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Top Stock Photo and Footage Sites Compared: Where to Sell Your Work

Stock media represents a lucrative opportunity for photographers and videographers to license their work for repeated use. With stock photo and footage sites continuing to grow, there are many options to weigh when deciding where to contribute your work. This article will compare some of the top stock photo and video sites based on factors like exclusivity, commission rates, submission requirements, and overall popularity.

Key Factors in Choosing a Stock Site

When selecting a stock agency, creator-focused factors to consider include:

Exclusive vs Non-Exclusive Licenses

  • Exclusive: Media can only be listed on that site. May offer higher royalties.
  • Non-exclusive: Media can be listed on multiple sites. Provides wider reach.

Commission and Royalty Rates

  • Ranges from 30-60% on average. Higher is better.
  • Some tiers offer increased royalties for top contributors.

Upfront Costs

  • Many sites are free to join and upload work.
  • Some charge small submission or membership fees.

File Requirements and Review Process

  • Each site has photo and video technical specs.
  • Length of review period varies. Quicker is better.

Distribution Network and Reach

  • Subscriber base size affects licensing potential.
  • Integration with popular platforms like Getty Images.

Weighing these key factors, here is an overview of top stock media companies to consider.

Shutterstock

With its expansive subscriber base and distribution, Shutterstock is a top stock contender.

Highlights

  • Massive distribution network. Content integrated across platforms.
  • Over 1 million active customers worldwide.
  • Simple submission process. Review within 24 hours.
  • Excellent search traffic and discovery.

Exclusivity Policy

  • Content cannot be exclusive to Shutterstock.
  • Images can be listed on competitor sites.

Commission and Royalties

  • Standard commission is 30-60% for photos and videos.
  • Premier contributors can earn higher 55-60% rates.

Cost to Submit

  • Free account option.
  • Paid plans offer increased visibility.

With its vast reach and name recognition, Shutterstock is hard to beat for volume. Non-exclusivity also allows simultaneously listing work elsewhere.

Adobe Stock

Adobe Stock taps into Adobe’s user base and tools like Photoshop and Illustrator.

Highlights

  • Tight integration into Adobe Creative Cloud.
  • Large existing user base of designers/creatives.
  • Powerful brand recognition.

Exclusivity Policy

  • Images cannot be exclusive.
  • Allows sharing work on other stock sites.

Commission and Royalties

  • Standard 33% commission on photos and videos.
  • 10% increased royalties for top contributors.

Cost to Submit

  • Free standard account option.
  • Premium account offers analysis tools.

For creators already using Adobe tools, Adobe Stock offers synergy. But commissions are lower than other options.

Getty Images

A stock media leader, Getty Images offers valuable brand recognition and distribution.

Highlights

  • Massive global reach and premium brand.
  • Over 1 million customers worldwide.
  • Robust search visibility.

Exclusivity Policy

  • Content cannot be exclusive to Getty.
  • Allows licensing work through multiple venues.

Commission and Royalties

  • Starts at 30% commission for photos and videos.
  • Levels with increased royalties up to 65% for top creators.

Cost to Submit

  • Free account option.
  • Paid monthly plan improves access.

Getty Images carries prestige, but is similar to Shutterstock for non-exclusivity and commission tiers.

Pond5

Pond5 focuses solely on stock video and audio content.

Highlights

  • Specialized in video footage and music.
  • Strong demand for these media types.
  • Attractive 70% commission rate.

Exclusivity Policy

  • Content cannot be exclusive.
  • Allows licensing through other stock sites.

Commission and Royalties

  • High 70% commission on footage licenses.
  • Additional 20% for exclusive licenses.

Cost to Submit

  • Free account option.
  • Paid monthly plan adds tools like analytics.

For videographers, Pond5 is a standout with its competitive commission rates and specialty.

Depositphotos

With affordable plans and extensive files, Depositphotos appeals to value-driven customers.

Highlights

  • Over 200 million royalty-free files.
  • Competitive subscription plans for users. -Active contributor community.

Exclusivity Policy

  • Images cannot be exclusive.
  • Allows sharing work across stock platforms.

Commission and Royalties

  • Starts at 30% commission for photos and videos.
  • Increased royalties for top contributors.

Cost to Submit

  • Free account option.
  • Discounts on subscriptions for portfolio-building.

Depositphotos offers creators broad distribution with a no-exclusivity policy. Commissions are on par with major brands.

Canva

Known for its easy design tools, Canva also offers stock media via its templates.

Highlights

  • Offers graphic templates incorporating stock media.
  • Design tools create exposure and possibility of indirect licensing.

