First off, thanks for all the comments regarding istockphoto.com. Secondly, there were also lots of referrers regarding the post "istockphoto.com: "Bringing the price down to a level where everybody can afford to buy a stock photo" (this seems to have been a subject on the Alamy Contributor List/Yahoo). Besides the discussion of the Pros and Cons photographer Ei Katsumata recently wrote a reply to "istockphoto.com informal study" which was discussed [STOCKPHOTO] Digest Number 2086] at the Stock Photo List/Yahoo:
I did a bit of researching to estimate how much money one can make at istockphoto. Check out work by Lise Gagne--I used her for this 'study.' She seems to be one of the top sellers over there.
Her photos are highly produced business lifestyle imagery.
Here's a link to her istock profile:
Since she joined in April 2003, Ms Gagne has 73,695 downloads (sales) over a 16 month period. Since then, she has uploaded 1,036 photos. The commission she receives from each sale is either $0.10, $0.20, or $0.30, depending on the file size. Let's assume, on average, that she makes $0.20 per sale (probably more, as I imagine most buyers will pay an extra buck or two just to have future access to a hi-res file). That translates to [(73,695)*($0.20)]=$14,739 over a 16 month period, with an average of 518 images on the site over that period (assuming that she contributed photos in a linear fashion). So her income per photo per year would be [($14,739/518images/16mo)*(12mo/1yr)]=$21.34 per image per year. If she can keep that rate of sales up for her existing collection for the next year, she'll make another [(73,695sales/16mo.)*(12mo./1yr.)($0.20/sale)]=$11,054,
without adding any more images.
Considering the marketability of her images, I'm sure she can make lots more money at an agency specializing in RM lifestyle imagery (masterfile, workbook, corbis, etc). So why would Ms Gagne continue to stay at istockphoto? Perhaps she just doesn't know any better. Or perhaps she was once rejected by an agency and doesn't want to bother with the submission process again. Or maybe she has a hand in the workings of istockphoto. I guess there could be a number of reasons. But if I were to to through the time and trouble of producing model-released lifestyle images, I'd certainly check out more reputable agencies before ever considering istock.
See also "Analysis #7--Why Royalty Free WON'T completely take over the industry!" (Bahar Gidwani, Index Stock).