iStockphoto is a Calgary-based online, royalty free, international microstock photography, video and audio provider operating with the micropayment business model. Images cost between 1 and 150 credits, depending on size and image collection with credits ranging from $.95 to $1.50 USD each. Each approved image is added to the searchable online database, where it can be found by purchasers. Depending on the original size of an image, it can be bought in XSmall, Small, Medium, Large, XLarge, XXLarge and XXXLarge sizes. These cost 1, 3, 6, 12, 18, 22 or 28 credits. Vector and Flash files also cost 1 to 25 credits, based on complexity. Files can be downloaded immediately, and used in almost anything. The basic license agreement prohibits only a few uses, such as web templates, print on demand, adult materials, etc. Any print runs over 500,000 must pay additional royalties. Extended licenses are available for purchase to cover certain needs not met by the basic license agreement.
The company was founded by Bruce Livingstone in May, 2000. Originally iStockphoto was a free stock imagery website. Over the course of time, it transitioned into its current micropayment model. The website was originally supported by CEO Livingstone’s web development firm, Evolvs Media, but began charging money in 2001. iStockphoto has been profitable since then.
On February 9, 2006 iStockphoto was acquired by Getty Images for $50 million USD. Livingstone promised that the site would continue “functioning independently with the benefits of Getty Images, yet, very importantly for them and us, autonomy. They will nurture and encourage our pioneering spirit so that our entrepreneurial culture will continue to thrive.”
On April 1, 2008 Getty Images disclosed, as part of its agreement to be sold to a private equity firm, that iStockphoto’s revenue in 2007 was $71.9 million USD of which $20.9 million (29%) was paid to contributors. Contributing photographers apply (via a short quiz regarding policies, requirements, basic photographic knowledge, and legal issues) before they are eligible to upload their images. The applicant’s sample images are screened for quality and suitability before being approved. Photographers must be over 18 years of age to join (or have a parental consent form).
Once approved, photographers can begin uploading their work through the website. They supply keywords, categorize the images, and submit them to the “inspection queue”, where each image is examined to ensure that it meets the standards of quality, usefulness and copyright and trademark laws.
In an address to its community entitled “2008: A Year in Review and a Look Ahead″, iStockphoto’s COO announced that the company was paying out ‘almost’ $1.1 million dollars per week in royalty payments to contributors.
iStockphoto also sells vector graphics made in programs like Adobe Illustrator or Macromedia Freehand; Macromedia Flash elements and raster illustrations created in 3d graphics programs or bitmap editors like Adobe Photoshop and videos and audio files. See more at www.istockphoto.com.