U.S. Markets closed

Stocksy is changing the stock photo game by focusing on its photographers

Daven Mathies
As a digital cooperative, Stocksy is changing the stock photo game by paying bigger royalties and sharing profits with its photographers. It also prides itself on the unique quality its photos, which veer from the typical "stock photo look."

Stock photography can be a difficult world for photographers. As competition has increased among agencies, prices have been driven down, leaving those who actually produce the images with a smaller and smaller piece of the pie. Stocksy is looking to change that, by putting money back in photographers’ pockets and providing customers with a unique stock photo experience.

The agency was founded by ex-iStock executives Bruce Livingstone and Brianna Wettlaufer, who sold iStock to Getty in 2006. After the acquisition, the two watched as royalties paid to photographers soon began to shrink, according to the The New York Times. This took a toll on iStock photographers.

“They were feeling disenfranchised,” Wettlaufer told the Times. “They weren’t creatively inspired anymore. The magic was gone.”

Wettlaufer and Livingstone used the money from the acquisition to start Stocksy in 2013. It follows a completely different business model from the traditional stock agency, calling itself a “digital cooperative.” It pays photographers 40-75 percent of sales, well above the industry average, and also shares 90 percent of its total profit with photographers at the end of each year.

Related: Snapwire Plans to Revolutionize the Stock Photo Agency Model

Another thing separating Stocksy from competitors is the quality of its images. Photographers aren’t just chosen based on their apparent skill and technique, but also their artistic eye. Even a cursory glance at a Stocksy portfolio reveals work that doesn’t have the usual “stock photo look.” The images have even been described by customers as “quirky.”

Stocksy’s approach seems to be working. It’s still a small player in the stock photo game, but it’s growing quickly. It has over 900 photographer-members and 20 full-time employees. The cooperative’s revenue doubled in 2015 to $7.9 million, and over half of that was paid out in royalties to photographers. Looking forward, Stocksy hopes to add an additional 100 photographers by the end of this year, and will soon expand into video.