Is Stock Too Expensive? Must Prices Go Down?

Posted on 3/24/2015 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

Remember how microstock got started? Back in the early 2000s Graphic Designers started complaining that Royalty Free stock was too expensive and began looking for less expensive ways to get the photos and illustrations they needed for their projects.

At first they simply shared photos and illustrations with each other for free. Then came access to large databases of images for one low monthly fee.

Now Christian Toksvig, former Getty Images vice president, thinks there is new demand for still lower prices. He has founded StockUnlimited and is offering unlimited vector downloads for $9.99 per month. Currently the site only offers vectors, illustration and clip art, but the company plans to expand to photos and videos in the third or fourth quarter of this year.

Shutterstock subscriptions start at $199 per month and iStock subscriptions for its non-exclusive collection is $166.58 per month. Both require a one-year commitment. Shutterstock and iStock offer much larger collections and a lot more choice, but maybe there is significant demand for even lower prices.

While Toksvig is CEO, Andy Sitt, founder and chief executive of serves as chairman and lead investor. 123RF offers subscriptions that allows 5 downloads a day for $59 a month, or 26 downloads per day for $159 per month (both for a year commitment). Image creators complain that these subscription rates are already too low, but maybe Sitt and Toksvig know that there are lots of customers who can’t even afford these prices.

Currently StockUnlimited features about half a million images and is adding between 50,000 and 100,000 new graphics per month. The main selling point is simplicity. No complicated licenses. No daily limits. No credits. No additional fees.

The company decided to start with vector images because it commissioned most of the images shown on the site at launch. It turns out it’s cheaper to work with design studios than photographers. In addition, with vectors they didn’t have to worry about rights and model release issues.

Image Creators

The big question is whether, at these prices, image creators will be able to justify the expense of creation and keywording so customers can find the images. It is bad enough for illustrators when all their work is done in the studio, but when the photographer has to go out in the real world to find subjects, the expense and time can become even bigger factors.

In addition, sites like StockUnlimited are not operating in a vacuum. To the extent they are successful, they will certainly cannibalize some of the sales currently being made by sites that charge higher fees.

Copyright © 2015 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:  


  • Bill Bachmann Posted Mar 24, 2015
    Race to the bottom! This business amazes me! Designers think $30 or so is too expensive? Wow
    If they can't afford that, maybe they should NOT do advertising!

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