iStock a subsidiary of Getty Images, invites contributors to submit photos or videos that can be sold on an exclusive or non-exclusive basis

Expected pay: varies

Husl$core: $$$

Commissions & fees: 60% to 85% (you earn 15% – 40% of each sale)

Where: Nationwide/worldwide (remote)

Requirements: 18 or older

What is iStock?

iStock, a subsidiary of Getty Images, markets and sells images to newspapers, bloggers, advertising companies and others. These images are largely created by freelancers, who are paid a royalty each time one of their images sells.

How it works

iStock encourages freelance photographers and videographers to submit a portfolio and apply to be contributors. If accepted, the site will represent you in the sale of photos, videos and illustrations.

The site has two ways to do that. You can be an “exclusive” contributor or a non-exclusive contributor.

Non-exclusive contributors sell their images through iStock and Getty. Registering with one gets your photos on both. And this does not prevent them from selling the same photos elsewhere, such as on  Shutterstock or Alamy.

Exclusive contributors

“Exclusive” content is generally sold at premium rates — usually at least $50 per upload. However, photographers, videographers and illustrators give up a lot if they pledge exclusivity here.

iStock’s exclusivity contract not only lays claim to exclusive licensing rights to the photos you upload to the site, it bars you from selling that form of content (i.e. photos) anywhere else.

And while you can terminate your contract at any time, it’s not clear that you can ever regain the rights to the photos you’ve already provided to Getty/iStock through their exclusive license.

You have no direct control over the price that iStock/Getty gets for your work. (iStock and Getty share images and contracts. So our review for iStock is identical to our review of Getty.) So, if they don’t do a good job of representing you, you’re out of luck.

It’s worth mentioning that contributor reviews of iStock and Getty Images are pretty bad. So, we’d suggest you think carefully before granting them an exclusive license. However, given their size and reach, listing your non-exclusive content here isn’t a bad idea.


Contributors earn royalties ranging from 15% to 45% of each sale. They are paid for their work 30 days following the month that it sells, generally by direct deposit. However, the contributor must have built up at least a $100 balance to get paid.


We see no reason not to sell through iStock’s non-exclusive license. You can sign up with iStock here.

In addition to signing up to sell non-exclusive content here, we’d suggest photographers consider Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, Foap and Alamy. You can sign up with Shutterstock here.

What their users say (from Reddit)

I uploaded 63 files and have made over $20,000 on iStock, which is around $300 per file. Some made a lot and others very little. I am still getting some downloads, but the bulk came in 2009-2012. I dropped exclusivity in 2016 to see what SS was like. My iStock placement and downloads plummeted as expected. And the added SS did not make up the difference so I went back to exclusive. They key is in the search results. Most of the old files have moved far down in the search.

Be aware that not all exclusives are doing well. I’m earning between 1/3 and 1/4 of my previous earnings

I was exclusive to istock till 2013, shooting mostly food. Downloads were decreasing every month since 2011. My content just doesn’t fit to the exclusive collection. It was just too expensive. Customers getting much more of the same or better work for less money at istock.

From Trust Pilot

“As an illustrator that has used many platforms to sell my artwork, Getty has been the best by far. I’ve had lots of issues with the way Shutterstock treats their contributors and very inconsistent sales with Adobe Stock. Getty has been great to work with and gives me the highest return on my illustrations. The only complaint I have is inconsistent approval process when I upload new illustrations. Sometimes they get approved right away, other times I’m asked to prove that I created the artwork.”

Low royalties

“Don’t contribute anything to Gettyimages. 1) Very low royalties in microstock, 15% for photos/vectors and 20% for videos, So, the hard work is yours but they take major part (85% and 80%). 2) This is the only microstock agency where you see $0.01-$0.05 as royalties. 3) They don’t show realtime statistics, where as all other microstock agencies show. Isn’t it suspicious? Are they not doing any fraud in this? 4) Very worst customer service 5) They don’t allow you to edit/delete some or all of your files. You need to contact them for that. And they don’t respond positively for those requests”

“I requested to terminate my account because their low royalty rates 15-20%, and low earnings like $0.02 even for videos. After that they removed my content, But they cheated me by not paying my February earnings which crossed above their minimum threshold.”

“Getty – Istock will sell your pictures also on Canva and will take a commission of 85%. If they sell images via Canva for 1€ , the author gets only 0.15!”

“I just definitively closed my account following the sale by Getty images of my entire portfolio over a single day, i.e. 2850 photos which brought me a total of $ 11: yes, I mean $ 11 for 2850 photos, or a little less than $ 0.004 per photo !!!!!! It is simply shameful. Was it explained to me that they were sold to a search engine? I do not believe it at all and even if it were true, you could at least question me to know if I will agree to sell my entire portfolio for this misery.”

Pilfered images

“One of my images was being used as Getty Images place holder on Google, with gettyimages written across it. I have no idea how they got it, this image has never been online. When I emailed them to ask if they would like to do some legitimate business with me they told me to apply via their contributor app, when I did so it just crashed and then refused to open again, repeatedly!!When I contact them about it they just lied and evaded.

I found my picture on another webpage, It was edited a little and then put on sale again. It was hard to grab someone at istock/Getty Images which could help me, so I terminated my profile and my picture. When I finally got hold of them, I received this mail: “Since your account was terminated we don’t represent this image anymore, we have no legal basis to demand payment for an unauthorized use.”

From the Better Business Bureau

I have been a contributor/member with *********** (acquired by Getty Images in 2015) since 2014. On February 22, 2019, I requested that my account be closed and asked about receiving all of my unpaid royalties. When I contacted Getty Images for an answer, my “ticket” was closed with no response. There is no way to contact Getty Images as a contributor other than via the website by creating “tickets” ( I have not been paid anything since February 2015 (when my illustrations made their first earnings) and my requests for payment/information are being ignored by Getty Images. This seems fraudulent and illegal.

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