Microstock Exclusivity

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Exclusivity, in the context of selling photos online in the microstock market, is where you agree not to contribute your photos to other microstock websites. This can be for all your photos, or for individual photos within your portfolio.

If you’ve read any of the post in this blog before you’ll know I’m not exclusive. Here’s why:Total Microstock Income Proportions by Website

This is a chart of my all-time totals. The data is skewed because we started with different microstock websites at different times, don’t have the same quantity of photos on each website, and I’ve left out my newbies. However, the point that it makes is that no single microstock website dominates my earnings enough to justify my being exclusive – assuming my motivation for being in the microstock market is to make money. Which it is.

Let’s take a look at the exclusivity options on offer.

Website Offer
iStockphoto Extra 5-20% (on top of 20%) depending on your canister level (total sales so far). Lots of extra benefits including priority inspection queue, higher upload limit, and greater onsite promotion. Exclusivity is “full artist exclusivity”, not per image.
ShutterStock No exclusivity
Dreamstime Exclusive images receive an extra 10% (on top of 50%) for exclusive images. If you’re an exclusive artist (i.e. your entire portfolio is exclusive) you recieve a $0.20 bonus for each image that’s accepted.
Fotolia “A higher commission (at least 50% for print and web use sales)”. Fotolia offered an exclusive buyout option, but it was discontinued in June 2007.
BigStockPhoto No exclusivity
CanStockPhoto No exclusivity
123rf Exclusivity “can be arranged” for a better commission on a per-image basis.
StockXpert No exclusivity
LuckyOliver Extra 5-20% (on top of 30%) depending on your member status (total sales so far). Potential for more than 20% if you’re at the highest level. Exclusivity is per-image.

Using the above chart and this table, it’s hard to see where exclusivity would be appealing if money is a concern. If not, you could choose to be exclusive for other reasons:

  • You enjoy the ‘status’ of being exclusive
  • You can’t be bothered uploading to more than one agency
  • You are so in love with one agency or their interface that you couldn’t bear defecting
  • Your sales are so high on a particular microstock website that the extra work contributing to the others is outweighed by the extra exclusivity bonus

For us, iStockphoto have made up 45% of our income since we started selling photos online. If we went exclusive with them at our current canister level (Silver) we would make an extra 10%. This wouldn’t come close to making up for the other 55% of income that we generate by using the other microstock websites.

There seems to be a lot of exclusive photographers over at iStockphoto, but perhaps that’s because they make it obvious with the indicative icon. The ones I’ve come across are all excellent portfolios, which leads me to conclude it’s likely status that’s the decisive factor, which I can understand for career photographers. Maybe some exclusive contributors can share their thoughts in the comments.

Posted May 22nd, 2007 by


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