01 Sep 2008 Microstock Earnings Report August 2008

Wow! Record earnings this month. Three new agency records and total earnings were 20% above the previous record and up 25% on last month. The jump was primarily due to an unusually high quantity of extended license sales: iStockphoto (2), Dreamstime (1), Fotolia (1) and StockXpert (2).

August marks the end of the microstock summer slowdown so all microstock contributors are looking forward to rising earnings until December.

Here’s my microstock earnings report for August:

Agency Earnings US$ Portfolio Size Return per Image
Sell-through Rate %
iStockphoto 295.62 764 0.39 73
Shutterstock 166.62 842 0.20 92
Dreamstime 97.97 732 0.13 63
Fotolia 106.31 620 0.17 46
StockXpert 97.30 316 0.31 32
BigStockPhoto 14.00 428 0.03 27
123rf 14.89 333 0.04 17
Crestock 33.50 346 0.10 23
Total: 826.21
Total: 1.38
Avg: 47

Microstock Earnings Chart - August 2008


  • The three agencies which earned new record highs selling my portfolio were iStockphoto (broke the record set exactly two years ago!), StockXpert (my first two extended license sales in the same month) and Crestock (second consecutive record earnings month and more than doubled).
  • Shutterstock’s OnDemand system worked well netting me six sales and 8% of my total earnings.
  • Jim Talkington
    Posted at 11:08h, 01 September Reply

    That’s great news, Lee. Have you been shooting and adding new images since posting last month’s earnings? Or is this with the same inventory? And if you haven’t been shooting, why not? 😉

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 14:31h, 01 September Reply

      Hey Jim,

      Yes, I had the usual small quantity of new uploads in August, though the new photos haven’t been selling so well – the jump in revenue was disproportionate to the increase in portfolio size. I only did one shoot this month as my regular business has been outrageously busy.


  • Marek
    Posted at 12:14h, 01 September Reply

    I just posted my August numbers:
    10% down mostly due to poorer performance of SS, but good performance of IS (BME)

    What puzzles me is that I am getting 76% of my microstock earnings from IS and SS, and only 24% from other 5 agencies. IS and SS are top performers for most photographers, but perhaps, not that dominant. E.g., you are getting only about 55% from IS and SS.

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 14:54h, 01 September Reply

      Hey Marek,

      There’s many factors, but two obvious ones are time and scale. Some agencies favor older and bigger portfolios more than others. The agencies that are performing well for you are the top two, so that’s good news. I’m sure it’ll even out over time. I wouldn’t worry.


  • Andreas Karelias
    Posted at 16:45h, 01 September Reply

    Dear Lee,

    I have been following your microstock diaries for the last two months. You are doing an excellent job and I wish also to cingratulate you on your good sales performance of last month.

    I also had a relatively good month. I am working with 19 agencies plus Alamy, and although I have a portfolio of about 313 images for Shutterstock and 245 for Fotolia (they constantly reject my landscape images-they say they don’t need them) and something similar in number of images for iStockPhoto due to the slow uploading process, and an average of something around 280 for all the others except Alamy (110 images), I managed to make in total $795.

    In August I experienced a slow down in my iStockphoto sales (contrary to you) but a record month in Fotolia (helped by 2 extended licenses-they were landscapes BTW, lol). I am getting a bit worried about my istockphoto performance because during 2008 they represent something like 45% of my total sales revenue. I hope September will be much better.

    As a result, my August revenue was split as follows:
    Shutterstock 18%
    iStockPhoto 25%
    StockXpert 5.50%
    Fotolia 14%
    Dreamstime 8.5%
    123RF 1.7%
    Fotolibra 2.2%
    CreStock 0.6%
    Snap Village 2%
    ShutterPoint 0,5% (I became a member in Aug08)
    Alamy 20,5 % (one image sold)
    all the others totalling less than 4%

    On Demand for SS also started well for me with 2 image sales, while subscriptions in iStockphoto were lousy with less than five sales.
    Good luck in September and keep up the excellent work you are doing with these diaries.

