State of the Stock

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.

A store keeper replenishing his snack displays in Gion, Kyoto.

A store keeper replenishing his snack displays in Gion, Kyoto.

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. 🙂


  1. Steve says:

    Hey Andrew, I googled and found your blog 13 Feb 2013 and 100% concur. However fast forward 12 months and the very people you endorsed as good corporate partners (Image Brief) with photographers are doing the same thing. ………….. condoning “in perpetuity” briefs and contracts.

    The sums offered are a pittance and I have written to them requesting a “please explain”. So far no reply so I am guessing they are trying to gag the issue.

    Here are the ones I have observed so far.

    I would like to know your thoughts and if you have observed any other discussions on the matter.


    Steve Strike
    Outback Photographics

  2. Andrew says:

    Hi Steve,
    Thanks for the comments. I totally agree with you. However, the difference with say Image Brief and iStock, is that the price is fixed with iStock and you have no control of your photos once you upload them. Well, you kinda’ do; you can remove them. With Image Brief, you don’t have to respond to a brief. If you think the money is too low, just vote with your feet and boycott it. I have my email notices set to only alert me of anything over about $200, so I don’t get bothered with anything less. I remember there were some briefs in the early days of Image Brief that offered really low money, and got no attention or the attention it got wasn’t much in terms of photographic quality. But I do agree, worldwide usage, in perpetuity and only in the low three digits… not so cool, even if no exclusivity is required. I hope they get what they pay for.

    Annoyingly 500px has effectively entered the microstock world (Petapixel: ). I thought they were cool, until they stated that people can now buy the photos and the photographer gets a measly return on investment. It’s pretty much an insult. Then on top of that, 500px has added a Pinterest button, so Pinterest people can take our photos and use them on their profiles without paying. Worse still, there is no option in the settings that I’m aware of that allows you to turn off on the Pinterest button. So 500px allow Pinterest people to steal our photos and not pay us or 500px.

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