27 Dec 2011 Depositphotos Review

No microstock agency has come as close to joining the top earning agencies as Depositphotos has done in its mere two years of business.

But this agency is weird.   Very weird!   Here’s why:

They launched into a bloodbath of controversy due to association with a file-sharing network. They copied the best strategies of various top microstock agencies adding almost nothing new. And a policy of strict anonymity for staff and owners compounded suspicion and fed conspiracy theories.

Yet the company has been very successful. The strategies they copied were well chosen. And they spent a lot of money in all the right places. They’ve just passed 5 million files exactly two years after launch. And many serious microstockers report that Depositphotos is among their top 5 – 7 earning agencies.

Let’s take a closer look at this weird but successful microstock agency and see if we can help you make your decision about contributing to Depositphotos.

Depositphotos logo

What’s [NOT] Different about Depositphotos?

There’s not much in the Depositphotos business model that we haven’t already seen in the industry.   Here’s some of the winning strategies that Depositphotos chose:

  • Smart search – most new microstock agencies lack variety and sort options when they launch but Depositphotos gave buyers great search results from day 1
  • API – realizing just how many sales come via partnerships and system integrations, Depositphotos also had a functional API from day 1
  • Lucrative affiliate program – new agencies can’t trade on a reputation for generating sales, so affiliate programs must make up for it which the Depositphotos program does, though a little weird (see below)
  • Contributor incentives – boosting submissions with paid uploads got Depositphotos to a record-breaking 5 million files in just two years
  • Taking submissions by hard drive – accepting bulk submissions with a release spreadsheets lowers the barrier for big contributors to participate
  • Split site – contributors get separate accounts at a separate and familiar sub-domain: submit.depositphotos.com

This lack of originality doesn’t just apply to strategy. Site layout, logo design and terminology are all familiar to anyone in the industry. Even model release structure and wording are plainly derived from another well-known microstock agency.

But copying has its advantages. Their strategy was already proven so they launched with lots of confidence.   And they backed it up with great programming and well targeted marketing. At launch, Depositphotos looked and felt more like the top agencies than a startup.

So what is actually different?

  • Payment by SMS – buyers in certain countries can pay for photos through their mobile phone bill, replacing credits with SMS messages. This is an original innovation.
  • Free Trial Subscription – buyers get a 7-day subscription for 5 photos per day free of charge, yet contributors still get paid for the sales.
  • Credits actually cost $1 – most other agencies have complicated the pricing and pushed them up over time. However, at Depositphotos, 1 credit actually costs $1, and 50 credits costs $50. Discounts are available above 100 credits.
  • Exclusivity is full ‘photography’ exclusivity, not just for Royalty Free licenses or image exclusivity. I’m not sure what the strategy behind that is, but Depositphotos isn’t pushing exclusivity at all.


Web Address http://submit.depositphotos.com
Google Pagerank 6
Alexa Rank 2,327
Portfolio size 5,000,000
Minimum Image Size 3.4 Megapixels
Vectors Yes
Footage Yes (added August 2012)
Licenses Royalty Free commercial and Editorial, and extended licenses
Compensation 44 – 52% for credits, 30 – 35 cents for subscriptions, and 24 – 28 cents for SMS sales
Pricing $1 credits, subscription plans from 3 day – 1 year with 5 – 45 daily downloads
Payment Methods PayPal, MoneyBookers (Skrill) and Webmoney
Payout Threshold $50
Referral Program Contributors: 3 cents per subscription sale (nothing for credit sales)
Buyers: 15% of credit sales (indefinitely) & 4 – 10% of subscriptions
Application Process Submit 5 sample photos
Exclusivity Contributor exclusivity (see notes below)
Upload Methods Web and FTP, or hard drive for large collections
IPTC Data extraction Yes
Delete images? Yes, immediately and individually
Currencies US dollars
Languages English, Russian, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Dutch
Headquarters Fort Lauderdale, USA
Founded November 2009

Depositphotos Background

Depositphotos was launched by Dmitry Sergiev, the current CEO, who previously worked with a file sharing site, Depositfiles.com. When Depositphotos launched, forum chat alleged it was possible to download pirated collections of stock photos from Depositfiles.com. Apparently Dmitry left Depositfiles before starting Depositphotos, and that was the extent of the association. Nevertheless, together with the connected names, it has been a constant public relations battle for the company ever since.

