Do One-Dollar Stock Photos Really Exist?

I am tired of seeing rights-managed sellers refer to microstock as $1 images. That is not what most people are paying, particularly those personal users who buy very few pictures.

Actual prices are substantially higher, even for the smallest, Web-use only file sizes.

What Microstock Actually Costs

The iStockphoto home page says that the smallest file size, which is only large enough for Web use, can be purchased for $1, but that is not true. It can be purchased for 1 credit, and 1 credit is not $1; customers must buy a minimum of 12 credits at $1.52 each in order to buy one picture.

Some of the photos on iStock are available in that extra-small file size for 1 credit. Many of the most popular photos require 2 credits ($3.04) to purchase even the smallest file size. Of course, if a larger file size is needed for print use, even more credits are required.

On Fotolia, the minimum buy is 21 credits for a price of $1.14 each, and some images (again, that smallest, Web-use only file size) are available for 1 credit. But some Web size images require 2 credits and others 3 credits to purchase, bringing the cost up to $3.42. The price for the smallest file size of Infinite Collection images starts at 10 credits or $11.40.

Yes, customers can get the price-per-credit down when they purchase larger credit packages — but is the personal user who might need a few images per year going to buy such a package?

On Fotolia, a customer can get 3,200 credits for $2,400 for the lowest price-per-image, but how many personal users are going to spend that kind of money? That price is for professional, commercial, high-volume users.

Getting Our Numbers Straight

Current data from photographers who sell microstock suggests that the average price-per-image licensed at iStock is between $6.50 and $8. That may not be as high as most rights-managed sellers would like — but it’s not $1.

In fact, I wonder how many of the photographers complaining about microstock prices are allowing Corbis and Getty Images to license their work for less than microstock averages?

If we are going to be against something, let’s at least get our numbers straight.

6 Responses to “Do One-Dollar Stock Photos Really Exist?”

  1. Yes, $1 is not the same as $1.52 or $3.42.

    But does that make any change, any change at all, to the arguments that various photographers have about microstock?

    Or is it just hairsplitting to create a blog post?

    Can't quite see the point of the post.

  2. Really?! $1 or $7, if an image can be purchased for $1 or 1 credit then the numbers are right. When I say one could go to IStock and purchase for a buck, or go license a traditional RM image elsewhere, it is true that one can go to numerous places out there and do just that. I'm not for or against microstock, but I think the point is that $1 or $7, it's nearly giving away the images in comparison to traditional RM. When we want to sell something or prove a point, we generally go to the far end of the spectrum to do so. $1 may be the low end, but it isn't untrue.

  3. You make a good point that so-called "stock" and so-called "microstock" are seeming more and more similar these days. Would you rather make $8 from iStock or $8 from Corbis -- does it really matter what you call it?

  4. Hi Jim,
    to complete your price comparison I want to point out an exhaustive table price (credit based) published on January by Tyler Olson on Microstockgroup Blog; some prices probably are changed but the overview is useful.

    Then, just to give readers an idea, my average microstock commission per photo this year is about 1$ considering both subscriptions and credits...

  5. For one US dollar you get approx 7.20 swedish krona. That's alot of swedish money. A couple of years ago you got 10.50 swedish kronors for 1 dollar. So swedes find it cheap to shop in the states.

  6. This is just like hosting websites saying it costs $4.95 per month for hosting your websites but in reality that's only the price if you pre-pay for 3 years of service up front. If not, the actual cost is $9.95 or something.

    It's all about persuasion and copywriting to draw us in. Those prices are possible if you're willing to buy more or commit to longer periods.

    I wish it was more upfront but they have to try and get your attention some how 🙂

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