Stocksy is a New Stock Photo Co-Op by the Founder of iStockphoto


Bruce Livingstone knows his way around the stock photography industry, and he’s doing his best to shake things up. After founding iStockphoto in 2000, he turned it into a microstock juggernaut, finally selling it to Getty Images in 2006 for a whopping $50 million. Now, as both Getty Images and iStockphoto are mired in a licensing controversy, Livingstone has a new stock photo business that may rock the boat even more.

It’s called Stocksy, and is a co-op for stock photographers who want to step out from under the shadow of giant stock photography companies.

The service is currently invite-only, but some details are known from the splash page that greets you when you visit the website.

Basically, instead of serving as a giant company that distributes your photos widely while also taking a fat slice of the profits, Stocksy is a co-operative that’s owned and operated by the photographers in the community.

Its stated purpose is to “create sustainable careers, ownership and a long term professional and equity strategy for our members.”

Existing stock photography companies typically take a hefty portion of the profits from each sale — 20%-30% is a typical range for what’s actually paid out to the photographers of the photos.

Stocksy’s goal is to pay the highest royalty in the industry: 50% of regular sales and 100% of extended licenses go directly to the photographers.

By design, Stocksy pays out all profits to artists. In addition to paying dividend and patronage fees to artists on a yearly basis, each member of the co-op owns real equity in the company.

Last year we featured an article by Paul Melcher, who wrote that the ability for individual photographers to license their work directly is one of the next major trends in the photo world. Stocksky appears to be a big step in that direction.

Thanks for sending in the tip, Nathan!

  • bcp

    Please remind me how the stock business became unsustainable in the first place? oh yeah, that guy…

  • Michael Lieberman

    How is it his fault that a company he sold 6 years prior ends up doing something unethical now?

  • David Hobby

    No thank you, guy who invented iStockPhoto and sold it to Getty for a bazillion dollars. One large-scale, photo-industry-devaluing money extraction machine in your resumé is plenty.

  • bob cooley

    Microstock generally devalued the industry altogether. Assignment photographers who were creating high quality work and making a fair living lost a lot of business to companies who decided to cheap out and buy mediocre quality microstock. It became quantity over quality, which is never a good thing in a creative field.

  • derekdj

    From a pure business and industry trend point of view this guy is paving the way. Technically all imaging platforms from Flickr to Instagram to 500px should be incorporating direct payment and licensing systems, this would solve many of legal disputes arising from publishers using images posted to networks without compensation or proper credit.

  • Terry Clark

    He made 50 MILLION DOLLARS and now he wants more? This guy needs a hobby, other than destroying professional photography.

  • derekdj

    Microstock didn’t devalue the industry, prevalence of cheaper pro-level camera equipment and growth of the pro-am photographers saturated the market. High quality assignments are still out there, the Paolo Reversi’s and Mark Seliger’s still command astronomical rates. It’s like any creative industry like design, filmmaking, printing and music, technology will create economic forces and opportunities that require the professional to adapt or fold.

  • Michael Comeau

    It’s not this guy’s fault that stock pricing collapsed. He just got in at the right time to extract huge money from the microstock trend. The fall of stock photography is a picture (see what I did there?) perfect example of the laws of supply and demand. When you get a monumental increase in the quantity of pictures, which is what happened with the DSLR boom, the value of the average one goes down. This would have happened with or without the existence of iStockphoto.

    Technically, if you want to blame anyone for the collapse of the stock business, blame the digital camera. Maybe the iStockPhoto guy’s a bad guy for other reasons (I don’t know), but the pricing collapse was inevitable.

  • Rob S

    So “traditional” photographers are mad because someone upset the cozy racket that existed between creators and providers.
    Corbis and Getty were both market makers and gate keepers. If you wanted to license an image they were the only game in town. If you wanted to sell an image, you had to get into their club. Guys like me couldnt get into the club and buyers who couldnt afford Getty couldnt license images. And the biggest obstacle for little guys like me getting into the club – “traditional” photographers.

    Unless done under duress or monopoly conditions, every sale is inherently fair. Seller and buyer agree on a price. My transaction with a person does not have to change what you think is a fair price, assuming your price was fair. If your price was based on limited competition or NEAR monopoly conditions, then maybe you were extracting an unfair price previously.
    Just like $300 wedding photographers, small time micro stock sellers like me should never have impacted “real” photographers. The problem for the “real” photographers was that their product was not significantly better than mine and in some cases it was worse. If you were offered the same or better lens/camera/strobe for less would you mock the people who bought the less expensive gear or the seller trying to pass off same or worse for more money?
    I have advised a number of my aspiring photographer friends to shoot for microstock just for the education. The person evaluating your images is not your friend, family, client or significant other. They don’t know you, care about you or care about your feelings. They will evaluate your image with cold brutality and give you an yes or no on its POTENTIAL to sell. Selling microstock is worth it for the education alone. I think one of the reasons many “traditional” photographers dont do microstock is because they dont want to be in a situation where their “name” means nothing. Me, I have no “name” so I like the level playing field where my images are judged on merits alone.
    I think this new venture will upset the microstock players just like micro did traditional stock. By removing or reducing one more middle man photographers are one step closer to buyers and closer to getting maximum dollar for their images.

