Posted by: gurumel | September 8, 2010

IStock Royalty Changes

Late last night I got an email from IStockPhoto, explaining the new changes to their royalty system. I scanned it and carried on with what I was doing. Soon after I got a PM from a friend to go and check out the thread on IStock forum about the changes.

It was already at 30-odd pages, and people are not happy! Today it’s up to over a hundred pages, and most people still do not sound very happy.

IStock are restructuring their contributor payments, to reflect not the overall sales history of an image, but it’s credit value over the previous year.

“Beginning in 2011 each contributor’s royalty rate will be based on the total number of credits used to download files from the previous year, as opposed to a lifetime download total.”

I only have a few images at IStock, and don’t make many sales, so as a very low level user, or a newcomer, my base percentage commision will go down from 20% to 15%. These percentages now put IStock at the very low end for contributer commission, with other sites offering 30-70%. Back when I first started all this Istock were one of the lowest paying sites even at 20%, and still they were out in front, so is this really going to make a difference?

I won’t be affected very much, but for example, my friend has recently started selling stock vectors. He has had some success, making almost £300 in his first 6 months. He has won an IStock competetion, and had an Image of the Week. He’s also had a great time getting back to what he enjoys about drawing, keeping his skills up to date and actualy earning money in the field he should be. He signed up for Dreamstime and IStock, and was planning to go exclusive at IStock in a year or two. His earnings were growing as quickly as he could provide new images, and it looks like he really could make money out of stock illustrations.

He signed up with a 20% commission on his images that wil now be reduced to 15%. As a non exclusive contributer he would need to redeem 400,000 credits each year to return to his 20% level. His best selling image costs 25 credits, so that would only need to sell 16000 times next year for him to be right back where he started :S. If 16,000 people would like to go buy it I’m sure he would be very happy 😉

This means shifted goalposts all round, with royalty targets now changed, and a drop in payments for many contributers, exclusive and non-exclusive alike. However, they are also introducing a new premium collection, expanding Vetta and sharing images with the main Getty site.

A lot of contributers are clearly very angry, many who are making significant income from IStock may lose a large percentage of that.

Where are Getty going with this? It’s all speculative, but Getty were not supporters of microstock as a business model at first, until their acquisition of IStock in 2006. I would expect to hear soon about either a price increase for buyers (although their last one was very unpopular) or the launch / ownership of a smaller dedicated micro-stock site. In other words I’m expecting a clumsy attempt to rebrand themselves as a premium microstock supplier, while allowing ‘lower’ contributers to continue in the same vein. I think this is what I posted about ages ago when I first looked into microstock. At some point a distinction will be made between talented full-time photographers and artists who are hoping to make a career and a name out of stock imaging, and those who do it as a hobby, or as bonus income. Even though this goes against the original idea and process of microstock, this is the sort of hierarchy we see everywhere.

What will happen? Will Dreamstime suddenly be flooded with new users and artwork? MicrostockInsider currently ranks Dreamstime at number 1, and IStock is down to 4th!

Anyone planning on jumping ship feel free to use my referral link for Dreamstime! 😉

Royalty Free Images

Right now though, IStock are starting a process which does seem to be reducing the payments for their contributers, and is very unpopular. Regardless of where they are going with this they seem to have lost the faith of a significant portion of their loyal contributers – never a wise move.

I expected to find much more discussion going on when I got up today, but there are a few active threads and blog posts on the subject so far. Highlights…

Blog post with all the details

Just the basics

All the details plus lots of opinion 😉

Forum chat

Official IStock forum post

Anyway, this is a long and image-free post, so I’ll go back to reading forums and see how this pans out!



  1. Haha I never hold back on my “lots of opinion.” 😉

  2. […] IStock Royalty Changes – Mel Preston Photography […]

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