15 Jul 2007 When You Can’t Sell Your Photos at Microstock Prices

I was recently contacted by an established professional photographer and we commenced a discussion about microstock vs macrostock, and photography as a business and a passion. It’s a conversation similar to many I’ve had in the past, but it got me thinking about how photographers can sell their images in the microstock market without selling them at microstock prices.

What follows is a review of which microstock agencies have facilities for photographers to sell images above microstock prices.


Dreamstime increase the prices of the images that sell well. The more an image sells, the higher the price goes. This enables good photos to achieve higher rates. Images that have sold over 200 times earn five times the regular amount at the small image size, and double at the largest image size.

Like the Fotolia system, you first have to sell your images at the lower prices before reaching the higher ones.


LuckyOliver have developed a program to sell the highest quality images at higher-than-microstock prices. They’re calling it ‘midstock’ and their program is called the Sideshow.

Once a contributor has sold more than 100 images, they’re free to enter 25% of their images into the Sideshow, or 50% of their portfolio once they’ve sold 500. Contributors can set the price of the images they place in the sideshow allowing them to earn higher than microstock prices for their images.

Again, there’s some work to be done to qualify to sell at higher prices.


SnapVillage, while still in “beta”, currently have the simplest method for contributors to earn commissions higher than typical microstock rates. They simply allow contributors to set the price of their images at $1, $5, $10, $25 and $50. In addition there is the option to have your images excluded from subscription sales.

The current commission at SnapVillage is 30%. Contributors setting their images at the highest price of $50 will earn a commission of $15 per sale.


Contributors at Fotolia who have sold more than 10,000 images can double the price of their images. As they sell higher quantities they can further increase the price of their images up to five times the original value.

Exclusive images can have their prices increased once the contributor has sold just 100 images. Contributors who have sold over 500,000 images can increase the price by a massive 20 times.

Combined with commission percentages that rise with the quantity of images sold, a top-selling contributor can end up earning a $2.35 commission on a $5 small image up to $11.75 on a $25 XXL. Exclusive images can be as high as a $12.80 commission on a $20 small image up to $64 on a $100 XXL.

Earning $64 commission for a single sale is certainly higher than typical microstock commissions. However, selling the 500,000 images to get to that level is no small task.

And So…

Anything is possible, but these options present their share of hurdles. At Fotolia you must first sell large quantities of images. It’s easier to qualify for the LuckyOliver sideshow, though many of the Sideshow images are priced just above standard prices, undermining the “midstock” strategy. However, your images can still be available for sale at your chosen price. And though SnapVillage seem to have the best solution to appeal to this sector of the market, elegant in its simplicity, their solution is yet to launch in full production so sales aren’t expected for some time.

Contributors can sell their images at prices higher than typical microstock prices, though SnapVillage seem to be the only agency making it straight-forward. But can they deliver buyers?

  • Bryan Zmijewski
    Posted at 00:35h, 16 July Reply

    Nice Post Lee! I just thought I would help clarify a few points.

    Midstock isn’t a feature, it’s a new business model that the industry is starting to adopt. It’s not just about price, but all the intangibles that go along with an industry segment. Microstock isn’t just about a low price point- it’s also a rebellion against old school distribution. Likewise, macrostock isn’t just about higher prices- it includes exclusivity and unique licensing models. Here are a few things to help clarify the difference.

    Pricing Structure

    * Microstock uses low cost fixed pricing. Sales are all about volume.
    * Midstock uses low cost pricing, but creates upward mobility based on free market pricing.

    Up sell

    * Microstock uses free images to attract buyers to low cost images.
    * Midstock uses low cost images to attract longtail buyers willing to pay more for images.


    * Microstock artists make more money when baseline prices increase.
    * Midstock artists make more money by pricing their work according to its value.

    Types of Images

    * Microstock artists make sales by creating popular concepts that can be downloaded a bunch.
    * Midstock artists make sales by creating popular concepts *and* work that uniquely fills a niche.

Post A Comment