Microstock: No Longer $1

Posted on 5/22/2009 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (3)

Many experienced professional photographers have been watching image prices fall but just cannot bring themselves to license their images for $1. Well, the fact is that microstock prices are no longer $1.

Table 1. iStockphoto credit pricing
Number of credits Total cost Price per credit
12 $18 $1.50
26 $38 $1.46
50 $70 $1.40
120 $165 $1.37
300 $370 $1.23
600 $680 $1.13
1000 $1,050 $1.05
1500 $1,500 $1.00
2000 $1,900 $0.95

At iStockphoto, if customers are willing to buy $1,500 worth of credits, and the image file sizes they need are extra small (425 by 282 pixels) for Web uses, they can get them for $1 each. But what else can customers do with a file that small?

Because iStock and other microstock sites operate on a credit system, a customer may only need a small number of credits to cover the cost of a few images. The price per image for most credit packages is more than $1. Despite the fact that a dollar sign appears in front of the credit numbers on the site, in most cases, the customer is paying more than $1 per credit. The customer has the option to buy various numbers of credits, and the more he buys, the cheaper credits become (see Table 1).

Table 2. iStockphoto pricing by file size
File size Pixel dimensions Price (credits)
XSmall 425 x 282 1
Small 850 x 565 3
Medium 1,700 x 1,129 6
Large 2,719 x 1,808 12
XLarge 4,206 x 2,796 18
XXLarge 4,992 x 3,320 22

Since the difference in the price per credit among the various iStock packages is pennies, you may ask what the big deal is. It is the number of credits needed to purchase a file size sufficiently large to fulfill a customer’s needs. Table 2 lists six different file sizes and the number of credits required to purchase each one.

If a customer does not want a lot of images and purchases a 50-credit package, the price for a large file is not $12.00, but $16.80. The price for an XXLarge file is $30.80. This is still not much by traditional pricings standards, but it is a long way from what microstock prices were a couple years ago. At these prices, it does not take all that many sales to match what a photographer would earn from a single rights-managed sale, and there are a currently a lot more microstock sales than rights-managed ones.

In addition, traditional prices seem to be declining rapidly, while microstock prices are rising at an equally rapid clip.

The prices for video clips are also worth considering. A small Web-use file sells for 15 credits, while a large Web-use file goes for 25. If the file needed is 720HD, the price is 75 credits, and if the customer needs 1080HD, the price is 90 credits.

Microstock prices may still be too low for some tastes, but at the very least, it may be worth paying some attention to what is happening in this market.

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.  


  • Bill Bachmann Posted May 22, 2009

    Give us the approximate total sales in dollars of Microstock as opposed to approximate total sales in dollars of Rights Managed. You always make it sound like so many sales in Micro, but what are the total dollars divided between agency & photographer?

    While you nare at it, also (out of one dollar) what is the average percentage of that dollar from Microstock agencies?

    That will help.... not just total hits & sales all the time.

    Bill Bachmann
    Orlando, Florida

  • Dan Heller Posted May 22, 2009
    > traditional prices seem to be declining rapidly,
    > while microstock prices are rising at an equally rapid clip.

    I've written for years that this very phenomenon would happen. A directly related article: http://www.danheller.com/blog/posts/myth-that-microstock-agencies-hurt.html

    Dan Heller
    VP Marketing, PicScout

  • Jose Pelaez Posted May 22, 2009
    Bill, is this what you're looking for?


    see table 3

    Jonathan Clymer

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