In our original iStock Review in 2012, we considered iStock as one of the best stock photo agency on the market. Since then, many things changed and Non-Exclusive contributors cannot benefit from many features that are available to Exclusives only.

There is an opinion that iStock is one of the most difficult stock photo websites to get pictures approved with. Nevertheless, 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. If you become an Exclusive contributor you can earn up to 45%. When 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.

iStock Rates for 2020

The following royalty rates apply to sales made through credits or subscription on, depending on whether you are Exclusive or Non-exclusive contributor.

iStock Review | Royalty Rate Card | Stock Photo Adviser

Note that number of downloads does not impact royalty rates for non-exclusive contributors. Only Exclusives can benefit of increased commission throughout a year. It becomes effective the following month after you reach the levels specified above.

Also, you can climb the rank ladder only during the year and your Download total is reset to zero on January 1, each year so you start a new year with the rank achieved in the previous year. It means that your starting royalty rate may be higher or lower.

Should you try iStock?

iStock is probably one of the top 5 stock photo agencies in terms of the number of images online. Uploading to this site used to be a long process since you could not use FTP, but now it’s much easier. Their new contributor platform allow you to drag & drop images, as well as to upload from your Dropbox account.

Also, to streamline the process, they have useful tools for photographers. One of the best for me is DeepMeta. It allows you to keyword, describe and categorize your photos directly within the software on your computer. When finished, upload them all in one batch to iStock website. You also have access to various statistics fetched directly from the site. Deep Meta is available both for Mac and Windows.

Statistic reports are still something that they should improve. Digging through the Excel list of all images sold in a given month is a nightmare.

No upload limits

Good news is that recently they got rid of the upload limit (before it was only 20 images per week for non-Exclusive contributors). 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. Remember to upload your artwork regularly, otherwise your sales may drop.

As a non-Exclusive contributor you are automatically opted in for iStock Partner Program. It means your images can be displayed on subscription based microstock websites, such as or Due to the fact that general sales on iStock dropped down for non-exclusive contributors, it is still additional reward at around $0.28 per image. For photographers having good quality stock oriented photos in their portfolios it can make a difference in their monthly revenue.

For Stock Photo Buyers

iStock Review | Pricing | Stock Photo Adviser

Take a look at our iStock Discount Codes for Subscription Plans and Credits. iStock offers a variety of the highest-quality stock images, videos and music tracks so it is a one-stop place to stock up for the few months ahead. Especially, that their credits never expire!

15% OFF

15% Discount on Monthly Subscription For ALL Customers

15% OFF

15% Discount on Monthly Subscription For ALL Customers

10% OFF

10% Discount on Credit Packs For ALL Customers

10% OFF

10% Discount on Credit Packs For ALL Customers

What else has changed?

In September 2014, iStock streamlined their stock photo collections. It is now Essential and Signature, with the latter available to Exclusive Contributors only. They also changed 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 pricing first, compare it to the other stock agencies and see if you are OK with this model.

iStock Review | Stock Photo Adviser

Quite bad news is that iStock dropped their referral / affiliate program and it is now available only to their Exclusive contributors. All hard work we have done and time we spent referring new contributors will not bring us any revenue anymore.

Good news is that there is an affiliate program where you can refer stock photo buyers. You will need to sign up to iStock affiliate program via Impact Radius. Before you do so, contact Getty Images or iStock support to speed things up and have your application approved instantly.

iStock Review: Our verdict

It used to be 100% recommended agency for any amateur, semi advanced or professional photographer. In our opinion things started changing after acquisition by Getty Images in February 2006. Since then, iStock has introduced many updates to their website, image collections, referral program, etc. Not all changes worked quite well for everybody. We know that many Exclusives became non-Exlusives and submit their stock photos to other stock agencies too. Some of them left iStock for good.

On the other hand, sales are stable, uploading process (but not statistics) improved, and looks like iStock managed to put things together to be more user friendly.

Also, when sales drop a little, they should consider lowering the payout limit from $100 to $50.

To become iStock contributor visit their Application Page, fill out the forms, send sample images and submit your application. Be patient as it may take up to 30 business days to review it.

If you would like to check iStock offers and pricing for stock content, visit iStock Website.

iStock Details
LocationCalgary, Canada
How to applyFill out Application Form and submit 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
Minimum payout$100
Payment methodsPayPal/ Skrill, Cheque, Direct Deposit or Pre-Paid iStock Payoneer MasterCard
Upload methodsWebform, Dropbox, qHero, DeepMeta App (Mac & PC)
IPTC Data supportYes
More detailsDetails of Contributor Royalties, Image/ Credit/ Subscription Prices, Referral Programs and Exclusivity Rates can be found in our Comparisons
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