Getty RF vs iStock Signature

Posted on 2/6/2017 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Some Getty Images RF contributors have begun to share sales data with iStock Signature contributors and are coming to the conclusion that they can earn more money from images in the iStock Signature collection than from images on

Neither group of contributors are necessarily happy with their sales overall as most have seen revenue declines in the last year or so regardless of whether their images are on iStock or Getty. But, given the choice in the future, it may be better to place images in the iStock Signature collection, rather than Getty.

This has some relevance now that Getty is in the process of “Unifying” the two sites. No one knows how far this Unification will go. Right now the focus is on unifying the upload process to the two sites. It is unclear how that will affect image acceptance on the two sites, but right now it seems to be easier to get images accepted into the iStock collection than the Getty Images collection.

If Getty decides to take this integration further (which most think will be the case), and can find a smooth way to let customers toggle back and forth between both sites searching for images at various price points, as well as have one unified account for purchase from both sites, that might increase overall usage and cement customer relationships with the Getty Images brand.

One of the things that leads to better pricing on iStock than Getty is that the iStock pricing is more fixed and consistent than Getty Images Premium Access pricing.

The basic price for a Signature image on iStock is $30. Larger customers can get discounts if they buy larger credit packs where the price gets down to about $24 per image. Customers can also get Signature images via a subscription, but the prices for all Signature images are three times the cost of a non-exclusive Essential image.

With Premium Access prices vary dramatically depending on the customer. A separate deal seems to have been negotiated with each customer depending on annual volume, and the general type of use.

Getty first introduced Premium Access in 2007. They said at that time that it was aimed at the 20% of their customers who were spending as little as $6,000 to $7,000 a year. Given that Getty’s annual Creative revenue has fallen to less than half of what it was in 2007, I believe the minimum a customer must spend annually to qualify for a Premium Access deal is far less than $6,000 today. Based on photographer sales reports it also seems that over 80% of the images licensed today may be through some type of Premium Access deal.

As a result, the prices charged for use of an image from the RF collection vary much more widely than iStock prices. In quite a few cases they also tend to be much lower than iStock Signature prices, or even Image-on-Demand prices charged by Shutterstock.

Recently, in checking some sales statements it was determined that the average gross fee that Getty charged for images licensed for less than $100 ranged between $20 and $6.50 for various contributors. These are gross prices. The contributors get a percentage of these numbers. Of course there are some sales for fees above $100. They can dramatically change the overall average per image licensed.

The number of images licensed through the two sites can also change the gross revenue generated for the photographer, but with collections of relatively the same size more photographers seem to be finding that they can make more sales through iStock than

The Future

The big question is where will all this go in the future. Will Getty really integrate the two sites?
How long will that take? What kind of problems will arise as they try to transition to a new model?

Copyright © 2017 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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