Just recently, I became aware that stock photo sites, such as Dreamstime and iStockphoto, sell more than just photographs. They also sell illustrations, including the type of photo manipulations and paintings we explore here on Digital Image Magazine. In other words, you could possibly sell your work as stock images! In this July article, we took a look at sites (such as Zazzle and Cafe Press) that enable you to sell reproductions of your work. But what if your work doesn’t really suit the poster and greeting card market? What if, let’s say, you happen to create really nice backgrounds that other artists and photographers would find desirable? Perhaps you love to paint clouds, but really don’t want to put anything else in the picture. Such images might work really well as stock illustrations for others to buy and then build upon. It turns out that a number of artists are doing a brisk business selling such images. This is an opportunity worth investigating, since it costs nothing to participate (contributors don’t pay to upload images), and could result in a nice source of income for you.
It turns out stock photo sites aren’t the only game in town, either. There are stock illustration sites, as well! Who knew? So we’ll take a look at a few of these as well.
Getting started as a contributor (i.e., an art seller) at Dreamstime is pretty simple, as explained on their Sell Your Images page. Upload your files, and if they meet Dreamstime’s standards, your work will appear for sale online. When an image is first uploaded, it is assigned Level 1 status. At Level 1, you earn 33% royalty. The image advances to Level 2 once it’s been downloaded (bought) 5 times, and so on up to 50 downloads, at which point the image is a Level 5, and earns you 55%. Not a bad deal: the more your image sells, the higher a percentage you earn on each sale. I like this system, where the demand for an image determines its value. You can get some added exposure for your portfolio by uploading free images. If you grant exclusivity to Dreamstime, you earn more per image. But you can also opt to be non-exclusive, and upload your work to other stock sites.
To get an idea of what type of digital art is selling on Dreamstime, start with this collection of Fantasy Backgrounds by contributor Leellomultipass. On the right-hand side, change the sort option to “Downloads descending,” to see the most popular first. At the bottom of each thumbnail image, you’ll see a number next to the letter “d.” This is the number of times this image has been bought and downloaded. The number next to “v” is the number of views. So you can pretty easily determine what’s selling and what’s not.
Dreamstime has some pretty clever folks working for them, I’d say. The site has a game called “Stock Rank.” Here you’re asked to compare pairs of images, side by side. One has never sold, and one has. Select the one which has sold, and you get a point. You can play over and over, honing your skills and marketing savvy. Have fun and learn what sells at the same time! Genius.
One thing to keep in mind about iStockphoto is: to them an illustration is a vector file. In fact, with Dreamstime and iStockPhoto, and other stock photo sites, the world of images is divided into photos (bitmaps) and vector files, and that’s about it. So, I guess we’ll just follow the “photo” path when submitting our images.
Dreamstime claims they pay the highest royalties among stock photo sites. They certainly pay much better than iStockphoto. iStockphoto offers only 20% royalty no matter how popular your image is. If you grant them exclusivity, you can earn up to 40%. Balance this with the fact that iStockphoto gets somewhat more traffic than Dreamstime, and you’ll see that deciding where to submit your work is a bit complicated. You can start with this collection, titled “Digital Backgrounds and Textures,” to see the sort of work currently on the site. You can sort here by downloads, to see the most popular, but the thumbnails don’t show number of downloads or views, as with Dreamstime.
One other negative is the collections on iStockphoto. Like Dreamstime, anyone can create a collection with a flick of the checkbox on a lightbox (a group of selected photos). But unlike Dreamstime, finding others’ collections is darn near impossible. If you figure out how to search or browse collections (other than the six on the main page), please leave a comment or shoot me an email. Thanks.
Stock Art sites
To find sites that sell illustration stock, try “Stock Art” in Google. That’s how I found these. I have no idea how good these are. Some seem to be concerned with having a limited number of artists (200 or 300, let’s say), I suppose to maintain the cachet of an old-school agency. Others are more open-ended, like a regular stock site. Here’s a sampling to get you started.
- Illustration Works
- the ispot.com
- Laughing Stock
- Stock Art
- Stock Illustrations
- Illustration Source