NFT vs Stock Sites

NFTs vs Stock Photography


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Ever since Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) hit the mainstream a few years ago, there’s been an ongoing debate on whether they’ll ever replace stock photography. In this article, we will take a deep dive into the topic of NFTs vs stock photography.

For many years, photographers have been upset with the dwindling funds available for stock photography. While it is true that photography sites such as Unsplash and iStock have seen a dramatic downward trend in revenues over the past few years, are NFTs to blame?  

The big question remains – are NFTs going to have a positive or detrimental effect over the long-lasting future of photography? Even though both appear to go hand-in-hand, as we have already written about in a previous article, How NFTs will change the world, NFTs will soon take a different form and digital artwork will be just one string in their vast bow. 

Digital Artwork and Photography

Without going into the complex detail of how NFTs work on the Blockchain, the primary attribute is their ability to independently verify ownership and create uniqueness. It is these very components that are extremely critical to any photographer.  

Once an artist can protect their copyright – without the need of a third-party interaction, it can and will change the face of stock photography forever. Unless stock photography websites such as Shutterstock adapt to the NFT capabilities, they’ll simply become obsolete entities.  

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Copyright infringement is the number one concern for all artists on the planet. The main reason for this is that when their work is distributed without consent, it waters down the true value, hence giving the creator less profits. NFTs will give the copyright back to the artist, which in turn will return them a higher yield for their work. Let’s take a look at a high profile copyright lawsuit involving artwork and NFTs. 

NFTs and Stock Sites Copyright

Miramax vs Quentin Tarantino

Famed actor and director Quentin Tarantino was sued by production company Miramax earlier this year (2022) for selling an image as a NFT from the cult movie Pulp Fiction. 

Miramax filed the lawsuit after Tarantino sold the NFT for over one million dollars and Miramax claimed he did not own the rights to the image. However, Tarantino argued that because NFTs didn’t exist in the 90s when the image was created, then it was impossible for them to own the rights over that particular image.  

The lawsuit recently came to its conclusion with an out-of-court settlement. It is believed both parties agreed to a partial settlement. It was the first known example of Web2 copyright laws venturing into a Web3 environment.  

NFT Photography and the Marketplace

There is no hiding place, NFTs have already marked their territory in the world and as the Web3 integration takes its grip, NFTs are only going to become bigger, better and more widely-accepted. As an example, NFT photography reached The State Hermitage, one of the biggest museums in the world, in August 2021. The NFT collection had world famous painting in the form of NFTs on display, such as “The Lilac Bush” by Vicent Van Gogh, “Madonna Litta” by Leonardo Di Vinci, “Lilac Bush” by Vincent van Gogh and also featuring Claude Monet with his famous painting “Corner of the Garden at Montgeron”.

NFT Marketplace vs Stock Sites

Each famous painting had two NFTs minted. One for the buyer and the other for the museum’s collection. It was the very first NFT artwork auction based on real world art collections. The NFTs raised almost half a million dollars which went towards the renovations of the famous museum.  

As NFT marketplaces and auctions continue to flourish, in the not-too-distant-future, the NFT marketplaces will render all stock photography websites obsolete. Surely, for them to survive, they must implement NFTs in their framework in order to bring back their competitive edge.  

Let’s take a look at some mind-boggling facts when it comes to NFTs vs stock photography: 


✔️ The world’s most expensive photograph in history sold in Dec 2014 for $6.5 million. The black and white photo named ‘Phantom’ was taken in Arizona’s Antelope Canyon by Australian landscape photographer Peter Lik.  

✔️ The most ‘liked’ photograph on Instagram is a picture of an egg. Just a plain brown egg. To date, the image by Serghei Platanov has reached an incredible 55 million likes on the platform and continues to increase its popularity.  


✔️ The world’s most expensive NFT photo was sold in Nov 2021. Named ‘Twin flames’, it depicts twin sisters Alyson and Courtney Aliano taking a photo through a mirror. Sold for 871 ETH ($2.5 million), it is the 5th most expensive photo in history!  

✔️ One of the most expensive NFT collections was given away for free? Cyberpunk – often selling in their millions were advertised on a well-known social media platform as “anyone with an Ethereum-based wallet can have a Cyberpunk for free!”  

NFTs Merging with Photography

The integration with NFTs and photography is already on its way. The Associated Press have recently announced that they intend to bring an NFT marketplace for their photojournalists. Together with Xooa, they promise to bring award-winning photography in the form of NFTs.  

The media outlet goes on to announce the system will be built on the environmentally friendly Polygon Blockchain. Launching in January 2023, they promise each NFT will have a variety of data added, including how, where and when the photograph was taken.  

The NFT photography will have different price points, depending on rarity and can be bought with either a credit card or Ethereum and Metamask will be their first supported wallet, however, they plan to implement other wallets in the near future.   

The Pitfalls of Using NFTs for Photography

The costs for photography creation either includes a camera or a paintbrush. When they come in the form of a NFT, the image needs to be processed on the Blockchain. The verification is confirmed once all devices in the network have validated the transaction. The amount of electricity consumed to complete the process is quite high. Not something recommended in today’s energy efficient world. Hence, the cost of creating NFTs vs Stock photography images is a lot higher.  

As it is a hot topic, discussions are taking place on how to reduce the emissions caused by the verification process on the Blockchain, however, as things stand at the moment, it is safe to say, many artists will be wary of their carbon footprint and will be tentative to make the transition over to NFTs until there’s a better solution.  

Our Verdict

Our conclusion is that NFTs will be very beneficial to the photography sector and they should be looked at hand-in-hand to one another. In the Web3 environment, the premise is that third party ownership becomes almost non-existent. That can only be a good thing for photographers and artists alike. Taking away a middleman will ultimately increase asset value.  

Finally, the creator will be able to decide how their work is distributed. Highly sought after photography will generate further income from re-sales. While the energy consumption to verify transactions on the Blockchain is a slight concern, as technology advances, very much the same way certain Cryptocurrencies have become more energy-efficient, we’re sure a solution is just around the corner.  

What else we can say:

We have answered for you some of the most frequently asked questions based around the topic NFTs vs Stock photography that come to mind.