Part 1: iStock Contributor Royalties
iStock has the lowest contributor royalties in the industry.
For some, that is reason enough to stop reading right now and move on to another agency, which is totally understandable.
If you're still reading, let me explain.
Back in their golden days, contributors were getting fair royalty rates, and had tiers to reach to increase them even higher. Many went exclusive and got even higher rates again. But now the story for independent contributors is a sad one – 15% royalty for photos, 20% for vectors and video. That is excruciatingly low and iStock should rectify that immediately. But they won't.
After being bought out by Getty Images, royalties have continued to slide. In fact, for 2022, those poor few who are still exclusive at iStock now have even higher download counts to reach to maintain or improve their royalties. Most of these numbers will be impossible, meaning in effect, another rate cut for exclusives.
* More for exclusive
Footage (including 4k)
Individual Sales (Market)
Part 2: iStock Contributor Website & Apps
This is actually a bit of a strange one, as iStock doesn't have a contributor part of the website anymore. All contributor related actions are done through the same portal used by Getty Images, which in my opinion is pretty horrible.
However, there are some software alternatives out there that most iStock contributors use instead. The most popular (and my choice) is Deepmeta, which is frequently maintained and improved. You can upload easily, check your batches status, receive your royalty statements each month and view fairly comprehensive statistics.
To me it's yet another sign that iStock don't really care about contributors, as the best way to upload and manage your content there isn't even made by the company, but rather by a third party.
Watch A Deepmeta Video
(This video is for Getty contributors, but the principles for using the software can be applied to iStock)
Part 3: iStock Contributor Earnings Experience
As you can imagine, with royalties being so low it takes a lot of sales to make some money at iStock.
Personally, I stick with them despite all their failings because they still do account for a decent chunk of my stock income each month. Sadly, this is not increasing though despite adding new content. So I can see a scenario in the not too distant future where remaining with them is no longer worth it financially. Or at least, not adding any new content.
I can't speak for exclusives, however I highly doubt it is any different for them.
Part 4: iStock Contributor Recommendations
It's not easy to summarise iStock for new contributors.
For some, they just want to earn whatever they can and so it makes sense to join an agency that actually sells – which iStock still does.
For others, the thought of supporting an agency with rock bottom royalties is sickening, and that can easily be understood as well.
It’s up to each and every photographer out there to decide which agency they will support. Some will make these decisions based purely on money alone. Others on moral inclinations. Still others on blind hope and optimism. Yes, I have a portfolio on iStock. Am I happy with the way they run their agency? Definitely not at the present. Do they still earn me an income? Definitely yes. In fact, their monthly earnings knocks many other libraries out of the water. Thus I can’t justify not being with them.
Will iStock ever return to the glory days? I highly doubt it. Since being eaten up by Getty Images it’s even harder to see that happening. But I really hope they can find a way to make amends with their contributor base, communicate better with them and return to some fair trade practices in the future.
Enter blind hope and optimism perhaps.
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