It was plainly evident that Depositphotos was launched with massive financial backing. And they used it effectively, building their portfolio with cash incentives, marketing extensively within the industry, and building a solid and functional system.   They also took additional funding recently in the form of $3 million from Jersey-based TMT Investments.

The company now has operational centers in three different continents: Accounting and official headquarters in Fort Lauderdale; programming in Moscow; and, review, sales & marketing teams in London.   And yes, headquarters in the US means we must submit the all-too-familiar tax forms.


Microstock agencies need contributors to trust them with their portfolios and buyers to trust them with their credit card details. Anonymity doesn’t inspire a whole lot of trust, but that apparently didn’t occur to Depositphotos until recently. They’ve been working on their anonymity issues since early after launch, but still haven’t figured it out:

  • No staff are ever named on the website
  • Email comes from anonymous addresses (service@, support@, marketing@, etc)
  • No staff existed on LinkedIn (until recently, see below)
  • Even their domain registration details are hidden.

However, we are finally starting to see the Depositphotos staff come out to play:

  • Marius Klatt, Sales Manager operating from London, who we met at Microstock Expo
  • Olga Kravchenko, currently manager of the partner program, was also at Microstock Expo
  • Dmitry Sergiev, Founder and CEO, now finally on LinkedIn
  • Elena Flanagan-Eister, head of US Sales & Marketing, attended Visual Connections NY
  • Igor Kaliuzhnyi, head of Eastern & Western Europe, quoted in all press releases
  • Vadim Nekhai, Marketing Manager
  • Jamie Joyce, Marketing & Advertising Manager
  • Shawn Rize, SEO Specialist
  • Igor Shoifot, Advisor (via TMT Investments), also attended Visual Connections

Split Personality Social Media

It’s taken some time for Depositphotos to get their social media strategy on track, and it’s still not without major issues.

They initially registered their social media presence as a person rather than a company, becoming a Friend on Facebook and a Contact on LinkedIn.

Fortunately someone has woken up to how creepy this is and established a Facebook Page instead, which actually has smart and interesting content behind it.

Yet just when we though they’d figured it out, they start posting contributors’ images at high resolution and without watermark on their Facebook Page.

Contributor Incentives

Depositphotos is currently paying 10 cents per accepted file for the first 500 of new contributors, making a maximum possible upload incentive of $50. Previously the amount was 20 cents making the maximum $100.

But what’s even more appealing is the assistance given to qualifying contributors through their Special Program for Large Contributors. Not only will they negotiate terms, they’ll take your portfolio by hard drive and categorize, attach releases and submit it for you.

Referral Program

While appearing generous on the surface, the Depositphotos referral program reveals more of the weirdness of this agency

  • Payment for referring contributors is great, but it only pays for subscription sales, not credit-based sales. Weird, right?
  • 15% buyer referrals sounds great, but it’s calculated after subtracting the contributor royalty!
  • It doesn’t specify that referrals are paid for the life the referred account, but it doesn’t specify an expiry limit either
  • The cookie duration is a mere 3 days while most other microstock agencies set theirs for 30 days

The Verdict

Depositphotos seems to have proven itself trustworthy over the past two years, operating without any major scandals. And that the staff are coming out and attending events provides more comfort.

Their ability to generate sales is also well proven based on public comment from established microstockers.

With a solid submission process and an open invitation for serious contributors to submit in bulk, there’s also little risk of not getting a return on the effort of uploading.

Add all that together and it seems like it’s now both a profitable and safe decision to contribute to Depositphotos.   You can register here.

  • Microstock Posts
    Posted at 12:00h, 27 December Reply

    Interesting review. In regards to being “launched into a bloodbath of controversy”, I think Robert Scoble’s comment in the link below may be appropriate. “Hating something gives it more credibility….When I attack something, there is no more powerful force. More people will visit that thing than if I say I totally love it and use it every day.”

