Michael Jay Fotograf Berlin

Selling photos across agencies


(c) 2013 MichaelJayAs a teenager back in the 1980’s, I started taking pictures with an analog SLR. Money was short and I went with other hobbies and forgot about cameras.  I studied business administration and started a career in software development and project management. Then the first digital compact cameras came out, I bought an Olympus with a VGA (640×480 pixels) resolution. It didn’t make me happy but I found back to photography as a hobby. I quickly improved to a Sony DSC F505 at first and a Sony R1 later, both bridge cameras with a fixed lens.

During that time, the first pure internet agencies for images came up. Living in Switzerland, I discovered a Swiss startup offering images for licensing to clients. I didn’t really understand the whole thing but since they were new, they accepted some of my images. I sold a few licenses and was happy to get some money into my bank account. Then I somehow got hooked and wanted to make more out of it. But I had to learn more about photography in general and especially stock photography.

After testing some sites, I quickly made my decision to go exclusive with iStockphoto in early 2007. I was making progress quickly, especially through minilypses which helped me meet other photographers and understand how this whole business works on the contributor side. Coming from a mix of business and technology background, I quickly got into the other side of this business as well. I ended up working for iStock/Getty for a few years. I won’t tell any inside stories because of the confidentiality agreements I had to sign but they would not be that interesting anyways. 😉

But through this I got a better understanding of how the biggest market player works. Meanwhile I had to watch my contributor earnings dropped. When the Redeemed Credit system was announced (in other words: The royalties were cut back) I decided to drop the forum moderation and contributor tasks of my job. I still tried to sell credits to clients and help iStock become more successful in the European market but then Getty decided to cut costs and moved our jobs to Ireland. No hard feelings, I didn’t agree with their assessments but the way it was done was fair all along.

However, seeing the development from both sides, after six years as an exclusive photographer at iStockphoto, I  decided to drop the contract limiting me to selling my content through iStock and its parent company Getty Images. My images are now on sale across different agencies in the future, both in the “microstock” and “macrostock” worlds and anywhere in between.

I have no regrets for six years as an exclusive. After having had a few images online on a midstock agency for five years with limited success, iStockphoto has made me learn how to take better pictures, how to process them without losing on quality, how make money from my images. That aside, I have met hundreds of fellow photographers, lots of them turned into friends around the globe.

But technologies are changing, the market is changing, so we have to change as well. I have still a lot to learn but would like to share what I have learned in the past and what might help me assess news and changes differently than the average photographer. I hope some of this will help you see a different side when making your own decisions.

Everything you read on this blog is a personal opinion. I am not getting paid to make any certain statements or represent certain opinions. I do get paid for some of the links and the ads I run on the site. But frankly: This is just enough to cover the hosting fees but not much more. 🙂


  1. Thank you very much for sharing your experience, I read your posts and found very illuminating. After being exclusive for over 5 years, I’m as well going through a deep thinking and reevaluation on my exclusivity, if it’s worth it or not, in the mean time I would like to ask you how did you managed to add all your exisitng portfolio from IS to other stock sites once you decided to drop the crown.
    Have you used some software that speed up the whole process or did you have to upload one by one each photo?
    Thank you for your attention and most of all for the blog.

  2. Hi Michael, do you have an email address where I can ask you questions? Would love to learn more about some of the sites you use. Thanks!

  3. Hi Michael,

    Thanks a lot for sharing with us all this information and opinions. They’re really userful 🙂