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Total Members Voted: 85

Author Topic: Open Source Platform For Selling Images: Authors and PHP Developers Wanted.  (Read 66497 times)

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Leo Blanchette

« on: January 26, 2013, 19:20 »
By request: I'll keep posting updates at the bottom of this opening post.

Lets talk open source, and unofficial. Lets talk about selling your own images for free.  I mean, a free means to sell your images. 100% commission.

I've been working on a WordPress theme which does this:

  • Receives uploads
  • Processes images (reading meta data)
  • Creates image page
  • Sells to customer
  • Gives download to customer

Automatically. Set it and forget it. Its very low maintenance.

Plus a lot of other neat things, including all the functionality inherent in WordPress. Its extendable and sky is the limit.

I've been running this on my own website for a very long time now. It makes lots of money. Its my little ace in the hole which keeps me from panicking every time something happens like... well... you know.

While I love love love this little theme I've created, it still needs to be professionalized a bit. Its hard to be a one-man-band.

What do I suggest?

This is literally an open source platform. I want help. I want to create a community. I'm also tired, so I can't do it all. Fact is, I can help on all core functions involving php and up. I just want a few helpers and maybe a community to start.

Goal: Create an open source sell-from-your-website platform which is completely your own stock photo content management system.
This is not speculative - I already have one. What we're doing is professionalizing, modularizing, and monetizing it for the community.

What do I get out of it? I have no idea. Thats why I haven't released it yet. Its an open source platform. So why don't you developers and contributors chime in and let me know how contributors AND developers alike can profit on this open-source theme for selling your own images. Zero investment. 100% profit on your images.

Check out my images on It gets great sales. I get 100%. I think I need to start sharing. You don't need huge agents and complicated legalities which end up know.

This thread is for two things:

Developers: contact me on Whether design or coding, let me know what you have to offer. Mention insights below.

Contributors: I want your ideas and feedback.

A community fueled project like this would hit the stars very quickly. Its the way it works.

The theme / core website is called SYMBIOSTOCK. Literally has to do with developers/contributors working in symbiosis to make a living as we always try to.

One of the core aspects of Symbiostock will be to easily create networks with your fellow contributors websites and share traffic, offering vast arrays of options while maintaining your own audience. Also, you can sell alternative files (psd, 3d types) through it as well. Most importantly the customer realizes that a human being produced their design solutions, and they deal directly with that human. Future work.

Enough from me - I claim no great business sense. But apparently open source can be made to work. But I am a contributor who's had to adapt and learned some tricks. Now I'd like to help everyone get there too.


Developers and designers: PHP, Javascript (jQuery), html, css, SEO insights. Knowledgable or willing to learn Wordpress CMS.

Well Developed UELA:
Which allows a significant amount of use. Or a modular one which can be constructed per image, per options on submit. Simple. Contributor/Customer readable.

Contributors: Who want to get involved, make wish lists, be guinea pigs, etc.

Our goal is to create a new and unique way to sell images and dignify your work.

See as a rough-well proven example.

Depending on response, I'll open up for continued development.




1. Bare-bones visual design complete. Its basic and non-distracting. Site-owner-ability to change branding / design will be available as purchasable plugin. Its been built around a responsive framework which is good for devices, is strongly SEO'd and most modern wordpress features.

2. The "IMAGE" custom post type is done, and can be edited as a typical wordpress post along with image pricing and other options.

3. The "Admin" area for managing networks, site default values for images/author info, etc, foundation laid. Works beautifully.

4. The image processing system, which user initiates after upload is finished. It creates previews, extracts/works with meta data, creates the initial "image post" along with valuable SEO considerations. This was the biggest and most important part of project, and is finished and working.

5. Image uploader finished. Works great, live progress report. Based off of plupload open source script:


I would like to keep the "initial" release simple, so we can clean it up and make it easy for a group of coders to work together. Here are the major things yet for me to do:

1. Working on Product (image) page at this time.

2. Cart/paypal system. The initial package will only be compatible with paypal.

3. The network "engine" for integrating with other sites. This need only be copied from my existing site.

4. A "Licensing Options" system for constructing license defaults for entire site, which can be changed per image if desired, to be consistent with various licensing models / prices.

