An alternative to mediocre stock photos

An alternative to mediocre stock photos

If like me you have searched through stock photo websites and have found thousands of photos but none that seem to work, you probably wondered if there was an alternative.

Brian Scott at Cowork Frederick
Brian Scott at Cowork Frederick

I recently attended a seminar  (courtesy of Cowork Frederick) by Brian Scott, owner of B Scott Photography) who introduced what maybe be just that alternative, a new stock photo agency Stocksy. (DISCLAIMER: I have no affiliation with Brian or with Stocksy)

First, some background…

If  it seems that the quality of stock photography has gone down that may not be an illusion but an result of actual business decisions. Let’s take the leader in affordable stock photos, iStockPhoto.com. It started the ‘microstock’ revolution in 2000 by offering an internet-based search and delivery of low-cost photos.

In 2006, it was bought out by Getty Images, an older stock agency whose market share was being lost to iStockphoto. If you can’t beat ’em, buy ’em.

Since then changes were made that may be good  for the shareholders but not for photographers and  photo quality. For one thing, the minimum royalty commission was lowered to  15%. Bad news for professional photographers who need to make a living. Some of them left iStock for a better deal elsewhere.

Their standards began to drop too. They now accept almost any photographs that are submitted. There is little or no vetting process. Photos that are marked “Editor’s Choice” are often never reviewed by a human. And the “Only from iStock” exclusive? Often not true. The photos appear on other sites. It is a marketing ploy.

Bruce Livingstone, the founder of iStockphoto,  was discouraged by these changes and left the company to found Stocksy in 2013 with a business model that would be good for photographers and photo quality alike.  For one, there is a rigorous selection process for  photographers. Once they are accepted, every photographer earns a reasonable 50% commission, creating the possibility for a truly sustainable career. All images are reviewed before being released too. They are no “almost” duplicates and each photo is exclusive.

Now, the test…

Here is a comparison. iStockphoto vs. Stocksy.

iStockphoto sample
Result of iStockphoto search on word “picnic”. Checkered tablecloth anyone?
Stocksy stock photography
Results of Stocksy search on the same keyword “picnic”. Food, scenery, attractive people, what’s not to like?

Though the results of your search might be in the hundreds instead of the thousands, each one of those photos is unique and often the one you are looking for will be available right of the bat.

Stocksy has competitive pricing. Web-sized images start at $10 and the pricing is standard throughout the site. No special deals that aren’t really special. It has some cool filtering tools for composition too.

Now this is only one good choice. There are lots of other stock agencies that give their photographers a fair deal and lots with great photos. (iStockphoto still has ’em but you need to search a lot deeper.) I might cover those in a future blog post. This shouldn’t be the only go-to site for stock photography. Many of Stocksy’s photos have a certain vintage, quirky feeling to them which is part of their brand. Sometimes you might just want a boring photo of a red checkered tablecloth and you will want to go elsewhere.

But check them out and let me know what you think. And for the reward for reading this far, here is a deal. Use the coupon code “BScott20PCT” and get 20% off your first order.

© Tom Semmes at TGS Creative

3 Responses to An alternative to mediocre stock photos

  1. Enjoyed giving this talk and thank you for the in-action shot 🙂 … Also really appreciate the write-up! A small clarification — iStockphoto lowered it’s minimum royalty payment to 15% within the past year or so. It had the net effect of lowering most photographer’s income, however some photographers were reported to receive an increase based on the restructuring of royalties. Stocksy, by contrast, pays all contributors equally, 50% of each sale, and then shares profit at the end of the year. Very different approaches!

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