Comparing 10 most essential microstocks

Comparing 10 most essential microstocks

Note: This article is about making money online by selling your photographs. The top 10 most essential microstock agencies are analyzed here. Microstock agency are marketplaces for buyers and photographers.

There are now tens of microstock agencies out there and new agencies pop-up quite often, some being closed too like LuckyOliver, which was quite good actually and many contributors loved it. The microstock market is certainly booming right now and will continue to grow, even big names in the traditional stock industry turned their views on microstocks, Getty Images owns now the oldest microstock agency – iStockphoto and is preparing partnership with Flickr, Corbis created SnapVillage, InMagine has it’s microstock clone – 123RF and other alliances and acquisitions will probably follow. There are now in my opinion 4 big players in the microstock market: iStockphoto, Shutterstock, Dreamstime and Fotolia which all have the biggest collections of over three million pictures and have most of the market share. Then there are two agencies that follow the “big four”: 123RF and BigStockPhoto, both in the market for quite long and with a large database of clients and contributors.

I decided I’ll try to compare and analyze these 4 + 2 biggest microstocks today from the contributors point of view and present you with some statistics. Beside these 6 biggest agencies I included another 4 agencies with high potential for the future, but there are of course other few agencies out there that can present some value too. So I might say it’s the list of 10 most essential microstock agencies today!

iStockphoto logo iStockphoto is the oldest microstock agency and is the founder of the microstock market sort of speaking. This is a must for every microstock shooter and many photographers work exclusively with iStockphoto, but I wouldn’t advise you to do so if you’re a beginner. It seems that they don’t offer high commissions, but they have many buyers and their paychecks are often the biggest.

Online Since Collection Size Picture Price
May 2000,
the first microstock agency
over 3,500,000 0,28-5,60 USD or 1-20 USD, plus different subscription plans (from 96 to 521 USD/month)
Commissions: 20%, can get up to 40% if working exclusively with iStockphoto
Payments: As soon as the balance reaches 100 USD. Methods: PayPal, MoneyBookers, Check, Direct deposit, Payoneer MasterCard
Affiliate Program: For referred photographers: NO
For referred buyers: one time fee of 10 USD for each new buyer.
Picture Requirements: RGB type JPEG file, min 1200Ã?1600 px
Approval Before being able to submit the contributor should have 3 pictures approved.

dreamstime logoDreamstime is my personal favorite and my best selling agency so far. I like almost everything about dreamstime, starting with the web-site design, it’s functionality, ease of use and of course the commissions. It looks like these guys are doing everything for the photographer and if I could recommend just one microstock agency that would definitely be dreamstime. It is fairly easy to get your pictures approved with them, they have a thriving community of photographers that interact and you can easily check on how other fellow photographers are doing. One of the big advantages over other microstock’s is that they accept editorial images and their editorial collection keeps on growing and many major events get covered.

Online Since Collection Size Picture Price
June 2000, but started as a proper microstock agency only in 2004 over 3,600,000 images, almost 900,000 users and almost 45,000 of which are contributing photographers 0,20-6,64 USD and extended licenses from 19 to 350 USD and more
Commissions: By far the best paying microstock: 50% standard commission, 60% if exclusive (and you don’t have to get exclusive as a photographer, just submit the exclusive photograph), 0,20$ for each approved file if you’re exclusive, can get up to 80% with certain bonuses
Payments: As soon as the balance reaches 100 USD. Methods: PayPal, MoneyBookers, Check
Affiliate Program: Get 5 USD just for signing up into the program. 10% commissions over 3 years for both referred photographers and referred buyers!
Picture Requirements: RGB type JPEG file, min 3MP & max 70MP
Approval Just start contributing!

Shutterstock logo Shutterstock is one of the best paying agencies and photographers just love it, though it’s not that easy to get accepted, but once you’re in – you get a guaranteed income. Shutterstock works on a subscription basis, so the buyers do get a lot of downloads and photographers get payed for each and every download.

