My iStock Experience

Recently, I was fingering through the newspaper one morning when I came across an image that caught my eye. It was a book cover. It accompanied a review of the book. Wow, that image looks familiar, I thought….very familiar. A quick search on Google provided a larger, much more detailed version of the image on my monitor. I pulled out my iPhone. I compared the image that I use as my phone’s home screen to the image before me on my monitor. Yup, that’s the same shot. It was an image I shot on a trip to New York city in 2013. My family and I were staying at the New Yorker Hotel, and one evening while my family went out-and-about, I stayed in and shot images out our hotel window. Our room faced east, and so I had an excellent view of the Empire State Building. The weather was glommy…..perfect.

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The New Yorker Hotel relative to the Empire State Building. Photo courtesy of wikimapia.org

 

 

Wow! One of my images is being used on a book cover! Wow, wait till I show the kids, wow, I’ve never had an image as a book cover before, wow,… hey wait a minute…how did they get that image. It took me a moment to realize that they must have got it from the stock photo service iStock.

Way back in 2013 I thought I’d look into what opportunities there might be for me in Stock Photography. After seeing the ease of registering and listing images, I signed up with iStock and immediately uploaded a number of files. The way I saw it (and still do), I had to make my images stand out in some way. There are THOUSANDS & THOUSANDS of images of just about anything you can think of already on these stock sites. Because the subjects in my images were pretty cliché (we’re talking NYC landmarks here), I presented the images that I uploaded in B&W with a gritty, grainy look. Not that this treatment was anything particularly original, but it was at least somewhat different to what I saw of these subjects already on iStock. Here are some examples;

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Anyways, I was quite excited to login into my iStock account to see the big money I no doubt had been rewarded for having this image purchased for such prominent usage. Once logged in I saw that that image had been downloaded only once back in 2013. Cool, that must be for the book cover. And the royalties…..huh, $1.47? That can’t be right. $1.47? Seriously? This doesn’t seem right. I looked up the terms for ‘Permitted Use’ when purchasing a Standard License (which is how the image was purchased). It states that the image may be used as follows (this is in addition to many, many other ways):

iStock License

So there you have it. The image may be used for half a million hard copies of the book….including unlimited usage for e-books! All this with a ‘Standard’ license. I found this hard to believe, so just to make sure, I fired off an email to iStock to ask whether this was all legit. They got back to me within 24 hours: “The usage of your file appears to be legitimate.”

Now I know that when one signs on to a service such as iStock, one should be aware of all the terms and conditions one is getting themselves into. But I’m not. I’m not a regular contributor to iStock and therefore don’t keep myself informed with the ins and outs of how the world of stock photography operates. You could say I’m lazy, which I wouldn’t argue, but I do find sorting through this landscape very confusing.

I sincerely have no complaints, no bitterness. I actually found the whole thing amusing. Here I was so excited to make this find in my newspaper- MY image, on a book cover, awesome! Another feather in my cap!….and to end up with $1.47 to show for it. That is kinda funny. Makes me wonder- How do these stock photographers do it? Quantity I guess. My hats off to you if you can make a living as a stock shooter.

Hey, at least my $1.47 is in American funds.

UPDATE- It’s been over four years since I originally published this post, and I still haven’t received my $1.47. Turns out iStock has a ‘minimum payment’ threshold of $100.00 (US), and I have not yet met that (after 5 years!) I’m up to $86.23, but I don’t think I’ll ever get to $100, as I no longer contribute new images. I’m thinking of buying my own images off iStock so I can meet the minimum payment threshold! I want to get paid!!

 

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