This is an in-depth, unbiased iStock review: the father of microstock and a premium stock photo agency with on of the lowest prices.
iStock by Getty images, previously known as iStockPhoto, is one the most affordable royalty-free stock photo agencies, which sells photos, illustrations, and videos with subscription plans and credit packs.
The former is significantly more cost-efficient with prices starting at $0.22/image, but a lot less flexible. What is more, you can only purchase videos and Extended licenses with credits.
iStock Contributor program is one of the worst ways to sell stock photos, as it keeps lowering the percentage of sales that the photographers get.
iStock files are divided into two collections, Essentials and Signature.
Essentials are basic, everyday stock images that you can find on multiple other stock photo sites and come at the lowest prices; on the other hand, Signature images are exclusive to iStock and usually a lot more trendy, but also more costly.
What’s the price difference between the Essential and Signature content?
For one, with Basic subscription plans you can only download content from Essentials collection, while you can buy content from either by using credits or paying for a Premium subscription plan.
Using credits Signature content costs 3x as much as Essential.
Here are the prices:
- Essentials photos, vectors, and illustrations – 1 credit
- Signature photos, vectors, and illustrations – 3 credits
- Essentials video clips – 6 credits
- Signature video clips – 18 credits
Pricing: Subscription vs Credits
iStock sells stock photos, vectors, illustrations, and videos with three different pricing systems: Basic and Premium subscription plans, and with Credits.
Premium subscription plans give you access to the full image library, while the Basic subscriptions don’t. Credit packs are more expensive than the subscription plan; however, you can purchase video clips and extended licenses with Credits only.
iStock prices start at $0.22/image with subscription plans and $8/image with credits. While subscription plans are a lot cheaper than credit packs, they are less flexible by binding you to a monthly contract.
The only difference between the Basic and Premium subscription plans is access to the iStock’s library – Premium plans give you full access while the Basic don’t.
With Basic plans you can only download the content form Essentials collection, but with Premium plans you can download content from both, Essentials and Signature collection.
You can purchase either Basic or Premium subscription plans in 4 sizes of 10, 25, 50, and 750 images, with the largest plans being the most cost-efficient (meaning the lowest price per image).
In the table below, there are 5 columns. The first one, Images, represents the number of downloads you get each month. Subscription plans are divided into Basic and Premium, the difference between which I’ve already discussed, and Annual and Monthly.
|10||$29 ($2.90)||$40 ($4.00)||$70 ($7.00)||$99 ($9.90)|
|25||$49 ($1.96)||$65 ($2.60)||$120 ($4.80)||$149 ($5.96)|
|50||$90 ($1.80)||$99 ($1.90)||$199 ($3.98)||$229 ($4.58)|
|750||$166 ($0.22)||$199 ($0.27)||$333 ($0.44)||$339 ($0.53)|
Some stats to help you make your mind:
- Annual plans bind you to a contract for 12 months, but are more cost-efficient, while monthly plans allow you to leave at the end of each month, but are more expensive.
- On average a Basic Annual plan costs 19.4% less than a Basic Monthly plan, and a Premium Annual plan costs 15.9% less on average than a Premium Monthly plan.
- Additionally, Premium plans are on average 230.9% more expensive than Basic plans.
With auto-renew enabled, you can roll over up to 250 unused downloads every month, in case you don’t use all of them.
Credit packs require no commitment and are a great option to get assets that are not included within subscription plans – videos and extended licenses.
By purchasing credit packs, you acquire credits, which are the currency of iStock that you can use to buy images, videos, and Extended license.
Essential and Signature images cost 1 and 3 credits, while videos cost 6 and 18 credits, respectively.
You can purchase credits with several Credit packs that differ in size and price – the larger the Credit pack, the more you save.
|Pack size||Price||Price per credit|
The largest pack costs 66% of the smallest pack regarding the price per credit. Saving 33% is a lot of money in the long run, and considering that Credits never expire, there is no reason not to purchase a large pack instead of several small ones.
iStock licenses: Standard vs Extended
Any product you purchase on iStock has at least a Standard license (that is iStock’s version of a Royalty-Free license) that gives you the right to use an image (or illustration or a video) for any purpose, commercial or personal.
However, you must not reproduce it more than 500,000 times, resell it, or use it on its own (it must be a part of a larger design). Additionally, only one user can access the Standard license, and the legal indemnification is limited to $10,000/item.
When you need a higher reproduction rate, want to share an image with more coworkers, or you require higher legal indemnification, you can use credits to purchase an Extended license.
It allows you a reproduction of more than 500,000, for up to 100,000 electronic postcards, 10,000 posters, and up to 2,000 T-shirts.
The full iStock license agreement is a lot more complex and longer than my summary, so I encourage you to read it yourself.
iStock Contributor Review
iStock runs one of the worst contributor programs, that pays 15% royalties for photos, and 20% for vectors and videos. Such low rates have driven away a lot of iStock contributors to other contributor programs.
Exclusive contributors get higher royalties, but these are also lower than at any other stock photo agency.
Every since Getty Images bought iStock the royalties have been steadily dropping, while the number of downloads required for a certain percentage of royalties kept getting higher.
What is more, the iStock contributor program isn’t even a part of its website anymore. To contribute, you need to use the portal that you can find on Getty Images or download an app.
In summary, iStock contributor program doesn’t pay as well as others, such as Dreamstime or Adobe Stock, and seems not to care about its contributors. With a wide variety of contributor programs to choose from, you’ll be better off elsewhere.
Does iStock have a free trial?
No, iStock doesn’t offer a free trial.
Is iStock free?
No, iStock is a premium stock photo agency with no free trial. Prices start at $0.22/image.
Is iStock safe?
Yes, iStock is 100% safe. Being a pioneer of the microstock model iStock has earnt its reputation in over 20 years of existence.
Is iStock royalty-free?
Yes, iStock sells stock media under royalty-free license (they call it “Standard”), but you can also purchase Extended licenses.
Is iStock free for commercial use?
Once you purchase a royalty-free license, you can use images even for commercial use, but within the prescribed limits of the Standard license.
How to download iStock images without watermark?
To download images without a watermark, you need to purchase the said images under a Standard or Extended license. Doing otherwise is not only impossible but would also be forbidden as it is categorised as stealing.
Conclusion: iStock review
iStock is a reputable microstock agency that sells images and videos with subscription and on-demand. High-quality images cost as little as $0.22/image. iStock sells standard and exclusive images with a royalty-free and an extended license.
Additionally, if you’re looing for free images, I encourage you to check my 26 Best free stock photo sites article.
Matic is a photographer and avid teacher of photography from Slovenia. In 2020, he founded Photutorial.com, website/blog dedicated to teaching photography, writing honest and helpful reviews, and inspiring photographers.