01 Jan 2008 Microstock Earnings Report December 2007

Earnings were very low in December with the festivities having a clear impact late in the month.
I started a serious uploading campaign in December, uploading to all sites except Fotolia due to the optimization experiment (detailed below). Fast reviewing agencies are already selling the new photos, while others still have them in the pending queue.

I only received Extended License sales (3) at Shutterstock this month.

Agency Earnings US$ Portfolio Size Per Photo
184.55 641 0.29
iStockphoto 111.65 652 0.17
Dreamstime 70.05 553 0.13
Fotolia 23.31 469 0.05
StockXpert 18.20 123 0.15
BigStockPhoto 11.50 235 0.05
123rf 7.30 127 0.06
6.60 173 0.04
4.25 127 0.03
CanStockPhoto 0.75 367 0.00
Totals: 438.16 0.96

Microstock Earnings Chart - December 2007

The Fotolia Optimization Experiment

Early in December, I ran my optimization experiment at Fotolia to see the impact on sales of re-ordering my keywords. To be fair, I only re-ordered the keywords on my top 80 selling photos, and most of this work was done in the second week of the month.

Despite these weaknesses in my experiment, Fotolia was one of only three agencies to earn more in December than in November (Crestock rose $1 and BigStockPhoto rose $1.50). However, the increase was only a few dollars, and still lower than the figure for October.

It seems that reordering your keywords – if you haven’t done so already – has a positive impact on your sales. In my case, the impact was minor, but my portfolio is also quite small.

I was hoping that my Fotolia earnings would jump up to a similar level as Dreamstime and iStockphoto like other contributors experience. Perhaps my photos don’t have the performance track record to rank well yet. If so, such a dramatic change will take a long time.


  • Shutterstock earned me the same as November, Dreamstime earned just below their average, but iStockphoto dropped substantially
  • iStockphoto earnings were lower than last December!
  • Shutterstock convincingly consolidated their top position
  • Total per-image earnings dipped under $1
  • Stephen Strathdee
    Posted at 11:59h, 01 January Reply

    Perhaps some of your IS images have died – you should consider examining your portfolio with the goal of finding images that were generating income one year ago but are not currently selling. Spruce up the ones you find, then reload ’em!

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 23:30h, 01 January Reply

      That’s a great idea Stephen, thanks. I’ll look into that.


  • Marek
    Posted at 14:50h, 01 January Reply

    Thank you for sharing your numbers. I must admit that I am glad to see that December was rather a slow month in microstock since I started submitting my pictures just a month or 6 weeks ago and I am waiting for some results …

    Anyway, I described my first month experience in microstock in this PixelsAway blog post trying not to focus too much on a rejection theme:

    – Marek

  • James
    Posted at 08:57h, 06 August Reply

    Can you please explain how you calculated your total of .96/photo? What’s your total portfolio across all agencies (minus duplicates)?

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 19:37h, 06 August Reply

      Hi James, this article is quite old and I would not recommend calculating royalties as I did back then.

      In this article I calculated earnings divided by the quantity of photos accepted at each agency. This is ok to get a sense of performance differences between agencies, but summing the RPI for all agencies as I did was quite silly and not overly meaningful for making business decisions aside from watching changes over time.

      A more logical calculation would be to use the total quantity of files submitted regardless of how many were accepted, and to have this number be the same for all agencies (that is, submit all the same images to each agency).

      Regarding duplicates, like most non-exclusive microstockers I submit the same images to all agencies, so it’s not logical to remove them. They’re essentially all duplicates.

      • James
        Posted at 20:47h, 06 August Reply

        So, if you divide the $438.16 and divide by the 641 total accepted images, then the RPI lOoks more like .68/ image?

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