11 Jun 2007 Fotolia

Fotolia logoFotolia are a relatively young microstock agency. They started out focused on the European market and it worked for them. Up until the Fotolia V2 upgrade, they had the highest advertised quantity of images online of all microstock agencies, though there was a lot of speculation about the authenticity of their numbers.

Fotolia Background

Fotolia came onto the Alexa radar in late 2004, despite their official press kit stating that they were founded in January 2005. This makes them a relatively late entrant to the microstock market. They’ve certainly made up for lost time with their portfolio numbers, quantity of contributors, and the significant amount of press coverage they generate. They’ve been strategically creative and driven their business to place themselves among the microstock market elite.


Web Address www.fotolia.com
Google Pagerank 6
Google Backlinks 23,900
Alexa Rank 3,691
Image Stats 1,958,562
Minimum Image Size 2 MegaPixels
Vectors Yes
Footage No
Licenses Standard Royalty Free. Extended License for resale items, but Unlimited Run and Multi Seats are included in the standard license. (Exclusive Buyout License discontinued June 2007)
Compensation Minimum 33% or minimum 50% for exclusive images
Pricing $1 – $5 for standard license. Contributors can set own prices, within limits.
Payment Methods PayPal, Moneybookers
Payout Threshold $50
Referral Program 15% of purchases and 10% of contributor sales
Application Process None, just start contributing
Exclusivity Higher commissions
Upload Methods HTML, Java in-browser application, FTP
IPTC Data Yes
Delete images? Yes, immediately and individually
Currencies US Dollar, Euro, Pound Sterling
Languages English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese
Headquarters New York, USA (Originally Paris, France)

Cool Features

  • Set own prices – contributors can set the prices of their images at Fotolia within the limits of their level. Higher level contributors have more flexibility in their price levels. This enables more successful stock photographers to really increase their earnings.
  • AdThumb – images downloaded from the free section (which are donated by contributors) generate advertising within the thumbnail. 50% of the revenue is divided among the contributors whose images were downloaded from the free section.
  • Pronunciation demo – go to the FAQs of Fotolia and look under the Main section for ‘How do you say Fotolia’. You can play an audio recording of the official pronunciation!
  • Keyword order – keywords at the start of the list for any given photo are given higher relevance in the search results. This is a great way to limit the effectiveness of keyword spamming and allows contributors to really hone their keywords. You cannot change keywords of approved images, but you can alter their order.

Fotolia Performance

Website performance has always been shaky at Fotolia. Session timeouts result in database errors and speed is very poor. Alexa reports their speed to be in the bottom 3% of all monitored websites. The website is down for maintenance more frequently that all other microstock websites and unscheduled outages are also frequent.

Sales performance seems to be hit or miss. Many photographers report Fotolia as their highest earner, while many others report them in 4th or 5th place. The ability to set higher prices for high selling images appears to have a significant impact on the ability for contributors with high quality portfolios to earn substantially greater amounts with Fotolia.


Fotolia are definitely worth the effort of contributing if you’re using multiple agencies. Their sales don’t seem high enough to attract a great deal of exclusive contributors from what I’ve seen. Their earnings place them in fourth place for me, but with a better portfolio you could raise the prices and generate higher income.

Register at Fotolia here.

Update 2007-06-25: Changed total images online figure to reflect Fotolia’s updated (lower) figures

  • Olga
    Posted at 05:14h, 03 February Reply

    IMHO the Minimum Image Size for Fotolia is now 4 MP, not 2MP …

    cheers 🙂

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 10:49h, 03 February Reply

      Hi Olga,

      Their FAQ page still states that the minimum image size is 1600 x 1200 pixels, which is 2 megapixels. However, it does seem very low!


      • claudio
        Posted at 18:47h, 28 February Reply

        I agree with olga, I think it’s a little less than 4 MP, don’t know exactly since It’s not stated properly on their faq but pictures less than about 3.9 MP are automatically rejected when uploaded

    • Ericlefrancais
      Posted at 06:52h, 17 April Reply

      I cancelled my Fotolia account (their sales politics are not good for me), and up my sales in other microstock sites whent up !!!

      Its magical ?

      Yes or No ?

      Please share your experience.

  • c
    Posted at 10:06h, 29 April Reply

    I’ve notice a possible change in Fotolia search results in the last few days: the ‘relevance’ criterium is very similar to the ‘downloads’, while it used to be a more complex (and better) algorithm; is it just my opinion or they are trying to advantage pictures which are already selling more? I hope I’m wrong, else Fotolia would turn into a very bad start for new photographers.

  • claudio
    Posted at 09:03h, 17 June Reply

    search engine scramble + subscriptions at the lowest rate (even after the pay rise) + 100% rejections

    all at the same time at fotolia

    to cite nick cave “I don’t know what it is but there’s definitely something going on upstairs”

    some guess?

    please note i am neither subscribing to this strategy nor disapproving – i’m just wondering why

  • Philippe D
    Posted at 16:15h, 17 January Reply

    Fotolia is a very good website for online sales, the performance is very good and exelente income exclusively

    • Jenny
      Posted at 09:29h, 21 January Reply

      Excellent income except if one has the misfortune to live in britain, where 1 credit is now paid £0.60 which is far less than 1 Euro. There’s a long thread on their forum but they don’t seem to care, as usual.