Exclusivity Policy

  • Non-exclusive content.
  • Can also submit to other stock sites.

Commission and Royalties

  • Up to 30% royalties on indirect template licensing.
  • Lower commission than dedicated stock sites.

Cost to Submit

  • Free to upload media and share for templates.

Canva reaches creators interested in designing with stock content embedded in templates. But commissions are comparatively lower.

iStock

Owned by Getty Images, iStock prioritizes exclusive content.

Highlights

  • Strong brand recognition as Getty subsidiary.
  • Caters to small and mid-size business users.
  • Desire for unique, exclusive images.

Exclusivity Policy

  • Content must be exclusive.
  • In return offers up to 45% commission.

Commission and Royalties

  • Up to 45% royalties for exclusive image rights.
  • Lower 15-30% for non-exclusive works.

Cost to Submit

  • $29 monthly contributor membership.
  • Cheaper subscription for exclusive snippets.

iStock earns exclusivity by trading off higher royalties. Mandatory paid account is a drawback.

Stocksy

Stocksy offers a curated collection of videos and photos with attractive royalties.

Highlights

  • Invite-only approval process.
  • Unique, high-quality collection.
  • Generous commission rates.

Exclusivity Policy

  • Content must be 100% exclusive.
  • In exchange provides excellent royalties.

Commission and Royalties

  • 50% commission on licensing.
  • Additional 15% for direct referrals.

Cost to Submit

  • By approval invitation only.
  • No subscription fees.

Stocksy’s exclusivity and generous royalties appeal, assuming you’re approved as a contributor.

Alamy

Known for its affordable media pricing, Alamy attracts budget-minded customers.

Highlights

  • Massive selection of over 200 million files.
  • Value-driven customers and competitive pricing.
  • Strong international customer base.

Exclusivity Policy

  • Images cannot be exclusive.
  • Allows publishing media elsewhere.

Commission and Royalties

  • 30% baseline commission rate.
  • Bonus opportunities for top-selling creators.

Cost to Submit

  • Free account option.
  • Fee-based premium accounts with higher royalties.

Alamy offers creators broad distribution with competitive base commissions.

Dreamstime

Dreamstime operates one of the largest stock media catalogs.

Highlights

  • Collection of over 200 million media files.
  • Active user community with design contests.
  • Excellent referral bonuses.

Exclusivity Policy

  • Non-exclusive licenses.
  • Allows publishing images on multiple platforms.

Commission and Royalties

  • Starts at 30% commission.
  • Increased commissions of 40-60% for top contributors.

Cost to Submit

  • Free account option.
  • Cheap subscription unlocks valuable tools.

Dreamstime appeals to creators looking for a no-exclusivity model with room to advance commissions.

Foap

Operating via an app, Foap offers a unique mobile stock marketplace.

Highlights

  • Buyers and sellers connected via mobile app.
  • Swift mobile uploading and selling.
  • Unique crowdsourced images.

Exclusivity Policy

  • Non-exclusive licenses.
  • Allows users to post and sell images elsewhere.

Commission and Royalties

  • Starts at 30% commission.
  • Increased to 70% commission for top performers.

Cost to Submit

  • Free uploader account.
  • Small subscription to access premium seller tools.

Foap attracts mobile-first creators through its unique app-based platform. But the user base is much smaller than major sites.

123RF

123RF provides an affordable stock option for value-driven buyers.

Highlights

  • Caters to startups and smaller businesses.
  • Budget friendly plans and downloads.
  • Strong international presence.

Exclusivity Policy

  • Non-exclusive licenses.
  • Contributors can also sell through other sites.

Commission and Royalties

  • 30% baseline commission rate.
  • Increased commissions for top sellers.

Cost to Submit

  • Free account option to upload.
  • Subscriptions unlock asset management features.

123RF allows creators to tap into its value-driven customer base. But limited US presence.

Flickr

Flickr offers a way to license creative commons photos for commercial use.

Highlights

  • Massive collection of creative commons content.
  • Allows downloads and licenses for commercial use.

Exclusivity Policy

  • By definition, creative commons media is not exclusive.
  • Allows sharing media widely.

Commission and Royalties

  • Flickr sets licensing rates for creative commons content.
  • Contributors do not earn commissions.

Cost to Submit

  • Free account option to share photos publicly.
  • Pro subscription provides additional storage space.

For hobbyists looking to license existing creative commons photos, Flickr provides a platform. But no contributor commissions.