  • Thomas Hawk

    Fantastic idea by Bruce here. This new program sounds like a winner. I met Bruce back when he was still with Getty Images. He has a ton of energy and drive and knows this business well. How do I sign up for this?

  • Rob S

    If someone producing “high quality” got beaten out by “mediocre” then I question how “high quality” they were in the first place. In my full time profession I am paid quite well because I produce “high quality” even though there are LOTS of cheaper alternatives. I dont lose a minute of sleep to those cheaper alternatives because they cant do what I can.

  • junyo


    If the only thing propping up your business model was a captive market/artificial resource scarcity then it wasn’t that stable of a business model to begin with. It’s basically like a fancy restaurant – that’s the only restaurant in town – blaming the Burger King that opens down the road for their reduced sales. In the abstract, yes, Burger King is responsible, but only because the fancy restaurant can’t demonstrate/articulate the value proposition of their food/service.

  • Antonio Carrasco

    eh… I agree with your sentiment that photography is extremely undervalued.

    But I think the collapse started before iStock was even a pipe dream. I think the collapse started when the LCD screen was put on the back of a camera. Before that, you had to really know how to expose film. Once people could chimp with digital cameras, a lot of the skill requirements got wiped out.

    Digital made it too easy for every tom, dick and jane to say they are a photographer.

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  • Tony L.

    Microstock is not to blame for the state of photography. Neither is the digital camera. It’s the decision makers! The ones buying the garbage and pushing for a lower price point. Like to education system, the arts is always the first to be cut in a bad economy. What needs to happen is to educate the people about how good photography makes them money. But what do I know… just my opinion.

  • bob cooley

    You are correct, microstock is but another contributing factor, and I agree that the pro-ams and the easy entry due to digital were the beginning of the slide. And sure, there are still some shooters that are making amazing money, but the market has gone the way of the shrinking middle class – there are some photographers making a LOT of money, and a lot of pro-ams who are flooding the market with mediocre work, which has become the median. Its made it increasingly difficult for photographers who want to make a comfortable living, are very talented, but have lost a lot of business to mediocrity. My goal isn’t to have astronomical rates, my goal is to be in an industry that doesn’t devour itself through lowered expectations. Unfortunately that’s not the trend in the market.

  • bob cooley

    I’m not sure what profession you are in (you don’t mention it here – and if you are not freelance, but if you are paid by a company and collect a weekly check, then its an apples and oranges argument). In commercial art/photography we are in a market that has grown increasingly cheap.

    Companies often do themselves a dis-service by going with ‘good enough’ (usually meaning pretty bad) to save money in the short term, but then have marketing materials that don’t inspire confidence in their target audience.

  • bob cooley

    That doesn’t make Burger King a good thing. I don’t want to be in a market where horse meat is the acceptable standard.

  • bob cooley

    Tony, you are right of course. The decision makers and art-buyers are ultimately the problem – but like so much of modern culture, the cheap and easy is often the choice made by the lazy. take @junyo:disqus ‘s example – he’s exactly right. For every Nobu, there are 10,000 Burger Kings.

    Educating people about good photography (or food) isn’t the hard part, its getting them to open their wallet for quality when there is crap on every corner…

  • junyo

    It makes Burger King a good thing for people that want Burger King. If you don’t think Burger King is a good thing, don’t eat there. And if enough people agree with you, Burger King goes out of business and “better” restaurants survive.


    Yep, Burger King’s still there. People need to get over the idea that they deserve other people’s money, simply by virtue of being awesome.

  • junyo

    @bobcooley:disqus Calling your customer lazy doesn’t help. Again, with any commercial transaction, its ROI. To the customer, quality just isn’t a factor. They say it is, but it really just isn’t. Because they’re not buying an image, they’re buying a means to an end. They’re buying sales, or contacts, or some other concept that in their mind leads to profit. So the education process isn’t about good photography. The education process is understanding your customer, what motivates him, so that you can show him how paying you more is to his benefit.

  • bob cooley

    If you think that the “Burger King” analog of photography is a good thing, then you don’t really have any business in creative services.

    Quality is, and should be one of the primary considerations in creating commercial art.

  • junyo

    And if you think that bitching about your customers rather than delivering what they want is a valid business model, then you’re really a charity case, not a business.

  • bob cooley

    I’m not complaining about my customers – my clients value quality. And when I’m on the other side of the desk, I only hire quality.

    You can keep your mediocrity, and the minimal rates you make from it.

  • lagereek

    Bruce is somewhat a legend! started it all, didnt he. About this new venture? dont know? seems to be based on image-exclusivity, hard to police and pretty tough in a world dominated by one giant company.
    As I see it, it will probably attract every single life-style shooter under the sun, as if they didnt compete against each other already. More supply then demand really.

    Oh well, good luck to him.

  • Connor A

    I asked on another post about Stocksy, but could anyone enlighten me as to if there is a way to become a contributor, or is it invitation only?