    DP certainly received a lot of attention and not for the reasons they would have wished, but it certainly helped to put them in the spotlight and ironically may have ended up benefiting them.


    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 12:15h, 27 December Reply

      That’s a great point Komar. Personally I doubt they intentionally fabricated the controversy to get more attention, but I agree that it may have ultimately been more beneficial than detrimental. Great point!

  • R. Kneschke
    Posted at 13:33h, 27 December Reply

    The only thing that keeps me from contributing to Depositphotos is their ridiculously low priced SMS payment options, which leads to a low contributor share.

  • Tyler Olson
    Posted at 17:33h, 28 December Reply

    Nice review Lee. You touched on a lot of points and set a lot of things clear that people have been wondering a lot about.

    In regards to referrals, they have the overall referral earnings on your general stats page
    but also show the individual user referral earnings on the referrals page
    which is really quite a nice stat to see.

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 17:44h, 28 December Reply

      Thanks Tyler, I tried to delve deep and expose some things that I wanted to know, assuming others wanted to know the same things.

      I hadn’t spotted the monthly total for referral earnings under the seller tab. I’ll update the post.

  • Zbynek Burival
    Posted at 07:05h, 31 December Reply

    Well, Im one of DepositPhotos fans 😉 DepositPhotos is not depositfiles and in fact ALL sharing sites have tons of illegal material including stock photos. The problem is not the sharing site but bit**y designers who download our pictures and then share them. I cant imagine way how to inspect every single file submited to such sites, especially if those are usually password protected ZIP/RAR files.

    I also understand the anonymity. Maybe it is not politicaly correct but western folks still do not trust russian or “east” europians. Even some EU countries are very very racist about eastern part of EU. Revealing 90% of russian staff in such case will not make you very trusthworthy. The other thing is safety problems – reveal you are CEO (or otherwise succesfull businessman) and you are not very safe in countries like Ukraine or Russia.

    Regarding sales, Depositphotos pays 30 cents for most downloads. That is more then 25c for beginners on Shutterstock and MUCH more then ridiculous partner sales on our beloved IStock. In fact average IS sale for me is less then 30c because of these partner sales. Depositphotos is #4 after SS, DT and IS.

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 11:57h, 31 December Reply

      Excellent points Zbynek, thanks!

      I see the discrimination you’re talking about, but I presume people are more likely to trust a business with 90% Russian staff than an anonymous one. I still can’t see the justification.

      Also, I believe that Dmitry is now living in the US, though I do take your point about safety.


  • Marius
    Posted at 08:34h, 11 January Reply

    Hey Lee,

    thanks for the review. This is Marius from Depositphotos.

    By the way (and to further show that anonymity isn´t really an issue for Depositphotos) our CEO Dmitry Sergeev started his own Twitter account, where you can follow the latest developments of Depositphotos.

    Maybe you can even update the review with it.

    Here is the link to the account:


  • Kat
    Posted at 19:50h, 15 January Reply

    When I was laid off from my web designer job in 2009, I considered returning to my earlier profession as vector illustration, only this time as a microstock contributor. But with all the hoops to jump through and agencies squeezing contributor income downward, I returned to freelancing as an independent contractor instead. That said, I remain an avid buyer of microstock for my clients and for personal use for class projects in school.