Ways to Evaluate and Choose the Best Stock Agency

When reviewing stock agencies, weigh factors like:

  • Exclusivity policy: Do you prefer exclusive or non-exclusive licenses?
  • Commission rates: What bases rates and bonus opportunities are offered?
  • Distribution network: Does the site have a large active subscriber base with premium brand recognition?
  • Review process: Is submission easy with a quick review turnaround time?
  • Cost to join: Are there free account options or mandatory subscription fees?
  • Earning potential: Will your niche, style, and portfolio resonate with this audience?

Diversifying across multiple agencies can allow you to maximize reach. But for exclusive content, focus on a single agency partner. Do your research to find the best home for your creative vision and business goals.

Tips for Success When Starting out on Stock Sites

When first venturing into stock media, here are some tips to maximize your earning potential:

  • Shoot on-trend topics aligned with search demand trends you uncover. Timely topics often outperform evergreens.
  • Offer a variety of formats like landscape, square, and portrait photo ratios. Vector files are also in demand.
  • Provide supplemental assets like PNG clipart, backgrounds, and illustrations to multiply possible uses.
  • Optimize titles, keywords, and descriptions so your work surfaces in searches. Use detailed but natural language.
  • Upload frequently and consistently to keep your portfolio fresh and expanding.
  • Promote your portfolio through social media and contributor groups to increase customer discovery.
  • Pay attention to trends in downloads and licenses to identify successful styles and subjects to shoot more of.
  • Diversify content types with a mix of photos, videos, vectors, and illustrations to appeal to all project needs.

With these tips in mind, you can build an on-demand stock media income stream over time.

Common Stock Photo and Footage Licensing Models

When licensing your stock photos, videos, vectors, and illustrations, there are a few common licensing models to understand:

Royalty-Free (RF)

  • Media is licensed for multiple uses by multiple users.
  • Customers purchase use licenses on a flat-fee basis.
  • Creator earns commission on each download or subscription use.
  • Broad commercial and editorial uses allowed.

Rights-Managed (RM)

  • Creator retains control and grants license per specific use.
  • License cost factors in size of image, placement, distribution, duration of use.
  • More work to manage licenses but higher earning potential.
  • Common for exclusive uses like ad campaigns.

Extended Licenses

  • Grants expanded usage rights versus standard license.
  • Allows uses like printing on merchandise, broadcast, etc.
  • Priced higher based on increased usage freedom.
  • Earn increased royalties from extended licenses.

Editorial Use Licenses

  • Allows content use associated with news, commentary, etc.
  • Not allowed for promotional purposes.
  • Released news images often sell well as editorial stock.
  • Provides passive income stream from covered events.

Creative Commons (CC)

  • Copyrighted works licensed for public use under defined terms.
  • Several CC license types with conditions like attribution.
  • Free platforms like Flickr host creative commons content.
  • Little earnings potential but provides exposure.

Understanding these models helps you license work profitably while protecting rights.

Leveraging Stock Content for Passive Income

Stock media provides excellent passive income potential after the initial time investment of creating and uploading quality portfolio assets. Some tips to maximize your passive earnings include:

Build Collections and Bundles

Curate images around themes users frequently search like seasons, holidays, sports, jobs etc. Or bundle individual complementary assets into sets buyers can license together.

Stay on Top of Trends

Monitor search trends and download data to identify timely topics that resonate. Getting fresh content up quickly aligns with demand.

Offer Diverse File Types

In addition to photos, provide versions like transparent PNGs, vector files, and layered PSDs that provide added utility.

Optimize With SEO Best Practices

Strong titles, meta descriptions, and keyword tagging improves discoverability in site searches.

Cross-Promote New Work

Share new portfolio additions on social channels and contributor communities to boost visibility.

Automate with API Integration

Leverage site APIs to easily bulk upload new media on a schedule. Streamline submissions.

Analyze Performance Data

Review sales analytics to double down on your best-selling styles and subjects. Give customers more of what sells.

Send Email Newsletters

Notify existing buyers of new additions to your portfolio that may interest them.

Building a diverse and consistent stock media portfolio makes earning residual licensing income possible. With the array of stock agencies out there, choose the one(s) that best fit your business model and goals.

Conclusion

Stock media offers content creators an excellent opportunity to earn passive royalties on work. Comparison shopping the top stock agencies using factors like exclusivity policies, commissions, brand reach and more allows you to make an informed choice. Weighing your personal priorities as a seller, niche, and portfolio will dictate the best stock photo or video partner to meet your needs. Taking advantage of a stock agency’s distribution network and customer base provides the leverage to turn your best media into a licensing income stream.

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By Dani Davis

Dani Davis is the pen name of the writer of this blog with more 15 years of constant experience in Content marketing and informatics product, e-commerce niche.

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