15 Jan 2008 Microstock Upload Limits

Stop Sign - Sebastian KaulitzkiSome microstock agencies limit the quantity of photos a contributor can upload within a given time period. Let’s take a look at who has them, why, and whether they’re effective.

Who has them?

iStockphoto has them – depending on your canister level (determined by your quantity of sales) and your exclusivity status, you are restricted to between 15 and 180 per week. Here’s the breakdown:

Level Sales Non-exclusive limit Exclusive limit
Base 0-249 15 NA
Bronze 250-2,499 20 60
Silver 2,500-9,999 25 90
Gold 10,000-24,999 30 120
Diamond 25,000-200,000 35 180

Dreamstime has them – set at 300 per day, but it goes down if your approval rate goes down too. As low as 10% of the upper limit: 30. Occassionally – as at the time of writing – the upper limit is temporarily reduced to 100 which makes the lower limit just 10.

StockXpert has them – limiting all contributors to a flat 50 submissions per day.

Why have them?

Reduce queue size – some of the bigger agencies receive around 40,000 new submissions each week! Limiting the quantity of submissions per contributor helps keep the queue of images pending review at a reasonable level. This in turn ensures quick review times.

Raise the quality of submissions – not only do upload limits encourage contributors to upload their best work first, but the limits can be used to give advantage to contributors with higher quality submissions. iStockphoto set the limits by sales success (and exclusivity) and Dreamstime set limits by approval success. Both these strategies result in raising the overall quality of submissions.

Provide equal opportunity – upload limits stop photographers or other agencies who have massive portfolios from flooding the queue with tens of thousands of submissions. This makes it possible for new and less established photographers to experience early success and grow.

Why not have them?

Upload limits can also have a negative impact on an agency portfolio quality. Many of the top microstockers have much smaller portfolios at agencies with upload limits, and these microstockers produce some of the best photos in the market.

Are they effective?

Yes, they’re effective at controlling the queue size. Agencies put the limits up and down based on the current size of their queue, so they’re obviously an effective tool for that purpose.

It’s likely a safe assumption that upload limits are effective at raising the quality of submissions. iStockphoto and Dreamstime haven’t revised their quality-aware upload limit strategies after having them in place for some time.

Yes, they appear to provide equal opportunity. Whilst the impact may be small if the agency already has a sizable portfolio, a large portfolio suddenly arriving on hard drives will capture a similar quantity of sales as a few thousand contributors uploading for a week. Of course if that happens, a few thousand contributors miss out.

Are they Popular with Contributors?

While microstock contributors often complain about upload limits, they may be unaware of the protection they provide.

Personally, I’m only impacted by the upload limit at iStockphoto, and while frustrating, my low output usually lets me catch up and avoid having a permanent backlog. The upload limits at Dreamstime and StockXpert are well beyond my current production levels. Microstockers who produce more may have different experiences.

What’s your experience?

  • Marek
    Posted at 14:41h, 16 January Reply

    I am just starting with microstock photography: ~2 months of experience. It seems that iStock with 15 pictures/week constrain is really limiting my submissions. I would like and could submit more, but certainly not 50 or 100. I have currently 46 pictures on IS with acceptance rate still pretty low (47%).

    I started with IS, but now my portfolio with other agencies (FT. DT, BSP, 123RF, OL) is about 50% larger. On the other hand, IS is the only agency where I am starting to see some sales (IS – 16, FT – 3, DT – 1, others – 0).

    I will keep reporting my numbers, hopefully higher, in my blog.

  • Photonomikon
    Posted at 15:52h, 16 January Reply

    IS’s upload limit is really a pain in the butt but on the other hand I kinda understand their reasoning. For one thing, it encourages me to upload the very best stuff. On the other hand, I have joined recently and have a 20 image portfolio but sales are already coming in such that I have more earnings in 1 month than from LO in 1 year. I just hope this trend continues.
    So basically if I’m already selling stuff with such a small portfolio, there’s no pressure to upload tons of stuff all at once.

  • MarkFGD
    Posted at 07:18h, 17 January Reply

    Anyone who is able to upload more than twenty images a week is either: snap-happy, jobless or a seasoned professional.

    Me, I rarely manage to upload more than five images a week. I find it’s usually nearly enough to fund my cigarette addiction!

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 07:40h, 17 January Reply

      Me, I’m snap-happy AND jobless, so you may be on to something here!

      I don’t smoke, but I have a fierce travel habit.


  • MarkFGD
    Posted at 16:00h, 18 January Reply

    Nice one, Lee. Bring us back a few cartons of Silk Cut next time you’re passing through Duty Free!

    (By the way, thanks for another great article.)

  • La Roach
    Posted at 22:48h, 21 January Reply

    I use Dreamstime and have no problem with upload limits as usually my level is around 100 – which I have never reached in one upload! But on average, I upload between 10 to 15 images each week.

    Hey – stop by my blog for a visit!

  • James
    Posted at 16:27h, 25 January Reply

    Great article! I think Istock’s limit would only be a problem for me if I had started on a different site. As it is, my entire portfolio is currently up there (only ~100 shots w/ just over 50% acceptance). I like how the other sites will let me upload my entire portfolio in a single week as I am just now branching out to the other sites.

    This is really an excellent blog! I’m really enjoying reading through it! 🙂

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