    That said, and knowing that contributors swoon over fair treatment by DepositPhotos, as a subscriber, DepositPhotos is the microstock agency from hell. I had difficulties with this company in 2010, but the issue was eventually resolved and I decided to give them one more chance, so I signed up for a monthly subscription of 5 image downloads per day per month. BIG MISTAKE!!! Every few days I have no access to my download allotment of images. If you don’t download your allotted number of images, you lose them, no matter whose fault it is. When it happened once, I let it go, but it continues every few days. When they do give you extra credits to make up for the loss, they don’t notify you so you don’t know you have those credits until you happen to notice your total number of invoices has increased. Thinking there were unauthorized purchases on my account, I was surprised to find additional “free” credits, but that were already expired because I didn’t know they were there!!!
    And stopping the recurring subscription after dissatisfaction with poor service is indeed an issue. It doesn’t matter if you deselect the subscription with Paypal, DepositPhotos keeps taking funds anyway. The only way I could make it stop was to either let the credit card expire, or shut down use of that credit card with PayPal completely to keep DepositPhotos from taking funds. The idea that stopping a subscription is the subscriber’s problem is ludicrous! I have other subscriptions through Paypal and the companies bill one month at a time. There is always an option to renew automatically or manually, which is good business. DepositPhotos is still in business only because their subscribers have no way to stop them from stealing their money without a whole lot of grief and frustration. Rip-off IS their business model. BUYER BEWARE!!

  • Eric B
    Posted at 23:16h, 15 January Reply

    Thanks to your review, I decided I’ll give them a chance. Been uploading my vector portfolio for the past few weeks. Very easy process. Categories are a bit too much. But other than that, we’ll see.

  • Antony McAulay
    Posted at 08:18h, 30 January Reply

    For some reason or other Deposit is no longer accessable with Internet explorer on my pc?

    Anyone else having this problem?

  • Frank Bob
    Posted at 09:25h, 26 February Reply

    just ran across depositphotos and checked out there license/use terms.

    it seems you are required to put “File licensed by http://depositphotos.com/user” whenever you use one of their photos in a publication like a magazine? Thats wordy, ugly, and annoying. At worst it should be “© depositphotos.com/user” however…

    it seems most sites like istockphoto.com dont requre the url to be listed next to photos anymore, which is ideal. who wants to make their beautiful page or brochure layout ugly by sticking wordy credit URLS all over it? (I could be wrong about this — istockphoto.com used to require a credit url but within the past 1-2 years I now can’t find any mention of this in their terms)

    • Eric
      Posted at 09:43h, 26 February Reply

      I like the DP requirement. In my opinion, istock is not the standard—nor should it be.

      • Frank Bob
        Posted at 10:27h, 26 February Reply

        Definitely its ideal for the photographers/submitters, but its a big turnoff for people wanting to actually place those images in their designs.

        As a designer, its acceptable to me to place credits on a credit page, but not to have a full sentence and ugly http://url right next to every photo used. Very unprofessional for the end product.

        • Lee Torrens
          Posted at 20:31h, 26 February Reply

          I agree with you Frank. The Depositphotos credit requirement is ugly and unnecessary. But I know a lot of agencies build up a lot of referral business, brand awareness and inbound traffic from credit lines like that, so I understand why they wanted to make it more prominent. But as you say, it’s a real turn off for buyers, which doesn’t help anyone.

          It’s also unusual that they require buyers to use it when printed in mass media, even if it’s not used in an editorial context. Taken strictly, if you design an ad for a product and the ad gets printed in a magazine, it must carry the credit line. If I were still a designer, I wouldn’t buy from Depositphotos while that silly requirement stays in their license.

    • Marius Depositphotos
      Posted at 09:26h, 27 February Reply

      Frank, you don´t need to write this exact text. Anything like userxy/depositphotos.com is ok as well. As long as it contains our site and the photographer for use in a printed publication, it is fine.


      • Lee Torrens
        Posted at 11:12h, 27 February Reply

        Thanks for clarifying Marius, but that’s not what it says in the license requirements.

        I would still advise photo buyers to comply with what’s written on the license page rather than rely on a clarification provided in a blog comment on a separate site.

        Is there any possibility to have the official license page updated so fewer buyers are frightened away?

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 17:38h, 28 February Reply

      Frank, Depositphotos have now changed the requirement in their license terms. It now reads:

      …such notice to contain the following text “©Depositphotos/Name of Contributor”.

      Well done!

      • Frank Bob
        Posted at 02:22h, 12 April Reply

        That is definitely a big improvement over the previous requirement

        However they still require that the text be placed on or right next to those photos when used in mass media print (like magazines). I don’t believe this is the norm and it means I certainly wont be able to use them for client ads.

