iStock is an online royalty free, international micro stock photography provider based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The firm offers millions of photos, illustrations, clip art, videos and audio tracks. Artists, designers and photographers worldwide contribute their work to iStock collections in return for royalties. Nearly half a million new photos, illustrations, videos and audio files, are added each month.

iStock by Getty Images
FormerlyiStockphoto (until 2013)
GenreMicrostock photography
FoundedMay 14, 2000; 21 years ago (2000-05-14) (as iStockphoto)
FounderBruce Livingstone
ParentGetty Images


The company was founded by Bruce Livingstone in May 2000, as iStockphoto, a free stock imagery website supported by Livingstone's web development firm, Evolvs Media. iStock pioneered the crowd-sourced stock industry and became the original source for user-generated stock photos, vectors and illustrations, and video clips. It began charging money in 2001 and quickly became profitable.[1]

On February 9, 2006, the firm was acquired by Getty Images for $50 million USD. Livingstone promised that the site would continue "functioning independently with the benefits of Getty Images, yet, very importantly for them and us, autonomy."[2]

On September 18, 2006, the site experienced the first benefits of the new ownership:[3] a Controlled vocabulary keyword taxonomy borrowed from Getty Images.

As of March 31, 2007, iStockpro closed. iStockpro was a more expensive version of iStockphoto that was never as popular as iStockphoto, and became redundant after the acquisition by Getty Images.

On April 1, 2008 Getty Images disclosed, as part of its agreement to be sold to a private equity firm, that iStockphoto's revenue in 2007 was $71.9 million USD of which $20.9 million (29%) was paid to contributors.[4][5]

Founder and CEO Livingstone left iStockphoto in 2009.[6] He went on to co-found competitor Stocksy United in 2013.[7]

In 2013, iStockphoto was rebranded as iStock by Getty Images, removing the word 'photo' to convey that the company offers stock media other than just photography, such as vector illustrations, audio, and video.[8]

In 2020, iStock began offering weekly complimentary stock photos from its exclusive Signature collection, as well as monthly free illustrations and video clips.


Contributing photographers apply (via a short quiz regarding policies, requirements, basic photographic knowledge, and legal issues) before they are eligible to upload their images. The applicant's sample images are screened for quality and suitability before being approved.

Contributors receive royalties each time their content is licensed. Royalty rates start at 15% for photos and 20% for illustrations and videos, with exclusive contributors earning between 25% and 45%.

In an address to its community entitled "2008: A Year in Review and a Look Ahead″,[9] the firm's CEO mentioned that the company was paying out ‘almost’ $1.1 million per week in royalty payments to contributors.

Purchasing and useEdit

Each approved image is added to the searchable online database, where it can be found by purchasers. Files can be downloaded immediately, and used in almost anything. The basic license agreement prohibits some uses, such as web templates, print on demand, adult materials, etc. Print runs over 500,000 must pay additional royalties. Extended licenses are available for purchase to cover needs not met by the basic license agreement.[10]

Ownership of material controversyEdit

This background of a movie poster for the 2011 film The Roommate was provided by iStockphoto. The image is that of the Christy Administration building at Southwestern College. The college believes this image was used without their permission.

The 2011 film The Roommate obtained photos from iStockPhoto for its promotional material. One of the photos used as its backdrop was the Christy Administration Building from Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas. The college administration voiced concern that permission to use the photograph of the building was not properly obtained and is investigating the legality of its use.[11] As of February 8, 2011, no lawsuits have been filed but discussions continue to take place.[12]


On July 31, 2006 iStockphoto announced the development of a new branch, iStockvideo, to sell stock video clips in a variety of formats from web-size, through NTSC and PAL up to HDV and HD sizes. The collection is slated to open on September 5, 2006, and clips (between 5 and 30 seconds) will range in cost from $5 USD to $50 USD, based on resolution. As of February 9, 2010 the video collection contains over 250,000 videos.[13] Videos are not available as part of the images pricing or subscription arrangements.

This new branch of iStockphoto competes with motion stock collections already available from companies such as Getty Images, Artbeats, and Veer.

iStockalypse eventEdit

The iStockalypse was founded in 2005, as an official multi-day iStock photography event held several times a year for contributing artists and photographers.[14]

Since the first event in Las Vegas, iStock has visited Seattle, Boston, Ljubljana, Prague, Austin, Barcelona, Marseilles, Buenos Aires, Malta, Berlin, Calgary, Istanbul, Cannes, Tokyo, London, Milan, Singapore, Sao Paulo, Los Angeles and Paris. In March 2015 the event[15] was organized in Dubai to get authentic, local shots of the city and its people.


  1. ^ Peterson, Kim (2007-05-28). "Microstock photography represents a new business model". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2020-02-17.
  2. ^ "iStockphoto Joins Getty Images". Marketwire. Retrieved 18 April 2013.
  3. ^ Archived 2006-10-15 at the Wayback Machine – Language features announcement
  4. ^ "iStock contributors make $21 million in 2007". iStockphoto Forums. 2008-04-01. Archived from the original on 2008-04-05. Retrieved 2008-04-01.
  5. ^ Shankland, Stephen (2008-04-02). "iStock reveals revenue, photographer payouts". CNET. Retrieved 2020-02-17.
  6. ^ Shankland, Stephen (2009-03-23). "iStockphoto founder, CEO leaves Getty". CNET. Retrieved 2020-02-16.
  7. ^ Purvis, Mifi (2013-10-11). "Calgary's iStock founders are back in competition with Getty Images". Canadian Business. Retrieved 2020-02-16.
  8. ^ Woods, Ben (2013-09-23). "iStockphoto rebrands as iStock, and introduces a new logo featuring 'Getty'". The Next Web. Retrieved 2020-02-16.
  9. ^ 2008: A Year in Review and a Look Ahead – Executive Forum Post
  10. ^ "Extended License Options". Archived from the original on May 9, 2008.
  11. ^ Twitchell, Allen (December 3, 2010). "Image of SC building on movie poster". The Winfield Daily Courier. Retrieved January 17, 2011.
  12. ^ Twitchell, Allen (February 8, 2011). "Movie poster image remains a concern for SC administration". The Winfield Daily Courier. Retrieved February 10, 2011.
  13. ^ "Forums - iStockvideo - 250,000 videos". Retrieved 28 October 2016.
  14. ^
  15. ^ "iStockalypse - Dubai". Retrieved 28 October 2016.

External linksEdit