Biting the hand that feeds: istockphoto.com insults it’s contributors

Most of you probably know that I am an active contributor to istockphoto.com, and I have been uploading selected images from my portfolio there since early 2008. I have always considered them to be fair and honest, and I like how strict they are with their image approval process. They know exactly what they want, and they won’t accept any image that doesn’t fall in line with their “house style”. Many contributors don’t like that, but some (like me) do – it keeps things fresh and clean, without a lot of crap images flooding the site.

All has been good up until yesterday, when I received an email from them containing this announcement:

iStockphoto is making changes that affect all contributing artists.

Beginning in January 2011 our royalty structure is changing. Every year all iStock contributors will now qualify for their royalty level based on the total number of credits used from clients to download your files from the previous year, as opposed to a lifetime download total.

Later in September we are introducing a new premium content collection called the Agency Collection. We are also making changes to Vetta prices and royalties.

Please take the time to read the complete announcement here

If you click on that link and read all the gory details, you will quickly realize that as a result of this change, 99% of their contributors (myself included) will have their royalties reduced to an average of $0.15 per sale. That is downright insulting. To me, that’s damn near close to giving my images away for free and I’m not going to continue to jump through their approval process hoops for such a small reward. If I am reduced to selling my images for that minuscule of an amount, I am not interested in selling my images anymore. Thanks a lot, istock. Not only are you making your suppliers angry (not a good thing when they have other places to upload), you are fueling the fire that is driving me to focus 100% of my energy on my own site. Sure – I give some of my images away for free here on trashedgraphics.com, but if I’m going to be giving my work away for nothing I’d rather do it on my own terms. And I’m willing to bet there are thousands of other photographers and artists with that same idea…

I’m getting sick and tired of being yanked around by these greedy stock photo agencies. It just amazes me how these organizations continue to reduce contributor royalties to insulting levels while their earnings continue to grow and grow each year. Without us (the contributors), these agencies would have nothing – and it’s starting to leave a bad taste in my mouth.

The only way to fix this is for individual contributors to stand up for themselves and not allow to be treated like this. My form of protest is with the development of norebbo.com – where I can have the satisfaction of distributing my images exactly how I want to do it without answering to anyone. If the agencies don’t want to pay me for my work (*cough* istock *cough*), then I want no part in helping them build their business.

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