Online Since Collection Size Picture Price
2003 over 4,400,000 at the moment, which makes it the biggest microstock collection and over 116,000 photographers Subscriptions only. Download 25 images a day with plans starting at $249 for one month to $2559 per year.
Commissions: $0,25 per download. You’ll get $0,33 after your first 500 downloads, $0,36 after 3000 downloads and $0,38 after initial 10,000 downloads.
Payments: As soon as the balance reaches 75 USD. Methods: PayPal, MoneyBookers. You can request a check as well, but only after your balance reaches 300 USD.
Affiliate Program: For referred photographers: $0,03 per photograph
For referred buyers: 20% of sales.
Picture Requirements: Minimum size should be 2,5MP, but for new contributors it is at least 4,0 MP now.
Approval You should get 7 of your initial 10 submitted pictures accepted, after that you can start contributing. If failed will be offered a second chance after a month.

fotolia logo Fotolia is one of the “big four” microstock agencies. It is marketed well worldwide and you can register according to your region and get payed in your local currency. All in all a nice platform for both buyers and contributors with decent pricing structure and consistent payouts. Can be a good agency to start with for newbies and get to know what microstock market is all about.

Online Since Collection Size Picture Price
November 2005 over 4,000,000 works presented and over 770,000 members (designers, art directors and photographers all together) $1-10 and $0,3-0,37 on subscription
Commissions: 33% and up to 64% most. 50% for exclusive photographs.
Payments: No limit on how much you should get before being paid, but will charge $1 if less then $50. Methods: PayPal and MoneyBookers. Can issue check as well, but only if your country is having troubles with Paypal or MoneyBookers.
Affiliate Program: For referred photographers: NO
For referred buyers: 15% of net sales and $20 for subscriber.
Picture Requirements: They used to accept files of 1200Ã?1600 px minimum, but it’s been raised recently to min 4MP or about 2400×1600 px
Approval None required.

123RF logo 123RF has done a lot effort lately and the future with them is very promising. It is the sister company of traditional stock agency INMAGINE which uses it’s technologies and experience. They offer a good payout and this could be the agency to catch up the leaders in the future. It’s easy to build a portfolio with them and pretty soon you will be getting enough payouts as they have enough subscribers already that will be interested in your imagery.

Online Since Collection Size Picture Price
2005 over 2,500,000 from under $1 to $10 and extended licenses of $50-100, but subscription plans are also available starting with $89 to $1799
Commissions: 50%
Payments: As soon as the balance reaches $50 or $100. Methods: PayPal (min.$50), MoneyBookers and Check (min.$100)
Affiliate Program: For referred photographers: $0,03-1,00 per download for 6 months
For referred buyers: 15% for first year.
Picture Requirements: At least 4MP which is about 2200Ã?1700 px
Approval None required

BigStockPhoto logoBigStockPhoto has been on the market for some time and used to be quite good, but nowadays is left a bit behind. Still it’s certainly an agency worth submitting to and depending on your portfolio size once in a while you’ll be rewarded for your contributions. I think they’ll need to reorganize soon to adopt to the new trends, but all in all it’s a fairly good choice. Go with them only after you joined the ‘big four’ agencies and see how it goes. One more thing I would remark is the fact that it’s rather difficult to understand and get used with the site’s functions and navigation, but it’s not a major drawback.

Online Since Collection Size Picture Price
2004 over 2,200,000 $1-6
Commissions: 50% ($0,5-3,0)
Payments: As soon as the balance reaches $30 or $50. Methods: PayPal and MoneyBookers (minimum payout is $30), Check (minimum payout set to $50)
Affiliate Program: For referred photographers: NO
For referred buyers: 35% (which is by the way the biggest one in industry)
Picture Requirements: at least 800 px height or width, but they of course prefer bigger files
Approval None required

YayMicro logo YayMicro is the most recent newcomer into the world of microstock, but with great potential. They provide both editorial and creative images for sale and their collection is growing fast. The great thing about YayMicro is site’s functionality and ease of use, but what it lacks now is more contributors and more photographs. It’s a Scandinavian agency with an emphasis on simplicity and it’s accounted in Euro. It is a good agency for newbies as they claim they are not picky and will accept most of your images which will give boost to you, but it will probably take more time to get sales as it is still a young microstock. Let’s hope they manage to attract more buyers.

