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.