iStock and Getty Images Contributor Review

By Matic Broz, editor-in-chief of Photutorial covering stock media, Adobe, and design. He founded Photutorial while finishing his PhD in computational biosciences.

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Why am I reviewing iStock and Getty Images contributor programs at the same time?

Let me explain:

In 2006, Getty Images acquired iStock (formerly known as iStockPhoto). While iStock maintained its autonomy, for the most part, contributor programs were merged. Now, you can only apply for the iStock contributor program via the Getty Images contributor program.

In this iStock and Getty Images Contributor review, everything I write pertains to both agencies unless I state otherwise.

What is the difference between iStock and Getty Images?

iStock (by Getty Images) and Getty Images are owned by the same company – Getty Images, Inc. Therefore, all the content you upload is licensed through one of the websites, or

But you don’t have to worry about that. When you apply for the contributor program, the Getty Images team (editors) will review your uploaded content. Upon review, they will decide on which website it will be placed to maximize its visibility and sales potential and eventually ask you to sign the legal agreement.

The very best content from is also visible on and vice-versa. This way, your content gets the maximum possible exposure.

Let’s get right into it:

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    Commission rates differ between iStock and Getty Images contributor programs.

    For starters, the iStock contributor program encourages you to upload more quality content because your commission rates improve with more downloads. On the other hand, Getty Images offers a flat rate of 20%-25% rate on all content, regardless of your success.

    iStock Contributor Earnings

    Non-exclusive contributors earn 15% royalties for stock photos and 20% royalties for videos and illustrations. Exclusive contributors can earn between 25% and 45% for each piece of content they license.

    File type Non-
    Exclusive rates
    and Download Targets needed to reach them
    25% 30% 35% 40% 45%
    Photo 15% Default 960 10,200 41,400 617,760
    Illustration 20% n/a Default 8,640 31,200 205,920
    Video 20% Default 360 2,400 5,520 41,400

    Getty Images Contributor Earnings

    Getty Images contributors earn 20% commissions for royalty-free images and 25% for royalty-free videos. The rates don’t increase with the number of downloads.

    How to become an iStock/Getty Images contributor?

    You can only apply for the iStock or Getty Images contributor program via an app. This is odd, to say the least, considering that most photographers edit their (our) photos on computers.

    To become an iStock or Getty Images contributor, follow these simple steps:

    1. Download Contributor app by Getty Images from the App Store or Google Play.

      Get it on the App Store or on Google Play.

    2. Upload 3 to 6 sample images, illustrations, or videos

      Make sure you upload only your very best content. Upload videos to YouTube and share links.

    3. The curation team will review your samples

      Review can take up to 30 business days. So try forgetting about the application and give them time to review your work. Sending multiple emails to reviewers won’t help your odds. In fact, you might get rejected for being pushy.

    4. You will be notified of the results.

      You will get a notification in the apps and to the email address once your application has been reviewed. If you still haven’t heard back after a month or two, check your email promotional tab or spam and trash folders.

    Naturally, you’re now wondering what’s the difference between non-exclusive and exclusive contributors and how you can become exclusive.


    When you first sign for the iStock (Getty Images) contributor program, you become a non-exclusive contributor. At this stage, the number of downloads doesn’t affect your royalty rates. No matter how much you sell, you earn 15% royalties for images and 20% for videos and illustrations.

    How to become an exclusive contributor?

    Exclusive contributors are those who only upload their content to Getty Images and iStock. It means that you may not upload to any other stock photo agency.

    Getty Images/iStock offer higher royalty rates in return. As an exclusive contributor, you get 25% for images and videos and 30% for illustrations. As you license more content, your royalty rates increase up to 45%.

    Follow these simple steps to apply for an exclusive account:

    1. I recommend you first check what kind of imagery Exclusive contributors upload to iStock and Getty Images. Does your content reach the standard? Good, go to the next step.
    2. Assure that your portfolio:
      • Exhibits assorted and unique content that has commercial value.
      • Is technically excellent.
      • Authentic, diverse, and well-executed.
      • Showcases creative and visually captivating work.
      • Has a consistent style throughout the entire portfolio.
      • Contains well-thought-out compositions and presents a strong visual impact.
    3. Carefully examine the iStock Rate Card and the iStock Exclusive Artist Supply Agreement before applying.
    4. Click the Apply Now button below to create your application ticket.
    5. In the ticket, choose the category “Agreement” then “Apply to become Exclusive.”

