Tracking iStock Uses

Posted on 12/12/2016 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

It is almost that time of year (early January) when I publish one of my semi-annual reports on iStock sales trends. A reader asked me recently to explain how I get access to the information in these reports.

The best way to start is to go back and review my iStock story on January 3, 2012. At that time, and earlier, there was an organization called iStockcharts that published a running daily list of the total career downloads of about 90% of all iStock photographers. The list was indexed on downloads. It was possible for individuals to see where they were and how they were rising or falling relative to competitors. iStockcharts, based in Germany I think, was independent from iStock and did this automatically by grabbing the data from each photographer’s portfolio page. iStockcharts also provided a hot link to each photographer’s portfolio page and I maintained a record of those links.
In addition, iStock and iStockcharts provided information on the total downloads since iStock was founded. With this information it was easy to see that a very small percentage of the contributors where generating a very high percentage of total downloads.

I started out by looking every few months at the top couple hundred contributors with the most downloads and built an Excel file to track how fast their sales were growing. I inputted the data manually which was a lot of work, but as a result I could track trends, not where each photographer was on a given day.

Initially, iStock was reporting exact number on the photographer’s page, but after I started publishing the trend number they started publishing round numbers so >1,000 was somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000. This made analyzing the growth harder, but when your looking at people with 50,000 or more downloads it still produces some useful information.

Eventually, iStockcharts stopped producing their numbers. I suspect iStock put some pressure on them, but the reason was never explained. By that time, I had identified about 430 contributors with the most downloads on the iStockcharts list. Given that I no longer had the benefit of iStockcharts to determine who was moving up or down, and the rounding issues I determined that there was no point in updating my data more frequently than every six months.

I have been tracking my 430 since January 2013 and reporting every January and July.

An obvious problem is that I no longer have a way to determine if someone who was 450th or 500th on the list when I collected my 430 portfolio links has now moved up and should be added to my list of the top 430. Certainly that has happened in some cases, but I hope it has relatively little effect on the overall results.

In the past year-and-a-half since Getty introduced subscriptions they have made the data less accurate because they don’t report subscription downloads on the portfolio page. The numbers on the page only represent single image downloads. However, after talking with a number of photographers it appears they are getting 7 to 9 subscription downloads for every single image download. This is very similar to Shutterstock’s ratio so I think it is safe to make some assumptions about how important subscriptions have become for iStock. The numbers I report in my charts only include single image downloads.

I also track the number of images in the photographer’s collection and that remains the exact number. These figures provide some useful trend information and give an indication of how aggressively individuals are continuing to produce.

iStock allows anyone to review the entire portfolio of any image creator by simply entering the creator’s name into the search box. The number of total images in the collection is also listed on the first portfolio page.

It is no longer possible to see total career downloads of an individual creator unless you have access to the creators account identification number.

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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