iStockphoto Reveals Contributor Earnings

Posted on 4/2/2008 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (1)

After Getty Images disclosed iStockphoto revenues in a recent SEC filing, the founder of the leading microstock business offered additional information in a recent corporate blog post. "There is one number that makes us most proud, and it's not the $71.9 million in revenue we generated last year (although that is really, really exciting). The amazing thing is that we paid out $20.9 million to contributors last year," wrote Bruce Livingstone. This translates to a 30% average photographer commission, which is a higher cut than offered by many traditional agencies.

Copyright © 2008 Julia Dudnik Stern. 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


  • Tim Mcguire Posted Apr 3, 2008
    If my math is correct and the 1.4 images per second quoted on the istock site is correct and we are talking istock selling 24/7, year round, the average amount going to a photographer / contributor per transaction is $1.07.

    If we are talking selling during business hours (8 hrs/day, 5 days /wk, 52 weeks/yr) then the average amount to a photographer / contributor per transaction is $3.91.

    It's a great business model for iStock and Getty but hardly a professional endeavor for contributors unless maybe you are a contributor who can sell an image every 4 or so minutes 24 hours a day 7 days a week for years on end (around $100,000/yr). If you want a career you'd have to do this for 20-30 years. Given the revenue iStock is generating, around 200 contributor / photographers could possibly do this. Not sure how many aspiring pros are on iStock now but probably more than 200, and many of them have images competing for the limited revenue so it's doubtful that 200 photogs could make a decent living by US standards.

    Seems a pretty tall order, though I understand there are other ways to make money in photography and for most, microstock is just a sideline. However, I'm just not sure it is a good sideline that supports the idea of the professional photographer in the long term. I think it is hard to write a reasonable business plan based on microstock licensing of ones images. It's a great business plan for the distributor but not the independent photographer.

    Some food for thought anyway...

    Tim McGuire

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