Shutterstock Welcomes iStock Exclusives

Posted on 1/31/2013 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

There is increasing dissatisfaction among iSockphoto contributors as a result of Googlegate, and other recent moves by iStock. Many of the approximately 5,000 exclusive contributors are exploring the option of giving up their exclusive and placing their images on multiple web sites.

Shutterstock is actively pursuing iStock exclusive contributors and has created a direct email address, wbva@fuhggrefgbpx.pbz, to guide them through the signup and approval process.

Scott Braut, VP Content for Shutterstock says, “When contributors create a Shutterstock account, they are asked to submit 10 images for review. If a contributor is leaving exclusivity to submit to Shutterstock, we ask that they write a note to the reviewer mentioning their exclusive status with a link to their portfolio.

“Lastly, please review the terms of your exclusivity to make sure that you are not breaching your agreement,” he continued.

It is believed that more than 40,000 images have been deactivated from iStockphoto and there are plans for a big protest on D-Day (Deactivation Day) February 2, 2013. For more on this check here and here.

Some contributors are so dissatisfied that they are removing their images from iStock entirely. Most will leave their images on iStock on a non-exclusive basis and attempt to place most of their collection on other sites as well.

This is a tough decision at several levels. Non-exclusives get a 15% to 20% royalty while exclusives get 22% to 45% depending on the number of redeemed credits. But, exclusive images are priced at a much higher level than non-exclusive. Non-exclusive starts at $2 for the smallest file size and go to $30 for the largest. Exclusives start at $9 and go as high as $95 depending on file size. With the Agency and Vetta collections, which are also exclusive, the price for a single image can be as high as $345. Thus, non-exclusives will have to sell several downloads to equal the revenue earned from a single download by an exclusive photographer.

On the other hand there is substantial evidence that iStock had 46% fewer downloads in 2012 than in 2011. It is believed that customers have been abandoning iStock because it has pushed the prices of its exclusive content too high. Thus, it is entirely possible that once their images are no longer priced at the exclusive levels the former-exclusive photographers will start seeing more downloads of their images – if customers haven’t left permanently.

    (An indication that customers might have left permanently is that despite their already high prices iStock raised prices again today. They may be accepting that they have lost the low end of the market and the only way to keep revenue from tanking is to charge the high-end users that are left even more.)
In large part given their emphasis on subscription, and because of lower prices, Shutterstock probably had 5 to 6 times the number of downloads in 2012 as iStock. Most non-exclusive photographers that are represented by both Shutterstock and iStock say that Shutterstock is producing more revenue for them than iStock. And, of course, once these photographers move to non-exclusive they can also put images on Fotolia, Dreamstime, 123RF, etc and earn revenue from multiple sources.

In a blog post on Microstockgroup David Clark who has 837 images on iStock and a total or 6500 downloads said, “The upload process may be simple at SS, but the inspections are far from it. I went indie this time last year and only managed to get about half my portfolio accepted with trademark issues and LCV being the biggest rejection issues. Anything with a mobile phone in it was rejected for trademark no matter how heavily I modified it. Given my best sellers on iStock were mobile phone images it was a real kick in the crotch. SS didn't work out for me so I returned to exclusivity later in the year. I have dropped the crown again, but in the interim took measures to get around the mobile phone issue and judging by my most recent uploads to SS they have been successful.??

“Basic message, you can't just dump your IS portfolio on SS and expect it to be approved. Each site has it's inspection inconsistencies (e.g. similars at Dreamstime). Even if you do get your images uploaded and accepted you can't just expect them to sell like they did on iStock either. Believe it or not your best selling images were probably lucky breaks that got a couple of early DLs and then floated on a best match wave to success. At SS they will probably sink and be hidden.

“The grass isn't greener on the other side, but if you're prepared to work at it, be flexible and adjust and leave your ego at the door, you can make it and quite frankly Getty deserves to be sunk. They have been exploiting shooters for years.”

To better understand submission pitfalls and what is required for successful Shutterstock submissions check out this link.

Copyright © 2013 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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