iStock Earnings Per Download

Posted on 9/12/2013 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

Getty is telling debt investors (people who buy corporate bonds and corporate debt) that 70% of iStockphoto revenue is generated by exclusive images. They also say that total iStock revenue annually is around $300 million. iStock revenue declined 9% in Q2 2013 compared with Q2 2012. Thus, about $90 million of Getty’s revenue comes from non-exclusive images and $210 million from exclusive

Based on recent research using iStockphoto’s price slider (see chart below) it appears that about 35% of the images on iStock photo are exclusive. Of all the exclusive images available about 61% are licensed at the basic Exclusive prices and 39% at Exclusive+ or Vetta prices.

I believe there are between 12 million and 16 million total images on the site. That means that the average annual gross revenue generated by each exclusive image in the collection would be between $37.50 and $50.  The average annual revenue generated for each non-exclusive image would be between $8.65 and $11.50.

Of course some images will be licensed many times in a year and others not at all. Based on analysis of a group of iStock contributors that have had a combined total of more than 20% of iStock’s total downloads since its founding, I believe iStock had about 10 million downloads in 2012 and is on track after the first half of the year to download about the same number in 2013. Thus, there is less than 1 download per image on the site annually. By way of comparison Shutterstock has about 3 downloads per image on its site.

The gross figures above do not reflect what contributors earn. Non-exclusives earn between 15% and 20%. Exclusives earn between 25% and 40% with very few earning more than 35%.

Price Slider Research

This chart shows the total number of images on iStockphoto when certain keywords are used as search terms. The first column shows the keyword searched. Column 2 is the total images - both exclusive and non-exclusive - containing this keyword. Column 3 is the total number of Exclusive images. Column 4 is the percent of the total images that are exclusive. Column 5 shows the number of images that are priced at Signature+ and Vetta levels and Column 6 is the percent of the total images containing this keyword that are at the highest priced levels.
  Total 3 top Percent 2 top Percent
food 1479217 352560 24% 79857 5%
travel 1195050 411858 34% 101471 8%
portrait 1177555 500981 42% 139809 12%
lifestyle 919316 436892 47% 132679 14%
landscape 905879 283787 31% 59726 7%
architecture 861589 272401 32% 58448 7%
business 792302 255246 32% 119156 15%
scenics 744103 247605 33% 54438 7%
cities 656367 270674 41% 64699 10%
animals 616530 144029 23% 28096 5%
sports 426123 178191 42% 47583 11%
medical 377958 146555 39% 47929 13%
farming 373025 102598 27% 20436 5%
wildlife 294056 59027 20% 9865 3%
industry 287580 104788 36% 27106 9%
education 245892 110492 45% 36335 15%
entertainment 109981 51334 47% 14785 13%
science 95593 38168 40% 13233 14%
aviation 43753 18913 43% 4420 10%
  11601869 3986099 34% 1060071 9%
horizontal 1991129 1119657 56% 318746 16%
vertical 1204133 645369 53% 153289 13%
illustration 881871 286230 32% 65742 7%

If we assume that the average non-exclusive contributor earns 17% and has 1,000 images on the site that person might earn between $1,480 and $1,955 annually. The exclusive contributor with 1,000 images might earn between $11,250 and $15,000 annually. (Probably less than 125 contributors have enough Redeemed Credits to receive a royalty higher than 30%.)

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:  


  • Ellen Boughn Posted Sep 12, 2013
    Jim, Do you have any reason to doubt the high % of exclusives given by Getty Management? if so, possible you can explain why you think the figures are correct?

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