How Will iStock Prices Affect Sales?

Posted on 9/16/2014 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

Yesterday, I outlined how iStock’s new pricing strategy may affect contributors. But, the bigger worry for iStock exclusive contributors and Getty Images may be what happens on Here’s why.

Most iStock exclusive contributors have some images mirrored on Of the 6,034,642 RF images on three iStock images collections -- E+,984,661 images; iStock Vectors, 372,735 and Vetta, 118,544 –make up a total of 1,475,940 images, or 24.5% of all the RF images on

In addition to what they earn from iStock sales, in the range of 15% of the royalty income many of these contributors receive tends to come from sales. A significant portion of the Getty Images sales could disappear. Here’s why.

The “list prices” on the Getty site continue to be much higher than the new iStock price. See the comparisons below.
  File Size Getty iStock
dpi   Price Price
72dpi 70.8KB $45.00 $29.16
72dpi 174KB $129.00 $29.16
300dpi 379KB $199.00 $29.16
300dpi 907KB $299.00 $29.16
300dpi 2.47MB $379.00 $29.16
300dpi 5.73MB $429.00 $29.16

When customers find an RF image they want to use and discover that instead of paying $200 to $429 for it they can go to iStock and find, not a similar images but the exact same image for only $29.16 (or as low as $24 if they purchase a large enough package of credits), I think most will be racing to iStock to save some money.

This might not happen if Getty offers big enough discounts to its customers. As noted the above are “list prices” and Getty already offers many of its best customers significant discounts. Thus, maybe for most there isn’t as much separation in the prices as the chart indicates. But, I think Getty is bound to lose some customers.

Getty is fond of saying that there is very little customer crossover between and iStock, but with the new iStock pricing strategy there is now a huge incentive for buyers to leave Getty. I think most image buyers will be telling their friends about this new opportunity.

Finding The Same Unique Image

Many may feel that finding the same image on a different site isn’t all that easy. Getty changed the image numbers when they posted the images on so the customer can’t just take the image number they find on the Getty site, input it into the search box on iStock and expect to get anything.

When a customer mouses over a thumbnail on they see the collection it is in and the creator’s name. If the collection is E+, iStock Vectors or Vetta, then the customer knows the image should be able to be found* on iStock. Sometimes searching on the creator name on iStock will show the searcher all the images in that creator’s collection. This can be useful if the customer is looking for more images in the creator’s style rather than a specific image, but often these creators have thousands of images in their collections so something specific may not be that easy. In addition, sometimes the creator uses a slightly different name on iStock than the one used in the Getty collection.

The simplest strategy is to search and find an image. Then open the large preview and look for the list of keywords. Next, open a separate iStock window on the desktop. Copy some of the keywords from the image on Getty into the iStock search box. Usually five to seven keywords will be enough. Search, and often you’ll find the exact same image immediately. Sometimes the customer will get a small group of images that all have the same keywords, but it is easy to scroll through this group to find the right image.

The whole process may take a couple minutes and it won’t always produce the desired results. But it is well worth the effort is customers want to save hundreds of dollars.

It is also important to recognize that despite the fact that Getty has images from 98 brands on, they give very high priority in the search returns to delivering images from the iStock brands. In the first 500 thumbnails shown about one out of every four images will be from one of the iStock brands.

In addition Getty has mirrored images from many of its other RF brands onto iStock. It is unclear how many or which ones, but iStockers regularly complain about the number of images from non-iStock contributors that appear in the iStock search returns.

All in all, a significant percentage of RF images found on can also be found on at much, much lower prices. Savvy customers may soon come to the conclusion that it is better to shop first on iStock because most of what they want will be there at a much lower price.

Dominance Of Low Priced Images

The industry has arrived at the point where the default price for a single image is for the most part around $10 with a few as high as $30. The cost per image acquired through a subscription is around $1.25.

Shutterstock is expected to do about $325 million in sales this year, a little less than half of that at subscription prices and most of the rest in the $9 to $15 range. Getty’s iStock will probably have sales in the range of $250 million. About $170 million of that will be in the $30 range and the rest will be for $10 or less.  Getty’s probably does in the range of $40 million and has a licensing strategy very similar to Shutterstock’s.

Thus, over half of all“Creative Stills” revenue (not including editorial) is generated, by charging one low price for any image, any size and almost any use. (There are a few Extended Licenses for very large uses.) These sales represent much more than 50% of all still images licensed. In the near future the rest of the industry will be forced to compete to stay in business if they haven’t matched prices already.

*Some creators images were moved to the E+ collection and later the creator either went non-exclusive or terminated his arrangement with iStock. At that point Getty should have removed the creators images from the E+ collection, but they haven’t done that in all cases. In addition, some creators change the keywords on their images in the iStock collection to try to improve their sales. Getty has full control over the keywords in the E+ collection so some of the keywords can differ. This might make it difficult to find a particular image. 

Copyright © 2014 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:  


  • Mark W. Richards Posted Sep 23, 2014
    SO what we supposed to do with this information?
    It seems over time the only worthwhile turn to take is to exit stock photography 100 percent.
    Far more cost effective just to stick the money in a US stock market index fund.

    Instead of just reporting the flush down the drain production of stock photography.........
    maybe a some viable other ways to deal?

    I hate to say this but this , but since 2009 the best way to deal is not photography anymore.
    But please gave us some at least not always such depressing news.

    Sad to see what's happen and will happen,

    Mark Richards

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