For the past five years, I’ve licensed stock photos from iStockPhoto (now just iStock) for websites and a few ebooks (which are basically long web pages). Most of these images have been x-small, small, or medium-sized JPEGs and vectors. Web designers and site owners rarely need the large images, and almost never require extra large sizes.
Today, iStock, now owned by Getty, announced a restructuring of their credit-based pricing model that will kick in on September 13th.
Existing credits held by iStock members will be computed at a 5 to 1 rate. That is, if you had 100 credits today, in a week you’ll have 20. A credit will cost between $8 and $15, depending on how many you buy. The example given is that if you buy 3 credits, they’ll be $12 each; if you buy 18 credits, they’ll be $10 each. See iStockPhoto Simplified Image Collections.
Images will be divided into two collections: Essentials (images at 1 credit each) and Signature (images at 3 credits each). That is, “1 credit for 1 Essentials image or vector and 3 credits for 1 Signature image or vector.”
So, how does this work in real life?
iStock’s promotional messages say that the changes make it simple and affordable to buy stock photos, but if you routinely need small files for web work, you will pay a great deal more for them than in the past. Your costs will increase dramatically. If you’re a print designer, you’ll be able to get more large high-resolution images for your money. You might be a happy camper.
Essentially, iStock/Getty appears to be restructuring their target market to focus more on heavy users of high resolution graphics and to weed out the less profitable web designer/developer market. The ebook cover designer segment is somewhere in the middle, with a need for medium and large, but not extra-large images. If you’re a contributor to iStock, maybe these changes will help bring in more revenue for your work. Hard to tell at this point.
In any case, iStock has priced itself out of my league as a source of images for web work or casual use. iStock has many wonderful, high quality images by talented photographers and digital artists. But what simpleton would believe that the restructured collections have made iStock images easier and more affordable? And somewhere in the back of my mind are questions about free embedding of Getty images on websites and social media and the Getty-Google deal for images added to Google Drive.