13 Jul 2007 Which Microstock Websites Pay the Highest Subscription Commission?

Quite a few microstock websites are now offering subscription models. Let’s take a look at subscriptions from the contributor perspective.

It’s a complicated comparison because many agencies sell the same images by two or even three different methods. So let’s first look at what they are.


The buyer purchases a number of credits which can be exchanged for images. Credits are provided in a minimum parcel, often 10. This makes the purchase a reasonable amount, for example, $10 instead of $1. It’s not practical to make a $1 purchase. Most microstock agencies sell the smallest size for one credit and increase the number of credits required for larger image sizes. Credits can vary in price over time.


The buyer pays for a period of time and can download as many images as they like within the limit.

Direct Purchase

Some agencies offer the ability for buyers to directly purchase the images without buying a subscription or credits. The prices are usually higher, but it serves the buyers who want a one-time purchase and don’t need the minimum parcel of credits.

Now let’s take a look at the commissions and strategies of the microstock agencies who offer subscriptions.

This chart shows the commissions paid to contributors for images sold through subscriptions at the microstock agencies that sell with this method. Be sure to read the caveats below!

Microstock Subscription Commissions

There are some significant inconsistencies with this chart. Don’t say I didn’t warn you:

  • 123rf vary their subscription commission month to month (details below) but they pay a minimum of 36 cents, which is the figure in the chart.
  • Shutterstock only pay 30 cents to contributors who have over 500 total sales. Others are paid 25 cents.
  • Dreamstime pay 30 cents for exclusive images, but 25 for non exclusive images

So what?

This is an academic exercise, more for understanding and interest than for information for decision making. What I’m most interested in is how lucrative is each subscription program, which is entirely dependent on sales volume. If one agency has a higher commission but sell less, then I’m not going to get as much as I would with an agency with lower commissions but with good sales.

Here’s the raw data:


Shutterstock are the only microstock website being successful with a subscription only model.

Prices: 1 month – $199. 3 months – $559. 6 months – $1059. 12 months – $1999

Download limit: 25 per day, 750 per month

Commission: $0.25 – $0.30 Contributors with more than 500 sales receive 30 cents, while those below receive 25.


Dreamstime offer a combination of image credits and subscriptions.

Prices: 30 days – $89.99. 3 months – $255.99. 6 months – $485.99. 12 months – $929.99

Download limit: 10 per day

Commission: $0.25 or $0.30 for exclusive images


123rf differentiate themselves by offering two subscription levels with different download quantity limits at 5 or 26 per day.

Prices: (Basic 5 per day) 30 days – $89. 90 days – $199. 365 days – $.
(Premium 26 per day) 30 days – $199. 90 days – $499. 365 days – $.

Commission: This varies depending on the profitability of the subscription service for the month. The minimum is now $0.36 recently moved up from $0.30.


Crestock allow buyers to buy any way they please, with credit purchases, subscription and direct image sales.

Prices: 1 month – $149. 3 months – $429. 6 months – $799. 1 year – $999

Download limit: 20 per day

Commission: $0.25


CanStockPhoto differentiate themselves with 1 week subscriptions. Like 123rf they also offer multiple subscription levels consisting of a cheaper 10 images per day or a more expensive 25 images per day subscription.

Prices: (10 per day) 1 week – $35.95. 1 month – $99.95. 6 months – $499.95. 1 year – $769.95
(25 per day) 1 week – $55.95. 1 month – $149.95. 6 months – $749.95. 1 year – $1,199.95

Commission: $0.25


SnapVillage have replicated the subscription structure at Shutterstock but with only one subscription period. However, they’re providing all contributors the 30 cent commission regardless of their total quantity of sales.

Prices: $199. It doesn’t actually tell you the length of subscription on the details page, but it is 1 month.

Download limit: 25 per day, 750 per month

Commission: $0.30

  • Jan Will
    Posted at 04:03h, 14 July Reply

    Good article Lee, it is always interesting to read your blog! I want to add, probably while you were writing, or after you published your article, 123rf changed their subscription pricing: On their site it says about the subscription download calculation:”Straight and easy, you’ll receive $0.36 per subscription download!” It was mentioned first at http://www.microstockgroup.com/index.php?topic=2104.msg17718;topicseen#new .

  • Lee Torrens
    Posted at 06:00h, 14 July Reply

    Thanks for the correction Jan, I’ve updated the post.

    – Lee

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