Saturday, September 18, 2010

iStockphoto, The Agency Collection and a Fantasy

A life ring (preserver) made of money flies out between urban skyscrapers symbolizing financial assistance.
A new iStockphoto development offers at least some promise for stock photographers."

iStockphoto, Potential Users, and Frustration
In the most recent Graphic Design USA annual survey 70% of those readers surveyed (predominantly designers I presume) that use more than one stock photo agency, preferred iStockphoto. Further, I have heard that half of all stock images licensed through agencies last year were licensed through iStock.  Put those numbers together and you begin to realize something very important.  If you do not have images on the iStock site there are no doubt a huge number of potential users of your work who will never see it. That has been frustrating for me as I just have been unable to come to terms with offering my own work at micro prices. It is kind of ironic though...iStock became a gateway for new entries into the world of stock photography, and yet in a way has become its own kind of barrier to those not willing to participate in micro. Hmmmm.

The Agency Collection and RF Stock Photo Pricing
Whether or not your images can successfully compete with those on iStock’s site, if they aren’t seen they won’t be licensed.  That is why I am encouraged to see that iStock will now have images included on their site that are provided by outside agencies (The Agency Collection). These images will apparently be priced at the lower end of the RF price scale…but will definitely be priced above micro levels. They won’t be competing on price but on whether they do the intended visual job or not. It will be very interesting to see what happens. I am keeping my fingers crossed that a fair portion of the iStock clientele will opt for images that are in this new collection. If that does happen, then there will actually be some case for saying the microstock has, at least somewhat, opened up a wider audience for traditional stock photos…though as a long-time RM photographer it is still hard for me to think of RF as “traditional”! 

My Fantasy World
In my fantasy world this new “Agency Collection” will be a big hit, microstock shooters will see the value of higher pricing, microstock buyers will get used to, at least in some cases, spending more for some photos (mine I hope), microstock clients might check out more RM offerings, and my income will go up. Hey, I said it was a fantasy!


Unknown said...

I share the same fantasy...and am keen to see how it pans out!

sharply_done said...

From the accidental snafu/sneak peek we saw last week, it's a fair guess that the images selected for licensing at iStock aren't superior enough (when compared to iStock's main or Vetta fare) for the collection to be even moderately successful. I'd expect to see an RPI around $50 per year if I was you ...

Unknown said...

Based on my calculations, I think your statement that "half or all images licensed through agencies last year were licensed through iStock." I think Shutterstock alone probably licensed more than iStock although at much lower prices.

I estimate iStock's 2009 sales at between 22 million and 25 million. Overall I believe there were more than 100 million microstock images licensed last year and no more than 1.5 million RM images.

Also, while iStock's prices are certainly rising significantly, it is also pretty clear that the number of units they are licensing per year is declining.

Since iStock's Agency Collection is only accepting images that are "Exclusive" to Getty Images and iStock (at least according to Kelly Thompson)it will be interesting to see if a Blend photographer can earn more from having an images in the iStock Agency collection, or in Blend where it will be represented by Getty and 200 other distributors around the world.

Jim Pickerell

John Lund said...


Hey...don't ruin my fantasy! I hope that the images briefly seen were not indicative of the whole collection!

Thanks for posting!


John Lund said...


I hate it when my stats are off!

Yes, it will be interesting to see how the agency collection does...unfortunately this whole industry has gotten a little "too" interesting!

Thanks for posting!