Mar 19 2009

How Freelance Photographers Make Money at iStock

Published by at 5:30 am under General

iStockphoto is a very popular royalty free stock photography website – with both photographers and buyers. If you’re new to selling your photos at online stock photo websites though, it’s usually helpful to find overviews and reviews of the different agencies out there.

iStockphoto is one of the more popular stock image providers online, so I thought it could help to give an overview of my own initial thoughts on them. When I first started selling my photography at stock photo agencies online a couple of years ago, I didn’t sign up with iStock. I have seen people use pictures from that agency in ways they’re not suppose to, and that worried me. I also really did not like their upload process and restrictions.

Since I’d been earning a decent stock photography income from other stock image sites, I thought it might be time to finally give iStock a go. It’s reputed to be a top earning site for many photographers, and the number two earning site for most of the rest. I figured if I was serious about trying to earn my living as a freelance stock photographer, then I should make sure I submitted my images to a place which is often considered to be the top online stock photo agency.

Signing up at iStock doesn’t cost anything. To become a contributing photographer though, you’ll need to do a few things first. The first thing you’ll need to do is apply to become a photographer. This means you’ll take a brief online questionairre style test first, then uploading your first three photos.

iStock only requires you to submit three images for your “test”. But all three of those pictures must be approved before you are officially able to contribute your stock photos.

Some photographers think that first acceptance test is hard, but I personally didn’t have much of a problem. In fact, the only problem I ran into was the fact that I’m primarily a stock food photographer. I submitted two pictures with food and one people photo for my initial test of three, and I quickly found out that iStock prefers to see a variety of topics in your test photos. So even though my photos were not similar in any way, since two of them were on the topic of food one was rejected.

Once I realized they wanted to see 3 separate subjects for the first submission, it didn’t take long for me submit something different and get accepted.

Once you’ve passed your initial submission quality test, you can start uploading your photos to iStock. And this is the part that I personally detest. iStock does not provide an FTP upload service, and they do not give you the ability to upload multiple photos at once via a web form. You are forced to submit just one picture at a time, and this can be quite painful.

Another restriction that I’m not particularly happy about is their upload limits. As a new photographer to iStock, you’re only allowed to upload 15 photos in a one week time frame. The time limits are rolling though, and that tends to help, but the restrictions make it impossible to get a decent sized stock photo portfolio built there quickly.

Rolling time frames with the upload restrictions are confusing to many new users too. It’s easy to understand once explained though: The restriction clock starts new with each photo you upload. So if you upload two pictures today and then 13 tomorrow, you’ll have reached your initial 15 upload limit. In roughly 7 days, you will have two upload slots available though – not 15. That’s because you only uploaded two pictures your first day. A day or so after those new slots open, you’ll have another 13 open up though, since you put 13 pictures into the queue the second day.

Speaking of the queue, I’ve found the iStock takes roughly 5-7 days to review pending photos for new contributors. They apparently review photos from exclusive photographers much faster, but you’re not allowed to become an exclusive photographer with them until you’ve reached a specific dollar amount of sales.

Like all online stock photo agencies, iStock likes certain types of photos better than others. So when you first start submitting photos to them you may notice a high rejection rate. After a short while though, you’ll start learning their particular preferences, and you’ll be able to start getting photos approved fairly consistently.

Due to the painful and slow uploading and submission process there though, I have found myself dragging my heels with getting my stock image portfolio onto their site. I’ve only been a member for a few short months and so far I’ve gotten just 42 pictures online, and I’ve earned slightly over $20. So I still have quite a ways to go before I can call this site a good earner for me.

Despite those problems though, if you’re a freelance photographer who wants to sell more of their stock photos online, signing up with iStock is generally a good step. While their system may not be overly friendly to photographers, they do have a very large buyer base that no photographer should ignore.

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “How Freelance Photographers Make Money at iStock”

  1. Modern Warfare 2 Flag Runner traileron 02 Sep 2009 at 12:30 pm

    Fantastic website, must come back here , very interesting content, bookmarked your blog
    regards fuserarvh

  2. Danon 07 Apr 2010 at 9:54 pm

    Been a shooter for many years and find it tough to sell my babys for a few bucks.

    Truly does anyone make a living sell stock? Sounds like beer money.

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