The best microstock sites for selling photos, illustrations, footage, flash

In the following article I have written down some details about the best microstock sites for photographers and graphic artists. If you are just a beginner in the microstock world, then I can recommend you to start with Dreamstime and after you have a portfolio about 50 images, try your luck on the Shutterstock.


The best selling sites

I created a graph, where you can compare the earnings according to the portfolio size:

Graph displaying earnings on the best microstock sites

All data are from my portfolios on microstock sites from the last year (2008). As you can see, my best (and not only mine) site is Shutterstock.


Shutterstock

Shutterstock is the microstock agency with the biggest portfolio (more than 6 mil. images) and with the biggest selling potential for contributors – Shutterstock generates for me the biggest income. This site is based on subscription model, so the prices for one sale are one of the smallest (but the number of sales is amazing).

They accept: photos, illustrations (jpg, eps format), footage
Registration page: Shutterstock

Plus

  • The biggest income – see the graph above
  • Quick sales – first sales comes within few hours after accepting your images
  • Short pending times – from few hours to one or two days

Minus

  • You have to add new images every week; otherwise the sales will go down quite quickly
  • It is hard to be accepted (most of the contributors have to try it several times) – the image inspectors are really tough when reviewing yours first ten pictures.

You can read more about this agency in the Shutterstock category of this site


Dreamstime

They accept: photos, illustrations (jpg, eps format)
Registration page: Dreamstime

Plus

  • The easiest microstock agency for start selling photos and illustrations
  • Older pictures are still selling well

Minus

  • Sometimes a bigger reviewing time – one week and more

You can read more about this agency in the Dreamstime category of this site


Stockxpert

They accept: photos, illustrations (jpg, eps format), footage
Registration page: Stockxpert

Plus

  • Older pictures are still selling well

Minus

  • At the beginning they want 3 sample files for review

Fotolia

Quite a good site – from autumn 2008 the sales went up

They accept: photos, illustrations (jpg, svg format), footage
Registration page: Fotolia

Plus

  • No review at the beginning – you don’t have to send them sample files
  • Older pictures are still selling well

Minus

  • Smaller sales
  • Quite small commissions for non exclusive members/pictures
  • Vectors must be in SVG format

You can read more about this agency in the Fotolia category of this site


iStockphoto

I have no illustrations there yet and also only few photos (because of the tough reviewers). But iStock is one of the top agencies with the best content and also the earnings per one picture is one of the highest.

They accept: photos, illustrations (jpg, eps format), footage, flash, audio
Registration page: iStockphoto

Plus

  • For somebody the best agency – lot of benefits for exclusive members
  • The highest earnings per one image

Minus

  • Tough registration – you have to pass the test and then send 3 sample files (if you are not accepted, you can repeat after one week, then after 2 weeks, then after month, two months, six months, one year…) and the reasons for rejection are not described well.
  • Even if you pass, the reviewers are still tough – more than 50% of my photos (which are selling well on other sites) were not accepted.
  • Complicated system for submitting photos and even more complicated for illustrations.

You can read more about this agency in the iStockPhoto category of this site


BigStockPhoto

They accept: photos, illustrations (jpg, eps format)
Registration page: BigStockPhoto

Plus

  • No review at the beginning – you don’t have to send them sample files

Minus

  • Smaller sales
  • Longer approval times

123RF

They accept: photos, illustrations (jpg, eps format)
Registration page: 123RF

Plus

  • They accept nearly everything
  • You don’t need to select categories – one of the quickest submitting system

Minus

  • Small sales

Crestock

I have here quite a small portfolio, so I will add some info later.

They accept: photos, illustrations (jpg, eps format), flash
Registration page: Crestock

Plus

  • You don’t need to select categories

Minus

  • Small sales
  • Tough reviewers

I will add more information later and also will add some more agencies.

43 Comments

  1. [2] Sure, that you can! Some agencies offer exclusivity for photographers – then the photographers get higher rewards from each sale, their photos have better positions when searching and have other benefits – but once you are exclusive somewhere, you can’t submit your photos on some other microsotck site.

    So until you are not exclusive somewhere, you can submit your photos on other sites, sell them on your own site, give them for free… whatever.

  2. How on earth did you come up with iStock paying best for photos? Huh?
    The are the bottom of the barrel and their arrogance and abuse of contributors is slowly making people go away from their site. A rip-off site and yet you say some unbelievable lie about their „best“ commissions…

  3. Hi Carson,
    I didn’t write, that iStock is the best agency, only that the earnings for one image are the best there. The problem is, that it is really hard to get the images there!

    Their upload process it terrible – it is the worst upload process, that I have ever seen. I have there only 50 images, but some of them are selling nearly every day…

  4. Hi Orson

    I was wondering about what kind of rights these stock houses let me retain on my photos. If I give them photos to sell, do they own ALL rights to those photos in perpetuity? Or do they only own some rights to them for a period of time?

    I am not crazy about giving up all rights to my shots forever…

    Help me understand that process…

    thanks

    Mariner

  5. Do you know anything about the stock motion graphics / animation industry? would like to partner with someone.
    I have a collection of HD content that I’m going to market somewhere. Also have a few illustrations, but I’m not really banking on making much on my limited collection of vector illustrations

  6. As new microstock site is http://submit­.depositphotos­.com with Photographer Promotion Program. Site pay $0.20 for every single original photo, upload for sale to our library, up to 500 photos.