5. The cart/customer system. I may decide to use an existing cart system to maximize features, or I may make a custom symbiostock cart with all of our unique needs. I intend to keep it very simple and straightforward.


Many thanks to Maurizio of, for coming up with this beautiful logo. I love it. The interwoven "S" icon depicts symbiosis very well. Awesome awesome awesome.

Main product page is almost done, and the cart itself is well along.


Marveling at how fast time passes... The figures and faces I've drawn in my cave seem to be talking to me now...

Oh wait... a progress update.

Same as last - Main product page is almost done, and the cart itself is well along, and moving on to paypal IPN.

Here are some videos on general workflow, still being polished up a bit. Pay no attention to front-end. Still has work to be done:


Some other general features :


Took a small detour to make sure image deletion works properly and without leaving a mess. :D. When you delete an image product, it cleans up files/data related to it. Good housekeeping!

Cleaned up a few more "gotchas" in image upload for unexpected scenarios.


A small update:

The cart is done! Its very simple, only uses paypal. As mentioned in opening comments, you can apply a unique price to each image at any time, as well as discounts. The cart takes all of this into consideration. It works smoothly without page refreshes. Without a doubt it needs to be improved slightly in bugs and other features. But right now it can "Sell stuff" which is what we want to start with.

Next I will be working on search results and the "symbiostock network" feature.


The search results engine is well along. It fuels both the "network" aspect of symbiostock and local search results. Once this is done its just a few details left and some minor refinements.


For the last few days I've been solving some pretty deep puzzles in getting the communicator to work properly. In essence it has to switch between xml and human viewable results depending on if the requester is a network machine or person! And all if this while playing nicely with wordpress. Happily, I got the remaining issues solved yesterday :D. Now I'm getting into the "just details" phase where I can start wrapping thigs up.


Almost done search results. They are quite interactive with lots of bling and hover stuff going on, custom controls for admins and customers...modal windows. Looks nice too. - note this is only a rough example without a lot of styling.

Pretty soon I'll post web hosting packages you could use based on people's suggestions here.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2013, 00:05 by KonaHawaii »

« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2013, 19:26 »
That sounds really great and something the community could really flourish with.

I'm more than happy to help out and be a part of this in whatever way I can help best.

Leo Blanchette

« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2013, 19:27 »
Thanks leaf! The "Clean" version is 25% done. You want to help? In any case, thanks for the positive response!

« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2013, 20:27 »
Hi Leo, this sounds interesting and we'd like to get involved. We've set up quite a few customised WordPress blogs, but serious back-end hacking is probably a bit beyond me these days. Happy to do beta testing and the like, and we've got some spare hosting capacity based in Australia.

We're currently exploring all avenues to make a bit of cash without Big G, so put us down as highly interested.

« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2013, 20:41 »
Cool Idea.

Question....  Why wordpress?  there are some open source galleries ( Gallery 3) that would just need a decent payment moduale?

Leo Blanchette

« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2013, 20:43 »
grsphoto -

Sure. Get in contact with me. I'll be opening up a developer area on Back-ending on wordpress is fairly easy if you know php. So many tedious tasks are already handled by its own built in functions. Almost anything you can think of.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2013, 20:50 by KonaHawaii »

Leo Blanchette

« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2013, 20:48 »
Cool Idea.

Question....  Why wordpress?  there are some open source galleries ( Gallery 3) that would just need a decent payment moduale?

At first glance WordPress seems like a goofy choice. But its actually the best one. In the end I settled on it for these reasons:

1. Its a powerful CMS.
2. Plugins / extendability.
3. Most used CMS on the web / hugely supported.
4. SEO benefits too many to mention.
5. Its a breeze to code on top of.

So we are simply creating a theme which is in actuality your own stock photo engine. But all the benefits of WordPress are added with that. That means your not limited to the purpose of selling images. It stopped being a cute blogging platform years ago - it handles everything, with the added perk of blogging.

Its also worth mentioning it doesn't have to look wordpressy, if thats a concern.

« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2013, 20:50 »
Cool Idea.

Question....  Why wordpress?  there are some open source galleries ( Gallery 3) that would just need a decent payment moduale?

Because with all these gallery apps (Gallery, Coppermine, Zenphoto...) you have to throw away the display side and build your own from scratch to get anything remotely presentable. WordPress is far easier to customize on the standard setup. Try duplicating Leo's site with Gallery.

« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2013, 21:34 »
Sounds interesting. I'm always interested in taking a look at new things. I definitely would love to see a community of individual artist sites or a collaboration of several of them develop. Some of that got started with KTools (which I think is positive), but I wouldn't say it is flourishing. I guess there are still a lot of barriers to running your own site. I'm not sure how to make it easier though.

Leo Blanchette

« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2013, 21:36 »
Please let me know the barriers that have been found by similar things. Nows a good time to anticipate them.


« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2013, 22:03 »
If you're selling simply royalty free, then Zenfolio allows you to do that - it's part of the standard functionality.  All you have to do is set the price.  Albeit it isn't free, but I've dealt with Wordpress before and I'd rather be out shooting pictures than applying updates and then having trouble with added extensions to the template.  You also integrate with various printers worldwide if you want to sell prints as well, or instead.

Leo Blanchette

« Reply #11 on: January 26, 2013, 22:25 »
I looked at it and its pricing. Not bad :D.

This idea is really open source, which means free. Also the updates issue isn't that big. Wordpress updates, you push update button. Even then you can neglect it for 5 months and  no biggie.

The Zen one your speaking of is nice but a little outdated in design too.

Honestly wordpress set-up / theme set-up is the rather hard part. But you only do it once. Alternative to paying a high price anyway.

« Reply #12 on: January 27, 2013, 00:41 »
I think this is an amazing initiative and if it is successful, it will probably help form the careers of many contributors in the years to come. :) I'm not a developer so the best I can do is to give suggestions -- which I will the moment I can think of any!

But anyways, thanks for doing this. Truly looking forward to see how this turns out!

« Reply #13 on: January 27, 2013, 02:02 »
Great initiative Leo!

I'd like to contribute to and be part of this project.

I've just started funneling some spare time into tweaking CMSaccount Photo Video Selling Script ( to become my own stock photo site eventually. What's suggested here sounds being a lot more fun and might lead to much better results because of its community/networking aspects.

I got some programming (python) background, but php is still new to me. Don't know how much help I could provide at this end. However, I make a living performing technical translations from English to German, so localizing this theme into German is definitely something I can contribute, apart from testing, discussing ideas and so on.

I hope we get this rolling BIG
« Last Edit: January 27, 2013, 02:07 by Pilens »

« Reply #14 on: January 27, 2013, 03:42 »
I can't help on the technical side but I'd love to try it out and give you feedback.  I haven't bothered with my own site because I think we need a universal search, lightbox and payment system.  So buyers can get what they want from several contributors portfolios, just like they do with the microstock sites.  If that can be done, I think the sites will suddenly take us much more seriously. 

I'd also like to be able to sell RM.  I know the two communities don't get on very well but at some point everything needs to merge.

Another thought, what happens when Getty buy wordpress :)

« Reply #15 on: January 27, 2013, 07:51 »
Would you be offering any video support with this script?

« Reply #16 on: January 27, 2013, 08:09 »
I'm interested. Kona, shoot me an email or PM anytime you want to talk. Warmpicture is now nearly 2 years old, and there are a lot of roadblocks we have encountered. I'd be happy to share the experiences we have had with everything from KTools to SEO to Advertising...

I'm happy I did it, and I'm still committed to getting our contributors the sales they deserve. But it hasn't been without much frustration.

« Reply #17 on: January 27, 2013, 08:56 »
It is quite wonderful to see this initiative, so in general terms, thank you and best of luck.

However, I must say this. Forget Wordpress, for a number of good reasons. If you're serious, you will develop a solution with your own code. I'm not going to go into sensitive detail, but I fear if you don't heed this advice, a day will come when you will recognise your mistake and a lot of effort will have been wasted.

