01 Jan 2009 Microstock Earnings Report December 2008

While last month I excused my low microstock earnings by emphasizing the ‘part time’ nature of my microstock efforts, my December results are even worse – reflecting an ‘idle’ microstocker!   While December is the slowest month of the year in microstock, I did no shooting or uploading to offset the effects of the season. Here’s what happened:

Agency Earnings US$ Portfolio Size Return per Image
iStockphoto 158.08 777 0.20 75
Shutterstock 122.44 870 0.14 93
Dreamstime 63.66 758 0.08 66
Fotolia 67.04 644 0.10 49
StockXpert 42.70 341 0.13 41
BigStockPhoto 26.00 449 0.06 30
123rf 33.09 361 0.09 17
Crestock 7.75 370 0.02 28
Total: 525.51
Total: 0.83

Microstock Earnings Chart - December 2008


  • iStockphoto weathered the December storm well for me, despite having very few festive season images in my portfolio. Earnings were almost exactly the same as November. Or perhaps November already reflected the seasonal drop.
  • StockXpert is showing reasonable sales from the photo.com and Jupiterimages Unlimited connections but my earnings have returned to pre-connection levels over the past few months. I’ll be interested to see what happens when I resume uploading. At least the earnings are consistent.
  • Zero portfolio growth is not the ideal way to grow your sell through rate, as I did this month. Ideally it will rise in line with rising commercial appeal of new submissions. That’s something for me to aspire to in 2009.
  • My first extended license generated a new high for me at 123rf.
  • My total earnings were $87 higher than last December, which is pleasing, but it’s a smaller gap than the previous year. This is the first year in which December was the lowest earning month of the year for me.
  • Statistically, my six month moving average is still above my 12 month moving average, partially due to the unusually high increases in August and September.

Thoughts About My Earnings

As December is always a low earning month, I’m not disappointed, though I believe that uploading some new photos would have minimized the downturn at many agencies, particularly Shutterstock and Dreamstime.

I failed to achieve my goal of $1000 monthly earnings in 2008, coming closest in September with $870. I expect earnings will bounce back in early 2009 as I resume shooting and uploading and the market recovers from the festive season slump.   I’m aiming to cross the $1000 threshold by April.

Microstock is still only a portion of my total income, though I’m happy with the growth in earnings and still enjoy creating stock photos. I’m working to responsibly delegate some of my other commitments (not blogging – don’t worry) so that I can commit more time to microstock – shooting and blogging. While I would like to report earnings results of a ‘new’ full time microstocker, there are too many distractions in the form of opportunities in and around microstock for that to happen.

  • Rahul Pathak
    Posted at 13:33h, 04 January Reply


    Thanks, as always, for sharing. Hope you had a great holiday season and Happy New Year!



  • Matthew Botos
    Posted at 21:10h, 04 January Reply

    Happy new year – and hopefully a profitable one!

    You mentioned microstock being just one part of the picture, which seems to be true even for high-profile microstockers like Yuri Arcurs. What other areas do you find blend well with microstock?

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 02:51h, 05 January Reply

      Hey Matthew,

      I’d have to say blogging. I’ve learned so much as a result of blogging about microstock and creating relationships in the stock photo industry. It’s not overly well reflected in my shooting due to my low time investment (I’m not shooting much), but I wonder how well I would be doing without the knowledge I’ve gained through this experience.

      My other activities are outside microstock – I’m primarily a web developer – but the opportunities in this space, of which Yuri is taking great advantage, are plentiful. I expect there will be a lot of movement in the ‘mash’ space for the microstock market in 2009.


  • Marek
    Posted at 00:04h, 05 January Reply

    I managed to keep the same earnings in December as I had in November, but with uploading new pictures although much less than in previous months. A couple of ELs helped.

    I am moving my microstock stuff including the December earnings report to a separate blog:


  • James
    Posted at 12:06h, 07 January Reply

    Hey Lee!

    Well, what are you waiting for, start shooting! And editing! And posting! 😉

    I haven’t been doing much with my portfolio recently either, but hope to change that soon! 🙂

    Best of luck for 2009! 🙂

  • Lori Osterberg
    Posted at 20:36h, 09 January Reply

    Thanks for the insight on how well you can do with stock photography. Microstock is only as good as the amount of time you spend on it – I know that for a fact too. I’ve been so busy with other things, this portion has also fallen off for me. Guess its always where you put your time … Now, if I could just clone me.

  • MikLav
    Posted at 12:51h, 12 January Reply

    Hello Lee 🙂
    Looking at your stats I wonder why don’t you upload more to SXP as it’s on the 3rd place for you in Return per Image, but your portfolio is less than half of the top 2?

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 12:59h, 12 January Reply

      That’s a good point Mikhail, but the reason is simple. The photos I have at the top agencies but not at StockXpert are my earlier photos, most of which would be rejected if submitted today.

      Naturally I’ve gone through and picked out the high selling ones and uploaded them to StockXpert and the other new agencies. If I was to do so for all those images, my return per image would fall heavily for those agencies, not to mention my approval rate! 😉


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