Fotolia is a microstock photography agency that is based in New York, New York. It was started by Olag Tscheltzoff, Patrick Chassany, Thibaud Elziere in November 2005. The company also has offices in Seattle, Washington and Paris, France.

Fotolia provides means for worldwide distribution of photographs, through PayPal (in the countries that use it), and Moneybookers (another internet payment system offered in more countries than Paypal). Some photographs are offered for free; those that are sold are priced from $1 to as high as $2,000.

As of October 2008, Fotolia had more than 800,000 members who had uploaded more than 4.2 million photographs and graphic illustrations.



Fotolia is designed for both commercial users who need photographs for PowerPoint presentations, company web sites, and for use on profitable products, such as postcards, posters, mugs; and also for private users, who want to use high-quality photos for personal greeting cards, PC wallpapers, and other uses.

Depending on what the photographer offers, images may be purchased royalty free, for use on web sites, or they may be purchased through an exclusive buyout, in which the customer can use the photos commercially (such as selling prints and products with the photo on them).

Fotolia require comprehensive personal details from buyers such as name, addresses, phone numbers etc. If you do not supply all the personal details (including optional fields), you will still be able to register and purchase credits but will receive an email indicating your account will be removed if you do not comply with the personal details request within a few days.


Fotolia allows both amateur and professional photographers to upload photos to their site, although there are strict requirements, such as size and quality, that must be met before being accepted. The photos are put into a queue where they are reviewed by moderators for aesthetic and technical qualities, and subject popularity. Those that aren't given the highest reviews are sometimes added to the 'Free' section, where artists are not paid by the users, but the advertising fees that Fotolia receives. This fee varies depending on visitors to the site and how many images each visitor downloads.

Each photo is required at least seven (but possibly more) tags to help categorize the image to make searches easier.

Competition and controversy

Other leading microstock companies include: BigStockPhoto, iStockPhoto and ShutterStock. An April 2007 New York Times article reported that Fotolia and other microstock agencies are catching up in popularity to larger stock photography providers that have been in business for many years. In comparison to Fotolia's < $10 million in annual sales, stock photography giant Getty Images takes in $807 million each year.

The microstock photography industry as a whole has been the target of complaints that their inexpensive images are taking business away from stock agencies that must charge much more to pay the higher commissions that professional photographers demand. The smaller agencies pay only small royalties to amateur photographers and hobbyists or professional photographers in less expensive countries are excited to make even a dollar on their images. Concern over emerging competition has taken a toll on the incumbents, which have seen their stock share prices plunge.


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