|Shutterstock iStock Alamy Dreamstime Adobe Stock|
iStock used to be best stock agency around. Not quite so anymore. Since acquisition by Getty Images in 2006 things started to steadily deteriorate on many fronts. Compensations have been slashed, which caused many contributors to withdraw their portfolios and leave. Non-exclusive contributors are treated very unfairly -- low compensation, ridiculously long review periods, denied access to several features (portfolio reviews, assignments, etc.) Exclusive contributors fare better, but very few decide to go that path as exclusivity to 1 agency hardly makes sense nowdays.
Another issue with iStock is total degradation of technical criteria. Virtually all kinds of images are accepted -- unfocused, blurry, under/over exposed, etc. Only acceptance criteria is legal (property), and sometimes strict to the extreme; for instance images taken inside shopping malls are not allowed -- to my knowledge iStock is the only agency with such requirement for editorial images. It is important to notice that as iStock contributor your images are also considered for sale on Getty, which can be regarded as older brother. You can probably think of Getty as serious photographer domain, while iStock is low-end domain of "smartphone photographers".
Despite all of the above, iStock is still good agency due to established pedigree and extensive library built over the years. For most stock contributors it ranks second right after Shutterstock. My highest grossing image on iStock is this early evening landscape taken on Silvertip golf course above Canmore with distant Three Sisters Mountain landmark on the horizon:
Image was snapped very casually, with my second camera -- pocket Sony Rx 100 -- but it has that early evening glow and unique Rocky Mountain feel to it. You can find my iStock portfolio here
|15% of sale price||45% of sale price|
Due to variety of channels images are sold, end compensation wildly varies. On low end some of my images have sold for fraction of a penny, which is ridiculous and downright disrespectful. On high-end you can still get several dozens of dollars for single sale -- even as non-exclusive contributor.
Contributors use ESP Portal to upload images. This interface is by margin the worst in the industry. Submissions must be part of superficial "batches" which are confusing and totally unnecessary. It is not allowed to edit meta-data after submission. Keywords must fall in recognized range, otherwise they won't be indexed. Once images have been accepted, there is no practical way to organize your portfolio. These are just a few details that make iStock contributor experience sub-par when compared with other players in the industry.
Largest issue with iStock by far is lack of real-time sale reports. Contributors must wait full month to see which images sold and for how much (Monthly reports are uploaded around 20th of the month for previous month). To my knowledge this is the only case in the industry -- everybody else supports real-time data (i.e. as soon as it happens). Web analysis is impossible due to very poor interface; instead standalone "deepMeta" application has been developed and is available for free download. While powerful, it looks like a dinosaur in modern age when most applications in software industry are web based.
Regardless if you are applying as Getty or iStock contributor, process is the same -- follow this link. Review of your application and image sample(s) determines into which agency you are primarily accepted to.