How Freelance Photographers Make Money at iStock

Stock is a very popular stock photography website – with both photographers and buyers. If you’re new to selling your photos at stock photography websites though, it’s usually helpful to find overviews and reviews of various sites available.

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Since iStock is quite popular, I’ve decided to outline my own experiences with them. When I first started selling my photography at stock photo agencies online a couple of years ago, I didn’t sign up with iStock. I was concerned about some misuses I’d seen of photos from that site, and I also didn’t like their upload restrictions.

After about two years of steady stock photography income growth at other sites though, I finally decided to give in and try iStock. It’s reputed to be a top earning site for many photographers, and the number two earning site for most of the rest. And in my mind, if I was serious about trying to earn a full time living with my stock photography, then I needed to make sure I was submitting my photos to the top online agencies.

Signing up at iStock is completely free. To become a contributing photographer though, you’ll need to go through a few hoops. The first thing you’ll need to do is apply to become a photographer. This involves taking a brief test, and then submitting your initial photos.

iStock only requires you to submit three pictures for your “test”. But all three of those pictures must be approved before you’re officially allowed to contribute your stock photos.

Some photographers feel that the initial test is quite difficult to get three photos approved for, but I personally didn’t have much of a problem. In fact, the only problem I ran into was the fact that I’m primarily a stock food photographer. I submitted two food photos and one people photo for my initial test of three, and I quickly found out that iStock prefers to see a variety of topics in your test photos. So even though my photos were not similar in any way, since two of them were on the topic of food one was rejected.

Once I realized they wanted three different topics on the first submission, it was quick work to submit something different and become accepted.

Once you’ve passed your initial submission quality test, you can start uploading your photos to iStock. And this is the part that I personally detest. iStock does not provide an FTP upload service, and they do not give you the ability to upload multiple photos at once via a web form. You are forced to submit just one picture at a time, and this can be quite painful.


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