The New iStockphoto Checkout Process

As I detailed last week, iStockphoto announced a new purchase and checkout workflow for your stock content licensing needs.  Well, the new software went into effect last night.  Let’s take a look.

A Brief History of Time

To review, since it started, the iStockphoto image buyer has had to purchase a package of “credits”.  These credits were then used, in various amounts, to license content from the contributors.  Some buyers have a problem with this paradigm, however.  They may only need X number of credits to buy an image, but the nearest package is Y credits, and they may never use the overage.  Or, due to iStockphoto accounting practices, credits expire after a year, and buyers may be afraid they will forget about the value they have purchased.  Or, they may need a receipt for a client with more detail than is currently provided.  This new process solves these issues.  Note, some site features are currently unavailable:

• Adding files to a lightbox directly from the file closeup page (adding files to lightboxes from a search results page will be unaffected)
• Image Zoom
• File rating (existing reviews and ratings will still be visible, and sort by rating will still work)

How does it all work?

The Workflow

I’m going to use one of my images as an example – this is a photo from a new Christmas series.  The arrow in the image below is pointing at the “Add to lightbox” icon that you will find under every image.  This may be important to some of you, because this option is temporarily missing from the image details page.

Once I click on that image to enter the image details page, I see that the whole licensing interface has changed.  Style-wise and also in functionality.  You can see there is now a “$USD” option for me, next to “Credits” ( those not in the USA should be prepared to see this in the currency of their country, and to decide if that is a better deal than the credit package).  I can assume it is set to “$USD” because I have no credits in my account currently, and “USD” because I am in the USA.  I can see my lack of credits by looking at the bottom of the page.  I can also see a huge banner offering me a chance to buy credit packages for a discounted price.  So, we can guess that we are paying a slight premium to use the convenience of paying by credit card, but research shows, it should be less then overbuying a credit package just for one image, in most cases.

Switching to credits shows me my options, if I want to buy a prepaid credit plan to get a discount.

Also, you will notice the button at the bottom has switched from “Add to Cart” to “Download this Photo”.  With credits, you are debited immediately, and get to download your image.  But, I want to pay with a credit card, for a single image, without buying a credit pack.  So, I will switch back to “$USD” and click the “Xsmall” option.  You can see the option to open the Extended Licensing tab at the bottom.  Clicking on any options will update the total immediately.  I’ll stick with my Xsmall and regular license.  Let’s “Add to Cart”.

A slide out pops up from the “Cart” area at the lower right of the screen to show me the content has been added, and we don’t leave the page.

Which is a good thing, because I just noticed that I left the “Multi-Seat” option on!  Silly me.  However, “Add to Cart” has changed to “Update Cart”.  All I need to do to fix my problem is to turn off the Extended License option and click the update button.

Let’s go look at the cart and checkout, by clicking on the cart icon in the blue area at the lower right of the screen.  Now, here is a clean, easy to view look at my cart.

Remember my earlier mistake, inadvertently checking off the Extended License?  If I didn’t notice that until now, or if I picked the wrong size, I can click on the blue “Edit” or “Add Extended License” links, and a modal dialog will appear to allow me to modify my options.  Let’s just close that and checkout.  Clicking on the “Checkout” button brings me right to a page to enter my credit card information.  I can also modify my billing address or add some notes that will appear in my receipt.  It is at this point I agree to the license terms for the content I’m purchasing.  If I had added Extended Licenses, that would show up under the link for the regular license terms (these will appear in another window).

I used my Norton Identity Safe to try and fill in the details.  It had an issue that even though the date auto-filled, the page didn’t recognize that the values had changed, so I had to enter them manually.  Also, it didn’t fill in the security code, so that was manual as well.  Keep that in mind if you use a browser “wallet” like that.  “Pay Now” and then…

Clicking on “Download” allows to my browser to easily open the image with an application or save it in my default folder (on Windows).  I don’t know if you notice that blurb on the right, but new to this software update, “You can re-download a file at any time at no additional cost by clicking ‘Download Again’.”  Previously, you had 24 hours to redownload your content.  Now, it is downloadable forever.

In fact, if you go back to the original image details page, you’ll see “$0.00” for the XSmall (in this case) price.  This is really cool for buyers – a virtual vault of stock content.   A really cool future feature would be to have “upgrade” prices for the other sizes.  Here’s hoping.

This kind of removes the need for my Greasemonkey script that shows you if you previously downloaded a piece of content.  Anyways, below, you can see part of the excellent emailed receipt I received after my purchase.  It shows the specific image and costs, etc.  This could be something you send to a client to show proof of licensing, or if they need a cost breakout.



All in all, aside from the downtime for the site update, the cart and checkout process are pretty easy to understand and use.  This new process should be a big plus for both buyers and sellers.

Addendum:  Regarding the “Download Forever” buyer improvement, if you go to your profile, and then your financials tab, and then your download history, there are links by all your licensed images to redownload them, quickly and easily.  Here’s my link, but it will forward it for you to your page:



7 thoughts on The New iStockphoto Checkout Process

  1. Will zoom feature come back on site? It was so useful and by removing it iStock will loose its advantage. What’s your take on this?

  2. Extremely comprehensive and useful, as usual, Sean.
    A point perhaps worth bearing in mind, particularly for UK users, is the additional cost of using this checkout for ‘small/casual’ customers. I assume that those are the target market for this procedure?
    The equivalent UK cost bears a 37.5% premium because of iStock’s exchange rate plus THE ADDITION OF 20% VAT (Tax). The XS you purchase for $8 will be $11. The XXL $57.75 rather than $42.
    I’m sure that a proportion of UK customers will get to the checkout, discover this, and not proceed.

    • I would suggest contacting support, although if you have the downloaded zip file, I don’t know why it wouldn’t open.

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