Take what you have learnt so far with Wordpress and start with a clean slate. You've done a good thing, announced an open source codebase for independent stock sellers. The Force is with you, in a manner of speaking. It's just the tools you're using are wrong for the purpose.

Regarding cost. Criminal entitites are taking advantage of online outsourcing platforms to scrape entire websites for $30 paid to a third world programmer. If our enemies can work this cheaply ... you get my point.

« Reply #18 on: January 27, 2013, 08:58 »
I am interested in joining your project leo. I sent you a message through your site. I have a site now that is built in cold fusion and links to my illustrations on the various microstock sites, I would love to convert it to a site that sells the images directly. I tried ktools and could not get it working and I could not get support response from the developers. I like the idea of a word press solution. I also like your idea of a network. When the web first began people would form web rings where they would link sites of common interest.

« Reply #19 on: January 27, 2013, 13:55 »
Hi Kona,

 I think building this is super cool and part of what I hope the future holds for each of us. One question, how do you get the buyer to know you and follow you? I have had a terrible time trying to make this happen for my own agency and others as well. I would love to know this part of the puzzle. Great efforts and please keep up the work. I am no tech geek by any means if I can help in any other area of development like agency knowledge or anything of the sort you can count me in.


« Reply #20 on: January 27, 2013, 14:44 »
I'm not sure what specific help I can offer, but I think that having a platform for selling direct would be a great thing for contributors to have access to. Dan noted that ktools leaves a lot to be desired - as did Sean Locke who used that to build AccordStock, his portfolio site.

I don't have the expertise to know whether the warnings above about using WordPress as a base are important, but I can see the appeal of a platform that has an active developer community so that new plugins come along that can be added to a running site to improve it without having to do 100% of the coding yourself. I have to believe that there are ways to secure a WordPress site, and again, the fact that lots of people are using that platform makes it more likely that if there are security problems they will get fixed.


« Reply #21 on: January 27, 2013, 14:59 »
     Most  of  the  technical  stuff  would  be  over  my  head.  But  if  there's  anything  i  can  do  just  ask.


« Reply #22 on: January 27, 2013, 15:22 »
The only problem I have with Wordpress is the image manager is terrible. When you have thousands of files to deal with it would become impossible to manage.

« Reply #23 on: January 27, 2013, 15:56 »
Please let me know the barriers that have been found by similar things. Nows a good time to anticipate them.

I'd say most of the barriers are the obvious ones. People want something that is easy and running your own site requires time, energy, knowledge, skill, effort, money, etc. All those things can get complicated or expensive really quickly depending on how far down the rabbit hole you want to go. So, I'm not sure the demand will ever be huge because there is always going to be enough work involved that will scare some contributors off. That said, the ones that do want to manage all that could be a very knowledgeable and dedicated community.

Leo Blanchette

« Reply #24 on: January 27, 2013, 16:22 »
Please let me know the barriers that have been found by similar things. Nows a good time to anticipate them.

I'd say most of the barriers are the obvious ones. People want something that is easy and running your own site requires time, energy, knowledge, skill, effort, money, etc. All those things can get complicated or expensive really quickly depending on how far down the rabbit hole you want to go. So, I'm not sure the demand will ever be huge because there is always going to be enough work involved that will scare some contributors off. That said, the ones that do want to manage all that could be a very knowledgeable and dedicated community.

Just returning to the topic, a quick response:

Yes, the response on this thing (3rd time my voicing it) is always week. The small number of people that respond to it are usually positive though. It strikes me as so very odd, how small the response is to:

 - 100% commission.
 - Total control.
 - Complete contact with customers.
 - No funny business/false sense of security with convoluted contracts which simultaneously "protect" and exploit you.
 - Independence and dignified work.

But if I start a thread on some complaint or a social interest in the stock photo world, it will go viral.

Although the response is positive, its still very small, and I suspect the "istock addiction" and resulting contributor / agent dependence is simply a part of learned behavior is modern society. So regarding my own time, it might just be better spent making 3d robots and such.

Let me respond to the others -


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