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Why we're dumping iStockPhoto for our stock photography

I've been buying stock photos from iStockPhoto.com for more than 8 years.  However, I recently decided to switch to Dreamstime.com as our organization's primary stock photo service.

Here are a few reasons I'm dumping iStockPhoto:

  • Their prices have skyrocketed. When I first signed up with iStockPhoto, they were charging $0.50 to $1.00 per image - for images of a decent resolution.  By playing with 3 variables: their credits system, the cost per credit, and the size of image you get (they now have XXSmall images which aren't useful for anybody) they've managed to increase their costs to more than $15 for the same size of images. Many of the same images can be found on competing sites for less.

  • They don't pay photographers what they deserve.  Photographers receive as little as a 15% cut on the images they sell on iStockPhoto.  This is the lowest of all top stock photo sites.

  • More fresh photography can be found elsewhere. A lot of the newest photography is going to their competition, because of the low commissions paid by iStockPhoto and their reputation for treating photographers poorly.

  • Their motivations have changed.  When iStock was started, it was independently owned and was focused on serving both graphic artists and photographers.  They created an innovative new model for stock photography that changed the industry for the better.  Unfortunately, they sold their business to Getty, which is infamous for overpriced images and aggressive business models. 

I'm thankful for how iStock re-invented the industry 10 years ago, but now I'm rooting for some of the newer, smaller stock photo websites like Dreamstime.com.  They seem to still be focused on serving both photographers and photo buyers.  While iStock has squeezed out more profit in the short term, I think these newer sites can be more profitable for the long haul by keeping their focus on serving their customers and photographers.


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