Stock Photography Platforms – Part 1

food spaghetti dish stock photography platforms italian pasta sauce

Last time I did a quick intro into the realm of stock photography. It’s an excellent way to earn an extra income from your photography, and even better, a passive one. However, there was a very important piece of information left (purposely) out: the actual websites. So now it’s time to take a look at some of the biggest stock photography platforms out there. As with anything on BTW, this is entirely based on my experience, so you get the best and the worst of each one. Also, I’ll look at them through the contributor’s (content uploader) point of view, and not the clients’. Since I know my way around 7 of these websites, I decided to split this information into two posts.

Let us begin.

dreamstime stock photography homepage website


This little fellow is actually the first platform I upload to, however not for the best reasons. Dreamstime is the website that more metadata allows in your pictures. We’re talking about title, description, location, keywords and up to three categories. To be honest, I don’t mind the categories: many shots need more than one and you can sometimes feel that your picture doesn’t have enough selectors. The keywords are the thing that drives me crazy. They don’t allow spaces between them, which forces users to merge expressions. Plus, the keyword separator is the space itself, which makes it impractical to copy all of them to other stock photography platforms (all others use a comma).

Dreamstime also features an exclusive mode, which means you can only sell a particular picture on their website. This leads to a higher revenue per purchase, but of course, you lose all possible revenues from other competitor websites. There are some interesting options to sell the rights of your pictures FOREVER or for a limited time too. Pictures also have revenue levels, meaning that they get more exposure and bring more money when people buy them. It doesn’t feature multi-selection and rejected pictures are purged automatically after 15 days. It has a very good mobile app. The average compensation per picture is one of the highest across these websites.

stock photography depositphotos homepage website


I have significantly less experience in this website, as it was the one I joined last. It features a very good portfolio management system compared to the other platforms. For example, you can retrieve your rejected photos no matter their age: they’re ready to be edited and resubmitted in a second! Also, Depositphotos allows for multi-selection¬†and editing of metadata, which for me is one of the most important and basic features that stock photography platforms should support. There are a couple of glitches that annoy me though. They don’t allow non-roman characters in titles and descriptions AND they force titles to have more than 2 words. This leads to some nuisances that are too specific for me to detail now, but it’s noted. Its mobile app is pretty useless for a contributor, as that section features a non-mobile version of the main website’s dashboard.

UPDATED: As with Shutterstock, it’s possible to (effortlessly) resubmit previously rejected pictures and have a successful outcome.

gettyimages istock stock photography homepage website


A lot of mixed feelings regarding this one. The new GettyImages is a merging between the old Getty and iStock. I was a user of iStock (not Getty) and I get the sense that the new platform is more Getty-ish than iStock-ish, which I think is good. The old iStock needed a separate app to upload our photo files, which was a lot of work. Now though, its Electronic Submission Platform (ESP) is one of the best around. I especially like that it organizes uploads by batches (perfect for someone like me who uploads by city / project). Also, it validates your batches just a few hours after submission, meaning it’s one of the fastest around.

To be honest, the old iStock is the only one from which I’ve had a payout before. And it was a good one, so I can only assume they have many users, reputation and flexible purchasing options. After all, I describe my work with the same metadata across all websites. Please keep in mind that, as of this moment, the merging is not yet totally complete and the contributor back-office still lacks some features, namely statistics per photo. GettyImages also features the exclusivity option.


In the realm of stock photography platforms, some companies have sort of child or sub-websites for their content. For example, Bigstock belongs to Shutterstock (please check its review in the next article). And Fotolia is a part of Adobe Stock. From what I read, there’s not even any content difference between the two, so I’ll just leave it at that. I don’t use Fotolia anymore, ever since I found out about that exact relationship between it and Adobe Stock. Suddenly I could choose to use Adobe Stock (which is immensely better), so that’s what I did.

My experience with Fotolia is balanced too. They have a good content management system and they keep rejected pictures forever, which is good. On the contrary, they are ESPECIALLY HARSH on acceptance rates, i.e. the amount of photos accepted vs submitted. Plus, their income model is the least compensating (contributor-speaking of course), although they do have contributor-level classes with increased royalties for successful sellers. They also handle royalties using “credits” (instead of currency), which makes it harder to understand how much you really have. Fotolia supports exclusivity.


Please expect the second part of this analysis very soon!



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