Bigger Photos Equals Higher Earnings

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DSLR Camera, Janis LitavnieksI’ve often been frustrated that my 6 megapixel camera doesn’t allow me to access the bigger royalties of the extra large sizes at some microstock agencies. I wanted to find out exactly what I was missing and at what point it would become worthwhile upgrading my camera to increase my earnings potential.

How Much More Can You Earn?

Quite a lot, as the table below shows. Each agency offers different sizes with different labels, and has different royalty structures based on various states of the contributor and/or the photo. This makes it impossible to do a direct comparison of how much extra a contributor could earn with a higher resolution camera. So, here’s some qualitative data on the price (not royalty) difference between 6MP and higher resolutions:

iStockphoto 6MP = $10 (L), 12MP = $15 (XL), 16MP = $20 (XXL)
Dreamstime 6MP = $3 (L), 8MP = $4 (XL)
Fotolia 6MP = $4 (L), 8MP = $5 (XL), 16MP = $6 (XXL), 30MP = $7 (XXXL)
StockXpert 6MP = $3 (L), 8MP = $5 (XL), 16MP = $10 (XXL)
BigStockPhoto 6MP = $8 (L), 11MP = $12 (XL)
123rf 6MP = $2 (M), 8MP = $3 (L)
LuckyOliver 6MP = $4 (L), 12MP = $10 (XL), 16MP = $20 (XXL)
Crestock 6MP = $10 (M), 17MP = $15 (XL)

Note some caveats:

  • Credits used to buy images vary the actual price paid
  • High selling photos rise in price at Dreamstime
  • High selling photographers can raise their prices at Fotolia
  • Photos can be listed in the Sidebar for higher prices at LuckyOliver
  • Photos also sell via subscription at Dreamstime, 123rf, Crestock and (optionally) StockXpert

But Are there Other Things More Important?

Yes. First the content of the image. A small image with a commercial concept executed well will earn more than a large sized image with inferior content. While the camera is an advantage, what you put in front of it and how you capture the photo are infinitely more valuable.

Second, megapixels is not an indication of image quality, only size. If you don’t investigate the other metrics your new camera with more megapixels may actually create inferior photos. Some of the photos it creates may be accepted at larger sizes, but rejections for quality issues will increase and sales will most likely decrease.

Third, depending on what equipment you already possess, lenses are usually a better investment than a bigger camera. Also, camera technology changes rapidly, and most photographers find they update their cameras more frequently than their lenses. For these reasons, get good lenses before getting a good camera.

Extra Benefits

Having bigger photos allows you to crop. If I crop my 6 megapixel photos they won’t be accepted at all agencies. With 12 megapixels camera I could crop liberally to improve composition while retaining enough megapixels to be accepted.

More megapixels also allows you to downsize a photo to sharpen the focus and/or reduce noise. This process would save many photos that are otherwise rejected. Even though you won’t have a large size photo, you’ll have a photo that can earn.

What About Subscription Sites?

Some contributors downsize their photos before sending to subscription sites. This is intended to discourage low-royalty downloads of large sizes, forcing buyers to get them at non-subscription agencies where the contributor royalty is higher. This strategy assumes buyers have accounts at multiple agencies and risks buyers simply choosing a competitive image which is available at the size they need.

The Net Impact on Earnings

When I started investigating upgrading my camera I wanted to know how much extra I could earn with larger photos. What I’ve learned is that there other things I can do that will have greater impact on my earnings than upgrading my camera, many of which cost much less, or nothing. While I still intend to upgrade, I know I haven’t yet reached the limits of my existing camera.

Posted March 3rd, 2008 by


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