iStock 2010 Changes and What They Mean

Nearly a week ago (Dec. 8, 2009) Kelly Thompson made an announcement on the iStock forum about a number of changes iStock would be making in early 2010.  The response to these changes have extremely varied, both positive and negative, from exclusive and non exclusive photographers alike.  The announcement thread on iStock has already attained enough posts to be considered a short novel (2300 posts and counting) while the thread on MicrostockGroup, which is slightly more manageable, has some 200 posts to work through.

What are the changes?

There are 4 main changes announced.  iStock will introduce Tiered Collections, make a small adjustment to their credit prices, adjust the needed sales for each canister level and make some front end improvements.

Tiered collections

(starting January 7, 2010)

The Main Collection

The main collection will be built from non-exclusive images.  All pricing will stay as it currently is, except for the two largest photo sizes, where we will see a price cut.

Current Pricing – photos


New Pricing – photos


iStock Exclusive Collection

iStock exclusive images will be seeing a significant increase in their sale prices.  Prices will increase anywhere from 7%-100%.

Current Pricing – photos


New Pricing – photos


Current Pricing – vector


New Pricing – vector


Note: All Exclusive elaborate files are currently in Vetta

Exclusive Plus Collection

(will launch later than the other collections)

iStock exclusives will be able put 20% of their portoflio into the Exclusive Plus Collection.  Pricing for this collection is not yet set (and neither is the name), but will be somewhere between Exclusive and Vetta.

Vetta collection

The vetta collection currently represents around 1% of the total iStock database.  iStock will continue on with this successful collection, keeping pricing unchanged.

Current (and future) pricing


2010 Credit Price Changes

(starting January 7, 2010)

There will be a very small adjustment to the price of a credit.

New Credit Pricing


Current Credit Pricing


Canister Level Changes

(starting February 24, 2010)

New Canister Levels

Base: 1 – 499
Bronze: 500 – 4,999
Silver: 5,000 – 19,999
Gold: 20,000 – 49,999
Diamond: 50,000 – 399,999
Black Diamond: 400,000 +

Current Canister Levels

Base: 1 – 249
Bronze: 250 – 2,499
Silver: 2,500 – 9,999
Gold: 10,000 – 24,999
Diamond: 25,000 – 199,999
Black Diamond: 200,000 +

Current contributors will be grandfathered in to their existing levels.
Update: Kelly Thompson just announced that Exclusive contributors will be grandfathered into the levels for one additional step.  If you are a gold photographer on Feb. 24, you will only need 25,000 sales to reach diamond.  The next level, Black Diamond, would then be at the new levels and take 400,000 sales. [Announced 18 Dec. 2009] [Discuss]

Site updates

iStock also mentions they are constantly making updates to the backend of the site, but coming soon – they will be making improvements to the front end as well.

How does this affect the seller?

What we know!

  • iStock hasn’t mentioned if they are going to shuffle the search results again, but they have stated that the Exclusive and Main collection will be shown together, in a similar manner as exclusive and non-exclusive files are currently shown.
  • Exclusive photographers will receive 12.5%-20% less commissions for each sale when they reach the level that would have put them into the next canister level.
    Let’s say we have an exclusive contributor with 2000 downloads right now – lets call him Thor.   Thor is currently a Bronze contributor earning 25% commissions.  Thor won’t make it to silver before February when they change the canister system.  In March Thor reaches 2500 downloads.  With the new system however, he stays at Bronze canister level (25% commission) instead of getting silver and 30% commission.  So from march 2010 onwards, iStock is getting 5% more of Thor’s earnings than they would have without the change.  That 5% would have been a 20% increase in earnings for Thor (5/20 = 20%).
    make sense?  iStock are taking a higher percentage of the sale whenever someone SHOULD have reached the next canister but didn’t because of the change.
  • iStock exclusives will see an increase in sale prices from 7%-100%.  Medium sized images will be selling for 67% more.  Despite the ‘earnings cut’ they receive due to canister changes, exclusives should see an overall increase in earnings due to the increase in prices.
  • Currently, iStock is making more money from a non-exclusive sale compared to a sale from an exclusive photographer.  Once the changes take place, iStock will be making more money from an exclusive sale.  Using a medium file as an example.
    Canister Level
    iStock’s Share – Current pricing
    @ 6 credits for all sales
    iStock’s Share – new pricing
    @ 6 credits non-exclusive sale
    10 credits exclusive sale
    non-exclusive 4.8 credits 4.8 credits
    Bronze 4.5 credits 7.5 credits
    Silver 4.2 credits 7 credits
    Gold 3.9 credits 6.5 credits
    Diamond 3.6 credits 6 credits
    Black Diamond 3.6 credits 6 credits

What we like to think we know!

  • There have been rumors about iStock offering non-exclusive photographers the opportunity to upload exclusives files.  This rumor is totally unfounded, but comes from Kelly making this statement.
    We’re also hoping to encourage the strongest talents in stock today to consider bringing their best work to iStock exclusively.
    The fact that Kelly used the word ‘also’ makes it seem like there is something more than just the regular exclusive deal.  Time will tell.
  • As mentioned earlier, iStock is currently making the most income per sale from non-exclusive sales.  In the future iStock will make significantly more from exclusive sales.  Many people are suggesting that iStock may decrease the non-exclusive presence in the already heavily exclusive-biased search results.
  • Non-exclusive files may gain a slight advantage on iStock in regards to price sensative buyers.  For buyers who have a strict budget of a few dollars, they may choose a cheaper non-exclusive image, over a similar, more expensive exclusive image.
  • With Vetta, Exclusive Plus, and higher overall commissions for exclusive photographers, iStock seems to be tempting a lot of non-exclusive photographers to put on an exclusive crown.  In the MSG thread there is a lot of discussion and anticipation about how the other microstock sites will compete to keep their photographers.

Have I forgotten anything?  Are there ways the industry will be affected that I haven’t touched on?

Post your comments in the blog, or get in the discussion:

Discussion on MicrostockGroup
Announcement thread on iStock Photo

About The Author:

Tyler Olson works as a microstock photographer who also runs the MicrostockGroup forum and blog. Being so closely involved in the microstock community as a submitter, forum moderator and blogger, Tyler is able to keep updated in the constantly changing microstock marketplace.
Posted on December 14th, 2009 in Microstock News | tags: , , , , ,