- Founded in 2000 by Bruce Livingstone , a Canadian entrepreneur, as iStockPhoto.
- Headquartered in Calgary, Alberta.
- Purchased by the world’s largest stock photography agency, Getty Images, in 2006 for $50 million.
- iStockPro, a more expensive version of iStock, closed in 2007.
- Is one of the world’s top stock photo agencies.
- Is known for their wide and thorough catalog that includes millions of exclusive images.
- Provides quality imagery that is both current and trendy.
- Offers stock photos, illustrations, vectors, video, and audio files.
- Holds a strong global presence and photographers from around the world.
- Offers customers single image purchases, credit packs, and subscription plans with rollover on unused images.
- The Essential collection is the lower-priced option and consists of quality images for average design needs. These cost one credit each.
- The Signature collection includes photos that are exclusive to iStock, and according to iStock, have a “higher production value and artistic worth.” These are more expensive for customers – costing three credits each – and as such, photographers get paid more per photo for these images.
- Your images will sell for a higher rate.
- Your photos could be added to an iStock special collection.
- Your images may be selected to sell on Getty Images – where photos sell for more.
- Your photos will receive higher search priority.
- Your photos will receive greater protection if they are used illegally.
- You can join the “iStock Exclusive Contributor Group” on Facebook and network with photographers from around the globe.
- You can participate with other iStock exclusive contributors in iStock events around the globe, such as iStockalypse and Minilypses
Founded back in 2000, iStock is a pioneer in the microstock photography industry, offering royalty-free photos online at low rates. Their model has since been copied by several other agencies, but iStock has managed to set itself apart through its distinguished image brokering.
Early on, iStock was a favorite among stock photographers, offering high percentage royalties and decent commission. But after Getty Images purchased iStock in 2006, its reputation – and commission – went down, at least with photographers. That’s not to say it’s not worth sending your photos to iStock if you do it correctly, but there are some important things to watch out for.
iStock by Getty Images Snapshot
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iStock by Getty Images: How Much do They Pay Photographers?
iStock offers its customers two different options: buying individual credits or purchasing a monthly subscription.
Specific images cost a certain number of “credits” – the lowest being around $12 – depending on the photos collection they are featured in. iStock offers two photo collections:
iStock also offers customers subscription plans, allowing for a certain amount of product downloads each month. Again, there are two options: the Essential collection only, or a more expensive option that includes both the Essential and the Signature collections.
All of this is important because it affects how much you get paid.
If your photos are in the Essential collection, your royalties are 15%. If your photos are in the Signature collection, your royalties are anywhere from 25 to 45%. And, keep in mind that Signature collection photos sell for more, so your royalties are going to be higher per item. Sounds good right?
But hang on. There’s more.
To have your photos placed in iStock’s Signature Collection, you have to become iStock exclusive. Being iStock exclusive has its pros and cons:
This is a big one. iStock exclusivity requires a Contributor Exclusivity Agreement, which means you agree you to only submit your photos to iStock. This does not just mean you can’t resubmit photos accepted by iStock to other microstock sites. It means you can only submit photos – whether accepted or not – to iStock. It prevents you from having full control over all of your photos.
As the iStock website itself explains, “Being Exclusive means that, for the file type(s) that you are Exclusive for, you agree that you cannot license any of that type of content in a royalty-free model elsewhere. So, for example, if you are Exclusive for Photos, you can’t license any Photos with a competitor under the royalty free model, even images that you’ve never submitted to iStock.”
As a quick sidenote, iStock’s more exclusive partner site, Getty Images, requires a File Exclusive contract, which means any photos you submit must be exclusive to Getty Images. Unlike iStock, you can submit photos to other stock photography sites, just not the ones (or similars) that have been accepted by Getty Images.
iStock: How Can I Become a Contributor?
When you apply for iStock, you’re actually also applying for Getty Images. You can apply through either site – iStock.com or GettyImages.com – and their editors will review your work to decide where you would likely sell more photos. Once that decision is made, you will be asked to sign the corresponding license agreement. If you are selected for iStock and your images are among the best of the Signature Collection, they may be added to the Getty Images website as well.
Again, iStock has two license options. The first is for the Essentials collection and allows you to sell the same images to other stock photography sites. The other is for the Signature Collection and does not allow you to sell any photos to any other stock photography sites.
When applying, you can upload as many as 15 photos, 3 videos, or 15 illustrations. Photos should be jpg format (videos need to be .MOV files) and should not exceed 3GB. Once you complete your application, there’s no going back to add more images. Expect to hear back from iStock in 30 days or less. Keep an eye on your junk email folder in case the response lands there. If you do not reply within 60 days of the offer, the offer is void and you have to start over again.
Also, to apply, you must be over 18 years old, and provide your tax and payment information. iStock pays through Paypal or Payoneer.
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Tips for Getting Photos Approved on Getty Images
iStock is a microstock site, and like other microstock sites, they are looking for commercially appealing images. However, they are also looking a little more at what’s trendy than some other microstock sites. You can visit the Getty Images stories’ page to get a better feel of what’s new and selling on that site.
You should also look for images already on iStock to find those that are similar to what you are submitting, then make sure yours are at least as good – if not better – than what’s already on the site.
iStock’s reviewers are sticklers for finding unwanted noise and other distractions in photos. Before submitting any photo, look at it carefully at 100% to make sure it’s clean, or see if you can clean it up.
As with any microstock site, you must complete model and property releases with any images you submit.
Tips for Selling Your Images
As with other microstock sites, quantity is the name of the game when it comes to iStock. However, you need to make sure to submit your best quality images when you first apply. Then you can focus on quantity once you are an approved contributor.
Like with other sites, choosing smart titles and up to 50 appropriate keywords is going to help users find your work. You might also try to find a niche area that’s not already saturated and take some photos to fill that void. Look at what is currently on iStock and try to make your photos even better.
The Bottom Line
On the one hand, iStock is one of the largest, most popular, and most reputable stock photography sites in the world. Getting your photos on their site will put your images in front of millions of potential buyers from around the globe.
On the other hand, at just 15%, their commissions for non-exclusive images are lower than some other microsites. If you already have an image approved on another site that allows for non-exclusivity, it’s not going to hurt to upload it to iStock as well.
On the other hand, there are ways to make better commissions, but it requires signing away your rights to work with other stock photography sites. It’s up to you to decide whether that’s really worth it or not.