iStock by Getty Images – Complete Review

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IStockPhoto was the first Microstock agency in the world. Founded in 2000 by Bruce Livingstone, it was initially conceived as a simple photographic community where people could share and download free images. Something similar to what happened years later with Picasa, Flickr, and so on. Since 2001, the community began to ask its users a minimum fee for downloading images, in order to cover the costs for the expansion of the site and for hosting. The definition of “micro-payment” comes right from this minimum fee, therefore this was the start of the Microstock market.

Since then and for many years iStock was the point of reference for microstock photographers and it is still one of the most serious and reliable agencies on the market. In 2006 iStock was acquired by Getty Images and since then the agency made some mistakes in terms of trade policy, relying a bit too much on its historical reputation and showing a lower ability for innovation than its direct competitors. For all these reasons iStock is no longer the leading agency on microstock market, being clearly overpassed by Shutterstock.

Until recent times, iStock has always been one of the more selective agencies in terms of acceptance rate of the images and this made this agency typically unloved by new contributors, who saw their initial efforts frustrated by the frequent rejections. This strong selectivity, however, was synonymous of high image quality. During 2014 there was a progressive “softening” of the reviewers, with the result of a much higher acceptance rate of the submitted works. Moreover, the final transition in Getty Images occurred at the beginning of 2015 opened new scenarios for this historic agency, always awaited to face new competitive challenges with other big players in this market.

Earnings at iStock are above average (15% for each download), even more for exclusivist contributors (25% for each download) and growing further as the level of the contributor during the solar year increases (up to 20% for the non-exclusivists and to 45% for exclusivists).

To become a contributor, after registering on the site, you need to pass an easy admission test, based on some questions focused on basic aspects of the microstock activity. Once you pass the test, you must submit 3 images and wait for their review. If the 3 images are not approved, you can submit more images. After being admitted as contributor, you can immediately send images for review, with a limit of 1000 files per week.

The process of uploading files is pretty unique: it is not permitted to upload via FTP, therefore sending files via webform can turn the uploading into a nightmare, especially when you have hundreds of files to be sent all together. But there is a further uploading mode through the very useful software called DeepMeta, made available from iStock itself. With this software you can perform a number of operations directly on files in your computer, such as adding keywords, categories, titles and descriptions. When the files are ready, you can send them to iStock directly via the software. At that point, the files will be considered validated for review with no other actions required by the contributors on the website. In other words, you can totally skip the submission phase, typically needed at all the other microstock agencies. DeepMeta also allows you to see statistics of the submitted images and stored in your portfolio. For users of the Aperture software, there is also available a plug-in that allows the uploading of the images to iStock directly from within the Apple software.

The times for image review are highly variable and can range from 4-5 days at best, up to some weeks at worst. Even with iStock is good to be rather regular about uploading new content, because the search mechanism of the site will push exposure of portfolios with new content.

Among other remarkable aspects there is the partner program: there are other websites, partners of Getty Images like and, that automatically get content from iStock database and sell this content to their users. The downloads generated by these partners are so frequent that it is not unusual that they represent the main part of the total downloads at iStock.

Below is the table with the main informations about iStock:

Logo iStockphoto Logo
Social Links/Blog Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Forum
Headquarters Canada Calgary, CANADA
Portfolio Not Available
Website Traffic Rank by Logo Button 125x40
Admission Test Easy test, but you also need to send 3 of your best works
Image Size Minimum 2 Megapixel (1600 x 1200 pixels)
Accepted File Types Photos, Vectors, Footages, Flash, Music, Logos
Severity of the Reviewers High
Editorial Images Accepted, although a particular description of the file is required before submission
Types of Licences Standard License, Editorial License, Extended License
Price of the Images Credits starting from $1.40
Earnings for Contributors From 15% per download, increasing by contributor status up to 20%
Payout Minimum Threshold $100
Payment Mode Automatic, Monthly, via PayPal, Bank Checks, Bank Transfer or prepaid iStock MasterCard Payoneer
Exclusivity From 25% per download, increasing by contributor status up to 45%
Referral Program $20 or 20 credits or 20% commission per customer referred
Uploading Mode Webform, Aperture Plug-in, Software DeepMeta
Recognition IPTC data from file Automatico
Currency $ US Dollar (USD)
Supported Languages Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish
Tools iPhone App, Microsoft Office Plug-in, WordPress Plug-in, DeepMeta, Aperture 3 Plug-in
Download Release Forms Model/Property Release

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Expert in Marketing and Communication in a major company of the Italian FMCG market, traveler by vocation, passionate photographer, contributor at all major international microstock agencies, founder of Marcor$tock, a blog focused on Microstock Market and Digital Photography.