    Regards – Andreas

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 17:16h, 01 September Reply

      Hi Andreas,

      I took a look at your portfolios. It’s inspiring to see someone doing as well as you are with primarily landscapes – which are considered a slow selling subject.

      iStockphoto is an interesting agency and everyone seems to have difference experiences with them. My recommendation is that they’re worth investing the time to figure out what you can do to improve there, whether it be keyword audits or creating lightboxes to showcase your work in your profile.

      Thankyou very much for your comment and all the information. It’s great to see other people’s experiences.


  • James
    Posted at 15:56h, 02 September Reply

    Wow Lee, awesome numbers! The EL fairy was very nice to you 😉 My numbers were saved due to an EL sale at SS 😉 Up just a tad from last month. I am *really* looking forward to growth in the market over the next few months!

  • Laurent
    Posted at 06:04h, 03 September Reply

    Congrats Lee , very close to the $ 1000 mark now I see:)
    I put my numbers on my blog http://microstockexperiment.blogspot.com/
    still working on the $500….

  • SE73
    Posted at 15:04h, 03 September Reply

    Hi Lee, congrats to your excellent performance in August. Was it much affected to the 100% royalty payout day on IS on August 25?

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 15:22h, 03 September Reply

      Hi Sharif, no, that’s only for exclusive contributors so I didn’t benefit.

  • Marco Venturin iAutieri
    Posted at 04:37h, 04 September Reply


    You say “summer slowdown” but, by looking at your graph, I can’t see it!


    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 12:35h, 04 September Reply

      I know! Isn’t it great!

      It’s a statistically common seasonal trend which has marked my earnings each year since I started in microstock, but fortunately not this year. If earnings grow strongly over the next few months the summer slowdown may become evident in the chart.


  • Martin Green
    Posted at 18:19h, 04 September Reply

    Hi Lee,
    I have to say I’m pleased to see that even someone as experienced as yourself can still make less than $20 a month at BigStock – I was worried that it was just me!

    I started at this game something over a year ago when I began submitting to BigStock. It was probably as good a place as any to do an “apprenticeship”, but sales were never very exciting. At the beginning of this year I spread my wings a bit and started sending to Dreamstime as well. It was a revelation – suddenly my photos were selling the way I always felt they should. For the past three months at Dreamstime I’ve made over $50 a month from a bit more than 200 photos, so on a per-image basis I’m actually performing better than you at that particular site!

    What success we have at various sites must depend to some degree on the sorts of images we produce. Most of my stuff could be roughly classified as still lifes and concept images and, from my limited experience, Dreamstime looks like a good place to sell these. I wonder if you , or anyone else, has had any other thoughts on where is the best place to sell different types of images.


    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 20:49h, 04 September Reply

      Hey Martin,

      Yep, some people do great at BigStockPhoto and others don’t. I fall into the latter category.

      From my experience, a strong portfolio has a better chance of doing well at Dreamstime than some other agencies. I took a look at your portfolios and you have a lot of strong and conceptual images among your still life. I’m not surprised that you’re out-earning me with that portfolio!

      Different agencies certainly favor different styles and subjects to some degree, though most of us tend to upload everything to all agencies anyway. My thoughts on the matter are that there’s more value in discovering which photos sell better in which market (microstock / midstock / macrostock) than between various microstock agencies. Still, a study on that topic would make for interesting reading.


  • John
    Posted at 12:20h, 25 September Reply

    How do you calculate your return per image total.

    is should be
    total income / portfolio size
    Total: 826.21
    Portfolio size: 842 (your total portfolio is probably a little larger assuming there are images accepted on IS and not SS)

    income per image is ~0.98

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 14:21h, 25 September Reply

      Yeah, it’s a little confusing. I’ve just summed all the numbers in that column. I previously showed an average, but people kept misinterpreting the figure and quoting it as a total rather than average, so understating earnings as around 10% of the reality. Once I get all my portfolios more even, that figure will be more relevant and accurate.


  • John
    Posted at 08:42h, 26 September Reply

    If you determine your portfolio size you can calculate that earnings per photo based on your total.

    Think of your microstock port as every accepted to any MS site. How many images is that. I suspect it is over 900.

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