  7. Hello Orson. Its quite informative article. Thank you for sharing your views. I am new to photography world but my photographs have won some local(by clubs) and state level awards and prizes though i feel i need to learn a lot. But want to try in some microstock sites.
    Can you suggest few or only site to start with ? I read your suggested Dreamstime but i want to few other options as well and if its only Dreamstime then why do you think this is best for beginners ?
    Expecting to see your reply soon. thanking you in advance.

  8. Thank you for the reply Mr Orson.. I have started submitting my photos in dreamstime,fotolia and 123rf.
    I want to tell you that 10 out of 15 images get selected in 123RF but with same set of images.. Dreamstime- selected 3 and Fotolia- none.lol
    so I wanna concentrate on 123Rf & Dreamstime only along with Shutterstock,
    but i am really affraid to try shuterstock as rejection in shutterstock and no more try before 1months… but as your review about earning attracting me for SS.
    Is there any of your articles with suggestions atleast to get selected in SS with 10 images ?
    Thanking you.

    Regards,
    Saurabh

  9. Thank you Mr Orso. I have already read your this article and i feel it would be very helpful. I have ready with my 10 sets of photo for Shutterstock and also for ISTOCK .
    But please answer my last doubt before i submit the photos. Do we need to attach model release document also while sending photos for approval in SS and IS FOR 1ST TIME ?
    Thank you.

  10. Hello,Mr.Orson can I ask you a question. I have a problem uploading my samples at istockphoto. It says error its not a valid zip file. Do you know how to fix that? thanks and godbless.

  11. Hi! Thank you for taking the time share this information!

    I will agree about Shatterstock and my question is mainly for it but if you know about the other agencies as well (mainly iStockphoto) your input is very welcomed!!

    My question is based on a real scenario I deal with this period: Lets say I get a project that I have to deliver in 4 weeks and I need 3 weeks to continuously work on it. This leaves me a week this month to work on my stock illustration and in this week I can produce, let’s say, 8 illustrations… Now the question is this: Is it to my best interest to upload 2 of them every week or 5 of them in the first week and 1 every week after that or to upload all of them and have my next uploading after 4 weeks?

    Tricky hah?! lol

    I hope you have an answer for this Q cause this matter will really trouble my until I become a full-time mickrostocker…

    I wish you the best and Thank you again!!

    P.S. I guess the same question stands for you and every other full-time mikrostocker if, for instance, you want to take a 3 week vacation. Would it be better then to leave some files aside in order to keep the machine oiled?? lol

  12. There is a new application for android phones, devices and tablets to check your earnings in Dreamstime and 28 more agencies in your devices…. thats amazing. You can check in mobile: http://slideme­.org/…stock-report
    Just go and search Microstock Report in the search and youll see this application. Its very amazing for us that are photographers. We can see all of our new earnings live on our mobile.

    The agencies included are:
    Alamy
    Bigstock
    CafePress
    Canstock
    ClipDealer
    Crestock
    CutCaster
    DepositPhotos
    Dreamstime
    3DStudio
    Fotolia
    GimmeStock
    GraphicLeftOvers
    Istockphoto
    MostPhotos
    PantherMedia
    Photaki
    PhotoKore
    123RF
    ScanStockPhoto
    Shutterstock
    StockFresh
    SuperHug
    Veer
    Visco Images
    YayMicro
    Zazzle
    Zoonar
    Pixmac

    If you have more than one agency, this app is impressive

  13. Hi Jo-Kerr,
    the best is to submit around 10 – 20 illustration per week (regullary). If you are able to produce onlz 10 illustrations per month, then I think is better to submit it together.

    When I’m leaving for more than one week, I prepare some simple illustrations and submit them from my holidays.

  14. If iStockphoto.com is a legitimate business why won’t they provide me – I am a contributor there – with their tax identification number?

  15. Hello Mr Orson..
    i am now member of all major microstock sites (including SS) and have sold quite many images though have yet small collection. But i want to thank you for your tips and advice that helped me to get into SS.
    I have been looking for new articles and report on different sites in your site but either you are busy some where else or i am missing here something.
    Eagerly waiting for your reports at stock sites and also some more tips..!
    Have a nice day.

  16. Hi, it. Says on your site that Bigstock and fotolia have no reviewing at the beginning, but both sites reviewed my photos and every time they turn them down.

  17. Hi Andrew,
    sure, nearly all microstock sites are reviewing all images once you upload them. The difference is, that some of them want’t to review the photographer – i.e. you have to upload there sample images and they decide, if you are good enough for them. If not, you will get another chance after month.

    On Bigstock, Fotolia you can upload immediately and if they refuse your images, you can upload some new anytime.

  18. Hi man,

    Just wanted to know what you recommend as second best to shutterstock, I just got denied for the second time and I really need to start earning from my photos so which site is second best ?

    Thanks

  19. In the past I haven’t held copyright. There is a form that allows you to register a group of illustrations and keep adding to it, rather than paying $45 for each one. When/if I find out more I’ll let you know.

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