iStock Accounting Problems

Posted on 2/27/2014 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Over 9,000 iStock photographers have received notices from Getty Images that they were overpaid for sales made through the Partner Program (PP). Getty plans to reclaim the overpayments by deducting the amount from future royalty payments owed contributors. The deductions will take place over the next six months. It is unclear exactly how much the total overpayment was, but based on what some photographers are being told will be deducted from their accounts, it could have been millions of dollars.

iStock participants in the Partner Program agree to allow their images to be licensed through, and in some cases, as well as iStock. Non-exclusive contributors are required to participate in the Partner Program. Some of iStock’s exclusive contributors also participate in the program.

At Thinkstock and the images are licensed via subscriptions and image packs. (See below for price comparisons between price packs at Thinkstock and and single image prices at iStock.)

The per-download prices, and therefore the royalties paid, are much higher for the image packs than for subscriptions. What appears to have happened is that a number of licenses that should have been recorded as subscription sales and paid a royalty of $0.25 to $0.40 were recorded as image pack sales which carry royalties ranging from $0.80 to $5.00. The average royalty for these sales was probably in the range of $1.80. Based on the overpayments reported to some photographers, there could have been more than a million licensed uses that were reported inaccurately.

Evidently the problem started in the middle of September, went on throughout October and into November. Some photographers started questioning the higher than expected royalties when they received their September sales report in October, but it took Getty until November to finally identify and fix the problem. Getty first notified contributors of the problem in early January.

Getty’s review has also showed that in some cases they need to make some adjustments in the contributor’s favor.

One of the concerns of contributors is that Getty has provided no detailed accounting of which sales were recorded incorrectly and the difference on a per sale basis. They have simply said we have overpaid you X and we will start deducting that amount from your future royalties owed. Some contributors believe the amount being deducted exceeds the probable error and they question whether Getty has completely solved the problem.

Contributors also feel they are at Getty’s mercy because they have no way of getting an accurate outside accounting. This is not the first time there have been problems with iStock’s accounting, or on-time payments, and the company’s credibility among contributors is declining.

Price Comparisons

Image Pack prices at and Thinkstock.   Thinkstock
  Web Web Plus Print    
1 image $1.99 $4.99 $7.99    
2 images          
5 images $7.99 $12.99 $14.99   $49.00
10 images $14.99 $24.99 $34.99    
25 images $24.99 $49.99 $80.00   $229.00
50 images $44.99 $89.99 $134.99    
100 images         $799.00
250 images         $1,499.00

Subscription prices on are $299 for 100 image downloads per week, 25 downloads per day plans at $299 for 3 months or $999 for 1-year. On Thinkstock there is a 50 download per month plan for $1,668, or 25 images per day for $2,496. Getty plans to integrate with Thinkstock next month so the prices may change.

Single Image Plans At iStock

The numbers below are the credits required per download at iStock. Prices of credit packages vary, but range from $2.00 per credit for small packages to $1.40 for large packages (See here). The number of credits should be multiplied by these numbers to determine the actual price for the image file size needed.

  Non-Exclusive Exclusive Exclusive+ Vetta
xSmall 1 5 10
Small 2 7 20 35
Medium 3 12
30 55
Large 4 17 40 75
Xlarge 5 20 45 105
XXLarge 6 25 50 135
XXXLarge 7 28 55 160

For more on this issue check out this thread on

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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