123RF Review

123RF Review - Microstock AgencyWhile 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 and 2012 saw consistent growth over the whole year. 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.

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?

  • Newly introduced 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 – for me, they are going great

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 123RF review, here’s a tip some forget about after uploading to 123RF – these guys allow you to ‘fave’ 5% of your portfolio.  What does this do?  The images you choose as your ‘faves’ get placed much higher in search rankings, so are far more likely to sell.  In very rough terms I would say that ‘faved’ images currently account for about half my sales each month. Don’t forget this step! I’m sure many contributors just upload and forget, but this can help you stand out from the crowd at 123RF.

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, Fotolia etc.) 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 growing 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.

You’ve read the 123RF review, now see 123RF in action

13 replies
    • MicrostockMan
      MicrostockMan says:

      Hey Kim, sadly the answer is…yes.

      They are introducing a RC system similar to iStock. For most mid range photographers it seems many will drop from 50% to 40-45%. At least that is WAY better than iStock’s royalties.

      The one main difference though is that 123RF’s system will be based on the previous 12 months, each month. As in, July’s % could be different to June’s % due to the 12 months prior to that. So you don’t wait a whole year to move up a level (or down).

      Many of us are still hoping they will adjust their figures on this so that most contributors at least keep their 50%. But at this stage it seems unlikely.

      • Kim Freitas
        Kim Freitas says:

        The % is better than istock and the goals more resonable to attain and they are giving everyone more of a heads up time, however, I do not like the “new trend” I see happening in our industry, Prices for customers go up and payouts for artists go down!

        There is a “sweet spot” for image pricing and it seems that some in our industry seem to be leaning towards “non micro stock” for single purchase to an almost givaway for subscriptions.

        “Partners” do you opt in for them?

        Now I feel like “the industry” not just “big biz” is drop kicking us. I used to get raises now we get pay cuts and a feeling we need to chain our selves to our sketch pad/computers, think factory peise work. I of course feel being creative is fun, but with stuff like this it takes some of the fun out.!

        I have decited to build a “brand” for myself, my brand will include a new name “KimsCreativeHub” which is my shutterstock user name, july 2 a part of my collection will be live, when I signed up for istock I picked “kim258” which is pretty generic :) with the changes I see nowadays I see the importance of branding or myself.

        I know I a bit winded here, these thoughts have been on my heart in a heavy way.

        • MicrostockMan
          MicrostockMan says:

          Thanks Kim, appreciate you sharing your thoughts here.

          As for partners, yes, I do opt in for them. I am of the opinion that the more people seeing my images the better. And after all, are the partners inherently worse than (some) agencies themselves?!

          As for branding yourself, I agree and am in the same process. All the best with it!

          (Just a note – I think some of your images are live currently. If you don’t want them to be till July 2, go into the “Resources” menu, then “Your Account”, then Opt OUT of Shutterstock and all partner sales until you are read to go live :) also, Shutterstock is a numbers game so the larger the collection you can get on there the better )

          • Kim Freitas
            Kim Freitas says:

            I wonder if that is a cashing issue? My first 10 I think we’re live for a day as I selected “opt out” but didn’t hit the confirm button :)

            I agree about the numbers game.

            As frustrated as I’ve been latly I am excited about venturing out! Branding should be fun!

            By the way you have nice photos and your vector work is clever and excellent “stock quality”

  1. Robert
    Robert says:

    Hi all,

    is there something wrong with 123RF? After my first upload of 15 photos I’ve got a 100% acceptance 😀 It seems quite unusual to me as other agencies accept 30-40% of my submissions. It is a small rate, I know, but I’m at the beginning now with no experience in this biz and trying to sumbit the selected pictures which weren’t done for microstock photography purposes. Anyway, it’s really interesting job which will improve my photo skills and open the door for the new techniques of taking the photos.

    • MicrostockMan
      MicrostockMan says:

      Hey Robert,

      Just a reminder, please click the “approve” email after commenting to make your comments live :)

      Congrats on the 100% acceptance! Thats a good problem to have. Hope you continue to get such positive results.

      Keep us posted!

  2. Robert
    Robert says:

    Hi Tim,

    thanx for reminding me, I missed that e-mail :)
    Yes, you are right, thats fine to have 100% approval 😀 But the approval process is really long and itc looks likee they only wait for my reminder to review my files :)


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