Online Since Collection Size Picture Price
launched in June 2008 over 200,000 at start up and about 1000 photographers 1-30 EUR for Editorial and 1-10 EUR for Creative
Commissions: 50% on both Editorial & Creative images or 1 EUR per subscription download
Payments: As soon as the balance reaches $30. Methods: PayPal and MoneyBookers.
Affiliate Program: 0,10 EUR for each image bought by customer or generated by referred contributor.
Picture Requirements: minimum 3MP with small side at least 1000 px
Approval Submit straight away

SockXpert logo StockXpert is probably the most dynamically developing microstock agency which puts priority on image’s quality. They offer unlimited access packages which is a novelty and managed to coop with Jupiter Images, and other smaller vendors. This is an outsider that grows fast and is most definitely worth submitting to, many photographers already consider StockXpert as a steady source of income.

Online Since Collection Size Picture Price
July 2005 over 1,800,000 $1-10 and subscriptions
Commissions: 50% and $0,30 per subscription download
Payments: As soon as the balance reaches $50 or $100. Methods: PayPal, MoneyBookers, Ikobo (minimum payout is $50), Check (minimum payout set to $100)
Affiliate Program: 15%, but through CommissionJunction program
Picture Requirements: nothing specific, just said it should be high resolution pictures
Approval Must get 5 pictures approved as examples first.

Crestock logo Crestock would be one of the other agencies out there to consider joining, but only if you are looking for some additional income whilst having a large colletion of microstock images already. Crestock editors are extremely picky and it’s not about quality, they just prefer to select the images they consider worth adding to the collection. The agency is not that big, but is quite well known and you might consider submitting images to Crestock as they will still probably make it to top 10.

Online Since Collection Size Picture Price
2005 undisclosed $5-15 and subscriptions from $179
Commissions: Only 20%, but will get to 30% after reaching 100 downloads
Payments: As soon as the balance reaches $50 or $100. Methods: PayPal or MoneyBookers (minimum payout is $50). Check and bank transfer if PayPal or MoneyBookers not covered, but minimum payout is $100.
Affiliate Program: 50% on buyers for 6 months and 10% for submitting contributors also for the first 6 months
Picture Requirements: Images should have minimum 4MP to be accepted (about 2400×1600 px)
Approval None required

SnapVillage logo SnapVillage is the microstock agency that wanted to re-invent the industry, but was ignored by most of traditonal microstock contributors and now tries to adopt to the real world. SnapVillage is Microsft’s product so don’t expect it to be technologically advanced and bug-free, it will probably take them years till they get fully functional. But the advantage of SnapVillage is the big name behind it – Corbis, so watch this agency closely! You also set the price yourself from $1 to $50 per image.

Online Since Collection Size Picture Price
2007 over 500,000 $1-50 and subscriptions from $0,16 per download
Commissions: 30% and $0,30 if you allow subscriptions
Payments: Only PayPal when balances reaches at least $10. But they promise to offer MoneyBookers and Payoneer MasterCard soon.
Affiliate Program: NO
Picture Requirements: min 8bit RGB, 1600×1200 px which is about 2MP
Approval None required

If you’re new to microstock and just consider joining one of the agencies first to see how it goes and understand better what they need I would suggest you joining these three first: Dreamstime, Fotolia and YayMicro. iStockphoto and ShutterStock are more picky and more difficult to get approved with them first, so just leave them for a while before you build a small portfolio with Dreamstime and Fotolia. I also suggested to join YayMicro, since they will probably accept most of your stuff and you’ll like the ease and functionality they offer, but do not expect any income from them soon. Also I would suggest you read the article I wrote previously on “How to earn money by selling your pictures through microstock agencies”.


Related Posts

The day I found out the PhotoShelter Collection died

The day I found out the PhotoShelter Collection died

How to earn money by selling your pictures through microstock agencies.

How to earn money by selling your pictures through microstock agencies.


  1. On September 1, 2008 was launched new microstock agency Pixmac ( It offers high-quality pictures from $0.5 and good earnings for photographers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *