posted November 8th, 2013
I know that this has been discussed lots but everytime I tried to search it just hung.

@abirkill - I know you have the expertise on this sort of thing. A few question, as I have just been accepted by istockphoto.

1. Is it worth going exclusive with them
2. Can I upload photo's that I have uploaded on here or on facebook
3. Are there other sites that are better / worth trying

I'm not expecting to make this a day job, but earning a bit from my photography would be nice.

Alexis - I notice you are with getty (who own istockphoto anyway), which is exclusive. Is that harder to get into (and obviously would mean leaving istock). What are the differences between Getty and Istockphoto. Sorry - just quite excited to be accepted first time and now full of questions.

Any advice would
posted November 8th, 2013 Check out this post Ian. Also Search Istock, there are a few other related posts. I found this one most informative! and CONGRATS!!!!
posted November 8th, 2013
@acloserlookpbd Thank you Dawn - I knew Alexis had written extensively on this, but for some reason search wasn't working this morning. I don't intend doing portraits, so that part isn't a worry for me. And I certainly don't intend (expect) this to make a primary income. Exciting all the same. I might look at some of the other sites mentioned in the post, especially the one that @abirkill said was more prestigious. Just glad to get on the first time in less than 12 hours.
posted November 8th, 2013
@iwatts Congratulations Ian! Will write more in a few hours when I have chance, but very well done to get accepted first time!
posted November 8th, 2013
@abirkill Thanks - I don't want to bug you as I know you have written much on this but any advice you have would be great, especially in relation to the questions above. Thanks,
posted November 8th, 2013
@iwatts The first thing to say (other than congratulations) is that while I know a fair bit about the stock photography market in general, I'm not, and never have been, an iStock contributor. That means I don't have an indepth knowledge of the aspects specific to iStock, but I'll try to answer as best as I can.

Firstly, it's probably worth going into a little bit of detail to explain the differences between a company like iStock and a company like Getty Images. Stock photography really started to become popular in the 80s, and a lot of stock photography companies were formed around this time. By the 90s, Getty Images and Corbis had become the two major players in the stock photography business.

Both of these companies offered images primarily to high-budget clients who wanted the convenience of being able to buy top-end imagery on demand. If you wanted an image for a magazine cover, illustration for an article, billboard or similar, and didn't want the hassle of commissioning a professional photographer, you would approach one of these agencies.

However, towards the end of the 90s, it became clear that there was a market for selling 'off the shelf' photos to smaller companies who couldn't afford to pay Getty or Corbis prices, but still wanted imagery. This demand skyrocketed with the incredible growth of the Internet, with virtually any company of any size needing a website, and a website being nothing without pictures. Thus was born the microstock company.

Microstock follows a similar business pattern as traditional stock photography, but targets smaller businesses who cannot afford or justify paying top-dollar for images. While a photo sells for a lot less money, microstock businesses sell a far greater number of photographs.

Obviously, there needs to be a distinguishing factor to separate microstock and stock agencies, and this is generally considered to be the quality of the work. While I certainly don't make any claims about my own portfolio, it's reasonable to say that, on average, photos sold via stock agencies are of a higher calibre than those sold by microstock agencies, and are more likely to have the quality required to be printed as a high-resolution magazine cover, for example. (That's certainly not to say there aren't many stunning photographers working for microstock companies!)

iStock was the pioneer of microstock and remains the largest of these microstock companies (Shutterstock being the other major player) -- and as you have noticed, iStock were bought by Getty in 2006 as a complementary business to their own branded stock photography company.

From the photographers point of view, while you can make a living through either stock or microstock, it's generally accepted that you need a lot more images in a microstock collection compared to a stock collection, to make an equivalent income. This is because of two factors -- microstock photos sell for a lot less (a full-resolution photo on iStock sells for ~$100, a full-resolution photo on Getty sells for ~$600), and microstock buyers are much more likely to be buying for web use (and hence buy smaller, cheaper sizes than the equivalent sales through a stock company).

Incidentally, this is in no way a criticism of microstock companies or contributors -- it is a high profit industry and a lot of photographers make very respectable income from it. I do not contribute to microstock sites personally, as it does not complement my other work (as a fine art photographer, it would be hard to justify selling a large print which earns me a few hundred dollars commission when the buyer could buy the image file outright for under $100).

