Well, State of the Art didn’t seem appropriate, so I opted for the title above. I’ll admit, I first started to meddle with photo sales via iStock, and it was a good way (easy) way to start, but not a good way to stay. A camera costs about USD$2,000 to $5,000 and it needs to be replaced every three years, just to keep up. Then, there’s the cost of a computer and all its software that needs to be upgraded and maintained, and eventually replaced, too; usually on three to five year cycles. You can see a summary of my costs and how you can get free photos from me on this info page. So basically, it’s expensive to do professional (or semi-pro) photography. So, iStock generously pays about 20 cents per sale. Consequently I decided to leave that, once they offered me a certain level of rank after achieving some acceptable level of downloads or sales. I looked around and found that that Rights Managed licensing was still common, and still earning. Everything I saw about iStock just looked like it was all about making the company owners rich, and nothing for the “contributors” (aka photographers).
Recently, Google bought a whole stash of photos for use as clip art like images for their Google Drive / Google Docs applications. The earnings photographers got was a grand total of $12, despite the fact that the photos could have sold multiple times, but are now freely available via Google Drive. Effectively, the products of hard working photographers was given away for free in perpetuity. A single photo shoot with models, make up artists, site costs, post production can cost anywhere between $500 and can at times go beyond $5,000. And in return photographers in iStock were paid $12 (PhotoShelter blog post). In short, the cost to benefit of remaining at iStock is stupidly in their favour.
Consequently, again the iStock community got angry and organised themselves an internet equivalent to industrial action. Thanks to Image Brief on Twitter for sharing this PhotoShelter blog post which describes how iStock seems to have had no qualms in dumping one of their best and top ‘contributors’. It’s absolutely shameful how iStock has treated its members, and I’m glad I quit ‘contributing’ years ago. In contrast, I have to say that my agent Henry Westheim, PhotoShelter, and Image Brief aren’t bad at all.
In case you’re wondering, this is a photography blog, so most blog posts should contain at least one photo. Even if it is randomly selected. 🙂