iStockphoto is an online, royalty free, international microstock photography provider operating with the micropayment business model. Images cost between 1 and 20 credits, depending on size (with credits ranging from $.95 to $1.50 USD each). General consensus attributes the pioneering of the microstock photography industry to iStockphoto, which claims to be "internet’s original member-generated image and design community."

The online photo library contains (as of January 2009) over 4 million images (up from 760,000 in April, 2006) contributed by over 50,000 photographers at the rate of 27,000+ images per week. is currently (24 April 2010) ranked 220 on Alexa.

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Contributors receive a commission of between 20% and 40% of each sale, depending on whether or not they are "exclusive", and on their current "canister level." New canisters are awarded for various milestones such as 250 sales, 2,500 sales, 10,000 sales, 25,000 sales, and 200,000 sales. Only five photographers have passed the 200,000 point, while 209 members have passed the 25,000 level as of 2008-03-13 and received the coveted "diamond canister."

Contributing photographers who reach a minimum of 250 sales (and have a submission acceptance rate of at least 50%) are offered the option of becoming exclusive to the company. If they do so, a bonus is added to their commission and they must not sell royalty-free stock images anywhere else. Rights managed sales are allowed off site even under the exclusivity contract.


Shutterstock is a microstock photography website which maintains a library of royalty-free stock images available by subscription. Visitors can browse the entire image library for free, and can license and download images online through a variety of subscription offers.

Shutterstock adds to its library each day as photographers and illustrators from around the world submit their work. The new photos, vectors, and illustrations undergo a selection process based on quality, aesthetics, artistry, and originality before the accepted images are added to the library.

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As of February 2010, Shutterstock had more than 10 Million royalty-free images available to subscribers, taken by more than 210,000 photographers, illustrators, and videographers. Also as of February 2010, Shutterstock had more than 150,000 royalty-free video clips available to subscribers, taken by more than 210,000 photographers, illustrators, and videographers.

On September 23, 2009, Shutterstock announced that it had purchased rival site BigStockPhoto, effectively entering the credit-based stock image marketplace.

Shutterstock are arguably the highest performing microstock website. They certainly have the highest number of sales for the majority of microstockers. Whether they provide the most earnings for those contributors is less consistent. Some do and some don’t. If you are hard working you are on a half way to become Shutterstock addicted and to become part of their payout listings.


Fotolia is a microstock photography agency that is based in New York, New York. It was started by Oleg Tscheltzoff, Patrick Chassany, Thibaud Elziere in November 2005. The company also has offices in Seattle, Washington and Paris, France.

Fotolia provides means for worldwide distribution of photographs, through PayPal (in the countries that use it), and Moneybookers (another internet payment system offered in more countries than Paypal). Some photographs are offered for free; those that are sold are priced from $1 to as high as $2,000.


As of October 2008, Fotolia had more than 800,000 members who had uploaded more than 4.2 million photographs and graphic illustrations.

Fotolia is designed for both commercial users who need photographs for PowerPoint presentations, company web sites, and for use on profitable products, such as postcards, posters, mugs; and also for private users, who want to use high-quality photos for personal greeting cards, PC wallpapers, and other uses.

Depending on what the photographer offers, images may be purchased royalty free, for use on web sites, or they may be purchased through an exclusive buyout, in which the customer can use the photos commercially (such as selling prints and products with the photo on them).


Dreamstime is a community-based stock photography agency and a major supplier of high quality digital images constituted in 2004 by Serban Enache (CEO). As of October 2009, the company had over 7 million images online, about 80,000 contributors and more than 1 million users. Dreamstime is among the first 850 most popular websites, according to Alexa (as of November 2009). Dreamstime is the second launched company after Istockphoto followed by Shutterstock. To this date, Dreamstime remains the second largest user database in microstock.


In September 2006, Dreamstime became a member of the Picture Archive Council of America (PACA) and Centre of the Picture Industry (CEPIC), being the first microstock agency to achieve this. This provided an official acknowledgment of the main trade associations to Microstock's contribution in the stock photography industry.

All stock images available are provided by Dreamstime community's photographers and illustrators, shot on film or digital. As of Nov. 2009, is commonly referred as one of the biggest stock agencies and a reference to thousands of designers around the world. Contributors can register an account for free and submit their contents to the company's editors, and yet benefiting from innovative features and tools, such as a powerful and intuitive search engine, a referral program that allows for contributors to earn additional earnings from their affiliates sales, a keymaster program for contributors interested in having their data professionally tagged and categorized, and the possibility to enter monthly prized assignments.

123RF Photo is one-stop royalty-free photo library offering stunning, practical stock photos at the most affordable price!

They've got the latest photos right there – refreshing, intriguing images for your creative projects. For a single subscription fee, you can get access to a wealth of high-resolution images. Alternatively, you may purchase credits and download images, all for a very low rate.

If that's not enough, check out their daily dose of FREE images! Take your pick. Download. Absolutely on the house.

Why are we passionate about 123RF?
- Because we collaborate with fellow photographers and make stock photos affordable for everyone
- Because we simplify the process of buying and submitting stock photos.
- Because we offer good stock photos without burning a hole in your pocket.

123RF gives you more, for a lot less.

BigStock Photo

BigStockPhoto is an online royalty free, international microstock photography website that sells images via a credit-based system. BigStockPhoto's photos, vectors and illustrations cost from between 1 to 6 credits each, depending on size, with credits ranging from $.90 to $3.00 USD.


BigStockPhoto adds to its library every day as photographers and designers from around the world submit their work. As of December 2009, BigStockPhoto had more than 4 Million royalty-free images available.

Approved photographers can upload their photos to BigStockPhoto, and upon approval by copyright and quality editors, these photos can be downloaded by other users. Each time a photo is downloaded, the photographer earns 50 cents per image credit spent. When photographers have earned at least $30 they can request a Paypal or check payment.

On September 23, 2009, BigStockPhoto announced that it had been purchased by Shutterstock, a subscription-based microstock company.