Do $1 Images Really Exist?

Posted on 3/24/2010 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

I am tired of seeing rights-managed sellers refer to microstock as $1 images. That is not what most people are paying, particularly those personal users who buy very few pictures. Actual prices are substantially higher, even for the smallest, Web-use only file sizes.

The iStockphoto home page says that the smallest file size, which is only large enough for Web use, can be purchased for $1, but that is not true: it can be purchased for 1 credit, and 1 credit is not $1; customers must buy a minimum of 12 credits at $1.52 each in order to buy one picture. Some of the photos on iStock are available in that extra-small file size for 1 credit. Many of the most popular photos require 2 credits ($3.04) to purchase even smallest file size. Of course, if a larger file size is needed for print use, even more credits are required.

On Fotolia, the minimum buy is 21 credits for a price of $1.14 each, and some images (again that smallest, Web-use only file size) are available for 1 credit. But some Web size images require 2 credits and others 3 credits to purchase, bringing the cost up to $3.42. The price for the smallest file size of Infinite Collection images starts at 10 credits or $11.40.

Yes, customers can get the price-per-credit down when they purchase larger credit packages, but is the personal user who maybe has need for a few images per year to use on the Web going to buy a large package? On Fotolia, a customer can get 3,200 credits for only $2,400 to the cheapest price, but how many personal users are going to spend that kind of money? That price is for professional, commercial, high-volume users. 

Current data from photographers who sell microstock suggests that the average price per image licensed at iStock is between $6.50 and $8.00. That may not be as high as most rights-managed sellers would like, but how many of them are allowing Corbis and Getty Images to license images for less than this amount?

If we are going to be against something, let’s at least get our numbers straight.

Copyright © 2010 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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