Top 10 microstocks for contributors in 2024

January 30, 2020 / by Taras Kushnir



If you’re new to microstock industry or you want to earn more, it’s vital to know what microstocks you can work with. In this blogpost you can find information about best microstocks, how much they pay contributors and what you can sell there as well as useful resources on each of them.


Shutterstock website

Shutterstock is one of the most established and most well-paying microstock agencies out there. It was founded back in 2003 and since then it gained 200 million images and 10 million videos. And, what is more important, millions of paying customers. If you’re not yet uploading to it, you definitely should, since it is also one of the most well-paying agencies with $250 million payed since its founding.

Shutterstock accepts photo, illustration, vector, video and music. In order to become a Shutterstock Contributor you have to upload 10 artworks and 1 must pass an exam (previously it was 7 out of 10, but this requirement was relaxed). This makes it one of the easiest microstocks to get into. In fact now there’re so many contributors that flooded the agency with similar artworks to the best-sellers, Shutterstock launched Offset - a marketplace prioritizing high end curated photos from established artists.

Shutterstock pays contributors in tiers based on number of downloads in the current year. You will get from 15% to 40% for image and video downloads. Minimum payout amount is $35.

You can upload to Shutterstock using web uploader on their website, but it has limited capabilities so it is easier to do so via FTP. Also Shutterstock has mobile app for contributors that allows to upload and submit photos. Shutterstock reads embedded metadata in the artworks, although you can edit it on their website after upload too. They provide excellent keywords suggestions and reverse image search tools that can help contributors, however, they are limited to Shutterstock. Shutterstock has excellent blog that contains lots of valuable analytics and creative tips that any contributor can benefit from.

Register at Shutterstock

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Adobe Stock

Adobe Stock website

Adobe Stock is a microstock that was known as Fotolia before Adobe acquired it in 2015. Adobe inherited 100 million of images and more than 10 million clips in addition to graphics and 3D content. However, the biggest selling point for it is that Adobe Stock is available as part of Creative Cloud in Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and other Adobe products. Photoshop is used all over the world and every user can purchase your artworks. If that is not a reason to work with them, I don’t know what is.

Adobe Stock accepts photos, illustrations, vectors, video and design templates. In order to sell there, you don’t need to pass any exam, but as everywhere, you every submission is reviewed. In order to sign up you only need your Adobe ID (same as used for Creative Cloud and other apps) and to be 18 years old. On average Adobe Stock pays fixed 33% royalties for photo and vector and 35% for footage. They also have payment tiers: 0-1000 downloads will bring you $0.33 per download, 1000-10000 will yield $0.36 and $0.38 for more than 10000 downloads. Minimum payout is $25.

You can upload to Adobe Stock using web uploader or a number of Adobe products: Lightroom CC or Bridge. They also provide FTP access, this is what you will use to upload footage and big vectors, as on all other agencies. Adobe Stock portal provides you with automatic keywording tools and bulk editing.

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iStock website

iStock is a subsidiary of a company Getty Images that was founded back in 1995. Initially being a supplier of marketing and corporate media materials, Getty adapted to modern demands in 2006 by acquiring iStock. Now it features more than 200 million assets available for subscription and it was the first to come up with selling royalty-free photos online.

iStock is probably most famous now for it’s exclusivity program: contributors can sign special agreement and in exchange to increased rates they will not upload their artworks to other microstocks. Non-exclusive rates for photos, illustration and video are not very impressive 15%, 20% and 20% respectively while being exclusive you can earn up to 45% commission (also in tiers based on lifetime downloads number). In order to sell there, you have to pass exam by answering questionnaire and uploading 3-6 of your best artworks. You have to pass different exams for photo, vector and video contributing.

iStock sells photos, illustrations, videos and audio. Their upload system is somewhat old and not as convenient as any other microstock. However, you can use helper tools like DeepMeta (free) or qHero (not free) to upload there. iStock tried to improve on that by building a new contributor portal. Also they have mobile apps for iOS and Android.

iStock is the oldest of the microstock and it has its quirks, however it can definitely pay well. We can know this from the fact that before launching his own stock website, Yuri Arcurs removed his 100 000 images from all other microstocks and went exclusive with iStock.

Register at iStock


Depositphotos website

Depositphotos is a well-established agency, founded in 2009 in Ukraine featuring more than 140 million assets. Depositphotos has been around for a while being one of the top agencies both for customers and contributors. They constantly improve technologies and asset base is also growing very fast.

Depositphotos accepts photos, vectors and videos, supporting wide range of formats. In order to become a contributor, you have to pass an exam, uploading your best 5 artworks and/or providing links to your other portfolios online (such as accounts on other microstocks).

Depositphotos commissions are also set in tiers starting with $0.30 and up to $0.35 per image download using customer subscription. On-demand download royalties range from 34% comission for 0-500 lifetime downloads and up to 42% for 150,000 lifetime downloads.

Depositphotos features reverse image search, online uploader and FTP server so you can upload heavier files. After upload you can add keywords and other required metadata using their bulk editor. Also they provide customer support in almost 20 languages which is great. Depositphotos have their own blog and they post interesting content that could be useful for every microstock contributor.

Register at Depositphotos


123rf website

123rf is another popular agency founded in 2005 that is offering assets for lower prices than its competitors. But they don’t stop there offering huge collection of absolutely free. That means a lot of customers, because people don’t like wasting money. Their asset collection features over 90 million items.

