Microstock Market Size

Posted on 3/6/2015 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

The Microstock segment of the stock photography business has grown rapidly over the last few years. I estimate that in 2014 gross microstock revenue, worldwide, was approximately $850 million. Sales by the Big Four distributors – Shutterstock, iStock, Fotolia and Dreamstime – represented about 85% of this total.

In general the market for stock images, illustrations and footage can be divided into four distinct market segments – Microstock, Premium, Editorial and Footage. These divisions are based on the type of content offered, pricing strategy and the special needs of particular customers. Some companies, like Getty Images, operate in all four segments of the market. There are customers that at various times acquire imagery from all of these market segments. Nevertheless, it is useful to examine each segment separately.

Some companies like to refer to themselves as Midstock, but for the purpose of this analysis I will lump Midstock, Microstock and Subscription together in a single Microstock category. Not included in this analysis are editorial agencies that offer subscriptions to editorial users, mostly newspaper and some web and television users.

In the near future I hope to update my estimates of the Premium and Editorial segments of the market. Yesterday, I published ACSIL’s recent report that determined that the stock Footage business, worldwide, is generating about $550 million annually.

Notes On Specific Distributors

Below is a list of 58 companies that are often included in various lists of microstock distributors. In addition there are a few other companies that are subsidiaries of larger companies. BigStockPhoto and Offset are subsidiaries of Shutterstock and their revenue is included in Shutterstock’s gross figure. iStock, Thinkstock are all part of the Midstock division of Getty Images. The revenue figures for these brands are my estimates of what each brand generated for Getty in 2014. Veer Marketplace is a division of Corbis. Corbis is probably the third largest company in terms of total revenue in the stock photography industry. However, I believe Veer Marketplace is a very small and insignificant part of their total business. Crestock is owned by Mastefile.

I have estimated revenue for 29 of the companies at $1million, but in many of these cases it is probably much lower. Without access to more detailed data it is hard to be more precise, but I would be surprised if any of these companies are generating more than $1 million. If accurate data on the sales of each of these companies were available, I would not be surprised if the average was in the $500,000 to $700,000 range.

Many microstock companies offer video footage. I have not tried to separate out the footage segment of the business from the still image and illustration part and have included the total company revenue in my figures. It is entirely possible that these footage sales are also included in ACSIL’s $550 million figure, but I believe they represent a very small fraction of ACSIL’s total number.

While I believe Photos.com is included in the gross Midstock revenue figure Getty reports to investors, I have not included them here. After a recent re-branding Photos.com now sells only fine art prints. In any event I believe the Photos.com revenue is a very small part of the Midstock figure.
Envato sells pictures from Photodune and much of that revenue appears in the Photodune category. Envato also sells other products of interest to graphic designers and illustrators such as themes, templates, plugins, scripts and they earn a lot of money from educational tutorials, courses and books that help graphic designers and illustrators do their jobs. Finally they have a job bank that allows image creators to be hired for projects or to sell their work directly to customers. Thus, the total revenue for Envato as a company is probably much higher than the figure I have reported. My figure is for the image licensing portion of their business.

Gross revenue for MediaBakery is probably more than $1 million, but many of their sales are for Premium imagery at Premium prices. My estimate tries to account for only the Microstock segment of the business.

I have also listed three small companies – Scoopshot, Foap and EyeEm – that specialize in User Generated Content mostly created using cellphones. These images are licensed at prices very similar to those charged by microstock sites, but so far these companies represent a very small share of total microstock revenue. However, Scoopshot has just announced a deal with Pearson Education that could impact a big segment of the traditional market for stock images. Other microstock sites are also accepting photos shot with cellphones. In the future sales of UGC shot with cellphones may represent a more significant share of total Microstock revenue.

So far EyeEm is not licensing images directly to customers through its site. The “Market” aspect of their site has been in development for months, but there is no indication when it will be launched, or at what price point. In the meantime EyeEm has almost 200,000 RF images available on GettyImages.com listed at prices ranging from $65 and $699. These prices would place them in the Premium category, not Microstock. However, we know that Getty licenses at least 25% of its Premium images for prices of $25 or less which is certainly the Midstock to Microstock range. It is impossible to tell what kind of revenue EyeEm’s images are generating or at what price points. For these reasons I have not estimated any revenue for EyeEm.

StockFuel shows up on various lists as a microstock distributor. I place their gross annual revenue at only $3,500 per year based on income information supplied about six months ago when they tried to sell their site on the auction site Flippa. The auction failed. See their offering here.


  Gross Annual Notes
  Revenue Est.  
Shutterstock $328,000,000 BigStockPhoto
iStock $220,000,000  
Adobe/Fotolia $100,000,000  
Dreamstime $75,000,000  
Thinkstock $27,000,000 part of Getty Images Midstock
123RF $15,000,000  
Videoblocks $15,000,000 video, illustration, after effects
DepositPhotos $15,000,000  
Pond5 $10,000,000 photos, video, illustration, after effects
PhotoDune $7,000,000  
Stocksy $4,000,000  
PantherMedia $4,000,000  
CanStockPhoto $3,000,000  
ClipDealer $2,000,000  
Yaymicro $2,000,000  
Canva $2,000,000  
Veer Marketplace $1,500,000 Division of Corbis
photaki $1,500,000  
Cliparto $1,500,000  
Zoonar $1,500,000  
SignElements $1,500,000 Illustration elements for sign makers
MostPhotos $1,500,000  
Envato $1,000,000 sells things other than photograhy
FeaturePics $1,000,000  
GraphicLeftovers $1,000,000  
Cutcaster $1,000,000  
StockFresh $1,000,000  
Photokore $1,000,000  
ScanStockPhoto $1,000,000  
Shutterpoint $1,000,000  
Shotshop $1,000,000  
Vivozoom $1,000,000  
PureBudget $1,000,000  
Fantero $1,000,000  
MediaBakery $1,000,000 Most images from traditional RF & RM distributors
Coverpicture $1,000,000  
Clipart $1,000,000  
GLStockImages $1,000,000  
PhotoSpin $1,000,000  
Indivstock $1,000,000  
VectorStock $1,000,000  
ImageVortex $1,000,000  
The3rdStudio $1,000,000  
MotionElements $1,000,000  
SuperImageMarket $1,000,000  
DrawShop $1,000,000  
Macrografiks $1,000,000  
Stockami $1,000,000  
Clipcanvas $1,000,000  
ViscoImages $1,000,000  
Crestock $500,000 Owned by Masterfile
Fotolibra $500,000 Historical photos
Kozzi $500,000  
Photocase $500,000  
Scoopshot $2,000,000 user generated content from cell phones
Foap $1,000,000 user generated content from cell phones
EyeEm   user generated content from cell phones
StockFuel $3,500  
  $33,003,500 Total with $1M or less estimated

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 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.  


  • Ryan Dietzen Posted Aug 29, 2017
    I'm curious about why Alamy is not on this list. Are they not as much a player in Microstock?

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