The Online Stock Photo Monopoly

Stock PhotographyI’m must say, I am very impressed with the strategic moves made by Getty Images – to really raise the bar and monopolise the industry of online royalty free stock photos.

As someone who develops websites on a regular basis – I get my images from several online stock photo sources. These were my three main sources.

  1. stock.xchng for free images (quality of images not as excellent)
  2. StockXpert (where you can get a low resolution photo for USD$1. i.e. 1 credit)
  3. iStockPhoto (used to be priced like StockExpert – but has risen their credits prices, so unless you get 2000 credits at a go or use their monthly subscriptions, you can’t find credits less than USD$1)

Well, sometime in early 2006, Getty Images bought over iStockPhoto for 50 million USD, and then in 2009, it acquired JupiterImages, which owned stock.xchng and StockXpert

These acquisitions practically made Getty Images the monopoly for microstock photos, since the only other major competitor Corbis has been selling their photos at prices at well over what most web developers will be willing to pay for (e.g. USD110 for a royalty free sunrise photo!)

Well, today I received a notification from StockXpert, saying they are ceasing operations, and all remaining credits can be ported over to iStockPhoto.

We are sorry to announce that beginning today, StockXpert will no longer sell new credits or accept new members. On February 11, 2010, searching and downloading at StockXpert will cease. This will be the end of image sales at StockXpert.

All SXP members have the opportunity to transfer their remaining credits to iStockphoto. iStock offers the highest quality affordable microstock imagery in the industry. Come and see for yourself. SXP credits will be honored 1 for 1 at iStockphoto.

Its an awesome move. Bad news for web designers though – meaning that we probably won’t be able to get awesome USD$1 images anymore.

Yikes. Its time to be a photographer.


  1. I don’t like the way Getty operates – they seem very greasy to me.

    I despise iStock. Their search is terrible. You have to spend hours sifting through garbage images – which I wouldn’t have a problem doing if the images were cheap enough, but they have gotten way too expensive.

    And if there are any big competitors that arise against iStock, getty will just buy them out and shut them down, just like SXP. Awful.

  2. Greasy is right. We purchased an image from Getty – actually many over the years. The license expired. The cost to license the image for the elapsed time would be $855 (certainly more than it would have been three years ago). They want $875 as a “settlement” price and had this to say:

    “To clarify on your point in regards to notifying companies of expiring licenses – we work on the basis that we do not have an obligation to send out email reminders…”

    When I called to get the price for the exact same image, the representative did not tell me that there was an expired license. So it’s not just e-mails – they’re not going to tell you, period. They will just come after you for more money than they are due.

    We’re going with other options – the monopoly thing isn’t working for us. 😉

  3. The take-overs continue. Getty Images have acquired and I do a 12 month subscription for $500-$600 depending on the time I spend holding off a renewal. Now I am being offered a 40% off deal to renew by down to $840! When I acomplained to I had a reply from Getty Images and it all made sense. What it has done to iStock is deplorable. I have looked at my iStock purchases over 5 years and the costs have gone up 8 fold! Bigstock is the last of the good independent microstock sites, so it will no doubt be torpedoed or acquired. Can anyone stop this Juggernaut? Is it an American legal issue. So much for Globalisation.