iStock Review - Review of microstock agency iStock. Should I sign up? How much will I sell? What will I earn? Read our iStock review

iStock Review

Review Updated: 2017

Now this could be a contentious one…

No doubt iStock (formerly iStockPhoto) is one of the agencies you’ve heard of for years, the grandfather of microstock.  Surely this would be THE agency to sign up to, right?  Well, that’s not as easy to answer as it was a few years back.  Back then it would have been a resounding ‘yes’ and many would even have recommended going exclusive to them.

Lately though iStock’s reputation has taken a hit, as much as they wouldn’t like to admit it. What’s the fuss all about you ask?  Lots of things, and that’s exactly why they are getting contributor’s leave them in droves lately.  There have been so many bugs, glitches, crashes and meltdowns with the iStock website that it has turned many people away.  Worse yet is the way the management have responded, giving contributors very little information as to why these things are happening or when they will be fixed.  The current list of known bugs is longer than your telephoto lens.

Then Getty took full control and now iStock is basically just a shell that distributes select content uploaded to Getty. You can’t upload directly to iStock anymore. Reporting of sales is no longer real time, but rather in a statement once a month (again, on the Getty site).

This is not to say that I don’t recommend iStock.  It’s just that they seem to be making it hard for anyone to like them these days, despite them still being able to sell a great many images.  If I were just starting out again, iStock would be one of the last libraries I would join.

iStock Review – Why Sign Up?

  • One of the industry heavy weights, selling huge amounts of images daily
  • Good exposure for your images
  • If you can get a decent sized portfolio accepted, you WILL sell images
  • Despite the low commissions, RPD (rate per download) is actually high

iStock Review – Downsides?

  • As mentioned above, recent website instability is scaring people away
  • Apparent lack of respect for contributors, especially the lowly independents
  • Commissions for independents are VERY low
  • Massive search bias toward exclusive content means it’s harder for independents to sell as much as other sites
  • Getty ownership

iStock Review Fast Facts

Media Types

iStock sells the following media:

Stock photos
Vector illustrations
Audio & Sound Effects

Sale Types

iStock sells using the following methods:

Credit packs
High-volume corporate rates
Instant cash sales

iStock Review – Conclusion

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 though?  Definitely yes.  In fact, their monthly earnings knocks most other libraries out of the water.  Thus I can’t justify not being with them. However I haven’t given them any new content in a long while.

A large part of the earnings through iStock comes through their partner program. Essentially what this means is that your sales are coming through their sister site Thinkstock, instead of directly off the iStock website. Thinkstock is a subscription focused site, so again, its based on high turnover and low prices. Even so, with iStock and their partner program all tallied up, iStock seems to be in my top 5 earners each month. If the partner program was to change or go away though, this wouldn’t be the case anymore.

So will iStock return to the glory days of yesteryear? 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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