Hopefully that explains the difference between stock companies like Getty, Corbis, and Alamy, and microstock companies like iStock and Shutterstock.

Getty Images is one of the hardest stock photography companies to contribute to, mainly because they do not have an application process. As I said to someone from the site who e-mailed me on this subject a few days ago, the most appropriate phrase is 'don't call them, they'll call you'! This does mean that they keep the quality of their portfolio very high, but is also a bit frustrating.

The best chance of getting an invite is to post your work on Flickr, ensuring that the option in your Flickr privacy settings to allow Getty Images to invite you to become a contributor is enabled. After that you just have to wait... and wait.

Answers to your other questions, to the best of my knowledge:

1. Exclusivity is tricky, and this is one of several areas where you need to make sure you understand exactly what a given stock agency means by exclusivity. Getty Images demand exclusivity, but only for the images I sell through them -- if I wanted to, I could sign up with a second stock agency, as long as I didn't sell the same images through. However, iStock's exclusivity applies to you, rather than your images -- if you are exclusive to iStock, you cannot list images with any other stock agency, even if they're completely different photos.

For the Getty Images type of exclusivity, this makes sense to me -- it saves buyers shopping around between agencies for the best price, and doesn't limit what I can do with images that aren't suitable for Getty. iStock's exclusivity is harder to judge. If you don't think you'll ever both signing up with another agency, then hey, why not? It's more money for no effort. But if you want to sell through another agency, then obviously, iStock exclusivity isn't for you.

The good thing about iStock exclusivity is that you can pull out of it with a relatively short notice period, so you're not stuck with it.

Bear in mind that if you choose to go exclusive, then you are legally bound to refer any licensing requests to go via iStockPhoto. For example, if a local magazine contacts you asking to buy one of your photos, you are obliged to tell them to go via iStockPhoto (who will then take their significant commission). Again, you need to decide how likely and how often this is going to happen, and judge accordingly.

2. Whether exclusive or non-exclusive, stock agency contracts only apply to the sale of your image files. You are free to do what you like with them otherwise, so there is absolutely no problem submitting files that you have uploaded here, to Facebook, or to any other social networking site, or your own website. Similarly, you should be OK to sell prints of your photos (as you're not selling the actual file), although it's always worth checking to make sure (files licensed in a certain way through Getty Images cannot be sold as prints unless they are numbered).

The main thing you need to be careful with is competitions with rights-grabbing terms and conditions. If the terms and conditions of a competition state that you give the competition holder 'a world-wide irrevocable license' or something like that (a great many do), then you are directly licensing that photo to the competition holder (and getting nothing out of it, unless you are lucky enough to win). However, this is only a problem if either you, or the image you submit, is bound under exclusivity.

3. Shutterstock is the main competitor in the microstock space, so if you don't go exclusive with iStock, you might as well put your photos on Shutterstock too. There are a number of smaller microstock companies, but many of them pay extremely low prices, and are probably best avoided, as you have been accepted into one of the two biggies.

You may wish to either try and get accepted to Getty Images, or apply to another non-microstock company. I believe Alamy is the largest which allows open submissions. If you do this, I'd recommend managing your portfolio sensibly, making sure not to duplicate the same images across microstock and non-microstock sites, as a buyer will see this as an indication that you're unclear on the value of your work.

Yet another long post -- let me know if you have any more questions, or if any of that wasn't clear! And good luck!
posted November 8th, 2013
@abirkill That was so useful, and again, thank you for sharing your vast knowledge. I have seen you do it with so many people, and it must take so much of your time up. Thank you, and you deserve a medal.
posted November 12th, 2013
Congratulations, Ian. Getting in the first time can be tricky so you have done awesomely!

Selling stock photos is great, particularly because it gives you an avenue to take photos of a great variety of things.

Alexis gave you great information. *thumbs up*

I sell through a stock (NZ only) and a microstock (international) agency (not iStock). I personally don't make enough for a living but it's a nice little earner for those extras in life.

The stock agency requires maximum quality when saving as a jpeg and the microstock requires it only at high quality so there are definitely some differences. Regardless, any stock site is always demanding great composition, lighting, focus and subject.

Have fun and make some dollars. :)

posted November 12th, 2013
@obmcreations Thanks - i'm learning loads - just got to plow through all the documentation now - i've uploaded a few so am now waiting to see if they get accepted before I upload anymore. Thanks for the help.
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