123RF Review

While not having the same clout as the more established players, 123RF has done an excellent job of rising through the microstock ranks to currently be in the top 5 agencies for most contributors. Personally, they generally rank around my 5th highest earner each month, although growth seems to have plateaued a little. They seem to do particularly well for vector artists, so if you can produce great illustrations then make sure you check them out. 123RF’s upload process is one of the easiest in the business, with no annoying categories or other things to worry about.

They did however introduce a ‘GeoRank’ feature, but at least this is optional when you upload. It is meant to make images for specific locations more relevant for buyers from those regions.

Sadly, as of January 1st 2013 123RF introduced a new royalty system for contributors which echoes the woeful system in place at iStock (although not quite as bad). Instead of a flat 50% commission that they used to pay, it now is based on how many sales you have had over the last 12 months. Initially this meant a pay cut for most contributors. However since then sales seem to have increased, and as such many have returned to similar commission levels as before the new system.

123RF Review – Why Sign Up?

  • Quick and easy upload system with no categories to fill out
  • Good client base with growing sales each month
  • Fast, modern website with all the tools buyers want and need
  • Reviews are usually quick and reasonable
  • Photos, vectors, footage, editorial and even audio accepted

123RF Review – Downsides?

  • Royalty system has moved them away from being a ‘fair trade’ style site
  • New contributors especially will see low royalties to begin with, until they can climb the scale
  • People see mixed results with sales

123RF Review Fast Facts

Media Types

123RF sells the following media:

Stock photos
Vector illustrations
Footage (including 4k)
Audio & Sound Effects

Sale Types

123RF sells using the following methods:

Credit packs
High-volume corporate rates

123RF Review – Conclusion

As part of our old 123RF review, we used to remind people to ‘fave’ 5% of their portfolio, a feature that 123RF has since removed without any warning or notice to contributors. This seems to be their style a little – a few times now they have started a new contributor newsletter, only to stop it after 1 or 2 months. It’s a shame that they don’t consistently communicate with their contributors better. Even stranger is that whenever I have had to contact support, I have always found them very quick and efficient. Why that doesn’t translate into other areas is a mystery.

The royalty system introduced in the last couple of years has put people off 123RF, as many contributors are tired of getting pay cuts. In the end it’s up to each individual as to which agency they will continue supporting. Don’t forget, 123RF still pay a minimum of 30%, which is still higher than the minimum offered by many other big players (iStock) and they do make sales. The different tiers of royalty payments aren’t overly unrealistic (except for the highest few), so you shouldn’t spend too long on 30% if you have a portfolio of a reasonable size. The 40-50% region is very reachable, but the only catch is it is based on the last 12 months. So if you stop uploading, you may drop down a tier.

For me, 123RF is still a great agency that is seeing consistent sales and as such I would recommend them. Video footage sales certainly are slow, but for normal photos and vectors (in particular vectors) you should see a steady stream of sales.

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