  • Philippe D
    Posted at 17:04h, 21 January Reply

    Yes Jenny , credit is better paid in France and the euro zone

  • Marius
    Posted at 16:04h, 03 September Reply

    Fotolia started off well enough for my sales until I ran into a disagreement with one of their executives. I received an email from the company telling me that their review department had noticed that many of my 1000+ photos were taken with about 10 different cameras, and he wanted me to explain why that was.

    I replied, explaining that my partner and I are co-owners of a photography business and that we currently own two primary cameras and two backups, not to mention several ‘point and shoot’ cameras that we carry around at all times. Additionally when we started the business we tested Nikons and Canons to see which would work best for us and the ones we found inadequate for our needs we exchanged, so over the last couple of years we probably used well over 10 different cameras. Obviously we didn’t discard the photos we took with these cameras and so yes, they’re being submitted as stock. Was there a problem?

    He replied that yes, there’s a problem in that there are too many cameras connected to my photos and that had sent up a red flag. Apparently my explanation wasn’t good enough because he then asked me to submit a copy of my driver’s license to prove I was who I said I was. At first I took offense, but I thought about the fact that due to online anonymity he had no reason to trust me, so I scanned my driver’s license and emailed him a copy.

    He was ok with my ID, but he still couldn’t fathom the idea of a business owning over two cameras and multiple camera ownership was beyond his understanding. Apparently in Europe only one camera per photographer is allowed or what?? Or maybe they can’t afford more than one? I was confused.

    I again explained that I wasn’t an amateur with a camera but rather we owned a business, and we’re in the business of photography. This still wasn’t good enough. He had placed a hold on my account where I couldn’t upload any more photos when the initial email was sent, so I couldn’t even login to see if maybe some other photos may have been uploaded by accident ?! Since we were uploading to six stock agencies at once, I though maybe a crossover had occurred and maybe we had uploaded the wrong folder or something. My partner and I were both confused because the executive was acting like he was personally upset and was very unprofessional in his interactions with us.

    He ignored our emails afterward and I was forced to email someone else, who replied saying I needed to speak to the same executive and then forwarded my emails him. It was very frustrating.

    In the end we had earned only $28 in the couple of months we had been with Fotolia and we requested that they close our account. They had continued to sell the photos even through all the weeks of conversation, so obviously they were willing enough to continue to make money on the photos even if they had raised red flags, so I requested that they take the photos down and close the account. I’d had enough of their lack of professionalism.

    It took Fotolia 2 more months and three email reminders before finally paying us the measly $28 that we had earned through them.

  • Courtney
    Posted at 20:27h, 09 November Reply

    In contrast to most stockers, I find sales at Fotolia quite slow.

    Sold files since September 2007:

    Shutterstock: 4808
    Istock: 2680
    Dreamstime: 636
    Fotolia: 177

    Just wondering if I am doing something wrong!!??

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 02:18h, 10 November Reply

      Hi Courtney, are you setting the 7 most important keywords to the top of the list? This is a crucial step in having your images found in the search results at Fotolia and may be the reason why they’re not comparing well to other agencies for you.


      • Courtney
        Posted at 02:35h, 10 November Reply

        Hi Lee,

        Thanks so much for getting back to me, I actually went through my entire portfolio about 2 weeks ago and prioritized the keywords (took me about 8 hours, very painful!), but I am still only getting an average of 1-2 downloads a week, compared to 6-7 on Dreamstime.

        Does it make a difference that many of these images have been online for 12 months or more?

        Thanks again for your help!!


        • Lee Torrens
          Posted at 02:53h, 10 November Reply

          Ok, then I’m not sure. Try searching for the keywords to see where you photos appear in the search results to make sure they’re being seen. And yes, the time online is likely a factor in the search algorithm, especially if you keywords were not prioritized until recently, giving your photos a low ratio of sales to time online. For sure, optimize your keywords as you submit going forward, though ultimately, the best plan for this situation is to keep uploading more and better quality photos.

          You may also want to try searching the forums at MSG for other people who’ve had a similar experience in the past and see if there’s any other ideas about what you can do.


        • Courtney
          Posted at 03:02h, 10 November Reply

          Thanks Lee,

          I’ll check that out. Once again, your help is much appreciated!

  • Philippe D
    Posted at 05:49h, 10 November Reply

    Hi Courtney
    your portfolio is very good, you have a good picture of business.
    You just increase your acitivity and upload more images.
    280 shots is not much, forecast 1000 photos and regularly renew

    My french portfolio : http://www.fotolia.com/p/15583

    • Courtney
      Posted at 18:23h, 11 November Reply

      Thanks for the advice Philippe,

      Definitely working towards a larger portfolio.

      Your portfolio is huge! Just wondering how long it took you to build it?

