don't reveal specific earnings from the few hundred photos I've submitted, What I can say, though, is that "soaring profits" isn't a phrase I'd use. It's been a slow but steady increase, and it's now my best performing Adsense site (But not as good as HupPages Ad Program). One downside I've noticed is that if you stop submitting new photos the daily views and earnings soon start to decrease meaning that it's newly uploaded photos that get the most interest from viewers as they appear on the homepage for a while.
Felix J Hernandez from All over the USA on July 16, 2016:
Hello, thanks for the info. I read somewhere someone uploaded 500 photos and their profits soared. Can you give insight as to how many pics and what you make weekly? I'd appreciate it. Thank you.
Mike Leal from London on March 20, 2016:
Thanks for the info in this Hub. I will keep in mind about FreeRangeStock as I am planning to get back into photography. Might as well make use of my photographs for extra income.
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on January 21, 2016:
Chasmac, this sounds like a good deal if you're a photographer and make some money from it. If I had a camera, I would invest into it. Otherwise, I'll be interested to check out those free photos for future hubs.