I have been looking around DA regarding this question and quit frankly, I don't seem to be getting a straight answer from anyone and it is mostly from people who always say "credit the person that has taken the stock photo". And yes. I have also posted it in the forums but it seems that I am not getting the answer that I am looking for.
The question does seem simple but it is not and let me explain some key points to my question and hopefully you or a professional in the photomanipulation field can help me out.
I have recently been getting a lot of positive feedbacks about my work. In addition, I have also received private notes about doing commission work on a photomanip project. I am interested in that but my biggest fear is not on how I price my work (that will be on a different journal entry) but how should a stock photo can be used.
You all know that photo-manipulation is an art on its own category. Where you take a bunch of stock photos to compile into a totally different image and it has all your handy work in it. You also know that it is rare to re-use that same stock photo or photos that you have used in your previous projects in a current or future projects that you're going to work on. And lets say that if you do use them, it would probably be a simple element in your composition like a clock, cloud or a lamp. Bottom line, it is rare to re-use them again.
In addition, you all know that for any photo-manipulator artist, it is really difficult to get the right photos from the internet because of various variables you get to encounter from not getting the right resolution, angle, pose etc. And you finally, you bust open up Google and rely on grabbing your stock photos from either royalty free sites or Creative Common (CC) stocks that are suitable fitting for your project. Not to mention that even if you wanted to go out on your own to get that specific SHOT own your own, sometimes the place that you live in does not have the right object or element that you wanted for your composition. Which again makes you go and grab that royalty free or CC stock photos from the internet.
Now as I have mentioned, that whenever I create my own photo-manipulation work, I always and I can't stress this enough, I ALWAYS provide and credit my sources in the description box and I have made that as a habit unless the photos that I am using are my own. However, recently I have been getting notes for photo-manipulation commission inquires and I would really like to take that chance as it would help me in expanding myself and my portfolio further but on the condition that I do not want to face the following risks.
If I was to use a royalty free or CC stock photo and provide credits to the stock owner, the last thing on my mind is having to share or even worse lose all my hard earned art piece money with a stock photo owner because he/she found out that I created an art composition that's really and I am making money off his stock image and wants a piece of the bread. If not, all of it. Hell he/she would probably charge me much higher, leaving me with little for myself. This right here is my biggest issue that I have with photo-manipulation. I am really curious as to how professionals that do this for a living are able to sell their work online without having to face legal issues of any kind. Not to mention I have seen some photo-manipulation art being sold here and on other social sites simply by crediting the original stock holder without getting his consent or worse not giving credits at all to the original stock holder.
Please do not tell me that I would have to go out and shoot that stock photo myself. Believe me I would do that depending on my composition that I want to execute. But realistically, that is tough especially from where I am, in Kuwait. It is tough to get photos that I want for a specific composition that I have in mind. I am also aware that payed sites are available such as Shutter Stock, but to be really honest I don't like their pricing planes. Not to mentioned based on my years of experience in searching for a proper photo from their site for a photo-manip project, most of the times, and I do mean (80% of the time) they do not have what I am looking for. Plus, even if they do, they provide me limited licence usage on their photos which is weird given that I have paid money for it to using their service and I want to use their stock photo to create a work of art. So do they mean that I cannot sell them because of that?!!
So instead, regular users especially the CC people here on DA and on SXc.hu have probably the best photos for me to use because their photos are raw un-edited and it does not feel very commercial like they way they are shot/taken and feel natural. Lastly, I am aware that I always have the option in getting in touch with the original stock holder her/himself and discussing about using his photos in a real project for a client but from my personal experience here in DA and on SXC.hu, they really take a long time to respond and having to wait for a reply really puts my client on hold for a long time and it is not a good idea because it will set a bad image for myself. I mean, imagine if I was dealing with a client, he wants to commission me for a photo-manipulation and I am up for it and then I tell the client that he needs to pay me up-front in full payment. Client pays and then I would start working on the project. Sending notes left and right and only 2 out of the 6 photos that I plan on using in my composition, I never get a response from them and I end up wasting the clients time.
Worst part is, after you have completed your project you only then realize that you have only used 4 out of 10 stock photos which you thought you could use them in your project but didn't because they don't fit your idea that you wanted to execute. And all that hard effort in getting in contact with a client goes to waste. That would just suck so bad :/
I know I have said a lot but honestly, I want to hear from the pros that have been doing photo-manipulation for clients and how they are able to sell their work without facing nuisance of legality issues. Thank you all for your time.