        The last time I checked, veer, dreamstime, and istockphoto dont have this requirement which means unfortunately I wont ever be able to decide on depositphotos over them, except perhaps if I (rarely) need a stock photo for a website.

        What I find strange is they have that strict requirement for print, but have no requirement for ANY credit notice anywhere when used other ways like on a website (as long as it is not editorial). It would be easier for the web designer to work in on a separate page, and they’d benefit from link building that way.

        (Again, I’m approaching this from the purchaser/designer point of view, not the photography submitter) Below is the current credit requirement from their website:


        User agrees to display a copyright notice on or immediately next to each file licensed pursuant to a Standard license that is reproduced in mass media (such as printed magazines and newspapers), such notice to contain the following text “©Depositphotos/Name of Contributor”.”

  • Peter
    Posted at 00:31h, 12 April Reply

    What if we wanted to use depositphotos picture in a header we design for a website. Surely, we don’t have to put such language as that would look ludicrous. Please advise as I am on verge of pulling the trigger with their monthly plan (hopefully sans problem with this auto-debit issue highlighted above). Thanks and cheers. Great site.

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 01:18h, 12 April Reply

      Hi Peter, I can’t imagine a web header would be ‘editorial’ usage. Assuming that’s the case, you wouldn’t need to use the attribution line at all.

      • Marius Depositphotos
        Posted at 01:43h, 12 April Reply

        Thanks Lee ;). That is correct. For use on a website it is not necessary to put that info onto the image.

        Peter, if you have any further questions – do not hesitate to contact me directly.


  • rider
    Posted at 16:47h, 01 August Reply

    Marius I bought image files from deposit photos and used them as backgrounds for different pages on my site – I checked with deposit photos that I was using the images correctly and was told I had to redo the website somehow so that people couldnt’ download my backgrounds. I’m not offering any backgrounds for download. How am I supposed to have control over someone right clicking “save as” off my website. the standard licence says I’m not allowed to offer images for download but I’m not, it doesn’t make sense and I wasn’t offered any solution as to how I was supposed to do that. A background has to download on the browser in order to be seen. Can you explain this reply from deposit.

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 23:54h, 01 August Reply

      Rider, this is a standard requirement for all stock photo license agreements. The rule usually states that images cannot be displayed online above a certain size if the haven’t been substantially edited. This rule exists to protect against image theft. If you’re using the photos as a background they are probably large enough to be over the specified limit of this rule. Rather than attempting to block right-clicks, I suggest an easier solution is to edit the image (a well-placed logo would render the image useless to anyone but you) or simply replace the images with others that don’t have this restriction (such as images you own). I hope that helps, and thanks for taking the time to check your usage was within the license agreement – we stock photographers appreciate when photo buyers do that.

  • rider
    Posted at 00:06h, 02 August Reply

    okay thanks, thats helpful, I think I might go see if deposit is happy with me putting a logo on each page before removing them. thanks for the explanation.

  • Roly Imhoff
    Posted at 20:45h, 23 October Reply

    I have also had a bad experience with their Payment system.

    I bought some Pay-As-You-Go credits and then was billed twice for it. When I queried this they say they auto renew, yet there was nothing on their site that indicated this. They have a no refund policy and would not refund the amount I was billed extra.

    It seems as though they deliberately make the subscription info hidden.

    What a scam!

  • Yossi
    Posted at 05:44h, 08 June Reply

    Don’t come near depositphotos.com !!!
    I had very BAD experience with them as to automatic subscription renewal. They scamming their customers where they don’t tell you in your order confirmation NOR in the process of paying that they’ll charge you again automatically the following month. Then, when you find out about that they’re saying that there’s NO WAY they can cancel this charge and refer you to the website to remove the automatic charge for the following month. There there’s no place where you can cancel it BUT only when asking support to do this.
    Just think about all the money they’re doing for this SCAM where they’ve thousands of new customers WW every month automatically being renew their subscription without knowing about this…

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