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I have been a contributing photographer with iStockphoto.com since the spring of 2002 and was still learning the ropes of being a photographer when I joined. Since then, iStock was purchased by Getty Images and an exclusivity program was set in place for photographers who agreed to upload their images exclusively to iStock. I already had a good number of images on the site. I was pleased with my sales. And I couldn’t imagine selling photos to any other agency. So there was no doubt in my mind that I would be an exclusive photographer for iStock. Over the last nine years that I’ve been a contributing photographer there, numerous other online stock photo agencies have popped up on the Internet. I don’t know how the exclusivity packages work at these other sites but I can tell you how they work at iStock and why I’m still glad I’m an exclusive photographer for them. First, what does “exclusive” mean? It means exactly what it says — I signed an agreement to upload my images to iStock, exclusively. I cannot upload my images to Shutterstock or Dreamstime or any other stock photo site out there. Even if they’re different from the images I’m uploading to iStock. If I do, it will be a breach in my contract. The royalty payout to iStock-exclusive contributors is 22% to 45%, which is determined by the artist’s royalty rate schedule, redeemed credits, and credit values. That might sound like gibberish to you now. But when you get involved with an agency at this level, it all makes sense. And it basically means I get a higher royalty on my images than non-exclusive photographers do. iStock offers several other opportunities to its exclusive artists, too, including sale of images through many of the Getty Images family of sites through the Partner Program. As an exclusive artist, I get to nominate a select number of images each month to be sold through the Vetta® or Agency™ Collections, which are sold on both iStockphoto and Getty Images sites, at a much higher price than images in the regular collection. As an exclusive artist, I also receive a few perks, like business cards with my photos on them. I get to upload more photos at a time than regular contributors do. And I don’t have to wait as long for my images to be inspected. Being exclusive also brings more attention to my portfolio on the site, too. Without delving into my personal financial details, I can assure you that iStock has definitely changed my life. I have a background in biology and was still working in that field the first few years I started contributing to iStock. Today, I make more as a photographer (something I love to do) than I ever did as a biologist. And I love my “job.” I guess I always assumed that a job is what you do to pay the bills, get by in life, and it didn’t matter if you liked it or not. In fact, having a job that I loved seemed like a fantasy that everyone was living but me. Today, things are different. Stock photography is now my only career and I feel much more financially stable and happier with my job than I was as a biologist. My career as a photographer has given me the freedom that I always wanted. I still appreciate my science background and incorporate it into my photographs when possible to educate others about nature. But I truly love what I do now. The fact that I can sell enough photos to pay my rent, my bills, buy my food, and even travel, really boggles my mind. And it doesn’t feel like work because I love it! As a stock photographer, it’s important to love the subjects that you shoot. Your passion will be what draws motivation. You will always strive to be better. And as a wise man once told me, photographers never stop learning. [Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.  Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]

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