iStock Statistics: First Half 2016

Posted on 7/1/2016 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Downloads from iStock continued to decline in the first half of 2016. Since 2011, I have been tracking the number of downloads and images in the collection of 430 of iStock's leading contributors. At the end of June 2016 these contributors have had a combined total of between 56,465,000 and 58,967,000 downloads during their iStock careers. iStock has over 100,000 contributors, but despite this group's small number I believe their work represents almost one-third of all the images iStock has licensed since the company began operations.

iStock reports round numbers on the creator’s portfolio page. For those with under 100,000 downloads the number reported is the last 1,000 passed. For those with downloads between 100,000 and one million it is the last 10,000 passed. Thus, the total downloads for this group in the last six months range between 381,000 and 2,883,000. In the previous six months the range was between 605,000 and 3,074,000. In each case we assume the average was somewhere in the middle of these numbers.

It is unclear whether these numbers include Subscription downloads. Based on an analysis of sales of a few iStock contributors I believe subscription sales represent upwards of 80% of all Essentials and Signature licenses made directly from the iStock collection. This does not include Partner sales, Extended Licenses or licenses of Signature images through

The average gross license fee of a non-exclusive Essentials image licensed via a subscription is about $1.50. The image creator gets between 15% and 20% of that. The average gross license free of a Signature image seems to be between $4.50 and $5.00. Creator royalties range from 25% to 40% of these figures.

It appears that it is necessary to license approximately 5.5 images at subscription prices to generate revenue equal to that earned from one image purchased using credits.

Most of the people I’ve been tracking began contributing images to iStock before 2008. They were very successful in the early years and the images they produced generated huge numbers of downloads. They know what sells and they have continued to produce that type of imagery. Nevertheless, their sales have been declining significantly in recent years.

It is possible that some of these people have gotten tired, moved on to something else, and other unidentified new contributors are now responsible for a larger percentage of the sales. I don’t think that is the case, but I can’t prove it.

A high percentage of these people have stopped adding new images particularly in the last few years. This could also explain the decline in sales, but I don’t think that’s the case. Overall, a significant number of new images are being added. Combined, these contributors have grown their collections by an average of 39% in the three years since July 2013. Despite this addition of new imagery sales overall continue to decline.

The maximum possible downloads in the 12 months between July 2012 and July 2013 was 6,042,000 and the minimum number was 3,731,000. The average of this number would be 4,886,500

The maximum possible downloads between July 2015 and July 2016 was 3,488,000 and the minimum number was 986,000. The average of this number is 2,237,000, a 54% decline from the 2012-2013 figure.

I have broken down the sales based on the year when each contributor started contributing to iStock. The first contributors started in 2002. The numbers in the 2008 row include a couple people who started after 2008. It is important to note that a significant percent of these image contributors are illustrators and many of the contributors supply both photos and illustrations. For more information of the breakdown of photographers and illustrators check out this story published in January.
  Photog Min DL Maximum   Mim DL Maximum   Mas DL Max DL  
Year and July July 2012   July July 2015   2012- 2015- Percent
  Illust. 2013 June 2013   2016 June 2016   2013 2016 Declines
2002 32 4,222,000 4,416,000   4,402,000 4,596,000   368,000 230,000 37.5%
2003 42 6,682,000 6,985,000   7,033,000 7,354,000   554,000 356,000 35.7%
2004 59 6,605,000 6,889,000   7,000,000 7,311,000   611,000 435,000 28.8%
2005 121 15,810,000 16,534,000   16,951,000 17,738,000   1,746,000 1,059,000 39.3%
2006 123 13,160,000 13,733,000   14,592,000 15,192,000   1,799,000 880,000 51.1%
2007 38 3,386,000 3,514,000   3,699,000 3,863,000   463,000 222,000 52.1%
2008 17 2,031,000 2,136,000   2,788,000 2,913,000   501,000 306,000 38.9%
  432 51,896,000 54,207,000
56,465,000 58,967,000   6,042,000 3,488,000 42.3%

Below is a breakdown of the images added by these same contributors.

Year Photog
Images Images Images Add Percent total
  and in in Added in collection
  Illust. July 2013 July 2016 last 3 years added
2002 32 132,113 231,599 99,486 43.0%
2003 42 175,661 228,216 52,555 23.0%
2004 59 207,252 266,513 59,261 22.2%
2005 121 470,981 729,547 258,566 35.4%
2006 123 490,153 855886 365,733 42.7%
2007 38 108,068 142,038 33,970 23.9%
2008 17 109,722 319,057 209,335 65.6%
  432 1,693,950 2,772856 1,078,906 38.9%

Copyright © 2016 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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