The iStock New Royalty Saga – Updated


iStockphoto Royalty Changes and iStock Collections, first reactions

It's not yet passed a whole day from the first announcement in the iStock Forum about the new plannings and royalty scheme for the contributors that all the community is going nuts…

iSCAPRC129 pages and more than 2500 messages on the forum at this moment, a strong “iStock Contributor Against Proposed Royalty Changes” campaign, furious declarations of leaving the main microstock agency of the market, other agencies that “kindly” offer their better contributors' rates over the social networks to the frustrated iStockers… I collect here the first articles with reactions and analysis, a flood on the net.

This is the appetizer baby, I think…

Bloody Vampire

Update – September 9th

A first Admin reply on the forum Royalty Change Follow up is on air, here some quotes:

As the company grows, the overall percentage we pay out to contributing artists increases. In the most basic terms that means that iStock becomes less profitable with increased success. As a business model, it’s simply unsustainable: businesses should get more profitable as they grow.

The move to annual levels also helps protect and reward the Exclusive contributors who work the hardest to upload high-quality content. We want to keep paying these people 40% royalties (and even 45% in some cases). But we can't pay everyone 40% and remain competitive, which is what our previous structure would have eventually amounted to, when taken to its logical conclusion.

What's the effect? Another huge forum thread with 1300+ disappointed comments and counting… What does it mean? Check the sadly funny point by point Matt's translation on NilToMil Blog iStock royalty changes (and an agency list for exclusives).

Another valuable reading is the last picNiche Blog post by Bob Davies Shafted by latest iStock changes? What Now? and if you are looking to diversify your portfolio exposure check out my comprehensive list of microstock agencies sorted by Alexa rank, you can begin with the other big 5. For the German readers, here the Robert's post istockphoto senkt Fotografenhonorare auf bis zu 15% e per i lettori Italiani le Considerazioni sulle nuove Royalty continuano…

Also Steve Gibson on MicrostockInsider has just published the article Changes to iStockphoto Royalty Structure.

Just a note, I've stopped showing Getty's family affiliation banners on my home page, it's a little protest sign coming from a 15% “unsustainable” contributor.

Update 2 – September 15th

Predictable… discussions are going on. Another attempt of explication by Kelly Thompson on the iStock forum Where we go from here and some valuable articles:

  • iStockphotos “Unsustainable” Business Model: From Crowd-Sourcing To Crowd-Shafting? – The Russian Photos Blog by Jeremy Nicholl, here a stunning “quote of a quote”:

    “All of you have been so happy to undercut traditional stock photography, copying the best selling images, shooting every hamburger you ever ate, and now that the traditional photographers (often derided as ‘trads’ by you) have come in to beat you at your own game, you’re shocked- yes, shocked!- to find out that this is a business, not a little happy family giving each other muffins and logrolling in the forums. Well, welcome to the real world- the one that you made for yourselves. 145 pages of whining and wanting things to go back to the way they were- it’s so pitiful. Face it. You aren’t going anywhere. You are going to stay here, and do what the man says. You are getting the bed you made yourselves, so go lie in it. Or go back to what you do best- arguing over the color of your little ribbons.”

  • My Thoughts on the Changes at iStockphoto – Nicolesy by Nicole S. Young
  • “Unsustainable” – MicroStock Comes of Age…er, Not. – LIGHTING ESSENTIALS For Photographers by “wizwow”

My considerations in a nutshell

I'm not an Economics Mastered guy and I don't want to insult iStock/Getty in any way, but if a business model is not able to pay an already low 20%  of commissions, I mean for the non-exclusive contributors, there's something wrong – and not in the royalty structure. Otherwise, the reading key of the news is not to be found in the unsustainable commissions scheme… iStock wants to be a different company, they want to work with Exclusive Professional Photographers and they want to move away from the original User-generated content website business model. I hope that the strong iStockers could maintain the current earning levels and maybe increase them accessing the premium collections, but for the amateurs and/or non exclusives there isn't a good deal anymore.


About Author

I write about the stock photo and microstock industry since 2006 on my several online-magazines. My goal for MyStockPhoto is to teach photographers and stock photographers how to sell more photos and earn money with their photography hobby.


  1. I wonder if the results of these draconian changes are just now starting to be felt. Enough contributors are reporting income rises at SS and DT, and drops at IS, to make me wonder if market share has changed hands.

    While these changes affected contributors instead of buyers, bad publicity is very bad for a business.

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