Overview on Stock Photography and Stock Photo Agencies


Stock photography is the art of taking photographs with the intent of licensing them for specific uses. Usually, people use stock photographs simply because they are inexpensive and save time that could have been wasted during the process of hiring a photographer. The stock photographs are produced in modern studios and incorporate a wide array of models who pose as professionals expressing common gesticulation and emotions. In other occasions, pets may also be involved in those portraits. The agencies tasking themselves with the production and licensing of stock photography are popularly known as stock photography agencies. Famous niches in stock photography include images used in travel and tourism industry.

Overview Stock Photo Agencies

Types of Stock Photography

With many stock photography agencies in the market, to curb competition and enhance competence, three different packages have been developed mainly:

  1. Microstock – this package entails inclusive stock photography that is low price
  2. Macrostock – this is the traditional stock photography which deals with exclusive stock photography and therefore high in terms of price
  3. Midstock – this package deals with stock photography that is in between micro and macro; in terms of price.

Once the image is produced, there is a third party agency that files the image and negotiates licensing fees on behalf of the stock photography agency in exchange for a small fee or in rare cases own the outright of the image. Among the determinants of price include the size of the readership/audience, time of use, country or region the image will be used and whether royalties are credited to owner or creator.

The client purchasing the stock photography may request exclusive rights averting other from using the same photography for a specified duration of time or in the same business as him/her. This kind of arrangement calls for extra dollar since the client is literally preventing the agency from using the same image to make money. However, it is to be noted that with Royalty-free stock photography, getting exclusive usage right is no option.

History of Stock Photo Agencies

Initially, newspapers and magazine used to design their own photos and images. Later on, freelance photographers took on the task of taking photographs and then sell them to magazine and newspaper publishers. The trend continued till 1920 when H. Armstrong Robert founded the first large stock photography agency, today known as RobertStock. Many years passed and in 1980s there was a surge of interest into the stock photography market. Hobbyist photographers and individual freelance novice ventured into stock photography credit to the publication of series book named “Sell&Resell your Photos”.

After 1990, two largest stock photo agencies came in; Getty Images and Corbis. They dominated the market until 2000 when istockphoto came to picture. istockphoto revolutionized the industry by moving their business online and also reducing the price of royalty-free images. This was simply because high- resolution digital cameras were easily available in the wide market for newbie amateur photographers.

In 2004, other key stock agencies ventured into the market. They were Dreamstime, Fotolia and Shutterstock. The trend continued until now it is possible to take a photo using a mobile phone camera, upload it to the internet and sell it.

Top 5 Stock Agencies in the market

iStock – originally known as iStockphoto is an online micro stock photography agency. It was founded in May 2000 by Bruce Livingstone. It’s one of the stock photo agencies where an image can go for as low as $1. Over years, it has grown and consolidated its resources into purchasing other stock photography agencies such as the Getty images. Currently, in addition to selling stock Photos, it is now possible to sell stock videos under a portfolio popularly known as iStockvideo.

Shutterstock – came into inception in the year 2003 and was founded by called Jon Oringer. It prides itself with a library of over 30 million royalty stock photos, illustrations and vector graphics. In addition, just like iStockvideo, in its library, it has 1 million video clips ready for licensing. It developed Apps that can be used by people using iPads and Smart phones using Android OS. They also offer fairly often Shutterstock coupon codes online.

Depositphotos – also a royalty-free microstock photography agency founded by Dmitry Sergeev in the year 2009. Its headquarters are based in Fort Lauderdale in the United States but has offices all over the world. It also has good customer care with support in 15 different languages. There pricing is a bit different from others and for one to purchase an image, first you need to subscribe yourself with minimum monthly subscription of $49 per month. Once you start downloading the image you are charged a fee.

Dreamstime – is also another royalty-free microstock agency with its headquarters based in Nashville, TN and Bucharest Romania. It runs alongside iStock in providing inexpensive services to its clients. Its key products include: illustration, microstock photography and stock footage.

Fotolia – also based in New York, Fotolio is a microstock photography agency mainly dealing with stock photos, graphic designs and illustrator. It has a member counter more than 3,000,000 registered members trading in more than 17 million digital images.

Why purchase stock photos?

Besides saving you on time, below are a few advantages of purchasing
stock photographs:

• You choose from a wide array of photos hence quality of what you end up with suits your preference.
• With many photographers showcasing their work, you are in a good position to pick what is of good quality.
• Since all the transactions are online, you can do the purchasing anytime and from anywhere.
• You are not afraid of being sued in court for using someone’s photo without their consent.

Bottom Line – What Stock Photo Agency to use?

Before you venture into purchasing any photo, illustration, graphic design or videos online, first, you need to outline what you need and why you need it. Know your niche to avoid purchasing what will turn out to be irrelevant. Research on which agency will suit you best in terms of price, rights, what they offer and their rules and regulations. Then load your PayPal, visa, MasterCard account, log into stock agency of your choice and do the transaction. In addition, also carry out an extensive research on what clients in your niche find attractive to their eyes, this way, and the merchandise you purchase will give you the best you can think of.