  • Marius
    Posted at 12:09h, 10 November Reply

    Do you find it acceptable to have had to spend 8 hours prioritizing the keyword list to fit the needs of Fotolia? Really? When you compare how much you would have been paid for those 8 hours had you been working at a job, you’ve already lost money. How long will it take you to earn an equal amount of money in stock sales?

  • Philippe D
    Posted at 18:59h, 11 November Reply

    Thanks Courtney

    My portfolio is huge, but the quality is not always present, it took me about 3 years for build it and 2 years to start realy earning a good income

    I started selling all my portfolio to $ 1 and 2 years later I change all the prices for 5 euro and I have multiplied my earnings x 5

    Now the boat is on water and I did a little pose

    • Courtney
      Posted at 19:14h, 11 November Reply

      Hi Phillipe,

      There are some fantastic shots in your portfolio! Particularly like the violin, and some of the ariel and kids shots are wonderful!
      Are you exlcusive to Fotolia, or do you submit to other sites?
      I also notice you have a couple of other sites with your images on them. Do these help your sales?

  • Philippe D
    Posted at 05:42h, 12 November Reply

    I think that sending a visitor from another site, is also boosting its portfolio.
    I just started the aerial photo, and I test on fotolia sending traffic to my new site :

    I tested all microstock, and I chose fotolia exclusively for the best performance and productivity.

    Istock, dream, are very good bank, but productivity is not good for me

    best regards


    • Courtney
      Posted at 04:07h, 14 November Reply

      Hi Philippe,

      Thanks for all of your help and advice, very much appreciated. I will keep on building my portfolio and hopefully catch up to you!!

      Thanks again,

  • Mike
    Posted at 21:22h, 11 December Reply

    Recently Microsoft promoted adding a Fotolia ribbon to their MS Outlook and MS PowerPoint programs. Part of the promotion was an offer of extra credits and other things if the user of these two MS programs did in fact add the ribbon and sign up with Fotolia. On Fotolia’s website they say to receive the additional credits and service you need to have a cell phone. Here is the text quoted from their own website explaining that the offer can still be provided if you don’t have a text capable cell phone, “After you fill in your mobile phone number, we text you with an authentication code so you can get your hands on the free downloads. … If you don’t have a mobile number, you can still redeem the offer by emailing or calling customer support” When I sent Tech Support this quote and my need for the offered credits and my lack of a text-capable cell phone they answered back, “… the activation code can only be sent to a cell phone number by SMS text. ” Therefore they do not honor MSoft or their own website. BAD customer service!!!

  • Karl
    Posted at 17:40h, 10 February Reply

    As a new customer I have not been happy with customer service and the quality of the images supplied. One image had so much white space around it the actual image was much smaller than the pixel dimension quoted. Even then the image wasn’t really sharp. I will give them a chance to put things straight otherwise no more business from me.

  • Revolt
    Posted at 04:55h, 09 May Reply

    14 months ago I wanted to buy a photo for my client from fotolia.com , but then he has changed his mind.
    I have just discovered that the credit I have purchased then has EXPIRED. I know it has been a long time, but I’v never got any notifications from them, nothing, they just took my money. I know I should’ve red the Agreement, still I think it is not right, I am disappointed and I will never use that site again…

  • marco
    Posted at 04:20h, 28 October Reply

    Ciao, è da poco meno di un mese che utilizzo Fotolia per le mie immagini, questo è il mio portfolio http://it.fotolia.com/p/202821855
    devo dire che le percentuali di accettazione sono basse (nel mio caso intorno al 15%)
    non accettano foto alterate o fotomontaggi, se sono riprese persone richiedono la liberatoria firmata, accettano anche video e vettoriali.

    Come attrezzatura ho a disposizione:
    Canon EOS 500D

    Sigma 18-50 2.8 EX
    Sigma 70-300 4-5.6 APO
    Canon 50mm F1.8

    Sigma EF530 DG ETTL

    Più altro come telecomando, manfrotto, filtri, paraluce

    Programma Post produzione, Photoshop Elemnts 9.0

  • Duane
    Posted at 18:56h, 18 November Reply

    As of Nov 2011, Fotolia is at 15,229,559 royalty-free photos. Not sure if that includes vectors and illustrations, but it’s right up there with shutterstock.

    The problem is that they haven’t become very popular as a source. Looking at compete.com shows fotolia’s traffic is less than 1/4 of dreamstime or shutterstock. That would explain why they’re sales are lower.

  • hardik
    Posted at 22:13h, 26 November Reply

    hi recently launched one photo liking website but then i came to fotolia.com so thought maybe i should bring more advanced so started on redesign and payment gateway etc. in a month might launch with many functionality similar to that of fotolia but of course for hardly 5% profit from transaction and most money will go to photographer.
    still need a lot of feedback and reviews from you guys if you are interested please let me know your thoughts on the same.

  • rbiona
    Posted at 20:17h, 06 February Reply

    Their site is a joke and was impossible to get anything downloaded. Received a free subscription for 6 days after purchasing a Corel Product. I was unable to download anything and my account was cancelled be for the 6 days were up.

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