Getty Retires TAC

Posted on 6/18/2013 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Getty Images has announced that it will be retiring The Agency Collection (TAC) on iStockphoto in the next few weeks and creating a new collection called Signature+. The company says the main driver for this move is to simplify their offer to customers. It is unclear how this will “simplify” the offer.

iStockphoto currently has six pricing levels: Non-exclusive, Non-exclusive+, Exclusive, Exclusive+, Vetta and TAC. Some of the TAC images will be moved to the lower priced Vetta collection and others will be moved to a Signature+ collection. It is unclear at this stage how Signature+ will be priced, but it is expected to be lower than the current TAC or Vetta prices.

TAC images are currently the most expensive on iStockphoto. See the chart below for the number of credits required to purchase each particular file size in a particular brand. Credit prices vary from $1.75 to $1.47 depending on the size of the package of credits purchased.

  Non-Exclusive Non-Exc+ Exclusive Exclusive+ Vetta Agency
xSmall 1 3 5 10    
Small 4 5 7 20 35 55
Medium 7 10 12 30 55 75
Large 10 12 17 40 75 100
Xlarge 12 15 20 45 105 150
XXLarge   18 25   135 200
XXXLarge     28   160 250

This move seems a clear acknowledgment that with TAC Getty has pushed microstock prices higher than the market will bear given the availability of quality images on other microstock sites.

In 2009 and 2010 Getty began offering new, higher priced exclusive collections on iStock in an effort to grow revenue. TAC the highest priced collection was launched in late 2010. It was designed to bring high-quality, high production value images produce by traditional shooters into microstock. Many Blend, Image Source and other Getty contributors added images to the TAC collection. These images are licensed both on the Getty site and on iStockphoto.

Getty also pushed the TAC images up high in the search return order. Initially they sold extremely well. Some contributors reported average annual royalty return-per-image in excess of $1,500. But, overall, iStockphoto’s units licensed began to decline. At first higher prices more than made up for the decline in units licensed.

However, in retrospect it appears than many customers got the idea that iStockphoto was “too expensive” and started going elsewhere for all their image needs – both low and high priced. It didn’t help that in January 2010 Getty also lowered royalty rates so they could increase profits. That angered contributors, many of whom were also customers. Many of these customer/contributors began to boycott iStock and took their future business elsewhere.

Based on our research we believe iStock licensed about 10 million images last year. This was down from something in the range of 25 million in 2008. Customers that have stayed have tended to avoid TAC images in favor of ones that are lower priced. So after an initial burst the number of TAC sales has fallen to a point that many photographers now refuse to produce new images for TAC. One photographer describes TAC sales as “awful.” Another says he is earning more per image from Shutterstock sales than from the images he has on TAC.

Copyright © 2013 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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