123rf sells photo, vector, video and audio files. You have to pass an exam with your best 10 artworks in order to start selling on their website. They pay contributors in tiered system based on contributor level. You get $0.26 per download if you have less than 1000 lifetime downloads and it progresses in steps up to $0.43 after 1 million downloads. Minimum payout amount is $50 using Payoeer and $100 using Paypal.

123rf is one of the easiest microstocks to get to and to upload to. You don’t have to submit your artworks separately, it is enough only to upload them and click a button. You can use your favorite FTP client or use website to upload files or their mobile app. Website also features advanced image search functionality like search by colors or reverse image search. You can also check out their blog for useful information about microstock industry and inspiration.

Register at 123rf


Pond5 website

Pond5 is a popular microstock for videographers, founded in 2006. Now they expanded to sell other media types like photos, music and 3D models, but their primary focus was always on video. They feature 17 million clips, almost a million soundtracks and 26 million stock images. Pond5 has been acquired by Shutterstock in 2022.

Pond5 is different from other microstocks because you can set your own price for assets and they pay 50% royalties from that price. This makes it a lucrative opportunity for contributors also given that you don’t need to pass any exam. Minimum payout amount is $25 which is also less than many others. One of the shortcomings of Pond5 is that they don’t feature an extended license that costs more money, as used for example on Shutterstock.

They allow you to upload files via FTP or via their website. Other important resources to mention would be data & trends analytics and blog. You will not find advanced image search engine there, but you have basic filtering and keyword search. Pond5 is one of the most popular microstocks if you upload video, so make sure to register there if you do.

Register at Pond5

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Dreamstime website

Dreamstime is one of the oldest microstocks, founded in 2000 in US. Today they host 122 million stock photos, vectors and videos. Dreamstime has never been a leader of the market, but they maintained their position for a long time being relatively stable. Also they feature the biggest number of licensing options for customers: royalty free, extended, editorial and full copyright.

Today Dreamstime sells photos, vectors, illustrations, video and audio files. They have exclusivity program, but their default rates are not that bad as those of iStock. They split earning in tiers depending on lifetime downloads, starting from 25% and up to 45% for non-exclusive assets and from 27.5% to 49.5% for exclusive assets. If you are Dreamstime exclusive user, you earn stable 60% from sales.

Dreamstime upload system was far from usable, however they improved it lately. Even though it is still not a match to Shutterstock or Depositphotos, there’s a hope it will improve even better. Together with upload system, they released automatic image classification, keywords suggestions and smart cropping. Dreamstime has its own blog which is definitely worth checking out.

Register at Dreamstime

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Creative Market

Creative Market website

Creative Market is not a microstock, but it is a unique marketplace that is very interesting for microstock contributors too. It was founded in 2011 in the US and had few rounds of raising money. This marketplace allows every community member to open their own “shop” and sell digital assets that include photos, graphics, templates, web themes, fonts and add-ons. Today they feature 4 million of such items on sale.

Sellers of the digital goods can set their own prices and retain 60% of the income (this dropped in 2019 from 70%). Creative Market supports few licensing options: Standard and Extended License which is similar to microstock licenses but with own quirks. There’s no exam or approval process, all members are fully responsible for maintaining their own shop. In theory you can sell anything there, but assets sold on Creative Market do not include typical microstock content. Every product sold is not just a file, it’s a package with nice preview, inner assets and even short history. Contributors cannot just upload their artwork with metadata and forget it, they have to prepare it specifically for sale on Creative Market.

Selling on Creative Market is definitely different from selling on microstocks. One of the unique things is a “free goods” section that can feature your artwork. There’s a strong competition to be included in this section, because featuring there can boost popularity of your shop with other products significantly. Also, unlike microstocks, your customers can actually message you and in fact they frequently do asking if you can tailor your artwork for their needs.

You can find inspiration and useful insights on Creative Market Blog.

Register at Creative Market


CanStockPhoto website

CanStockPhoto is also one of the older microstock agencies founded back in 2004. Today this microstock offers cheaper assets than some other microstocks and it’s selling point is ability to license assets without membership subscription.

CanStockPhoto requires you to pass an exam with your 3 best images to start selling there. They accept photos, vectors and videos and pay $0.25 per subscription download and $1-5 per on-demand download. You can find more details on their payout schedule page.

They offer FTP server for upload, but their web interface still has room for improvement. They have image search, but it is quite basic and only support keywords. Good thing is that they even process metadata in video files so you don’t have to provide it separately, like for example, on Shutterstock. Even though CanStockPhoto website does not have modern look and feel and earnings are far not very exciting, the submission process is so easy, that it doesn’t take much time to upload there.

Register at CanStockPhoto


Alamy website

Alamy, being founded in 1999 is one of the dinosaurs of microstock industry together with iStock. Also it’s one of the biggest agencies with 190 million photos, vectors and videos and they payed contributors around $200 million dollars since start. Except of standard royalty-free license, they also provide Rights Managed license and lately they became somewhat famous for providing editorial photos to customers.

Alamy sells photo, vector and videos and you have to pass an exam with 3 artworks in order to become a contributor. They pay 40% for non-exclusive authors and 50% for exclusive authors which is more than other microstocks. Minimum payment amount is $50.

Alamy provides FTP for artwork upload but they have the most weird setup from other sites (separate directories for archival images, live news etc.). Also they created Stockimo mobile app that allows you to upload your iPhone photos right to Alamy or you can use their web uploader. They are also actively blogging on their website so make sure to check that out.

Register at Alamy

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Check out also second part 10 less popular microstocks worth your time.

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