Top 5 Stock Photo Agencies


Stock Photo agencies are used to act as a media for the trade of images. These images are often gotten from amateur and experienced photographers who post their images to the website portals of these agencies. When a buyer buys any of these images or photos, he or she earns a commission which largely depends on the level of experience and also on his consistency. This greatly helps photographers to earn more revenue by selling their work online. In many cases, new persons to the agencies are required to register by providing some of their best shots. They also sell films and videos that also earn the owners some royalties. For none photographers, some of the agencies also offer affiliate programs where you earn by directing sales to the site. Check out stockphotosecrets.com for more infos or check the list below.

Below are the top 5 stock photo agency list

Top 5 Stock Photo Agencies


Shutterstock is one of the giants of stock photo stock agencies launched in 2003 by the Founder, John Oringer according to the Alexa stats and getting is popularity from 2005. As the pioneer of the microstock subscription formula, it still dominates that part of the photography market. This agency sells photos more than any other microstock agency, earning their space as the most top earners in microstock agencies. The nature of the search function in the site of this agency means that most photos sell well when they are newer than when they have taken some time since they were posted. The agency also offers affiliate programs to individuals who can direct sales to the site. The compensation rate ranges from $0.25 u to $0.38 per download which depends on your lifetime earnings. Additionally, consistency of posting is also a great contributor to increased revenue. Payouts are done monthly with the use of online payment methods when the balance is above $75. Check out our infos about cheap stock photos from Shutterstock.


Dreamstime is one of the stock photography agencies that have been able to distinguish itself from the other competition. This is because the agency also offers thousands of images for free downloading which many agencies don’t. Their system uses a well laid system of credits and other payment solutions, for the users to buy the photos. This is also a big difference compared to other agencies which charge a dollar for a photo. Some of the stand out features of Dreamstime includes image selection, affordable credit purchasing system and the free image selection. Once a purchaser or the user passes a certain limit on the free images service, you will have to buy credits in order to have further access to the usage of the photo. This will see you paying amount ranging from $9.99 to $3,739.99 which largely depends on the amount of credits you wish to buy and also the amount of images you want per day and the duration of the deal.

Getty Images

Getty Images support multiple formats of images and languages in their platform and deliver energizing and high quality images. They agency also offers different types of media formats ranging from film, video, medical, editorial, celebrity and other powerful stock photos. They also offer access to some of the elite photography collections such as the Time and Life Pictures, the National Geographic and also the Stone+. Some of the features that make it standout in the competition is the affordable prices they offer, the nature of product selection and also a solid reputation that they perceive. Getty Images offers a “Creative Express” type of subscription where members have access to download 50 images per day of over 60,000 images at a cost of $399 per month for the files ranging from 1 to 3 MB or 10-16MB for $499 per month. This agency also offers royalty-free and rights managed photos on the basis of per-image.


IStock is one of the largest stock photo agencies in terms of revenue that was founded by Bruce Livingstone. IStockphoto largely earn their credit by being the first ventures in the microstock industry. The website started by providing free photos, which later had to be charged in order to cover the costs incurred by the hosting. The user forums of the agency are also one of the most active forums in this industry. However, the founder Bruce Livingstone sold the company on February of 2006 to Getty images for a worth of $50million. The payout threshold for the agency is on $100 paid via Bookers, Payoneer, Check and PayPal. There is also a $10 one-time payment for the referral program for the referred buyers only. The compensation of the images ranges from 20% up to 40% for the exclusive photographers.


Fotolia is another stock photo agency that ranks in top positions of the stock photo industry and was launched in 2005 in France. The agency started as a European stock photography agency but later developed in to an internationally recognized brand. Their large base of images that range over 20 million photos has largely been driven by the company’s mission to accept both advanced photographer and amateurs in their galleries something that is not largely done by other agencies. It also provides some of the cheapest and extended licenses in the market of stock photography. Most of its products include photos, the vector images, audio and video that are all contributed by over 2.5 million designers and photographers worldwide. The Fotolia website supports over 13 languages and has over 3.5 million buyers. Fotolia credits starts as low as 0.75 per credit, a custom minimum purchase of 10 credits for $12. The maximum allowable purchase of credit is 6400 credits although the custom credit options are unlimited.

StockPhotoSecrets told us that Stock Photo agencies are a good media for earning that extra income either a photographer or a non-photographer. However, as a photographer, you should look for more options where you can sell your work. The same case applies to the amateurs who should look for the agencies that accept their work. Other than the sellers, buyers should also look for the agencies with a huge reputation just as the one ones mentioned above and also those that offer affordable prices. Stock photo agencies are the best platforms to use especially if you are a media personality such as a journalist or even a photographer.