iStock Review

21 September 2012 Stock Photo Agencies Last update: 14 June 2015

Details | Website

iStock is (was?) considered one of the biggest stock photo agency on the market. Whether you are an amateur or a professional photographer or designer, you have to keep in mind that there is an opinion that iStock is one of the most difficult stock photography website to get pictures approved with. On the other hand, for many photographers it is the highest (or second highest) earner. iStock pays their contributors a base royalty rate of 15% for each file downloaded (unless you become an Exclusive contributor and earn up to 45%). If you reach a new level of the so-called "redeemed credits total" during a calendar year you will move up to a higher royalty rate.

To become a stock photo seller you need to visit iStock Registration Page and register your account first. It is completely free and takes 3 easy steps:
1. Join iStock
2. Apply to be a Contributor. You apply for the file type you want to submit (photo, vector, flash, video, audio, logo) and start reading the manual. Once you have learned the basics, you have to take an easy quiz.
3. Once you have passed the quiz, you can submit 3 samples of your work. It is important you send your best images that represent your style and your skills. If, by any reason, these images do not pass, you are given the chance to supply different photos.

iStock is probably one of the top 5 stock photo agencies in terms of the number of images online. Uploading to this site is a long process, since you cannot use FTP. To streamline the process there are some tools for photographers and one of the best for us is DeepMeta - it allows you to keyword, describe and categorize your photos directly within the software on your computer, and once you are ready, to upload them all to iStock website. You can also get various statistics fetched directly from the site and it is available for both Mac and Windows.

Good news is that recently they got rid of the upload limit (before it was only 20 images per week for non-Exclusive contributors), and now you can submit up to 999 photos per week. If you are a new iStock member it will take much shorter to build up your portfolio than we had to do in the past. Their review times vary and can take from 4-5 days to over a week or even more. It is important that you keep uploading your artwork regularly, otherwise your sales may drop.

It is worth to mention that as a non-Exclusive contributor you are automatically opted in for iStock Partner Program, which means your images can be displayed on subscription based microstock websites, such as or It has its pros, as due to the fact that sales on iStock dropped down recently, it is additional reward at around $0.28 per image, and for photographers having good quality stock oriented photos in their portfolios it can make a difference in monthly revenue (some report it to be up to 80-90% of their monthly total on iStock).


In September 2014, iStock streamlined their stock photo collections (now Essential and Signature, with the latter available to Exclusive Contributors only), as well as credit pricing and subscription plans. Since there is only one price per image regardless its size, it has its pros and cons for both stock photo contributors and photo buyers. Before you become their member check iStock pricing first, compare it to the other stock photo agencies and see if it is going to work out for you.

Another bad news is that iStock dropped their referral program and it is now available only to their Exclusive contributors, so all hard work we have done and time we spent referring new members will not bring us any revenue anymore.

Our verdict:

It used to be 100% recommended agency for any amateur, semi advanced or professional photographer, but in our opinion things started changing there after acquisition by Getty Images in February 2006. Since then iStock has introduced many updates to their website, image collections, terms and conditions, referral program, etc. and at the moment it doesn't look like all changes work quite well for everybody. We used to be with iStock from the beginning and we hope it will not change in the near future, but we know from fellow stock photographers that many Exclusives became non-Exlusives and started submitting their stock photos to other agencies.

iStock Details
LocationCalgary, Canada
How to applySubmit 3 sample images for review
Image sizeMinimum 1600 x 1200 px (approximately 2.0 MP)
Media acceptedPhoto, Vector, Flash, Video, Audio, Logo
LicensesStandard License, Extended License, Editorial Use Only License
Credit pricingFrom $6,50 per 1 credit (in 300 Credits Package) or from $150 for 1 Year Subscription Plan (750 images/month)
Contributor rates15-20% or 25-45% for exclusive contributors (depending on redeemed credits) and from $0.28 for subscription and partner sales
Minimum payout$100
Payment methodsPayPal/MoneyBookers, Cheque, Direct Deposit or Pre-Paid iStock MasterCard® Payoneer
ExclusivityUp to 45% (to become exclusive you must have 250 downloads and approval ratio of 50% or 500 downloads)
Referral programEnded as of September 13, 2014 - now available to Exclusive Contributors only
Upload methodsHTML webform, Aperture plugin, DeepMeta application (Mac & PC)
IPTC Data supportYes
CurrenciesUS Dollar, Canadian Dollar, Euro, Pounds Sterling, Australian Dollar, Japanese Yen, Chinese RMB
Language versionsEnglish, Français, Español, Deutsch, 日本語, Português, Português do Brasil, Italiano, Polski, Русский, 한국어
iStock Extras and ToolsiPhone App (read more about Mobile Applications, Microsoft Office Plug-in, WordPress Plug-in, Facebook eCard App, Free Monthly Calendar, DeepMeta, Aperture 3 Plug-in
Download ReleasesModel Release
Property Release

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