Learning From Top 50 iStock Shooters

Posted on 1/6/2009 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

We have made the case for more revenue being generated by microstock sales in 2009 than by sales of either rights-managed or royalty-free creative images. (There have been a lot of comments to this story that elaborate our point of view, so take another look.)

For traditional photographers interested in learning more about the microstock subjects in demand, we have provided a list of the top 50 iStockphoto sellers and links to their iStock portfolios. All but two have had over 100,000 downloads since they began contributing images to iStock. Combined, these 50 have had over 9 million career downloads, or somewhere in the range of 15% of all downloads of over 60,000 iStock photographers. The combined total of 161,757 images of the top 50 iStock shooters represents about 4% of the 4.1 million total images on the site. On average, these contributors have 57 downloads per image on file.

Based on reports from a few of these photographers, it appears that nearly half the 9 million sales were made in 2008, despite significant sales declines in the final three months for many of those represented non-exclusively.

We are indebted to Duncan Walker, iStock’s ninth most successful photographer, for the core elements of this list. He has maintained a comprehensive list of those iStockers with more than 25,000 downloads known as “diamond” contributors. When last updated, his list included 274 names. A few “diamond” contributors may have been omitted, but the list is recognized by most iStockers as authoritative. About one third of all iStock downloads in the last four years were of images belonging to these 274 photographers.

Walker orders his list based on number of downloads. Our list orders the names based on the year the artist began contributing and provides other useful information. Note that 15 of these individuals list their profession as designer, one as illustrator and 6 as other. Only 28, a little over half, list their profession as photographer.

The number of downloads are the totals as of December 30, 2008. Walker’s list was last updated on October 19, 2008. By correlating the two lists, it is possible to determine that the top 50 shooters had over 300,000 downloads over the last two-and-a-half months. In comparison, Getty Images probably licensed fewer than 500,000 rights-managed images, worldwide, from all its contributors, in all of 2008.

The fourth column lists the total number of images the contributor has in the collection. Note that the early adopters who started in 2002 or 2003 aren’t automatically guaranteed a high number of downloads; sales are better for some who started later.

A few photographers have done very well with small portfolios, while others with huge portfolios have not done as well. For example, Kevin Russ has 9,937 images in the collection, but a third of them have never sold. A little over 8% have sold more than 30 times. On the other hand, jgroup has a total of 1,336 images in the collection with 21% selling more than 100 times and only 11% not selling as of this writing.

Possibly most helpful on this list are the links to individual contributor portfolios. These can be sorted by downloads, with best-selling images first. iStock also lists the number of downloads for each image. The best-selling images of the top-selling contributors provide a strong indication of what currently interests customers. This type of granular information is not available from any of the traditional agencies, but it is of immense value for photographers trying to determine what to shoot.

One caution; do not copy these images. Use them as a guide to choosing subject matter and shooting style when planning your own shoots.

Copyright © 2009 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 www.selling-stock.com, 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: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


Be the first to comment below.

Post Comment

Please log in or create an account to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive email notification when new stories are posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

Stock Photo Pricing: The Future
In the last two years I have written a lot about stock photo pricing and its downward slide. If you have time over the holidays you may want to review some of these stories as you plan your strategy ...
Read More
Future Of Stock Photography
If you’re a photographer that counts on the licensing of stock images to provide a portion of your annual income the following are a few stories you should read. In the past decade stock photography ...
Read More
Blockchain Stories
The opening session at this year’s CEPIC Congress in Berlin on May 30, 2018 is entitled “Can Blockchain be applied to the Photo Industry?” For those who would like to know more about the existing blo...
Read More
2017 Stories Worth Reviewing
The following are links to some 2017 and early 2018 stories that might be worth reviewing as we move into the new year.
Read More
Stories Related To Stock Photo Pricing
The following are links to stories that deal with stock photo pricing trends. Probably the biggest problem the industry has faced in recent years has been the steady decline in prices for the use of ...
Read More
Stock Photo Prices: The Future
This story is FREE. Feel free to pass it along to anyone interested in licensing their work as stock photography. On October 23rd at the DMLA 2017 Conference in New York there will be a panel discuss...
Read More
Important Stock Photo Industry Issues
Here are links to recent stories that deal with three major issues for the stock photo industry – Revenue Growth Potential, Setting Bottom Line On Pricing and Future Production Sources.
Read More
Recent Stories – Summer 2016
If you’ve been shooting all summer and haven’t had time to keep up with your reading here are links to a few stories you might want to check out as we move into the fall. To begin, be sure to complet...
Read More
Corbis Acquisition by VCG/Getty Images
This story provides links to several stories that relate to the Visual China Group (VCG) acquisition of Corbis and the role Getty Images has been assigned in the transfer of Corbis assets to the Gett...
Read More
Finding The Right Image
Many think search will be solved with better Metadata. While metadata is important, there are limits to how far it can take the customer toward finding the right piece of content. This story provides...
Read More

More from Free Stuff