    Getty Images will review your portfolio and let you know the results of your application.

    Additional information:

    • You may apply to be an Exclusive contributor before removing files from competitor sites. Still, you must remove your files from those sites before your Exclusive contract gets activated.
    • If you’re successful, any content you submitted to Getty Images or iStock, while non-exclusive, will not change collection; however, your Essentials content will be exclusive as well. All files will earn your higher Exclusive royalty rate.
    • Do not submit any new content until the review team notifies you about your application.
    • Avoid submitting any new content until you are notified that your Exclusivity status has been updated, or your submissions will be published in the Essentials collection instead of Signature.


    I tried answering as many questions about the iStock and Getty Images contributor program as I could think of.

    Feel free to ask more questions in the comments below.

    Is it hard to become an iStock contributor?

    Becoming an iStock contributor is relatively easy. First, you need to submit 3-6 images. After they pass the quality test, you can start uploading more photos. The iStock technical standards are not that high, so most of your photos will be accepted.

    Do I retain the copyright of the work I submit?

    Yes. You may only submit content for which you have a copyright. You retain the copyright of all content you submit to iStock and Getty Images.

    Do I have to submit my work exclusively to iStock and Getty Images, or may I sell or license to other people and stock photo sites?

    If you’re a non-exclusive contributor, you may submit your content to other stock photo sites and people. In contrast, if you’re an exclusive contributor, you may not upload the content you already submitted to iStock or Getty Images to any other stock photo site.

    Do I need permission from the people, property or locations featured in my images before uploading them?

    Yes. You must submit written permission from the people, property or locations from your images, wherever required, using the model and property releases. Learn more here.

    What are the legal terms for submitting my content?

    For Artist’s Supply Agreement, and for Contributor Agreement Fact Sheet.

    I am under 18 years old. Can I become a contributor?

    You are required to be at least 18 years of age to become an iStock or Getty Images contributor.

    How do I sell on iStock?

    1. Choose only your best photos with high commercial value.
    2. Make sure you are the rightful owner of the content.
    3. Go to the iStock website and apply to become a contributor.
    4. Wait to get accepted.
    5. Start contributing to the site.

    iStock contributor payment methods

    Once your application is approved, you’ll be asked to fill out a tax document and payment information.
    iStock and Getty Images pay via PayPal or Payoneer.

    How long will it take for my application to be reviewed?

    It usually takes up to 30 business days to get a reply. If you’re accepted, you’ll receive an email confirmation with instructions.
    You may also want to check spam and junk as the email may get lost.

    Can I upload additional content to my application?

    No. Once you have submitted your application, you cannot add additional content. So, make sure you nail the application on the first try. You can do this by uploading only the very best photos.

    What size should my application samples be?

    Photo and illustration files: JPEG format and maximum size of 3GB.
    Videos: MOV format and maximum size of 3GB.

    Does the content I submit to the application appear on the websites?

    The content you submit to the application won’t appear on the websites or until your application gets accepted. 

    Why did I receive an invite to join iStock instead of Getty Images?

    Getty Images editors decide whether your content is a better fit for iStock or Getty images. Based on their decision, you’ll be invited to contribute to iStock, Getty Images, or both.


    Ever since Getty Images bought iStock, royalties have been steadily dropping, while the number of downloads required for a certain percentage of royalties kept getting higher.

    What is more, the iStock contributor program isn’t even a part of its website anymore. To contribute, you need to use the portal to find Getty Images or download an app.

    In summary, the iStock contributor program doesn’t pay very well and seems not to care about its contributors. With a wide variety of contributor programs to choose from, you’ll be better off elsewhere.

    I recommend you read more in my complete guide on selling photos online.


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