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Of the microstock industries “Big Six”, BigStockPhoto has received less acknowledgement than the rest. BigStockPhoto opened in 2004 and was almost an immediate success. The entire time BigStockPhoto has been in business, they have focused on one model and that is a credit system. Clients buy credits which they exchange for photos. BigStockPhoto also has one of the most comprehensive extended licensing programs available in the microstock world. In September of 2009, BigStockPhoto announced that it had been sold to another of the “Big Six” agencies, namely Shutterstock. Although now owned by Shutterstock, BigStockPhoto still acts as its own company. The website has received a full facelift but other than that, not much has changed. Unlike other major microstock agencies, BigStockPhoto has never expanded outside the realm of royalty free photos, they have never needed to. BigStockPhoto has just continued to do what they do best, selling credits upon credits worth of photos.
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The pay structure with BigStockPhoto is pretty simple since they have basically stuck to the same business plan for the past six years. As I have mentioned, BigStockPhoto runs on a credit basis. Commission received when a file is sold is based on the resolution of the photo. A buyer can choose which resolution to download, the higher the resolution the more credits the photo costs. For every credit spent by the buyer, the photographer of the purchased file will receive fifty cents.
The Extended License program that BigStockPhoto has set up is its most impressive accomplishment. They have different prices set up for almost every type of sale from t-shirts and mugs, to inside software programs. The prices for extended licenses range from fifteen credits to a hundred and twenty credits.
BigStockPhoto has also recently raised its minimum payout. For years photographers could request payment via PayPal once they earned more than thirty dollars, but that limit has been raised to fifty dollars. Contributors were told that the limit was raised because BigStockPhoto was spending too much time processing thirty dollar payments. The raise was meant to alleviate some of the stress on their accounting department. That alone should give contributors, or potential contributors, and idea of the amount of money that can be made by submitting to even the smallest of the microstock big players.
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Contests, Tools and CommunityRating
Part of the reason for the success of BigStockPhoto is the ease in which files are uploaded. Files can be uploaded either via an FTP program, or through a simple web form offered in a contributor's upload section. Then keywords have to be entered, categories chosen and model/property releases uploaded like most other microstock sites, but that is it. My one complaint with BigStockPhoto is that they can sometimes become very swamped with uploads and review times can span weeks, although I have not seen this issue occur since Shutterstock has taken over. I can't say for sure if there is any correlation or if this is just a coincidence.
One area where BigStockPhoto falls short is in community involvement. They have a forum for contributors that does see some action, but not when compared to Dreamstime, iStock or Shutterstock. BigStockPhoto could also use some contests to help gain more attention from their contributors.