Tracking iStock Downloads

Posted on 7/2/2014 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Since early 2009 I have been tracking downloads of 192 of iStockphoto’s most productive contributors. At that time istockcharts, a service of, provided a daily listing of the total downloads of most of iStock’s contributors. This list could be indexed by downloads so it was easy to determine which contributors had the most iStock downloads in their careers.

Istockcharts had developed an algorithm that collected this data from the contributor’s page ([contributor’s account number]). A few contributors were not included, but most wanted to be part of this so they could on a daily basis see how their sales were doing compared to everyone else.

In April of 2009 I was able to determine that 131 top sellers had 423,281 downloads in the previous month. In June 2009 iStock changed the information they were supplying on the photographer’s page from the exact number of download to a greater-than number. That number would change when the actual downloads reached the next higher whole number. For example >10 would not change until there were 20 downloads, >100 changed at 200 and >1,000 changed at 2,000. When a contributor hits 100,000 downloads the greater-than number would not change until another 10,000 downloads have been added. This made it impossible to track changes on a monthly basis, but it was still possible to make some reasonable assumptions on a semi-annual basis. I have been doing that ever since.

In January of 2012 istockcharts was tracking 38,163 contributors on a daily basis and they had a combined minimum total of 114,875,519 downloads since each contributor had begun supplying images to iStock. At the time iStock was saying that they had over 100,000 contributors, but the vast majority had supplied very few images and were making few if any sales. I believe the 38,163 had contributed well over 90% of all the images on iStock and their sales represented well over 90% of all revenue.

In early 2012 made a decision to stop supplying this information. Prior to this move I had expanded the list of people I was tracking to a little over 400 of those with the most downloaded. These 400 had about one-third of all the downloads istockcharts was reporting. At that point I began, on a semi-annual basis, to go directly to the contributor page of each individual on my list and record the information I needed.

It is important to note that there are a few contributors with significant downloads that had asked istockcharts not to track them. Most of them I have been unable to identify or include on my list. Also, in the years I have been tracking the order has tended to change dramatically as some who were initially high on the list cut back on production and others who started out near the bottom increased production and grew their sales dramatically. 

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:  


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